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Report on FBI brings the 2016 campaign roaring back

This long national nightmare may never be over.The sour legacy of the 2016 election is further tightening its ...

Posted: Jun 15, 2018 4:35 PM
Updated: Jun 15, 2018 4:35 PM

This long national nightmare may never be over.

The sour legacy of the 2016 election is further tightening its grip on Washington after the release of a critical report on the FBI's conduct while investigating scandals linked to the vote. And a new legal front is opening with stunning allegations about the Trump family's behavior during the campaign.

President Donald Trump's swift bid to inaccurately paint the Justice Department inspector general's report as proof that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is biased is deepening cavernous divides in the nation's capital, giving a fresh battering to bedrock legal institutions and further undermining the notion that a shared objective truth underwrites American political life.

Reaction to the report is also offering an unsettling preview of how the political power centers are likely to splinter along partisan lines when Mueller eventually reveals the results of the Russia investigation.

It was a spectacle that suggests that recriminations over the election, and the political wars unleashed in its aftermath, mean that there will never be some national cathartic moment of unity when the nation can finally move on from the debacle of 2016.

Instead, the damage from the nastiest election in decades seems to multiply by the week, stifling all efforts to slake its poison, and looks certain to linger for years.

Trump pounced on the report Friday, referencing a text message between FBI agent Peter Strzok and lawyer Lisa Page that spoke of a need to "stop" Trump from becoming President as proof that the Clinton email and Russia investigations were politically motivated.

"The report yesterday, maybe more importantly than anything, it totally exonerates me. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction," the President told reporters at the White House.

"You'll see bias against me and millions and tens of millions of my followers, and that really is a disgrace."

In fact, the inspector general made no finding that exonerates Trump in the investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russia or the President obstructed justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey.

It found that Strzok's views did not have any impact on investigative decisions taken by the FBI in the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails. It did not make any determination on whether his political leanings had any impact on the Russia investigation.

On the face of it, the report was unimpeachably reasonable. It offered something for everyone involved in the tortured melodrama of the last election, should they chose to salve their wounds and move on.

"It is thorough, it is detailed, it is reasoned, it is not histrionic," said Preet Bharara, former US attorney for the Southern District of New York, who is now a CNN legal analyst.

The report found that Comey infringed departmental norms and acted in an "extraordinary and insubordinate" manner in handling the Clinton email investigation, but not out of political malevolence. It rebuked two FBI officials who swapped text messages critical of Trump but said their political leanings did not taint the bureau's investigations.

It also undermined the idea there was a "deep state" conspiracy directed from the top of the FBI to keep Trump out of the White House, a narrative advanced by the President.

"I am hopeful that the work is finished on this issue, that the American people, the President and the Congress accept the OIG's report and we can move on," Greg Brower, a former assistant director at the FBI's Bureau of Congressional Affairs, told CNN's Brooke Baldwin.

Some hope.

Not normal times

In normal times, Congress would be expected to soberly absorb the conclusions and debate reforms needed to repair the breach in national political life.

These are not normal times and there is no chance of such common purpose.

The White House could have said the President accepted the recommendations and wanted to draw a line under a fraught saga to bring the nation together.

Instead, it seized on the sections of the report that played into his conspiracy theories about a plot against him, charges quickly picked up by cheerleaders in Congress and conservative media.

"Now here's the good news: I did nothing wrong. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. The IG report yesterday went a long way to show that, and I think that the Mueller investigation has been totally discredited," Trump said.

It's not that the text messages between Strzok and Page were not deeply troubling. In fact, they are ruinous to the FBI's reputation and could justify anger on Trump's behalf.

But Trump and his aides are always on the lookout for anecdotes that cast Comey in a bad light and support their claims he was fired over his handling of the Clinton email saga -- even though the President said on NBC he did it because of the Russia probe.

The President's reaction epitomized why the reverberations of the 2016 election may never die. His implicit argument is that any suggestion of presidential wrongdoing in 2016 is invalid since there is institutional bias against Trump.

Trump backers promote the argument even though allegations of collusion between his campaign and Moscow arise from frequently shifting explanations about repeated contacts from people in his campaign and Russians.

The administration also invoked dark suggestions that shady forces are maneuvering against the President to explain away a damaging new lawsuit against him.

The action, brought by the New York attorney general, alleges that Trump and his three elder children misused funds from his charitable foundation in a pattern of "persistent illegal conduct."

But Trump tweeted that it was more proof of bias against him by "sleazy New York Democrats."

Again, the conceit is that whenever Trump is accused of wrongdoing, it is simply because a corrupt and rigged system is out to get him.

