Civics: The Problem With Prosecutor Punditry Experts keep promising the walls are closing in on Trump. Haven’t we learned anything?

Ankush Khardori:

In February, however, the Associated Pressreported that the investigation was “dead,” with no charges to be brought against Trump, and there is no indication the Biden administration will reopen it. This likely has something to do with the fact that a case built largely on the word of Cohen — a notorious liar who did not fully cooperate with prosecutors — would be very risky. Another problem is that a criminal prosecution based on violations of campaign-finance law requires the government to prove the defendant knew his conduct was unlawful, and Cohen could not by himself establish that on the part of Trump, a problem that may similarly complicate Weisselberg’s potential utility as a cooperator against Trump in the pending tax-fraud case.

This dissonance between the confidence in Trump’s criminal exposure expressed by commentators and its reality was conspicuous throughout the Mueller investigation, which proved to be ratings gold for cable news and an incomparable star-making vehicle for lawyers. Mueller’s secretive two-year probe into the Trump campaign and Russian election interference was punctuated by legitimatebombshell developments, and its progression lent itself to endless on-air speculation, as when legal analysts argued that Paul Manafort’s indictment meant that Mueller was “quite likely on the verge of handing down new major indictments” or that, after Manafort’s conviction, there was a good chance he would finally flip on Trump. Hennessey in particular has been calledto the carpet since getting a job in the Biden Justice Department. Most of the hand-wringing was over the top, but for those of us who watched in real time, it was hard to argue with the assessment, contained in a critical National Review article, that she had “repeatedly suggested that [Mueller’s] findings would spell disaster for the Trump White House” — even if the same could be said about pretty much every legal analyst on CNN and MSNBC at the time.