Accuracy in Media

We were always asking too much of the Mueller investigation, according to Dylan Matthews for Vox.

He was never going to “end Donald Trump’s presidency,” as the headline on Matthews’ piece stated. “It was never up to Robert Mueller. It was always up to Mitch McConnell,” Vox wrote in the subhead.

Mueller won’t be indicting Donald Trump Jr. or Jared Kushner, nor provide proof President Trump has been a Russian asset since the 1980s, nor will Mueller “play the cultural and psychological role that some liberals have expected him to play since his appointment almost two years ago,” Matthews lamented.

Despite the hype – NPR writing about families that were sad soon-to-die relatives would not get to read the report; the “ode to ‘Robert Swan Mueller III (“may I call you Swan?), the dreamiest G-man to ever hunt for collusion;” in Vanity Fair, nor the Spike Lee “God … Protect Robert Mueller” T-shirts – Americans were wrong to view “Mueller as a kind of deus ex machina capable of rescuing the American people from the Trump presidency.”

We were not “’entering the last phase of the Trump presidency,’” as Matthews quoted Adam Davidson of the New Yorker writing on the day the FBI raided the office of Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

“Davidson’s prediction of a dramatic demise for the Trump presidency feels, at a minimum, premature, as journalists Jim Newell and Jeet Heer noted at the time.”

But “all of this reflects a yearning for something, anything, to end the death loop that American democracy appears to be trapped in – for a big, dramatic blowup to fix the system’s ills,” Matthews wrote. “In the liberal imagination, that blowup typically takes the form of Trump’s removal from office, an event that sets us back to a path of normalcy and sane politics.”

That yearning may be understandable, Matthews wrote. “But it is both dangerous and misplaced,” and “as this week clarifies, there will be no dramatic end for Trump. … If he’s going to leave office, it will be because he loses the 2020 election, is term-limited in 2024, or dies. Barring a surprise 67-vote Democratic majority in his second term, there’s no fourth option.”

Journalists and activists have been speculating since 2015 about what it would take to bring down Trump, Matthews wrote. Not his “casual description of Mexican immigrants as rapists,” nor his “attack on John McCain for being captured in Vietnam,” nor his “mocking a disabled New York Times reporter,” nor his “lying and saying Muslim Americans in Jersey City celebrated the 9/11 attacks,” nor even his “all-out ban on Muslim immigration” did the trick despite their predictions.

The Billy Bush tape – which appeared on the day of one of his three presidential debates with Hillary Clinton – also didn’t bring him down, Matthews noted. Neither did multiple women claiming Trump sexually assaulted them, nor “leaking highly classified information to the Russian government” – the allegation Mueller was strongest in rejecting – nor “ordering FBI Director Jim Comey to close his investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and then firing Comey when he refused.”

Trump never ordered Comey to close his investigation and did not fire him for not doing so.

Matthews concludes that even though Trump may not have been proven to have colluded with the Russians, he remains an illegitimate president kept in office only because the Republicans who control the Senate would not think of voting to remove him regardless of the charges or evidence.

“He illustrates the US’s susceptibility to demagoguery and to the influence of billionaires seeking to deregulate their own businesses and cut their own taxes,” Matthews wrote. “He won with the assistance of one of America’s most broken and anti-majoritarian institutions (the Electoral College) with a congressional majority bolstered by gerrymandering and the underrepresentation of left-leaning urban areas.

“So where does this leave us? Everything feels horrible. Trump is still in office, and he’s not going anywhere.”

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