We'll never be rid of Robert Mueller
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as hatred of Donald Trump and generosity to his enemies and devotion to undermining his authority exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.
When Robert Mueller spoke at the Department of Justice on Wednesday morning, his ostensible purpose was to announce that the special counsel investigation is finished, like, for real this time. What he actually accomplished was the opposite. In the span of 12 minutes he made it as clear as possible that the Russia thing will never end, not even if Trump is removed from office, either by the Senate following impeachment in the House (which is supremely unlikely) or by voters in 2020.
Mueller said a great many other things in his non-press conference, none of them remotely surprising, but all of them instructive. What did we learn? We learned that Mueller is a consummate professional who uses phrases like “work product” but will not utter the dreaded c-word. “Collusion” metamorphosed in the course of two years from the investigation’s raison d'être to a right-wing slur. Actually, Mueller said, we were investigating "links." It was a connect-the-dots game.
Never mind that none of the dots actually did connect to the president or the fact that Trump lost ground in 2016 among voters who use the internet. As far as I can tell the only lasting effect of all those Russian Facebook troll operations is the proliferation of takes about how dangerous they are. I'm sure that all the 16-year-old Yuris are feeling very powerful in their matushkas' basements.
Mueller begged the question when said, albeit obliquely, that the goal of Russian interference in the 2016 election was undermining Hillary Clinton's campaign. This is incidentally true at best. What the Russians actually hoped to accomplish, and what they did manage to accomplish mostly thanks to people like Mueller and his allies, was to create an atmosphere of chaos, confusion, and institutional distrust in the United States. In this respect it has been arguably the most successful Russian intelligence operation since the defection of the Rosenbergs.
Some of Trump's supporters will be glad to hear Mueller say that indicting a sitting president of the United States is "unconstitutional." But this only makes the already bizarre section of his report in which he explains that he is not recommending charges seem even more absurd. Why would you bother discussing your reasons for not doing something that you know is impossible? It is difficult to think of anything more terrifying than the spectacle of a prosecutor publicly regretting the fact that he could not charge an innocent man with a crime.
Mueller's comment about indictments was only a prelude to his passive-aggressive insinuation that the president should be impeached instead. His argument is that while there is no evidence of collusion — excuse me, “coordination” — between Trump and America's enemies, his exercise of his clearly defined authority over the executive branch and his habit of tweeting about an investigation that effectively hamstrung his administration for half of his first term constitute obstruction of justice. Never mind the long-standing legal principle that justice cannot be obstructed when no crime is actually being investigated or the virtually unlimited power presidents have over the direction of federal agencies or their immunity from being prosecuted by people who serve at their pleasure. This is not about information or principles or anything else except contempt for the man in the White House.
Smug, condescending, self-absorbed, seemingly impervious to doubts or criticism or even facts, Robert Mueller reminded us on Wednesday that he was always the perfect man for this job.