Supporters of President Trump from across the Effingham region cheered Thursday's release of the much-anticipated, redacted report on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, saying it exonerates a president who has been unfairly targeted by the left.
One of the president's local detractors, however, called for the impeachment of Trump and Attorney General William Barr.
Retired judge Jim Harvey, a Democrat, said Barr's press conference Thursday morning was revealing.
"I think anyone who listened to Mr. Barr this morning now knows that he is probably just as big of a liar as his boss, Donald Trump. I think both he and Trump deserve impeachment and prison," Harvey said.
"Anyone that can still support the two of them after this farce this morning is basically saying, 'I'm OK with having a lying, criminal dictator in charge of our government.' They may not want to look at it that way, but that's what it is."
The report spelled out multiple episodes in which Trump directed others to influence the Russia investigation after Mueller's appointment in May 2017. However, Mueller's 448-page report found no collusion with Russia, and reached no clear verdict on obstruction.
Marilyn Wirth of Effingham said the fact Mueller could find no evidence pointing to collusion completely exonerates the president.
"I think the country's gone through this for over two years," said Wirth. "Trump's been denying it all along. Now, it's come out Mueller couldn't pin anything on him, and now, they're blaming Barr and saying that he's in cahoots with Trump, more or less, and that he's being an apologist for Trump."
Wirth, like Harvey, is a frequent contributor to the Effingham Daily News Opinion Page. They and others interviewed for this story have participated in the newspaper's ongoing "Pulse of the Voters" series.
"It's like the truth could be staring them in the face — I'm referring to the Democrats — and they just could not let it go," Wirth said. "I would venture to say that everything they've accused Trump and his campaign and the GOP of, that it's the Democrats that are actually guilty of all of those collusion accusations."
Wirth said she believes Bill and Hillary Clinton received money from the Russians for Hillary Clinton's run against Trump for the presidency. She described the Clintons' tactics as an "under-the-table" method of getting "dirt" on Trump.
Wirth said Trump did not commit a crime and collusion is not against the law.
"Collusion is not a crime, and a special counsel should only be set up when there's a crime," Wirth said. "I think this whole point of the outrage over the Russians interfering with our elections by the left-wing media continuing to promote these false accusations is only dividing the country more, and that's what the Russians wanted to begin with."
Wirth added that the Democrats will continue to push to unsuccessfully find wrongdoing by Trump.
Dallas Buzzard of Beecher City agrees.
"I think the Democrats have never accepted the fact that he won the election," Buzzard said. "They're out to get him. This report that they put out today won't end it. They'll keep on investigating whatever they can find."
Heartville resident Lloyd Dean did not watch Thursday's press conference, but knew about the report and what it contained. Dean said he expected the evidence in the investigation to point to Trump's exoneration.
"It did not surprise me, because this was a liberal stunt," Dean said. "I believe they were just grasping at straws. They have never accepted the fact that the American public elected Donald Trump."
Dean said that because the report found no wrongdoing by Trump or his campaign, Congress is now demanding Trump's tax returns in order to find some sort of misuse of money.
Bruce Kessler of Altamont said he also feels Democrats will never stop trying to dig something up on the president. The former Effingham County Republican party chairman said the Mueller report and other investigations into the president prove he has done nothing wrong.
"They've had several investigations that's been completed on Trump, and they have all said there was no Russian collusion. The real collusion took place in the Democrat party," Kessler said.
"You can go back and take a look at what Hillary Clinton did with the sale of all this uranium to Russia when we are in short supply here. I don't know if her day in court will be coming up or not, or for several others, because this really is pointing a finger at some other people that were actually colluding with the Russians."
Kessler said he hopes the report will clear the air, and allow Trump to continue his work as president.
"I hope this puts this big mystery behind us," Kessler said. "I don't think it's impaired Trump too much because he's a man of direction and he knows how to go about getting what he's after."
Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at email@example.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.