For 675 long days and nights, Americans were the captive audience of a $25 million dollar show trial known as Russiagate, which ranks as one of the zaniest political circuses in US history, sharing the accolades with the likes of Zippergate and Watergate. Now, after spending the last of its ammunition, the media-inflamed investigation promises to become yet another lasting monument to Washington's impeccable political genius. The debacle is finally over; the wicked witch hunt is dead.
Attorney General William Barr announced on the weekend what many people had already long suspected: the Mueller probe had zero evidence that Trump's campaign "conspired or coordinated" with Russia in order to defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. On the point of Trump "obstructing the inquiry," possibly through his Tweeting compulsion, Mueller gave no definitive answer.
Vice President Mike Pence called the conclusions a "total vindication" of Donald Trump and "our campaign," emphasizing that there would be no more indictments.
What was particularly alarming about the investigation is that anyone remotely connected to Donald Trump - porn stars were even up for consideration - were hauled one-by-one before Bob Mueller's kangaroo court. Yet, maddeningly, the accused and convicted always lacked the one essential element: a Russian connection.
Trump's former political strategist, Paul Manafort, for example, was eventually convicted of tax fraud and is now doomed to serve out a lengthy prison sentence - unless pardoned by Trump. The torch-carrying inquisition also showed up at the home of Roger Stone, another Trump consultant, who was shaken out of bed by a fully armed SWAT team with a CNN camera crew in tow. Strange behavior for a country that never stops bragging about its democratic credentials. The list goes on and on. Such made-for-television hit jobs were great for ratings, as well as handsome advertising profits. Yet those over-the-top methods, taken straight out of an Orwellian nightmare, were cheap compensation for what was conspicuously lacking all along: again, the missing link between Trump and Russia.
But woe to the person who tries convincing the Democrats of Trump's innocence.
For many Liberals, who have been long tortured by the wet dream of Trump's indictment, followed up with sensational impeachment proceedings, they are now left standing at the Russiagate terminal, unable to comprehend that the train has already left the station. But they should not have been caught unawares that Robert Mueller, 74, decided to prematurely toss in the towel on the probe. After all, every man has his mental and physical limitations, and the 22-month investigation - which consisted of 37 indictments, some 2,800 subpoenas and 500 witness interviews - were taking a toll on everyone.
Although the Democrats desperately wanted to see the investigation go the full distance, that is, right up to the 2020 presidential elections, Mueller, under the command of a new sheriff, William Barr, denied them that luxury. But the investigation was already careening off the track before that.
Last month, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff actually threatened to have Special Counsel Mueller, who has remained out of the spotlight throughout the proceedings, testify before Congress over his handling of the investigation. That may have been the straw that broke Mueller's back, so to speak.
On the question of Trump being cleared of any wrongdoing, Schiff and his fellow Democrats are not ready to concede on that point just yet. The question of obstruction keeps their hopes alive. The high-ranking Democrat told George Stephanopoulos:
"[T]here could be overwhelming evidence on the obstruction issue. And I don't know if that's the case, but if there were overwhelming evidence of criminality on the president's part, then the Congress would need to consider that remedy if indictment is foreclosed."The Democrats seem to be taking some encouragement from Barr, who offered a morsel of hope when he said Mueller's report "does not conclude that the president committed a crime," but "it also does not exonerate him." But then again, why would Mueller be expected to exonerate the president in the absence of any crime?
To underscore the acrimony that exists between the two political camps, Schiff took his attack further, arguing it was a mistake for Mueller to "rely on written responses by the president [as opposed to appearing in person]...because the president is someone who seems pathologically incapable of telling the truth for long periods of time."
At this point, we are faced with a simple question that could have long-reaching implications on the US political system: Where does the caravan go from here? Now that Trump appears to have been vindicated and is in the driver's seat, will he seek revenge for the indignities he has endured ever since his first day in the White House? Or will he be thankful that the harassment has ceased and he can finally put his mind to other more pressing matters?
First, there is the very credible claim that Trump was under surveillance by the Obama government and intelligence agencies while he was the Republican nominee for president. The excuse for the spying was, of course, collusion with Russia. Trump is now in the position to seek legal justice over that gross violation, which would make Watergate look like a parking violation by comparison. It gets better.
On another occasion, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe said he rejected deputy AG Rod Rosenstein's alarming suggestion that he wear a wire inside the White House in order to entrap the president and roll out impeachment proceedings. Here, the Democrats were treading dangerously close to treacherous territory.
By far, however, the greatest indignity suffered by Donald Trump even before the Mueller investigation went live was the so-called Trump-Russia Dossier, hatched by Christopher Steele, a former MI6 agent. The false allegations made against the president in the report are bad enough - at one point it alleges that Trump engaged in unspeakable sex acts during a visit to Moscow. However, the fact that the report was initiated on behalf of the Democratic National Committee, as well as Hillary Clinton's campaign, through a firm called Fusion GPS, is simply outrageous. Despite the ludicrous allegations, Buzzfeed released a copy of the report so that, it argued, "Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect..."
Now that the bankrupt Mueller investigation has come full circle, disrupting many lives along the way, the Republicans and the Democrats face what could be the moment of truth as far as their future political relations are concerned. In that sense, the Mueller investigation may have not come to a close, but has in fact only just begun.
About the author
Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. Former Editor-in-Chief of The Moscow News, he is author of the book, Midnight in the American Empire, released in 2013.