It was against this backdrop that the GOP congressman hosted a town-hall meeting in his home district this week, talking to a group of more than 800 local voters – many of whom were eager to praise his position, some of whom weren’t.
But of particular interest was a quote from one Republican local voter, whom NBC News spoke to after the event.
Cathy Garnaat, a Republican who supported Amash and the president said she was upset about Amash’s position but wanted to hear his reasoning. She said that she will definitely support Trump in 2020 but that Tuesday night was the first time she had heard that the Mueller report didn’t completely exonerate the president.
“I was surprised to hear there was anything negative in the Mueller report at all about President Trump. I hadn’t heard that before,” she said. “I’ve mainly listened to conservative news and I hadn’t heard anything negative about that report and President Trump has been exonerated.”
Just to be abundantly clear, my goal is not to pick on a random person in Michigan. The woman is a voter who was interested enough in current events to show up for a town-hall event with her congressman, and I’m glad she was willing to speak with journalists after hearing Amash’s perspective.
That said, her perspective is an important one for a few reasons.
First, when we hear Donald Trump lie repeatedly about the Mueller report and its contents, there may be a temptation to assume the public will know better. That assumption is wrong. The Republican White House and its allies repeat these bogus claims, ad nauseam, because they know much of the electorate will have no idea they’re trying to deceive the electorate.
On the contrary, millions of people will accept the nonsense as fact. They’ve turned to the people they think they can trust for information they hope will be accurate, unaware of the larger cynical campaign.
Second, a similar dynamic exists with conservative media. For news consumers who choose to ignore independent journalistic institutions, there’s an entire alternate universe. In theory, every American concerned with public affairs would know that the Mueller report was devastating for Donald Trump. It’s painfully obvious, right? For those whose news is filtered through conservative outlets, it’s not.
It’s a reminder that Trump is in a unique political position. Previous presidents facing scandals of this magnitude couldn’t count on allied media to deceive millions of people. In 2019, it’s a different story.
And third, this one voter in Justin Amash’s district inadvertently made a powerful case for Mueller to deliver congressional testimony. Most Americans didn’t read the Mueller report. Some have heard the truth about it, others haven’t, but millions would learn a great deal if the former special counsel testified.
Mueller said this week that if he appeared before Congress, he wouldn’t go further than what appeared in his report. And therein lies the rub: that’d be just fine, since much of the country would benefit, even if he did nothing more than read from the darned thing.
“I was surprised to hear there was anything negative in the Mueller report at all about President Trump,” the woman in Michigan said. I wonder how many millions of Americans would say the same thing if they heard Mueller say out loud what he wrote in the document?