Politics

About That Victory Lap …

Remember who you’re celebrating.
March 26, 2019
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(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

The reaction from the #MAGA crowd to the news that the Mueller investigation was completed and the report delivered to William Barr without calls for further indictment has been one long football-spiking, donut-spinning, fist-pumping Gatorade bath.

And kudos! Enjoy! This is your moment. You guys earned this. You went all-in on the idea that Donald Trump did not actively collude with the Russian government during the 2016 election and, indeed, Robert Mueller could not find enough evidence to prove that charge. So much #winning.

Truth be told, there are plenty of sound, sober reasons for every American to be content with the Mueller report. Or at least what little we know about it. For example, we should all be happy that the leader of the free world is not a compromised servant of a foreign power. For another, Mueller’s findings might signal that, per George Will, “the 2020 campaign will not be about the 2016 campaign.” And thank God for that. One 2016 was enough.

We should also be relieved that Robert Mueller conducted himself so objectively and professionally that his report deserves to be taken seriously by both sides. And an optimistic person might even hope that Americans of good sense would now return to getting their news from Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker and Matt Zapotksy and David Farenthold and Politico instead of the people with fantastic hair on cable news. (Okay, that’s probably too optimistic.)

So that’s all the good news. The bad news is . . . the president of the United States is Donald Trump. And his supporters aren’t just cheering a victory for the concept of due process. They’re on the Exoneration Train, and Trump is in the locomotive, barreling down the tracks.  

I was not among those expecting Trump to be frog-marched out of the White House. (Show of hands: Who among you really did think it would go down like that?) Nor was I hoping for it. (Do we realllllly want President Pence? Do we?) But the mere fact that Mueller didn’t marshal the evidence to indict Trump for a specific crime does not erase all the terrible things that he has done.

Because at the end of the day Donald Trump is a bad man. A bad, orange man. And  a bad president. Vanna, show them what they’ve won!

Trump is still the same guy who:

  • Told Billy Bush that “I moved on her like a bitch” in reference to a married woman. And that his M.O. is to “grab ’em by the pussy.”
  • Insulted John McCain for being captured while serving in Vietnam.
  • Insulted a Gold Star family whose son died in Iraq.
  • Said Mexico was going to build America a wall.
  • Accused an American judge of dual loyalties.
  • Refused to divest from his businesses after he was elected president.
  • Does not appear to understand trade deficits.
  • Complained about immigrants from “shithole” countries.
  • Said terrible things about female journalists.
  • Said terrible things about male journalists.
  • Failed to swiftly and simply condemn violence by neo-Nazi and white nationalist protesters during the Charlottesville protest.
  • Said he had a “great relationship” with Rodrigo Duterte, the Phillipines president who has bragged about personally killing people during his war on drugs.
  • Retweeted an extremist British nationalist’s anti-Muslim videos.
  • Implemented tariffs that have caused U.S. companies significant hardships. And then criticized those companies, by name, for moving or closing down plants in response to the economic forces he set in motion.
  • Endorsed accused ephebophile Roy Moore in an Alabama Senate race.
  • Got his ethically compromised son-in-law security clearance over many, many objections of the American intelligence world.
  • Said Mexico was paying for the wall with all the money the U.S. would make under the new NAFTA. (It’s not.)
  • Dragged his feet on federal relief for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2018.
  • Insulted John McCain upon his death by ordering flags raised from half-staff after just one day.
  • Promoted conspiracy theories about shadow-banning on Twitter.
  • Needlessly separated thousands of children from their parents at the southern border and then lied about it being an Obama-era policy.
  • Endorsed the racist Steve King in Iowa.
  • Mocked Republicans who lost in the midterms who weren’t supportive enough of him.
  • Celebrated that the wall Mexico wasn’t paying for was being built. (It wasn’t).
  • Threatened North Korea with nuclear war, via Twitter.
  • Later said North Korea was “no longer a nuclear threat.”
  • When that proved not true, said he was in no hurry for the Norks to denuclearize.
  • Called Kim Jong-un his friend.
  • Badgered his attorney general for months, fired him, and replaced him temporarily with a man who sat on the board of an “invention-marketing” company that scammed clients out of millions of dollars.
  • Called himself “Tariff Man.”
  • Defended Mohammad bin Salman in the wake of the Saudi regime’s murder of U.S. permanent resident and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi.
  • Said after the failed summit with North Korea that he believed Kim Jong-un when Kim said he had nothing to do with the death of Otto Warmbier (whose parents Trump had invited to the 2018 State of the Union back when he was in the threatening-nuclear-war phase of his North Korean relationship).
  • Drove away defense secretary James Mattis with a unilateral surprise announcement that he wanted America to withdraw from Syria.
  • Shut down the government for 35 days because Congress would not give him money for the wall, which Mexico wasn’t paying for, and that he had (falsely) claimed was already under construction.
  • Made an unprecedented executive power grab by declaring a national emergency so that he could appropriate money for the wall from the military to build the wall Mexico wasn’t paying for.
  • Insulted John McCain again and complained he didn’t get a thank you from McCain’s family for approving of the war hero’s funeral.
  • Has repeatedly threatened NBC and Saturday Night Live, sometimes with “retribution” for “hit jobs.”
  • Complained about sending extra food stamp money to the people in Puerto Rico who are still recovering from Hurricane Maria.
  • Created confusion by seemingly canceling, via Twitter, sanctions against North Korea less than a day after his own Treasury Department announced them.

So no, Donald Trump did not “steal” the election, even though we now know definitively that Russia did, in fact, interfere in the election on his behalf. He won. Those of us who are skeptical of him have been accused of not acknowledging this simple fact. But that was always a straw man argument. You can recognize that his 2016 victory was legitimate and yet also see it as a symptom of something broken in our country that we should be trying to fix.

It should also be possible to recognize that the #resistance invested too many escape fantasies in the Mueller investigation, and that some Trump critics in Washington, and in the media, and on Twitter sought to create a narrative that could lead to impeachment or indictment. And that this, in turn, led some conservatives who were skeptical of the president to sympathize with him and then evolve into full-throated Trump supporters.

Is it petty to bring up a (certainly incomplete) list of Trump’s lesser offenses? Perhaps, if he had ever expressed remorse for his misogyny, or if his mysterious coddling of dictators somehow miraculously lead to better foreign relations, or something. But now that that the big storm cloud is no longer looming over Trump, we can take the Mueller report seriously, not literally. And it paints a portrait of the man that doesn’t include hints of collusion. It’s still a pretty ugly picture.

Rachael Larimore

Rachael Larimore was the managing editor of The Bulwark.