Trump opponents turn the Mueller report into an art form
NEW YORK (AP) — Liz Zito is a multimedia artist so immersed in the Mueller Report that she wrote fan fiction to fill in the parts that were redacted by the Justice Department. When she worried that other Americans didn’t know about the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller, she found her own way to make them accessible: A “performative reading” in downtown Manhattan.
“When you deliver a comedic performance, you want people to laugh at all the jokes, but a lot of positive feedback from that night came from people learning what was actually in the report and how manipulated we all were-are as world citizens,” Zito says of her June 13 show at the gallery 601 Artspace.
First made public in April, the Mueller report detailing the results of the two-year investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia is no longer just a book or a document to read online. It is a work of theater and other art forms, and a touchstone for Donald Trump opponents seeking to highlight his alleged misconduct, including possible attempts by the president to impede or halt the investigation.
Over the past month, there have been readings in New York, Washington and elsewhere. A San Diego-based publisher, IDW, is planning a graphic novel and at least one musical act, Electric Parrot, has named a song after it.
On Monday night, an all-star reading from New York City’s Riverside Church featured John Lithgow, Annette Bening and others. The event was presented and livestreamed by Law Works, which identifies itself as a bipartisan organization that advocates for the rule of law.
“If Americans aren’t going to read the report, we wanted to help them watch it,” says Law Works executive director David Wade. “We’ve found that once Americans learn the facts, their concerns skyrocket.”
The 448-page report has sold hundreds of thousands of copies in book form even though it can be downloaded for free from the Justice Department’s web site (https://www.justice.gov/storage/report.pdf). But according to a CNN poll released in May, three-quarters of the respondents said they had not read it.
From the start, the Mueller Report has been treated like a work of interpretative art. As Mueller and his team were reviewing documents and interviewing Trump’s associates, Trump and his supporters repeatedly called it a “WITCH HUNT.” Opponents, meanwhile, speculated that the report’s findings would prove so devastating that the president would be forced out of office.
Ultimately, Mueller found the Russians had interfered with the 2016 election, but decided there was no evidence that the Trump campaign had conspired with Russia. In reviewing whether Trump obstructed justice, however, Mueller wrote that while “this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” He also noted that a sitting president cannot be charged.
Mueller’s refusal to reach a conclusion on criminal obstruction opened the door for Attorney General William Barr to clear Trump, who in turn has cited the attorney general’s finding as proof of his innocence. Last month, Mueller declared publicly that his Russia report did not exonerate Trump, and reiterated that charging the sitting president was not an option because of federal rules.
One of the first Mueller readings happened early this month, the 24-hour “Filibustered and Unfiltered: America Reads the Mueller Report,” at the New York City venue The Arc. The idea was spontaneous, director Jackson Gay said. Soon after the report came out, she jokingly posted on Facebook that maybe she should stage a reading. The response was so enthusiastic that she found it “impossible not to go ahead.” Gay says she has since heard from organizations all around the country, from Richmond, Virginia, to Seattle. She’s even putting together a how-to booklet, with advice ranging from securing rights to film the actors to renting chairs.
“What’s beautiful about all of the readings is that you’re allowing people to come and make up their own minds,” she says. “We encourage the performers to read the report as straightforwardly as possible. If somebody gets up there and comments on it than they’re really no better than the talking heads on TV.”