During Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation of the 2016 election, its final report was as anticipated as any piece of information in history. NPR even interviewed the families of terminally ill patients who were worried they might die before they could read its findings. The anticipation was as if word leaked that God was about to drop the 11th commandment.
And yet now, two months after the Mueller Report’s release, few people have read it. In a CNN poll last month, just 3% of Americans reported reading the whole report. (The survey didn’t say how many of those people are or were terminally ill.)
It’s not just the public that’s not reading it. Members of Congress aren’t either. Last month the Washington Post asked 92 members of Congress if they’d read the Mueller Report. While 73% of those in the House of Representatives said they had, just 50% of Senators surveyed claimed to have read it.
Why aren’t more people reading the Mueller Report? Is it Trump exhaustion? Have we picked our sides and stopped paying attention to the substance of the game? Or is it that — from a public interest perspective — the Mueller Report is kind of a flop?
Compare the Mueller Report to The 9/11 Commission Report, another government-published account of a national crisis. The 9/11 Commission Report was written in a narrative form with the public interest in mind. A New York Times review said “it reads like a novel.” It sold more than a million copies in its first year, and was even optioned for two TV series.
Despite the wall-to-wall cable news coverage, it’s hard to picture the TV shows that would spin out from the Mueller Report’s findings. A printed version is currently on the bestseller’s list, but it’s hardly a book club or beach read favorite. The reason is simple: the Mueller Report isn’t easy to read.
This critique isn’t totally fair, I admit. According to the Special Counsel statute, the intended audience for the Mueller Report isn’t the public, it’s the Justice Department. The report’s technical and legal language are there for technical and legal reasons. But it’s this same legalese that’s preventing the report from influencing the public or persuading those in power to follow through on its conclusions, which, even more confusingly, are presented as fortune cookie double-negative innuendos (“While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”).
If the Mueller Report is a flop because its writing isn’t connecting, is there anything that can be done about it?
Well, what do the experts in flops do when something has a lot riding on it but isn’t working? In Hollywood, they bring someone in to rewrite it. What if the Special Counsel could do the same? Is there an adaptation of the Mueller Report that could move the needle?
There could be the Mueller-Wolf Report co-authored by Law & Order creator Dick Wolf. This draft would keep the Mueller Report’s two-part structure — an obvious homage to Law & Order (Part One: The Crime, Part Two: The Boring Stuff) — but add more drama. A fiery interrogation scene between Trump fixer Michael Cohen and Law & Order SVU’s Mariska Hargitay would bring Trump’s dire financial straits vividly to light.
Or it could be the Mueller-Abrams Report, with Lost/Star Wars writer J.J. Abrams bringing his multi-layered narrative style to the findings. In his hands, the report would be a labyrinthine mystery with unexpected twists and turns (the Seychelles! Sean Hannity!) that would keep Twitter buzzing. This version would end inconclusively, however, with major threads unresolved. Sounds a little too familiar. Moving on.
Could the Mueller-Duffer Brothers Report make a splash? The Stranger Things creators could re-set Mueller’s findings in the 1980s glory days of Russian fear-mongering. With the right soundtrack, wardrobe, and indoor smoking policies, Trump fans could share in the outrage that America’s democracy has been attacked.
The most watched version might be the Mueller-Gibson Report. Directed by Mel Gibson and aired on Fox, this version would get big ratings and headlines, though the graphic depiction of Donald Trump’s crucifixion at the hands of Peter Strzok and Lisa Page would prove controversial.
But in the end, there’s just one Mueller rewrite that’s a lock to make a difference. It’s also the hardest one to get for obvious reasons. But the Mueller-Kardashian-West Report would absolutely break through the noise.
Kim Kardashian would feature each of the ten possible obstruction of justice charges as Instagram stories for her 141 million followers (“Swipe up to impeach,” the screen reads after each one). She’d sprinkle her makeup tutorials with down-to-earth explanations of how Trump obstructed justice, limited the Special Counsel’s ability to pinpoint the nature of the Russia-Trump connection, and left America open to further attacks, which might be an impeachable offense on its own. Also don’t forget to check out her new CBD moisturizing lip balm.
After Kim starts promoting the MKW Report, daytime, gossip, and reality television begin covering Mueller’s findings for the first time. Trump’s approval rating noticeably dips. Caitlyn Jenner’s switch from pro- to anti-Trump even makes headlines in Trump’s hometown newspaper, The National Enquirer.
As for Kanye, his belief in Trump never wavers, but he’s already on the record stating nothing’s ever promised tomorrow today. Building on the landmark Yeezus, Kanye’s ode to betrayal Yudas is a stunning rebuke of Trump and a finely crafted song cycle about the abuse of power and its Constitutional implications.
But it’s Kanye’s Saturday Night Live appearance that’s the final nail in the coffin. Kanye performs Yudas’ lead single “Snapback” on a stage designed to look like a mock funeral for Trump, complete with Alec Baldwin as the Corpse-in-Chief. At the song’s finale, Kanye reaches into the casket, takes a red baseball cap out of Trump/Baldwin’s hands, and puts it on as he faces the camera. The hat reads: “MAKE AMERICA KANYE AGAIN.”
Hours later, the Trump presidency ends with a single-word tweet: “sad.”
To Impeach, or…
Some in the media are attempting to translate Mueller’s findings for the public.
These are a necessary start. Impeachment hearings should start as soon as possible, and should focus on Trump’s obstruction of justice. The political situation is bad and getting worse. The closer it gets to the 2020 election, the harder the process will be.
Three final thoughts on impeachment
1) In past emails I’ve predicted Trump will be impeached and re-elected in 2020. As of now, whether he’s impeached seems the more questionable of those two predictions. Yes, 2020 polls look bad for Trump at this moment, but he has many built-in advantages. Presidents tend to be reelected, the Democratic candidate will potentially need a +5 margin of victory to overcome the Electoral College, and Trump has cheated before and will cheat again. What’s less certain is whether Democrats will try to impeach. They’re afraid of losing the larger political battle. They may be overthinking it (shocker!).
2) Michigan Congressman Justin Amash becoming the first Republican to come out for impeachment is a big deal. He’s a staunch conservative, a libertarian, and formerly a member of the Freedom Caucus, an influential far-right group in Congress. In a series of tweets he made an effective, conservative case for impeachment. Also notable: he’s refused to do interviews, not wanting to use this position for personal gain. So far no other Republicans have followed.
Amash’s reasons for impeachment focus on Trump’s obstruction of justice. This is the right angle to take. Check out the Google search trends for “impeachment”: