Donald Trump’s talking head and special counselor was delighted with Attorney General William Barr’s performance. It was an unusual response to a clearly damning report about Russia’s attack on the U.S. 2016 presidential election and the conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign. Indeed, Mueller’s report indicated that giving the Trump polling data to the Russians was even more extensive than imagined.
Not only did then-campaign manager Paul Manafort hand over the data, the discussion got way down into the weeds, specifying specific states, such as Michigan. The president took it by a sliver-thin margin. Regardless, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway could not hide her glee.
She told reporters that she had already read the entire 400+ Mueller report. Then, she added, according to The U.S. News magazine that the day was best since election day:
‘(This is) really the best day since he got elected. We’re accepting apologies today, too, for anybody who feels the grace in offering them.’
What about the issue of a “counter report” that the president’s television attorney Rudy Giuliani teased that he had been writing, and even editing. The attorney’s intention was to release it in tandem with the Mueller report. Conway said it was no longer necessary:
‘(The president doesn’t need a point-by-point rebuttal. (Being president is) his greatest rebuttal.’
When Trump first heard that Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein had appointed a special counsel, Robert Mueller, he slumped in his chair and said:
‘Oh my god. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m f—ed. Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.’
Conway contradicted that observation:
‘I was very surprised to see that because that was not the reaction of the president that day. I will tell you he has never once on the campaign said, “I think we should resign, I’m not going to run anymore.”‘
The Mueller report did not even address “collusion.” The word never appeared in the entire report, because it is not a legal term. If appropriate, the term would have been “conspiracy.” However, Barr noted several times during his public relations announcement that there was no collusion.
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti wrote in TIME:
‘(T)he term collusion has no legal meaning in this context.’
However, these are illegal:
- Contributions and donations by foreign nationals
- Lying to investigators
- Fraud and related activity in connection with computers
- Obstruction of justice
Election law expert at the University at Buffalo School of Law James Gardner said:
‘Manafort’s provision of polling data to an individual with strong ties to Russian intelligence (could be) a potential piece of evidence in support of a theory that the Trump campaign, or Trump himself, conspired with Russian actors to influence the 2016 presidential election through the expenditure of money.’
Manafort intended to share polling data specifically with the goal of giving the Russians the information they needed to swing the election for Donald Trump.