US Attorney General William Barr published his four-page summary of the conclusions of the Mueller report on 24 March 2019. Will this be a day that lives in infamy for mainstream media? Special Counsel Robert Mueller had spent more than two years investigating, with considerable resources, alleged collusion between President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to influence the 2016 US presidential election in Trump’s favour. Barr’s summary of the 400-page report said that ‘the Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election’ (see The end of Russiagate, in this issue).
Mueller was so far beyond suspicion of Trumpian bias that he had become a subject of devotion for Democrats (there were even ‘St Robert Mueller’ prayer candles for sale online). But his report did not sustain the popular fake news that Trump was being blackmailed, or had become ‘Putin’s puppet’, based on Steele report-derived stories that the Kremlin had compromising video footage of his sexual escapades in a hotel in Moscow in 2013; dignified newspapers used the Russian spy term kompromat with relish. ‘Russiagate’ had become a recurring tag and story in prestigious publications from early 2017 (1).