Reason Roundup

The President Isn't a Russian Spy. Resistance Media Will Keep Freaking Out Anyway

Plus: Chick-fil-A banned from San Antonio airport, the Libertarian Party picks a convention slogan, and Robert Kraft apologizes.


No one ever changes their mind… If you exist on social media or consult any kind of news platform, you've heard that Special Counsel Robert Mueller finished his foray into possible Trump-Russia collusion and sent his final findings Friday to new Justice Department head William Barr. On Sunday, Barr sent Congress a four-page summary of Mueller's findings and then released them publicly. After years of investigation and endless media hoopla, "The Special Counsel's investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election."

People have been rushing to point out that this doesn't mean Russia is innocent of election "interference." OK. But it's also important to note that while the investigation led to criminal charges against 34 people, including six who worked for or advised President Donald Trump, "None of the Americans charged by Mueller is accused of conspiring with Russia to interfere in the election—the central question of Mueller's work," as The Washington Post pointed out yesterday. ("More than two dozen of the people charged by Mueller are Russians," the Post notes, but "because the United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, they are unlikely ever to see the inside of a U.S. courtroom.") And Mueller has said he is not planning to indict anyone else as part of the investigation.

Trump supporters and allies have been celebrating this as total vindication that he was innocent of any wrongdoing. In reality, Mueller was a bit more circumspect. While the record pretty clearly indicates that Trump did not directly collude with any attempts by Russians to swing the the 2016 election, Mueller left open that he may have obstructed the investigation afterward by firing former FBI chief James Comey, among other other actions.

Mueller essentially punted here, as Reason's Scott Shackford wrote yesterday. He reported his finding to Barr and left it to him to decide whether it amounted to obstruction. Barr kicked the can along to Congress, saying that Mueller's report didn't necessarily exonerate Trump on obstruction but there's not enough evidence to satisfy the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard.

If there's any group we can say "beyond a reasonable doubt" acted badly, it's certain #Resistance grifters and segments of the media, particularly folks at MSNBC. For more than two years, they've painted breathless portraits of a president beholden to the Kremlin, vast and villainous ties between Trump and Russia, and an array of unsubstantiated ancillary allegations. They've extended or built massive audiences by convincing liberal and anti-Trump conservative audiences that impeachment was all but a given if only Mueller's work wasn't stymied.

Many have not taken well to the recent news:

But already, new narratives among Democrats, left-leaning media, and the big anti-Trump personalities online are converging. Jake Tapper insists that we spare no time for reflection before plowing right ahead with the new Cold War:

Mother Jones' David Corn, co-author of the book Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, wrote yesterday that focusing on direct dealings between Putin's people and Trump wasn't the point:

[T]he hyper-focus on this sort of collusion—as if Trump instructed Russian hackers on how to penetrate the computer network of the Democratic National Committee—has always diverted attention from a basic and important element of the scandal that was proven long before Mueller drafted his final report: Trump and his lieutenants interacted with Russia while Putin was attacking the 2016 election and provided encouraging signals to the Kremlin as it sought to subvert American democracy. They aided and abetted Moscow's attempt to cover up its assault on the United States (which aimed to help Trump win the White House). And they lied about all this.

And, yes, there were instances of collusion—not on the specifics of the attack, but secret scheming between Trumpworld and Russia.

None of the evidence underlying this is in dispute. No matter what Mueller report contains, a harsh verdict remains: Trump and his gang betrayed the United States in the greatest scandal in American history.

Other lefty writers aren't so sure. "Nobody wants to hear this, but news that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is headed home without issuing new charges is a death-blow for the reputation of the American news media," writes Matt Taibbi. "Worse, in a brutal irony everyone should have seen coming, the press has now handed Trump the mother of campaign issues heading into 2020."

The reporting on Mueller's investigation was "the saddest media spectacle I've ever seen," Glenn Greenwald tells Democracy Now, adding:

What makes it even sadder is to watch all of the people who vested their journalistic credibility into what proved to be a complete and total fraud and scam continue to try to cling to some vestige of credibility by continuing to spin conspiracy theories that are even more reckless and even more unhinged than the ones to which we've been subjected for three years.

For the lawyer takes on this, Eugene Volokh recommends this this Volokh Conspiracy post as well as pieces by Ken White, David French, Noah Feldman, Cass Sunstein, Benjamin Wittes, and Marty Lederman.

Meanwhile, with the inevitable "this just proves we live in healthy democracy" take, here's Brett Stephens of The New York Times:


City Council bans Chick-fil-A. San Antonio authorities would only approve an agreement with the city's main airport if it excluded Chick-fil-A from having a branch in the airport.

"With this decision, the City Council reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion. San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior," said Citycouncilman Roberto Treviño said in a statement. "Everyone has a place here, and everyone should feel welcome when they walk through our airport. I look forward to the announcement of a suitable replacement by Paradies."


The Stranger's Katie Herzog apologizes:

Jezebel and the entire Gizmodo empire is built on internecine, media-industry navel-gazing. They are mean girls disguised as media critics, and there is no New York media figure too small to be the subject of their takedowns, from Jack Smith IV to Jesse Singal (never heard of them? Maybe because they're also not famous!). I know I'm not in New York, but I'm also not famous, so in light of this trend, I'd like to get a few things off my chest before Jezebel decides to do it first.

More here.


The Libertarian Party crowdsources a convention slogan. The Libertarian Party "has celebrated a 92 percent rise in its membership in the last decade, plus increased ballot access and some significant local victories," writes Jennifer Harper in The Washington Times. "The Libertarians are also busy planning their 2020 presidential convention, and have asked members to come up with a theme for the big event." The results so far?

Over 60 suggestions have rolled in, including such mottos as "Don't mess with anyone" and "Taxation is theft."

The Libertarians are now voting on their favorite. So far, the winner by far is the acronym "TANSTAAFL" — which has trounced such phrases as "Building bridges, not walls," "End our wars" and "Keep the Libertarian Party weird" — all in the top 10 at the moment. For the uninitiated, "TANSTAAFL" stands for "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" — essentially a caution that you can't get something for nothing.


• Robert Kraft apologizes for without quite saying what warrants the apology.

• I think this is a compliment?