Mueller's facts vs Trump's spin

Mueller's facts vs Trump's spin
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Whether the Mueller report is a catalyst for impeachment or how it affects the 2020 presidential race still has to play out.

One clear conclusion from reading it — I've done it twice — is that Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE chronically lies and demands others lie for him. That's laid out with great specificity in the 448-page document. As they try to refute the damning report, Trump and his team continue to lie with phony charges, such as:

The Mueller team was a bunch of left-wingers out to destroy Trump. It was "13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters and Zero Republicans," Trump tweeted as recently as last week.

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The truth? There were 19 members of the core Mueller team; 14 were on loan from the Justice Department. Mueller is a Republican who was appointed by a Republican.

Some of the others have made campaign contributions to Democrats, a little to Republicans too, but none are the partisan gunslingers who populated independent counsel Ken Starr's team two decades ago.

The "Deep State" of entrenched left-wingers engaged in a conspiracy to overthrow Trump, precipitated by a phony Democratic-sponsored dossier. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWhite House won't move forward with billions in foreign aid cuts GOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Cindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death MORE (R-S.C.), the chief Trump cheerleader in an effort to head off a right-wing challenger in his Senate re-election race next year, vows to investigate the investigators of this alleged witch hunt, with a special emphasis on the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, a Russia intelligence expert.

In reality, the probe of Trump and the Russians was set off in the spring of 2016 when a Trump functionary boasted to a foreign diplomat that the Russians had dirt on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump takes aim at media after 'hereby' ordering US businesses out of China Trump knocks news of CNN hiring ex-FBI official McCabe Taylor Swift says Trump is 'gaslighting the American public' MORE to share with the Trump campaign. The diplomat reported that to the Americans. With that, and the unusual number of ties Trump associates had with Russians, it would have been an unthinkable abdication of responsibility not to investigate a political adversary secretly trying to interfere in our election.

The notorious Steele dossier initially was funded by a conservative Republican and later picked up by Hillary Clinton's campaign; Steele says he was unaware of the funding. The dossier contained some wildly erroneous charges and exaggerations. But the central contention that the Russians were trying to sabotage the American election to help Donald Trump win the presidency was correct. Often overlooked, these were raw intelligence files which Steele acknowledged were only partially correct.

The press was a villain, promoting fake news. "It was all a malicious, preposterous lie given wall-to-wall media coverage despite zero evidence," charged Sarah SandersSarah Elizabeth SandersSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor April Ryan's bodyguard issued summons over alleged assault of local journalist Sarah Sanders: Democrats should 'quit lying and do their jobs' MORE, the factually-challenged White House press secretary.

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Actually the Mueller report is a compelling vindication of the best journalism. There were a few bad stories — Buzzfeed's charge that Trump instructed lawyer Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenCapitol Police advised Gaetz against holding open events I'm not a Nazi, I'm just a dude: What it's like to be the other Steve King Wyden blasts FEC Republicans for blocking probe into NRA over possible Russia donations MORE to lie to Congress, a McClatchy story that Mueller had evidence Cohen met in 2016 with the Russians in Prague — and the cable news pundits went overboard, as they so often do. But the reporting of the New York Times and the Washington Post, the leaders on this story, was remarkably accurate. Top reporters like the New York Times' Mark Mazzetti practice a different journalism than pundits like Rachel MaddowRachel Anne MaddowThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Democratic strategist praises Inslee for elevating issue of climate change ABC chose a debate moderator who hates Trump MORE of MSNBC; they shouldn't be conflated.

Look at the questions Mueller posed to Trump; more than a few were gleaned from Post and Times stories.

Trump turncoats, like former White House counsel Don McGahn, are untrustworthy.

The president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has charged McGahn's testimony to the special counsel was "hopelessly confused" and wrong. Others anonymously charged that he made up stuff to protect himself.

McGahn is an experienced lawyer who talked under oath for some 30 hours to the Mueller team, reporting the multiple occasions that Trump tried to get him to get Mueller fired and to lie for him. Under these circumstances, of course, he told the truth.

Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiSunday shows - Recession fears dominate Lewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' Lewandowski says he's 'happy' to testify before House panel MORE, the longtime Trump political operative, acknowledged that the president pressured him to force the attorney general to limit Mueller's investigation to any future Russian interference and not 2016. That was obstruction.

The public isn't fooled by these lies. Polls show people don't believe Trump's claim that he was "exonerated" by the investigation, and a majority believe he engaged in either illegal or unethical conduct in dealing with Russian dictator Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinUS and Russia arms race would be detrimental to strategic stability Five things to watch as Trump heads to G-7 summit Biden blasts Trump's 'embarrassing' actions heading into G-7 summit MORE.

Albert R. Hunt is the former executive editor of Bloomberg News. He previously served as reporter, bureau chief and Washington editor for the Wall Street Journal. For almost a quarter-century he wrote a column on politics for the Wall Street Journal, then the International New York Times and Bloomberg View. Follow him on Twitter @alhuntdc.