It's an argument the President has used and will employ again to discredit whatever Mueller finds, and that is already a potent one in shaping the sentiments of supporters who have helped him take over his party and drive out Republican dissent.

'But my emails'

But the White House was not alone in cherry-picking the report.

Democrats could have digested the harsh accounting of Comey's handling of the Clinton email probe and accepted validation, before moving on from an election that will never be re-run. Instead, some of them accused the fired FBI director of effectively deciding the race.

"The stark conclusion we draw after reviewing this report is that the FBI's actions helped Donald Trump become President," Democratic Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Elijah Cummings said in a statement.

"Director Comey had a double standard: He spoke publicly about the Clinton investigation while keeping secret from the American people the investigation of Donald Trump and Russia."

Clinton herself also stoked the embers of 2016, reacting to findings that Comey used a personal Gmail account for official government business while FBI director.

"But my emails," she tweeted, borrowing the refrain of supporters who accused the media of over-inflating her use of a private server while secretary of state.

As Washington sank deeper into acrimony, someone, a long way away, was no doubt watching.

If a Russian influence intelligence operation really did try to damage American democracy in the last election, and set American on American in a bid to embitter political life and damage vital institutions, President Vladimir Putin must have been smiling inside at the discord he helped sow.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 448268

Reported Deaths: 6013
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin931011480
Ramsey40016739
Dakota33072340
Anoka30999364
Washington20164228
Stearns17871187
St. Louis13690241
Scott1195496
Wright11614104
Olmsted1048475
Sherburne821365
Carver694836
Clay653280
Rice606868
Kandiyohi554371
Blue Earth541033
Crow Wing482774
Otter Tail457167
Chisago452732
Benton420186
Winona389646
Douglas374166
Nobles370846
Mower365529
Goodhue347958
Polk328658
McLeod325345
Morrison311744
Beltrami310347
Lyon302236
Becker284939
Itasca284543
Isanti282841
Carlton280043
Steele27379
Pine266713
Freeborn245321
Todd231730
Nicollet224636
Brown215134
Mille Lacs214246
Le Sueur210015
Cass207623
Meeker199733
Waseca189316
Wabasha17083
Martin170026
Roseau165416
Hubbard149338
Redwood139727
Renville137539
Houston135913
Dodge13474
Chippewa131332
Cottonwood127218
Fillmore12355
Wadena120116
Rock110212
Sibley10857
Aitkin108433
Watonwan10668
Faribault105916
Pennington99215
Kanabec97818
Pipestone94423
Yellow Medicine93714
Murray8815
Jackson85610
Swift83418
Pope7385
Marshall70215
Stevens7018
Clearwater68514
Lac qui Parle65716
Lake63715
Wilkin6259
Koochiching59610
Lincoln4841
Big Stone4573
Unassigned43768
Grant4298
Norman4248
Mahnomen4107
Kittson37219
Red Lake3174
Traverse2503
Lake of the Woods1951
Cook1140

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 305606

Reported Deaths: 4278
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk45754449
Linn17795275
Scott15444163
Black Hawk13773236
Woodbury13016175
Johnson1211749
Dubuque11387150
Pottawattamie8992112
Dallas888671
Story869434
Webster469771
Cerro Gordo466768
Sioux455157
Clinton450361
Warren443938
Marshall427761
Buena Vista393429
Muscatine390477
Des Moines381841
Plymouth350368
Wapello344198
Jasper321959
Lee317130
Marion304952
Jones271349
Henry264330
Carroll255434
Bremer245048
Crawford231022
Boone218417
Washington217632
Benton209444
Mahaska193136
Jackson192031
Tama187757
Dickinson186026
Delaware173736
Kossuth173644
Clay168820
Wright164824
Fayette162322
Hamilton160029
Buchanan159923
Winneshiek155719
Harrison155162
Hardin154729
Cedar153219
Clayton151448
Butler148224
Page144715
Floyd139636
Cherokee139027
Mills136416
Lyon135332
Poweshiek132724
Hancock130224
Allamakee127928
Iowa125422
Calhoun12279
Grundy121226
Jefferson120724
Madison12039
Winnebago119429
Mitchell116234
Louisa115030
Cass113341
Chickasaw111612
Sac111215
Emmet110831
Appanoose110538
Union108822
Humboldt105519
Guthrie103024
Shelby102926
Franklin102418
Unassigned9310
Palo Alto9079
Montgomery85622
Keokuk85026
Howard84219
Monroe81218
Clarke7957
Pocahontas77611
Ida74630
Greene6927
Davis69121
Adair68820
Lucas6508
Monona64016
Osceola6409
Worth6113
Taylor5949
Fremont5126
Van Buren49712
Decatur4894
Ringgold4389
Audubon4158
Wayne41421
Adams2963
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