If you're reading it like literary fiction, the "character" we learn the most about in The Mueller Report is Robert Mueller himself. His character is throughout the book: intensely literal, a devout believer in the letter of the law, and an unquestioning devotee of the American experiment.
As the world saw in his quietly outraged public appearance last month, Mueller has a profound sense of right and wrong, but even his G-Man morality is nothing compared to his devotion to the law. Mueller announced that he could not indict a sitting president, and that he would have cleared the president of indictable offenses if he could. The inference, of course, is that President Trump committed indictable offenses, but Mueller is bound by duty to not say that out loud.
The big question is if Mueller made the right call by sticking to protocol. Is it possible that our times are extraordinary enough that the lantern-jawed advocate of fair play should have broken character and spoken frankly about his findings? Is Donald Trump enough of an existential threat to the country that Mueller should have dropped the coyness and sounded the alarm? Only time can answer that question.
As the Reading Through It Book Club learned last night, The Mueller Report is not easy reading. It's even less readable than Kenneth Starr's account of President Bill Clinton's affair in office, The Starr Report. It is a legal document, one which walks the reader — deliberately and with great detail — through the Trump campaign's connections with foreign agents and President Trump's attempts to kill the investigation into those dealings. It's not a page-turner, nor is it exceptionally accessible.
But it is important. Even though there aren't many new facts in the book, seeing all the details laid out in order, written in dry legal prose, is simply stunning. Nobody — not even Attorney General Barr — could read this report and come to the conclusion that Donald Trump is as innocent as a newborn child.
The only two conclusions to draw from The Mueller Report are:
Members of last night's book club had plenty of questions that The Mueller Report could never answer — about Russian money being funneled into social media, about whether Trump would be indicted on leaving office, about whether the country could ever recover from the damage that Trump's destructive policies are unleashing. The conversation repeatedly leaned toward darkness.
But I found it heartening that the conversation always came back to facts. What does Mueller say? What doesn't he say? When did this event happen? Can we even prove that this event ever happened? People kept trying to find solid ground on which they could stand.
For all his real estate deals, solid ground is the one thing that Donald Trump and his cronies will never be able to buy. When you build a kingdom on lies, you're destined to spend the rest of your days trying to avert disasters. Every day, the chaos president sinks a little bit deeper into a trap of his own making. The best way to keep from drowning in lies is to only build on truth, and we have a lot more truth about Donald Trump this month than we did six months ago.