With his name officially cleared over accusations of collusion with Russia during the 2016 elections, the US president can use his exoneration for political advantage, but he still has hurdles to clear.
With the Mueller report finally handed in and no one by the name of ‘Trump’ indicted, the US president will be drumming one of his recently coined phrases to no end: “No Collusion, Delusion.”
It may even become a campaign slogan in the run-up to the 2020 election, joining other favourites including: “Lock her up”, “Crooked Clinton”, “witch hunt” and “hoax”.
According to a summary of the Robert Mueller report provided by the Attorney General William Barr there was no evidence that President Donald Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia to sway the 2016 elections.
Standing on the tarmac with Air Force One waiting, Trump said to the media: “It’s a shame that our country has had to go through this.” Adding paternalistically: “To be honest, it’s a shame that your president has had to go through this.”
As he hosted the Israeli Prime Minister at the White House, Trump answered a question on whether he believed the investigation was a witch hunt by saying: “There are a lot of people out there that have done some very evil things, very bad things, I would say treasonous things against our country and hopefully people that have done such harm to our country.”
Trump also avoided a number of bad scenarios that were predicted. No one from his family was indicted, Trump didn’t pardon anyone before the investigation was finalised as was widely believed and, most controversially given Trump’s public statement and private views, he didn’t fire Mueller. For that, he must now be glad.
The headline most Americans will see is ‘Mueller exonerates Trump.’ The American electorate is notoriously fickle and news cycle driven.
His long list of political enemies will be reeling at the findings of the Mueller report. Take for instance the former CIA Director John Brennan, who, cloaked with the authority vested by his institution, went on TV and Twitter, week after week, and accused Trump of being in cahoots with the Russians.
In one particularly notable outburst on Twitter, Brennan called Trump’s performance when he met Putin in Helsinki on July 16 “nothing short of treasonous,” adding that the US president “is wholly in the pocket of Putin.” Brennan’s Twitter activity has been unusually quiet since the report was published.
With the 2020 elections fast approaching, Trump will likely bludgeon his foes and their seemingly shattered credibility while playing the victim card in an effort to tell his supporters that the Democrats and the media were after him. The sheer level of hysteria, division and poison that has been spilled into the American body politic is the environment that Trump will likely flourish in.
Trump's opponents and Democratic presidential candidates will likely point to the indictments that have resulted from the Mueller investigation.
The likes of Michael Cohen, a former Trump attorney and longtime confidant, as well as Trump's former campaign chair, Paul Manafort. Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, and Roger Stone, the former Trump adviser, are all big scalps that Mueller dethroned.
However, very few if any of the charges relate to the Russia probe and are mainly charges related to lying to the FBI, obstruction of justice and fraud.
The political bar by Trump's opponents was set so incredibly high in regards to the Russia probe that in the absence of a Mueller indictment, the likes of Cohen, Manafort, Flynn and Stone may be viewed by the American public as misdemeanours when compared to suggestions of high treason.
With the worst case scenario behind Trump, it may likely result in him receiving a bounce in his approval ratings, which currently stands at 42.3 percent. Although, considering the allegations that were hanging over Trump it’s not clear that many of his supporters were concerned, but will now likely feel vindicated.
Trump will also likely use the victory to consolidate Republicans who were skeptical of him or, what the FiveThirtyEight – a website that focuses on opinion poll analysis in the US – calls reluctant Trump voters.
This group of reluctant Trump voters “is white and older, like most Trump voters, but the reluctant Trump voters are less likely to identify as Republican and have a higher level of education than the president’s base of most-enthusiastic supporters.”
Not out of the woods
Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have both demanded that the attorney general release the full Mueller report. This may be important for historical posterity, but for most Americans this will be viewed as beating a dead horse. The Mueller investigation is over.
But there are other investigations that Trump is facing. They can be categorised into two: those being undertaken by members of Congress, mainly Democrats, and those being run by the executive branch.
The Democratic-run investigations Trump may be able to pain as “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT” and “WHICH HUNT”.
More difficult to swat away will be the investigations ongoing in the judiciary and the FBI, however, they are not as threatening as some political commentators have suggested.
Prosecutors at the Justice Department have charged longtime Republican and Trump political consultant Roger Stone with obstruction, witness tampering and lying to Congress for the work he did for the 2016 presidential campaign. As Stone has pleaded not guilty there could be a trial later this year, provided there is no plea bargain.
Michael Flynn, who admitted lying to the FBI, has yet to be sentenced and prosecutors are charging Flynn’s former business partners in the Eastern District of Virginia, but this is seemingly linked to Trump via association rather than anything substantial.
And finally, the Trump inaugural committee has received a subpoena from Justice Department investigators seeking a wide array of documents related to its funding, including sources, with some suspecting foreign funding.