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Love or hate Trump, Mueller report doesn't matter

The Hill logo The Hill 4/23/2019 Dane Strother, opinion contributor
Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: Love or hate Trump, Mueller report doesn't matter © Getty Images Love or hate Trump, Mueller report doesn't matter

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The Mueller report really never mattered. A clear smoking gun likely would not have toppled a president who long ago adroitly asserted he could shoot people on Fifth Avenue and his supporters would not abandon him.

America is so dug into opposing trenches that toxic gas would not force them out. We look at the same set of facts and draw different conclusions - and given the silos of cable news and social media, that is unlikely to change. A headline on Fox News the day of the report's release read, "Mueller struggled to find a crime that didn't exist," quoting a legal analyst. An MSNBC headline at the same time: "Mueller Report shows Trump WH is like Goodfellas meets the Three Stooges."

Even two of the main players in the saga disagree.

"We concluded that Congress has the authority to prohibit a president's corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice," special counsel Robert Mueller wrote.

Yet Attorney General William Barr said at a news conference Thursday morning, before making the report public, "I hope that was not his view, because we don't convene grand juries and conduct criminal investigations for that purpose."

Both sides in America's political war long ago formed their opinion of Trump. The left skewers him as a serial adulterer and pathological liar, whose lack of decency is proven by his stiffing small businesses and whose coarseness is well below the dignity of the office.

A somewhat bifurcated right has stuck with him throughout the investigation. Some on the right believe he is the imperfect vessel their God brought to power to right wrongs and stick a thumb in the eye of the establishment and intellectuals they believe have looked down their noses at them for a decade. Others on the right have seemingly held their noses and looked the other way to cement a conservative judiciary for a generation.

Ron Faucheux's excellent daily email, Lunchtime Politics, features public polls and always leads with the president's approval rating. On Feb. 22, 2017, Trump's aggregated approval rating was 44 percent. It is the same today, after a wild run of thousands of hours of talking heads spouting opposing arguments to their flocks.

Short of Mueller clearly proving treason and providing evidence so overwhelming that a bipartisan group of Congress demanded impeachment, Trump would successfully resist the resisters. Since the time former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) took to the well of an empty House chamber to perform for C-SPAN cameras, our nation has been moving toward this point of intransigence and anger.

I've worked in political media and campaigns for three decades and never have witnessed America this dug in, with so few people open to changing their minds.

Some 20 years ago, we worked at getting 11 percent of the 20 percent undecided voters. It then moved to needing 6 out of 10 percent undecided. Today, political professionals oversee spending hundreds of millions of dollars to try to get 3 of the 5 percent undecided. And by the next election, it could well be 2 of 3 percent.

Democrats now are aggressively investigating Trump the businessman, and if they determine he played games with his taxes or accepted loans from less-than-reputable sources, it will be touted by the left - and shot down by the right.

There is no one judge to give a final ruling on Trump, but there is one jury to determine his political future: America's voters. The question will be if either side accepts the outcome of what likely will be a very close election. All signs today point to that not being the case. So we live with partisan bickering that has evolved into hatred, and seemingly have no exit ramp in sight.

But what is clear is the Mueller report provided both sides with irrefutable evidence that their beliefs are sound, even though these views are 180 degrees apart. We just ended an exhaustive two years of investigations only to end up where we began.

Dane Strother, a partner in Strother Nuckels Strategies, is a veteran Democratic strategist and communications consultant.

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