PHILADELPHIA (AP) – With the long-awaited special counsel’s investigation done but its contents still shrouded in mystery, Americans waited for details, yawned with boredom or stayed fixed to their long-cemented positions on President Donald Trump, the man at the probe’s center.
For all the expected splash of Robert Mueller’s report, it arrived with more of a thud, thanks to the secrecy surrounding it. Few saw any reason to think it would sway many opinions in a divided republic but, across ideology, many expressed relief the investigation was finally over.
Bubba Metts, a 61-year-old conservative who is a financial adviser in Lexington, South Carolina, said whatever Mueller’s report says, opponents of Trump aren’t going to change their minds
“Now maybe we can move on to better things,” he said. “Twenty million dollars spent – for nothing.”
Dajah Harris, 21, a college senior at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, is a Democrat and no fan of Trump. But she saw the investigation as a distraction from more important things like the border wall, homelessness, college debt and welfare programs. The country should never have elected someone, she said, whose background raises such questions.
“I don’t feel that where the country is right now that this is something we should even be discussing,” she said.
Mueller worked in virtual silence as a stream of charges have flowed forth against 37 people and companies. From the start, with his appointment on May 17, 2017, some have framed his work as a battle of good and evil of biblical proportions.
And on the 675th day, Mueller finished his work, and he rested. But nothing immediately changed for those who had watched with bated breath.
For Mark Itzen, a 64-year-old social worker from Levittown, Pennsylvania, it was a frustrating reality.
“The most disturbing thing for me is that we don’t know the details,” the Democrat said. “I thought we have the right to know right off the bat after all this anticipation.”
Expectations remained high for some sort of explosive revelation, but what exactly it might be remained anyone’s guess.
For liberals who welcomed the investigation with gleeful shouts of “It’s Mueller Time!” and anxiously awaited justice that aligns with their view of Trump as Antichrist, it seemed the endless billows of smoke would surely produce evidence of fire. For conservatives who subscribed to the president’s view of the probe as a witch hunt and dismissed it as the misguided tomfoolery of a bitter opposition whose search for retribution is as loopy as its policies, it seemed certain to bring exoneration to Trump and maybe even a roadmap for future victory by him and his party.
Jason Cox, a 51-year-old farmer in Campbellsville, Kentucky, who voted for Trump in 2016 and plans to again next year, saw it the way Trump framed it – as a witch hunt.
“It didn’t turn out, it seems to me, the way Democrats wanted,” he said. “I think Pelosi and Schumer are going to just keep beating and badgering and looking for something.”
Stan Pearson, 69, a retired math professor in Newport News, Virginia, was among Trump detractors who had high hopes for the report: The start of impeachment proceedings and charges of treason. He called Trump’s election the “worst experiment ever in our history,” and is not convinced Attorney General William Barr will release the full report.
“We may well have to settle for what we can salvage,” Pearson said.
Paul Rosenzweig, a fellow at the conservative R Street Institute and a former legal adviser to Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation, said the public’s expectations of Mueller were overblown – in part because the investigation has been poorly explained by a press that has persisted in suggesting the report would be a blockbuster.
“It’s exclusively media hype with a little bit of political spin,” he said. “Mostly it’s been the media looking for a hook and trying to make Mueller into more than he is.”
Tom Merrill, a 35-year-old health policy research consultant in Salt Lake City and left-leaning independent voter, said people on either end of the ideological spectrum will likely find things in the report to support their point of view, but the results might sway some moderates who held their noses and voted for Trump despite lingering questions about his character.
“People in the middle might say, I took a risk in voting for this person and this is more than I bargained for,” he said. “I think the middle will become decided one way or the other.”
Shaela and Cindy Buchanan were tackling chores Saturday morning at the Lost Sock Laundromat in Wichita, Kansas, when the topic of Mueller was raised.
“Which one is Mueller?” asked Cindy, a 51-year-old manager at a paint company.
She doesn’t follow politics closely but liked Trump at first. The questions about Russia, though, caused the 51-year-old paint company manager to reconsider. Her 48-year-old wife Shaela, who considers herself a political independent, sees Trump as “bought and paid for” while regular people live paycheck to paycheck. She doubts Mueller’s report ultimately does anything to change that.
“I don’t feel it is over once it is released,” Shaela Buchanan said. “People any more they have suffered to the point they don’t have any power – it doesn’t matter.”
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Contributing to this report were Mike Catalini in Morrisville, Pennsylvania; Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia; Claire Galofaro in Louisville, Kentucky; Allen Breed in Wake Forest, North Carolina; Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island; Adam Beam in Frankfort, Kentucky; Lindsay Whitehurst in Salt Lake City, Utah; Hannah Grabenstein in Little Rock, Arkansas; Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina; Roxana Hegeman in Wichita, Kansas; Sarah Blake Morgan in Charlotte, North Carolina; and Elliott Spagat in Solana Beach, California.