'Mueller time' arrives with more of a thud than a bang
Washington – With the long-awaited special counsel’s investigation done but its contents still shrouded in mystery, Americans waited for details, yawned with boredom or stayed fixed to their long-cemented positions on President Donald Trump, the man at the probe’s center.
For all the expected splash of Robert Mueller’s report, it arrived with more of a thud, thanks to the secrecy surrounding it. And few saw any reason to think it would sway many opinions in a divided republic.
Emily Miller, a 22-year-old Democrat who is a senior at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, said so much had already come out since Trump took office, and few supporters of his were shaken. She didn’t think anything about Mueller’s report would change that, just as she didn’t see anything steering Democrats away from seeking impeachment.
“It just shows how polarized we are at the moment,” she said, “and it’s very hard to change people’s minds, even with factual evidence.”
Mueller has worked in virtual silence as a stream of charges have flowed forth against 37 people and companies. From the start, with his appointment on May 17, 2017, some have framed his work as a battle of good and evil of biblical proportions.
And on the 675th day, Mueller finished his work, and he rested. But nothing immediately changed for those who had watched with bated breath.
For Mark Itzen, a 64-year-old social worker from Levittown, Pennsylvania, it was a frustrating reality.
“The most disturbing thing for me is that we don’t know the details,” the Democrat said. “I thought we have the right to know right off the bat after all this anticipation.”
Expectations remained high for some sort of explosive revelation, but what exactly it might be remained anyone’s guess.
For liberals who welcomed the investigation with gleeful shouts of “It’s Mueller Time!” and anxiously awaited justice that aligns with their view of Trump as antichrist, it seemed the endless billows of smoke would surely produce evidence of fire. For conservatives who subscribed to the president’s view of the probe as a witch hunt and dismissed it as the misguided tomfoolery of a bitter opposition whose search for retribution is as loopy as its policies, it seemed certain to bring exoneration to Trump and maybe even a roadmap for future victory by him and his party.
Jason Cox, a 51-year-old farmer in Campbellsville, Kentucky, who voted for Trump in 2016 and plans to again next year, saw it the way Trump framed it — as a witch hunt.
“It didn’t turn out, it seems to me, the way Democrats wanted,” he said. “I think Pelosi and Schumer are going to just keep beating and badgering and looking for something.”
Stan Pearson, 69, a retired math professor in Newport News, Virginia, was among Trump detractors who had high hopes for the report: The start of impeachment proceedings and charges of treason. He called Trump’s election the “worst experiment ever in our history,” and is not convinced Attorney General William Barr will release the full report.
“We may well have to settle for what we can salvage,” Pearson said.
Paul Rosenzweig, a fellow at the conservative R Street Institute and a former legal adviser to Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation, said the public’s expectations of Mueller were overblown — in part because the investigation has been poorly explained by a press that has persisted in suggesting the report would be a blockbuster.
“It’s exclusively media hype with a little bit of political spin,” he said. “Mostly it’s been the media looking for a hook and trying to make Mueller into more than he is.”
Still, many were exhausted by the unending onslaught of political news alerts and had paid less and less attention to the investigation. Others said they were disgusted by politicians on both sides.
“I really intensely dislike the way things are going in DC right now,” said Ken Block, a 53-year-old Republican from Barrington, Rhode Island, who owns a software engineering company and wants to see the Mueller report made public though he concedes he wouldn’t read the whole thing. “No one is a hero there in my mind right now.”
“I’m just tickled to death like everybody else that this thing is finally over with,” said David Kennedy, 65, a retired businessman and former politician in Harlan County, Kentucky, who is a Democrat but voted for Trump. “Trump will be able to prove that it’s just been a witch hunt or not and let the public make their own mind up. But man, everybody in this country is wore out over that nonsense.”