The Justice Department released a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report yesterday morning, and just minutes later, Donald Trump was all smiles. The president said at a White House event:
"I'm having a good day, too. It was called, 'No collusion. No obstruction.' There never was, by the way, and there never will be."
To the extent that reality has any meaning, the boast didn't make sense. The report, which Trump did not read, painted an incredibly damaging picture of a president who lied, encouraged others to lie, took repeated steps to undermine a federal investigation, and has overseen a dysfunctional and corrupt operation that had "numerous links" with Russian attackers who targeted our elections to put him in power.
There was no reason to pretend this was "a good day."
But it was just the start of an elaborate exercise in make-believe. The White House issued an official written statement, ostensibly written by Vice President Mike Pence, that said the Mueller report "confirms" Trump's earlier claims. The president's re-election campaign issued a similar statement, insisting that the president had been "fully and completely exonerated" by the report:
Kellyanne Conway, who somehow managed to keep a straight face, described the release of the devastating report as "really the best day since" Trump's election in 2016. The White House counselor added, "We're accepting apologies today, too, for anyone who feels the grace in offering them."
Apologies for what, Conway didn't say. Perhaps it's supposed to be obvious that, in Trump World's bizarre alternate reality, the president should be seen as a victim.
It's tempting to describe the Mueller report as a political Rorschach test, with different groups of people looking at the same image, but seeing entirely different things.
There is, however, a problem with the analogy -- because one side of the argument needs people not to look at the inkblot at all.
Trump, Republicans, and other skeptics of the Russia scandal are responding to the yesterday's developments by effectively saying, "See? The White House and Fox News were right all along. Trump is the innocent victim of a hoax, which warrants remorse from anyone who dared take the controversy seriously."
Simultaneously, those who actually read the Mueller report are responding, "Did any of these people bother to look at the document?"
We can probably guess the answer. Either Republicans read the report and are actively engaged in gaslighting, telling followers what to believe in the hopes that they never learn about the report's true contents, or they skipped it entirely, afraid of its findings.
That's not a Rorschach test; it's a lazy con.
Put it this way: have you seen anyone from the White House urging the public to read the document and pointing to specific exculpatory excerpts?