The long-waited release of the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to the Attorney General has left many in the Beltway with a dilemma: how does one observe Special Counsel day? The problem is not just the lack of Special Counsel bunting and decorations, but many still do not know whether this will be a day of celebration or commiseration. Wishful critics and supporters are wondering what the Special Counsel will bring for them. After all, a large number of reputations are on the line. Breathless accounts of “bombshells”
and “smoking guns” of collusion will now be tested as will the common article of faith that all will be put right if you “just wait for Mueller.”
Well, Mueller is coming to town. Every indication is that he will give his report to Attorney General Bill Barr this week or early next week.
What is clear is that few mythical creatures have had so many prayers and expectations laid at their feet than Robert Mueller. He is the avenging angel for many who see him as the antithesis of Donald Trump. Indeed, some people have named their pets “Mueller.” With each passing week, Mueller was built up as a towering figure (both literally and figuratively) who was unimpeachable, unflappable, and unrelenting in his search for the naughty amongst us. The only thing missing is a blue ox and, yes, an actual report.
Mueller has become many things to many people. For over two years, legal analysts have repeatedly assured readers that collusion is already established and that Mueller will vanquish the Trump with his mighty mandate. For many Republicans, Mueller is the shadowy figure they tell their kids about at night to keep them from colluding or at least keeping detailed records.
But what if the Special Counsel comes and leaves “Bupkis,” just a finding of no criminal conduct by Trump and a long unpublished report?
The core narrative to the Mueller is collusion. That is what spurred the investigation by former FBI Director James Comey and the latter appointment of Mueller. A Mueller report without collusion is like Santa is Coming to Town without the Burgenrmeister Meisterburger. It is already established that the Russians tried to influence the election by hacking and trolling on the Internet. That is not as unusual as has been portrayed. Many countries try to influence elections and the leading example is the United States, which has not only hacked the emails of our enemies and leaked the results but it has hacked our allies. What is need is collusion in the hacking operation with Trump or his campaign.
This entire investigation began with the secret surveillance ordered of Trump figures by the Obama Administration during the campaign. Early figures like Carter Page were never charged and all of the U.S. defendants charged by Mueller have faced largely unrelated charges or false statements or registration violations.
It is possible that Mueller could not find any direct collusion with the Russians while detailing substantial efforts by Trump to derail or damage the investigation. You can commit obstruction even if there is no case for an original crime. Most people do not do that, but Trump is not most people. He has shown strikingly poor judgment in his public and private conduct. He could counterpunch his way into an obstruction case. However, without the underlying crime, it would be hard to base an impeachment case on Trump’s obsessive compulsive tweets. Moreover, Trump has not been accused of destroying evidence or firing core investigators or prosecutors.
Mueller can also refer to collateral crimes like campaign finance violations, but that still leaves a result far removed from the far more important allegations of collusion. It is the Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer story but Santa remains grounded and Rudolph is just used as a disco ball at the Christmas party. If Mueller can only show a deferred finance crimes on that on that fateful foggy bottom night, it is unlikely that the Democratic “reindeer [will] loved him as they shouted out with glee.”
Nevertheless, Special Counsel Day has all of the makings of a holiday without a clear theme.
Of course, with the upcoming Easter holiday, Special Counsel day could simply merge with that other unrelenting icon: the Easter Bunny. After all, every diehard Democrat and Republican will not know what to expect when they wake up and find that the Special Counsel has visited in the night . . . that is, unless you are Paul Manafort or Roger Stone. Most are expecting a Special Counsel horn of prosecutorial plenty. Indeed, many commentators and politicians have a lot riding on those charges after two years to proclaiming open-and-shut cases of collusion.
If Mueller finds no collusion directly tying Trump or his campaign, the myth of Mueller could could end up looking more like the Austrian holiday figure “Krampus” who appears as a demonic figure to frighten innocent children. Conversely, he could bring a slew of charges and look more like the Icelandic “Yule Cat” who roams the towns and cities to devour anyone who does not receive new clothes on Christmas Eve. Mueller could still devour all those without plea deals, including some less known targets like former Clinton White House Counsel Greg Craig who could be charged under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
The Icelandic tradition would seem a nice fit because Mueller’s already team looks a lot like the “Yule lads.” These are characters that resemble the Seven Dwarfs but are far from welcomed by those they visit. They have such names as “Door-Sniffer” and “Window-Peeper.”
In the end, Mueller may end up more like a Santa figure with a twist. Santa is after all a bit of a hard case. He engages in year-round surveillance and punishes hopeful children with bags of coal. A bag of Mueller coal would be a report collusion tie with a ton of evidence of obstruction and a touch of campaign finance violations.
Santa however does not really capture the less than jolly Mueller. For that, you need to pick up Japanese Santa decorations for “Santa Kurohsu,” who actually has eyes in the back of his head to watch naughty children. Yep, that is more of a Special Counsel Santa.
So Attorney General Barr is likely to give a rough date for his summary of the findings of the Mueller report. Nervous commentators and politicians will go to their beds with visions of subpoenas and prosecutors dancing in their heads. All we know now is that the Special Counsel Day is coming and no one knows if he is coming for them.
So to all my fellow pundits and all of the politicians everywhere, Happy Special Counsel Day . . . you earned it.