The long wait is over. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has issued his report – on his investigation into alleged collusion by President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia during the 2016 election and obstruction of justice by President Trump into the investigation – to the Department of Justice. After reviewing it, Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein have released a summary of the report. The key findings of the summary were that Mueller found no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and ‘could not find one way or the other’ as to whether the president obstructed justice. Attorney General Barr stated, he and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein themselves based upon the evidence found no obstruction of justice. President Trump and his allies are declaring exoneration. Democrats at this point are demanding the full report be made public along with all evidence Mueller collected. Additionally, they are not accepting Barr’s determination of no obstruction. While the Mueller investigation is over, the public relations battle on the findings have begun.
So how should both sides fight the public relations war?
President Trump and his allies have declared total exoneration. The President in his first remarks expressed anger about the investigation that has consumed two years of his presidency and also implied that there should be a separate investigation into Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. This is the worse strategy that he can pursue. The best thing he and Republicans can do is claim exoneration and that it is time to put the nation’s business first. The worst thing the President can do is go off on Twitter storms and vow revenge. Additionally, he needs to avoid issuing any pardons at this point. Also he should have Attorney General Barr release as much of the full report as is legally allowed. He and his allies need to stress that this is an exoneration that he was proven right; and that the opposition is trying to stymie the nation’s business first by this investigation and now the subsequent investigations House Democrats are promising.
Democrats as they are forming their public relations strategy on the report should take a page out of Tip O’Neil’s and Mike Mansfield’s handling of Watergate. Mansfield and O’Neil knew that for people to take their investigation seriously that they needed to rein in their radical members and they did. Nancy Pelosi now must rein in her Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s, Maxine Waters’, and Rashida Tlaib’s. Also she should take the investigation away from Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler who are viewed by many has having personal animosity toward President Trump and appoint a special committee headed by centrist Democrat to investigate the President and zero in on the obstruction of justice issue. Also, they need to adopt the message of Rep. Hakeem Jefferies who has said that he and fellow Democrats must find a way to work with the President for the good of the American people. And finally, they must begin talking about 2020 and their vision for the future rather than constant investigations.
In this polarized nation, though look for both sides to appeal to their core constituencies rather then reach out to others in their public relations strategy. Expect at the end of the day, the public relations strategy that each side adopts will only please their partisans and not heal any of the divisions.