Jonathan Turley, a lawyer, commentator, legal analyst, and professor at the George Washington University Law School, wrote an opinion piece for The Hill. In it, he compared journalists and analysts to patients moving through “stages” that begin with denial on “a long road toward acceptance” that Donald J. Trump will continue to be president.

From the piece: That painful process was more evident Tuesday night when the Washington Post reported that special counsel Robert Mueller told the White House last month that Trump was not considered a “target” but only a “subject” of the investigation. After a year of being assured that “bombshell” developments and “smoking gun” evidence was sealing the criminal case against Trump, the dissonance was too great for many who refuse to accept the obvious meaning of this disclosure.

The U.S. Attorney’s manual defines a “subject” as a “person whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury’s investigation.” It is a designation that can change but it is also a meaningful description of the current status of an individual. Mueller at this time apparently does not believe Trump meets the definition of a target or a “person as to whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant.”

According to Turley, if Mueller does not believe there is “substantial evidence linking [Trump] to the commission of a crime,” the media should be recognizing it.

Turley said “coverage of this investigation” was slanted “from the start.” Yet he and some other analysts have been saying that that the criminal case against Trump was “far weaker than media suggested.”

From the opinion piece: Fired FBI Director James Comey himself told Congress that Trump was not a target of his investigation. Indeed, Trump was reportedly upset with Comey largely because Comey would not say that publicly.

When Trump fired Comey, I supported the call for a special counsel, and I still support Mueller in completing his investigation. However, the case of criminal conduct by Trump has not materially improved over the last year.

Turley notes that after various charges and indictments, nothing seems to lead to any indication that Trump knowingly engaged Russians.

Mueller has reportedly said he does not consider Trump a “target” of the criminal investigation, indicating that Trump’s status has not changed from when Comey told Congress he was not a target.

Turley points out that some analysts “immediately denied that Mueller’s disclosure was anything but bad news for Trump,” including legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin who insisted on CNN that “being a ‘subject’ is a very serious thing.”

“Of course, the only lower designation in a criminal investigation would be ‘witness,'” Turley says.

Turley says the obvious point is that after months of Mueller investigating Trump, he’s still not a “target.” He therefore surmises: Many media commentators clearly are stuck on denial and are a long way from acceptance in dealing with the legal status of Donald Trump.

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