The Mueller investigation is yielding more heat than light, much of it caused by President Donald Trump’s propensity to take to Twitter and vent.
That was the conclusion by the media panel on this week’s Meet The Press. Led by moderator Chuck Todd, the group included David Brooks, columnist for The New York Times; Amy Walter, national editor of The Cook Political Report; Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute; and Eugene Robinson, columnist for The Washington Post.
Brooks led off the discussion by noting, “I’m actually getting more uncomfortable with this whole deal, thinking that maybe we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. And I’m bothered by the lack of emerging evidence about the underlying crime, that there was actually collusion or coordination between the Trump White House.”
The ongoing Mueller investigation has surrounded the president with a “legal minefield, and Donald Trump being Donald Trump, steps all over the legal minefield and blows them up six ways from Sunday. But it’s become an investigation about itself. And you know, I’ve lived through Whitewater, I’ve lived through a lot of these. And there’s a lot of shady behavior that don’t rise to the Watergate level. And I’m just afraid we’re being swallowed up by the politics of scandal, when there’s less and less evidence that they actually colluded. And maybe that’ll come out, but so far it hasn’t, and it bothers me.”
Walter agreed. “What’s pretty clear is that his use of social media has gotten him into the predicament that he’s in. That you live by Twitter and you die by Twitter.” She added, “what evidence is there is not quite going to be as relevant as what he’s doing during the investigation, not what the investigation’s actually about.”
Robinson said the President’s tweets can’t be ignored or dismissed. “In fact, I can argue they’re more important than the chopped and processed statements that come out of the White House press office or out of his attorneys. These come from the mind and the thumbs of the president of the United States.”
Pletka sided with Brooks. “All along, what you hear behind the scenes in Washington is, “Eh, there isn’t any ‘there’ there about the Russia collusion, about the Russia investigation.” All we’re talking about all the time is Donald Trump stepping on those mines, Donald Trump tweeting, Donald Trump’s lawyers and his staff trying to keep up with all of the different things that he’s saying. We’re not actually talking about what the Russians are up to or even whether the president has the right to fire the F.B.I. director.”
Walter made one point clear. “I don’t think any of us want to suggest that there was no misbehavior by either Hillary Clinton or by Donald Trump or by people around them. The point is that we know in Washington D.C. that once you have a special prosecutor, it will become about the investigation. No one ever gets put in prison or charged for the crime. They get charged for lying to the prosecutors or for obstruction.”
Brooks added that there appears to be a “semi-witch hunt,” and noted, “The problem for Trump is that he is a person who values personal loyalty. He has basically a tribal mentality. And he’s surrounded by a modern government, which is a government of laws. And so he walks over every single legal structure, and we surround him with a legal structure he’s walking all over. That’s a genuine problem. And I have 967 problems with Trump as president. But the Russia collusion happens to be number 547. And we’ve surrounded him with this when I think there are a lot of others.”
As if on cue, President Trump issued a tweet this morning renewing his objections to the ongoing investigation.