By David DeAngelo
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
We’ve been told numerous times that the nation has become polarized like rarely ever before. Each side screams past the other over issues of the day.
One big issue facing the nation is whether President Donald J. Trump’s actions are actually good for our republic. At Nate Silver’s poll-data website, FiveThirtyEight.com, Trump has enjoyed a shockingly consistent approval rating in the low 40s for most of his administration (with a disapproval rating is a similarly consistent 50+ percent).
That’s Trump’s base and he’s sticking with it.
As far as I can see, we the people are divided into two groups; the 40 percent that likes what Donald Trump does/has done, and the 50 percent that doesn’t. One way to determine who’s in what camp is how a person sees Trump’s behavior vis-a-vis Russian collusion/Trump obstruction.
In an August 7 Tribune-Review opinion piece titled, “Mueller show’s over; it’s time to move on,” U.S. Rep Guy Reschenthaler (PA-14) defended Trump against the investigation led by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller. As a signal to which camp he’s in, he even called the investigation a “witch hunt.”
Rep. Reschenthaler hangs his argument on a few points. The first can be found when he writes, “Now, after six hours of testimony from Mueller, the findings of his investigation and the takeaways from the hearing could not be clearer: There was no obstruction, no collusion.”
To anyone who actually read the report, however, that last part is obviously incorrect. All we have to do is to look at the second page of the second volume of the Mueller Report and we’ll see this:
“[I]f we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment. The evidence we obtained about the President’ s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Take a close look at the third sentence – evidence obtained by the office prevented them from concluding that no criminal conduct occurred. And yet for former JAG attorney Guy Reschenthaler, the takeaway from the investigation is exactly the opposite. No collusion, no obstruction, he said.
In reality, the report did not exonerate Donald Trump, and so Guy Reschenthaler is exactly wrong about this.
But let’s take a step back to see what that means, for the representative, his constituency, and (most importantly) what he must think about his constituency.
Let’s start from this point: the report is clear, for instance, that the OSC could not clear Trump from a charge of obstruction. They said they would if they could (but they couldn’t so they didn’t). From that point, we can either assume that Reschenthaler (or at least some member or members of his staff) read the report and yet chose to misinform his constituents about the report’s contents. Or we can assume that no one in his office actually read the report and yet he chose to educate his constituents about a report he failed to read.
Neither paints the representative in a good light, I’m afraid.
He either didn’t bother to check or he did check and it didn’t matter. He just went with his party leader’s ever-present rant of “no obstruction” hoping, I suppose, that his constituents wouldn’t check his work.
Now let’s move onto another of Reschenthaler’s points, namely that:
“Perhaps most concerning was the complete disregard for the bedrock principles of our judicial system, such as presumption of innocence and right to privacy, throughout this process. As I pointed out during my questioning of Mueller, Democratic Attorney General Janet Reno took great exception to publicly airing the target of an investigation’s dirty laundry. I agree that the drafting and the publication of some of the information in the report without an indictment flies in the face of the American justice system.”
The only problem with the representative’s criticism is how off the mark it is. In the above paragraph, Reschenthaler links back to testimony given by then AG Janet Reno and her appraisals of the Independent Counsel Act (which expired in 1999, when Guy Reschenthaler was 16 and barely old enough to drive?). Special Counsel Robert Mueller was functioning under that part of the US Code that replaced the law defining the Independent Counsel. Complaining that Mueller’s office failed AG Reno’s criticism makes no sense at all.
And you remember what the second page of the second volume of the Mueller report said? About how the office did not exonerate Trump?
Reschenthaler actually starts a sentence with, “In fact, despite Mueller’s report exonerating the president….”
This is simply incorrect. If Reschenthaler’s office doesn’t know the statement is incorrect then it’s simply a mistake (a huge, embarrassing, ‘ohmigod I can’t believe we screwed up this bad on the national stage’ mistake, to be sure). But, on the other hand, if his office knows the statement is incorrect, then this is what is known as a lie.
So which is it, Representative Reschenthaler? Incompetence or dishonesty? Are you so bad at researching incredibly important issues of the day that you fail to correctly inform your constituents or are you simply lying to them?
(Editor’s Note: Checks and Balances is a new twice-monthly fact-check column written by David DeAngelo, co-founder of the 2 Political Junkies blog, 2politicaljunkies.blogspot.com/)