Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election reads more like a 400-page confirmation of previous reporting about billionaire-turned-president Donald Trump, dating back to the earliest days of his presidential run, Slate reports. Mueller’s report, Slate explains, feels largely familiar to many, as the American people attempt to digest the complicated findings in the wake of Attorney General William Barr’s release of a redacted version. That’s because many of the events and incidents that take place in the report’s many pages have, in fact, been widely covered and publicly known shortly after they took place.
Sections of the report — which might, in other circumstances emerge as something of a political bombshell — were in fact understood long ago. Take, for example, the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer, who supposedly had useful intelligence on then-candidate Hillary Clinton. That particular story came to light in a New York Times report, which prompted the younger Trump to appear on Fox News in an attempt to deflate the then-simmering issue.
As Trump Jr. downplayed the event as “such a nothing” and “literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame,” Fox’s Sean Hannity (at the time) railed against the coverage of the meeting, saying that “liberals in the destroy Trump media once again have worked themselves into frenzy. They’re frothing at the mouth.”
It would also mark something of the beginning of conservative commentators and Trump himself doubling down on a narrative that the media is untrustworthy and badly intentioned.
“Haven’t we had a number of these Washington Post, New York Times stories end up being debunked with their phony, you know, anonymous sourcing?” Hannity said as news broke of another potential Trump Administration scandal. Hannity was referring to an alleged incident, again reported by The New York Times, in which Trump supposedly ordered White House Counsel Donald McGahn to fire Robert Mueller.
This time, Trump himself weighed in personally, saying, “Fake news, folks. Fake news. A typical New York Times fake story,” in what would become a familiar refrain for his characterization of the media throughout his presidency. To this day, he continues to criticize their handling of the Mueller investigation.
Yet, in case after case, Mueller’s findings have served to clarify and reinforce the general narrative-described-collective by the media over the last couple of years, potentially lending credibility to mainstream journalists as the U.S. turns the corner into the second half of Trump’s term.