“Getting Donald Trump,” the movie, has seemed endless.
On Thursday, BuzzFeed, a more-than-slightly-disreputable news outlet that first published the now-infamous Steele dossier implicating President Trump in serious misbehavior, appeared on the screen with a story claiming that Trump ordered his lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about his hotel business operation in Moscow.
For most of Friday, the country’s news media — overwhelmingly hostile to Trump — ran the story editorializing that “if true” Donald Trump’s impeachment was all but inevitable.
That was not a far-fetched conclusion. The BuzzFeed story quite clearly implicated the president in obstructing justice: telling people to lie is obstruction of justice. Few people doubt that, which is why the BuzzFeed story got so much coverage. The story was all the more powerful because it had nothing to do with Trump’s colluding with Russia, which had been, until Thursday, the linchpin of the anti-Trump forces’ case for impeachment, but for which evidence is scant.
But late on Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office issued an unprecedented statement saying: “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate.”
Later on Friday, BuzzFeed was still standing by its story, nitpicking at the special counsel’s statement.
It is simply inconceivable, however, that the BuzzFeed story is essentially correct, and that the special counsel’s statement was only a clarification, however badly worded, of minor details.
There are two significant points in this story. The first is that the special counsel thought it necessary to do something to counter the BuzzFeed report. Even that is extraordinary, given the tight-lipped practice of Robert Mueller’s operation.
What was the point of the special counsel’s statement? Presumably to negate a report that would hobble the president from carrying out his presidential duties.
But the real significance of the special counsel’s unprecedented statement is what it tells us about Robert Mueller. If Mueller thought it necessary, in the interest of allowing the president to carry out his constitutional responsibilities, to scotch the BuzzFeed report, it suggests that he would not pursue his investigation into the Russia collusion business past the point where he had found sufficient, convincing evidence of impeachable behavior by President Trump.
If, say, five months ago, Mueller had found sufficient evidence to lead to the cashiering of the president, his action today suggests he would have made that evidence public at that time.
Some people had doubted Mueller’s probity. His action this week suggests that he is concerned about the ability of the government — which means most especially the president — to function unimpeded by rumors of impeachable behavior.
As a result of Mueller’s actions now, it seems most unlikely that he has already uncovered evidence of impeachable offenses committed by the president. And given the length of time he has been looking, it seems unlikely now that he will.
And, given the thoroughness of the Mueller investigation, it also seems unlikely that any congressional investigating committee will find evidence of presidential misbehavior.
This movie may not be over yet. But it looks as if we’re coming to the end of the final reel.
Daniel Oliver is chairman of the board of the Education and Research Institute and a director of the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was executive editor and subsequently chairman of the board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.