In Massachusetts, outrage is a matter of geography
A thunderclap or a thud.
From deep-blue Cambridge to red-tinged East Brookfield, the release of the Mueller report caused a flurry of excitement or a shrug of indifference, generating a ravenous appetite for more details or reinforcing a belief that its findings were fixed.
From eclectic Harvard Square to the birthplace of baseball’s Connie Mack, the reaction to Mueller’s work was told in a bifurcated tale of two distinctly different Massachusetts communities — one that cast 89 percent of its votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016, the other that sided 57 percent for President Trump.
“I think it’s fairly devastating for the president,” said TJ Allen, who bought the report Friday at the Harvard Book Store, where copies of the 448-page document were being printed every 8 to 10 minutes.
In East Brookfield, a small town 13 miles west of Worcester, Rich Ducharme Jr. sat on a lawn mower and dismissed the report’s central finding — that the Russian government interfered directly to boost Trump’s election chances in 2016.
“Just because Trump is friends with Putin and other officials in Russia doesn’t mean they had any role in our affairs,” Ducharme said. “The Russians just don’t care what happens here as long as they’re not affected.”
Many people interviewed in each community said they needed time to digest the report and its explosive findings — that Trump desperately sought to stymie the Mueller investigation into Russian meddling, and that the president lied to the public, directed his aides to lie, and sought to influence witness testimony.
“I think it’s important to read it oneself,” said Paula Paris, who lives in Cambridge and picked up a copy of the report at the Harvard Book Store. “I don’t want someone else telling me what’s in it.”
At least 200 copies had been ordered by Friday morning, and the store temporarily stopped accepting new orders online so staff could fill the backlog, said Alex Meriwether, the store’s general manager.
Mark Levine, who teaches English and reading at a juvenile detention facility in Worcester, said he plans to bring his $18.95 copy to the classroom on Monday. His students had watched Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, testify before Congress in February.
“They were riveted,” said Levine, who also was at the store on Friday.
In the report, Mueller’s investigators wrote that the question of whether Trump obstructed justice remained unresolved. However, they wrote, “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.”
Even if obstruction had been determined, indicting Trump apparently would run counter to a Justice Department position that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Levine said he was surprised to learn about that stance.
“That goes to what Trump said when he was running: That he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and get away with it,” said Levine, who voted for Clinton. “You can’t indict a president on anything? If he killed his chief of staff in the Oval Office? What could he get away with?
“Obstruction of justice seems like a pretty big thing, so I kind of wonder what is that rule and what is that based upon?”
Sixty miles away in East Brookfield, Abigail Rigney sat with her three children at a hair salon near Lake Lashaway and said she would reserve judgment until she had read more of the report.
Mueller, she said, seemed to be in a no-win situation, delivering his findings to an attorney general who appears to be protecting the president.
William Barr, the recently confirmed attorney general, “seems like someone who the president knew would protect him while he’s in office,” said Rigney, a middle-school assistant principal in Ashburnham.
In any event, Rigney added, the report’s impact might be blunted by indifference among many voters. And in Worcester County, where Trump garnered robust support in and near East Brookfield, many residents might be reluctant to criticize Trump.
“He created a message for some people, and he hit a nerve,” Rigney said.
A half-mile down Route 9, a business owner echoed one of Trump’s familiar talking points when he called the 22-month Mueller investigation a Democratic plot to take down the president.
“There’s no collusion. We knew that before it started,” said the business owner, who asked not to be identified. “Russia is involved with a bunch of countries. They’re known for that. It’s a waste of time and money.
“Now what? They’ll find something else to go after him for.”
Elsewhere, several people in restaurants and gas stations simply glared at a reporter when asked for their reaction.
Howard Goodrow, a tavern owner in East Brookfield, shook his head at the breadth of Trump support in the town of about 2,100 people.
“I can’t put a big ‘Impeach’ sign out there,” he said, glancing behind him at the front of Dunny’s Tavern.
“I hear Trump whining about it,” Goodrow said of the report. “He’s our president, but I’m not a Trump supporter.”
Many of his customers voted for the president, and Goodrow said it’s sometimes a struggle to keep his opinions to himself. Not that frowning on political conversation has kept Dunny’s patrons from holding their tongues.
When that happens, Goodrow said, he sometimes lays down the law: “I can't talk politics here. You can’t, either.”
The political climate frustrates him.
“Even though we have a two-party system, do they have to be against each other on everything?” Goodrow asked.
Some Trump support even found its way to Harvard Square, a bastion of deep blue in one of the bluest of states.
Mike Tibando of Nashua, who was moving furniture in the square Friday, said he was happy that Mueller’s report said the investigation found insufficient evidence that the Trump campaign had conspired with Russian operatives in the 2016 election.
But he expects the fight over Mueller’s investigation to drag on at the direction of Democrats.
“It’s never going to be enough until they can get him out of office,” said Tibando, who voted for Trump.
“I think he’s done a lot for the country,” he said. “He’s got his personality problems. We didn’t vote for him to be a nice guy.”
For Scott Davis, standing near Route 9 in East Brookfield, the end of the Mueller investigation will not help bridge the chasm dividing the country.
Davis said he believes the Mueller report was born of “an honest curiosity,” but that Trump’s repeated characterization of the probe as a “witch hunt” would have gained more traction if it continued.
What’s done is done.
“My personal opinion,” Davis said, “is it’s time to move on.”