Ever since Attorney General William Barr released a fictional pro-Trump “summary” of the Mueller report, Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that the report found “no collusion” and “no obstruction.” These are both lies, as the redacted version of the report reveals that Mueller found plenty of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia – he just couldn’t figure out how to charge it as a crime – and tons of obstruction of justice.
Now that Robert Mueller appears set to soon publicly testify before the House Judiciary Committee, Donald Trump is subtly but crucially changing his tune. During his Twitter meltdown yesterday, he invoked his “no collusion” phrase but left out the “no obstruction” part. Now, while speaking in front of the cameras, in a clip that was aired on CNN and other networks, Trump has revised his position: “no collusion and essentially no obstruction.” Wait a minute – essentially?
“Essentially” is a qualitative word. Obstruction of justice is a felony; either you did it or you didn’t. You can’t make the legal argument that you committed “essentially no obstruction” any more than you could argue that you committed “essentially no bank robbery.” Trump isn’t one for subtlety, so we’re presuming that someone on his legal team advised him to change his tune. Trump is now incrementally confessing to obstruction, while trying to paint it as perhaps having been just a little bit of obstruction.
Donald Trump wouldn’t be backing down from his phony exoneration unless his legal advisers gave him a compelling reason to start confessing. They must have explained to him that once Robert Mueller testifies, most Americans will have no doubt whatsoever that Trump committed felony obstruction of justice – and so Trump is trying to preemptively lay the groundwork that his felonies aren’t so bad if he “essentially” didn’t commit them.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report