Days after the Mueller report dropped with a thud, disappointing the vengeful left, the New York Times is hurriedly changing the subject and burying the lead, moving on from “collusion” to unsubstantiated hints that Trump could still be guilty of “obstruction of justice” -- if not for acts involving the actual collusion investigation, then maybe Stormy Daniels...or something.
Tuesday’s front-page story by Charlie Savage, Mark Mazzetti, and Katie Benner found reporters desperately spinning the subject to “obstruction of justice” while smearing Attorney General Bill Barr’s motives. “Barr’s Move Ignites a Debate: Is He Impartial?” Here they were (click “expand”):
William P. Barr was a lawyer in private practice in June when he wrote an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department that was sharply skeptical of the special counsel’s inquiry into whether President Trump illegally obstructed justice.
Nine months later, Mr. Trump is cleared of that offense, and he has Mr. Barr, his new attorney general, to thank.
Mr. Barr’s decision to declare that evidence fell short of proving Mr. Trump illegally obstructed the Russia inquiry was an extraordinary outcome to a narrative that has unspooled over nearly two years. Robert S. Mueller III was appointed as special counsel to remove the threat of political interference from an investigation involving the president, but he reached no conclusion on the key question of whether Mr. Trump committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.
Mr. Barr stepped in to make the determination, bringing the specter of politics back into the case. Senior Justice Department officials defended his decision as prudent and within his purview, but it reignited a debate about the role of American law enforcement in politically charged federal investigations that has roiled since James B. Comey, as F.B.I. director in 2016, excoriated Hillary Clinton even in announcing that he was recommending she not be charged over her handling of classified emails.
The reporters offered some weak strands to hint at Trump “obstruction” before downplaying the whole “collusion” angle while scouring around for things Trump might conceivably find worth obstructing justice about:
But in narrowly focusing on a lack of evidence that the Trump campaign reached any agreement with the Russian government on sabotaging the election, legal experts said, Mr. Barr left out other reasons the president may have had for wanting to stymie a wide-ranging investigation: It could uncover other crimes and embarrassing facts.
Indeed, it did. The special counsel investigation uncovered a scheme between the president and his former lawyer Michael D. Cohen to violate campaign finance laws by paying hush money to an adult-film actress who alleged an affair with Mr. Trump, which he denies...
The Tuesday edition of The Times’s popular “The Daily” podcast, hosted by former reporter Michael Barbaro, featured Russian investigation reporter Michael Schmidt, who made many of the same points -- and showed how far the reputation of the Mueller investigation has fallen among its erstwhile supporters.
He opened by saying provocatively that “the special counsel regulation, the way this investigation was set up, has failed,” for punting on the question of obstruction of justice and allegedly leaving the determination up to “political appointees” like Barr.
Oover ominous minor-key music, hosts culled from various news outlets read headlines about other events in the Trump scandal universe, including (snore) Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels. Schmidt sounded positively aggrieved with Mueller, the former liberal hero: “We couldn’t come up with the idea that Mueller, who’s been there for two years, would at the end of the day throw up his hands and say, ‘I can’t make a determination on this.’”
Schmidt and host Barbaro do some conspiratorial speculation based on Barr’s previous, unsolicited memo to the Trump administration, while Schmidt puzzles over Mueller’s “highly weird thing” about not making a prosecutorial call on obstruction of justice.
Before he suddenly learned the Mueller prosecution was a weird failure, Schmidt helped celebrate a prosecutor in Mueller’s office, cowriting a celebration of Andrew Goldstein that included this paean to Mueller: “Mr. Mueller is often portrayed as the omnipotent fact-gatherer...”
Omnipotent no more, apparently.