Late last month President Trump met with a group of Republican senators on Capitol Hill. He discussed a lot of topics, but his most memorable comment came when he called Trump-Russia special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation "two years of bullshit."
Now, the public has Mueller's 448-page report, and it tends to support the president's assessment.
In this sense: At its heart, the Trump-Russia probe was about one question: Did the Trump campaign conspire, coordinate, or collude with Russia to influence the 2016 election?
Mueller has concluded that did not happen.
Everything else in the Trump-Russia affair flowed from that one question.
Paul Manafort's shady finances would not have come under investigation were it not for that question. Carter Page would not have been wiretapped were it not for that question. Michael Flynn would not have been interviewed by the FBI were it not for that question. Zillions of hours on cable TV would not have been expended on Trump-Russia were it not for that question. And in the largest sense, there would have been no Mueller investigation were it not for that question.
And now Mueller has determined there was no collusion. Not that there was no criminalcollusion. Or no prove-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt collusion. Just no collusion. Mueller's report says it over and over and over again. Here are seven examples:
1. "The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."
2. "The investigation examined whether [contacts between Russia and Trump figures] involved or resulted in coordination or a conspiracy with the Trump Campaign and Russia, including with respect to Russia providing assistance to the Campaign in exchange for any sort of favorable treatment in the future. Based on the available information, the investigation did not establish such coordination."
3. "The investigation did not establish that [Carter] Page coordinated with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere with the 2016 election."
4. "The Office did not identify evidence in those [contacts between Russians and people around Trump after the GOP convention] of coordination between the Campaign and the Russian government."
5. "The Office did not identify evidence of a connection between Manafort's sharing polling data and Russia's interference in the election ... [and] the investigation did not establish that Manafort otherwise coordinated with the Russian government on its election-interference efforts."
6. "The investigation did not establish that these [contacts between Russians and people around Trump during the transition] reflected or constituted coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia in its election interference activities."
7. "The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons conspired or coordinated with the [Russian disinformation campaign]."
That is definitive. It is not kinda, sorta. It is definitive. As far as Mueller's conclusions are concerned — and remember, he was long considered the gold standard of Trump investigations — there was no collusion.
The Mueller report is divided into two volumes. Volume I covers the collusion question. Volume II considers whether the president obstructed the investigation. But of course there would have been no obstruction investigation had there not been the collusion allegation to begin with. There would be no Volume II if there were no Volume I.
The report covers a lot of ground. Everyone knew, or should have known, that it would include details that Trump's detractors could use against him and details the president's supporters could cite in his defense. And it does. Certainly some House Democrats hope to use it as a road map to impeachment, and many, many Democrats hope to use it as a road map to defeating Trump in 2020.
But remember what the investigation was about. It was about something that did not happen. And that should matter now that Mueller has finished his work.