Accuracy in Media

A story on how President Donald Trump’s exoneration is affecting his presidency begins with three paragraphs of solid slant and does not veer from this course.

The story, “Constraints on presidency being redefined in Trump era, report fallout shows,” by Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey begins:

“President Trump repeatedly tried to undermine the Russia investigation, but the special counsel overseeing the probe declined to say whether he broke the law – and the attorney general declared that he had committed no crime.

“Trump’s campaign showed a willingness to work with a foreign power – something his personal lawyer now insists is perfectly okay.

“And Trump has furiously rejected congressional scrutiny of his presidency – taking the unprecedented step Monday of suing a Democratic committee chairman to block a subpoena for his financial records.”

There are problems with all three statements.

Attorney General William Barr stated clearly Trump and his team turned over every requested document and made available for questioning every administration official the special counsel’s team requested.

The president himself provided written answers to queries from the special counsel’s team, and when the report was in its final stages, the president waived all claims to executive privilege and let all the findings come out.

The report also specifically states Trump and his campaign team and administration received numerous offers to collude with Russia before and after the 2016 election, but they all declined to do so and none were charged by Mueller.

It did not mention that Hillary Clinton’s campaign paid for the Fusion GPS dossier, the bulk of which amounted to accusations given to its authors by Russia or that her campaign actively sought dirt on Trump from the government of Ukraine.

As for cooperating with Congress, Trump has made his officials available for all manner of congressional hearings despite extremely hostile treatment from Democratic members. He did sue Monday to block subpoenas from Democrat-controlled committees of the House seeking documents from his business dealings before he became president on the grounds they are not relevant to any legitimate oversight or legislative function.

But the “events of the last week,” the Post wrote, “are threatening to redefine the legal and ethical standards that have long served as constraints on the American presidency. And they suggest that few, if any, of the traditional guardrails that have kept Trump’s predecessors in check remain for this president and possibly those who will follow him.”

It then supplies a quote from Bob Bauer, a White House counsel under President Obama, talking about the “disturbing part of the picture that’s been drawn about norms is, there is now a crumbling consensus about what they are. The Republican defense of Trump has muddied the congressional response, so it now appears that even a president who is a chronic liar, who tried to obstruct justice, who instructed his White House counsel to fabricate evidence, has not apparently conducted himself in a way that everybody can agree violates the norms.”

The Post maintained that Mueller “could not render a judgment on whether Trump criminally obstructed justice because of government guidelines about indicting a sitting president,” although the report notes extensively that Mueller’s team could not reach a conclusion because most of what was alleged to have been obstruction of justice was the president expressing his frustration with being falsely accused.

“This left an emboldened Trump to proclaim ‘complete and total EXONERATION” despite the report’s numerous details of the president’s efforts to end or stymie Mueller’s investigation.”

The story does not point out that Trump had the power to fire Mueller at any time during the process and decided not to, nor that he cooperated fully with all aspects of the investigation.

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