INDIANAPOLIS — The political tribes have succumbed to confirmation bias and the illusory truth effect in the wake of Robert Mueller’s conclusion that there is no evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.

Given his character and background, as well as the importance of the assignment and resources committed to its pursuit, if Mueller could have brought a criminal case against Donald Trump or anyone else in his orbit, then he would have done so. Those doubting this conclusion reject both facts and logic. Like a Japanese soldier stranded on a Pacific island who refuses to stop fighting after the surrender, anti-Trump partisans cling to Trump-appointed Attorney General Barr’s brief summation of Mueller’s key findings rather than the likely voluminous report itself.

“We need to see the report!” Agreed. The American public should see the report for the health of our body politic, but partisans are not seeking Mueller’s full report to understand the truth of the matter; they are seeking a new beachhead from which to assail a duly elected president. They seek the potter’s clay of impeachment. 

Anti-Trump partisans – Democrats, “Never Trump” GOPers and, sadly, the national news media writ large – now have to defy facts, logic, and the heretofore irreproachable Robert Mueller to find a crime here. Shocked by the 2016 election outcome, they pushed all their chips into the middle of the table with this investigation. And lost.

“Trust Mueller!” “Wait for Mueller to finish his work…” and other variations on this laudable theme are now rejected because the hero came up with zero. Facts and logic cannot overcome partisanship and the investment – emotional, political and financial – that these groups have made in the collusion narrative these past two years. It is a narrative that has been omnipresent in the media since the 2016 election; it was, and is, a falsity told over, and over, and over, and over again. 

“Collusion” has been the media’s watchword in the very public, nonstop discussion of the Mueller investigation, but it is nowhere to be found in the law books. “Conspiracy” is a legal term and a crime, but Mueller, after nearly two years of discovery representing thousands of man-hours, hundreds of depositions, and numerous subpoenas and grand jury deliberations (please note the underreported importance of grand juries comprising everyday U.S. citizens throughout this process), has concluded the evidence doesn’t support it. He can’t make the case. He’s come up with a handful of indictments or pleas and, a la Ken Starr in the Whitewater investigation, found other process crimes and made referrals of potential, non-germane criminal matters to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. (This is THE remaining legal threat to Donald Trump, his family and perhaps his presidency.)

The only meaningful indictments for criminal interference in the 2016 election have been of Russian state actors that are beyond the reach of our legal system (unless Putin turns them over, but since he sanctioned this attack on our country and denies it ever happened, he won’t). Mueller submitting his final report sans any further indictments means he sees his work as done. He has investigated Russian interference, indicted those he could for what he could, and taken things as far as possible within the limits of the law. 

Beyond Mueller and his report, the rest is politics. Impeachment is ultimately a political process and decision. Much will be said in the coming days/weeks/months ahead about “prosecutorial discretion” and “evidentiary standards,” and much will be made about AG Barr and the Justice Department deciding not to pursue obstruction of justice charges against (presumably) the president and others close to him. The arguments will sound familiar because they are the same legal parsing and speculation about Hillary Clinton’s emails only with the team jerseys exchanged. The hypocrites will have their heyday.

Who won the 2016 election? Arguably, the Russians. Their disinformation and psy-ops campaign against the United States has worked marvelously well to sow societal discord and do violence to our politics, undermining trust in governmental institutions and each other. Those of us who attempt to discuss the facts or opine on these matters are immediately rewarded with a maelstrom of attacks on our views by one side or the other (in my case, both), stifling comity and preventing us from colluding with ourselves to form a more perfect union.

At some point, this madness must stop, and objective facts be agreed upon. But the fissures which the 2016 election exposed, and partisans on both sides exploited for both political and pecuniary gain, run deep. “No surrender” is an American cultural credo; it serves us well against enemies foreign, but not domestic.

After this exhaustive two-year investigation, we need to get back to a politics where we understand that we have no domestic enemies – at least not the one so many imagined – only temporary adversaries with which we disagree. 

Carter is president of Content By Carter, a strategic business and communications consulting firm.