Barr opened the report to find it consisted of just one line:
BE SURE TO DRINK YOUR OVALTINE.
After 22 months and 22 centuries’ worth of speculation, the wait is over. Well, almost: Barr will get back to us on what’s actually in the report sometime this weekend.
Maybe. If you’re good.
“As soon as this weekend.” The newsiest bit there is Barr stating that there was nothing Mueller recommended in the report was so inappropriate that Barr feels obliged to overrule him as AG. I can only assume that means there’s no sealed indictment of Trump at a courthouse somewhere, since Barr has said before that he sees no reason to change existing DOJ guidelines that bar a sitting president from being indicted.
I’m going to post this now and update so that people can begin commenting. Stand by.
Update: The NYT cuts to the chase. Will Barr release the section of the report that explains why Trump wasn’t indicted?
The department’s longstanding practice, with rare exceptions, is not to identify people who were merely investigative targets in order to avoid unfairly tainting their reputations, especially because they would have no chance to defend themselves in a court of law. Mr. Rosenstein, who has overseen Mr. Mueller’s work and may have a say in what is released, is a firm believer in that principle…
Weighing that principle against the public’s right to know is even more fraught in the president’s case. If Mr. Mueller declined to pursue criminal charges against Mr. Trump, he might have been guided not by lack of evidence, but by the Justice Department’s legal opinions that a sitting president cannot be indicted. The department’s Office of Legal Counsel has repeatedly advised that the stigma and burden of being under prosecution would damage the president’s ability to lead.
Releasing any material explaining why Trump wasn’t prosecuted would risk a replay of Comey’s infamous press conference about Hillary Clinton in 2016, excoriating her for her mishandling of classified info despite opting not to charge her. Comey was savaged after that for undermining DOJ policy not to discuss decisions not to charge people, since it risks impugning them despite the fact that probable cause to believe that a crime was committed doesn’t exist. Barr will not want to duplicate that precedent. But Comey’s argument was that he felt the public needed full disclosure given the unusual political circumstances of that moment, a condition that obviously applies even more strongly here. If Mueller found probable cause to charge Trump for something but refrained out of DOJ policy not to indict a sitting president, shouldn’t the public know that about their president? By the same token, if Mueller *didn’t* find probable cause, shouldn’t we know that? If there’s no cloud over Trump the country needs to be informed.
Update: Pelosi and Schumer want the report released before the president is briefed on it.
Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer:
"It is imperative for Mr. Barr to make the full report public and provide its underlying documentation and findings to Congress … The American people have a right to the truth."https://t.co/uLCbjBYpjC pic.twitter.com/u1jTMzloHB
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) March 22, 2019
Update: Rumors swirled for ages that Don Jr and possibly Jared Kushner would be indicted in the probe. Nope.
Breaking: Mueller is not recommending any further indictments, says a Sr. Justice Department official.
— Del Quentin Wilber (@DelWilber) March 22, 2019
Update: What about sealed indictments? Nope, says NBC, none of those either.
To be clear: There Are. No. Sealed. Indictments. Per law enforcement official who knows. https://t.co/SMfWv8CGEK
— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) March 22, 2019
The only potential bad outcome (“bad” meaning legal jeopardy) for Trump now is if Mueller explicitly declined to charge him only because of the policy against indicting incumbent presidents. We’re waiting for news on that. Although, needless to say, the fact that Mueller didn’t indict Trump doesn’t mean other arms of the DOJ might not be moving in that direction. His legal jeopardy in Michael Cohen’s campaign finance violations remains unclear, and the Southern District of New York is neck deep in investigating his inaugural committee for possible pay-to-play crimes.
Still, Trump is very close to skating past Russiagate jeopardy. I’m not mentally prepared yet to hear him lavishing praise on Robert “Witch Hunt” Mueller for his diligent work on this at every campaign rally for the next 18 months but that scenario is vividly alive at this hour. All Trump ethics are situational; if the new situation is that Mueller has cleared him of wrongdoing, he’ll be Trump’s favorite person in the world within 20 minutes.
Update: A graphic reminder from FiveThirtyEight that Mueller’s investigation was actually remarkably quick by special-counsel standards.
Update: Glenn Greenwald surveys the landscape:
The Mueller investigation is complete and this is a simple fact that will never go away: not one single American was charged, indicted or convicted for conspiring with Russia to influence the 2016 election – not even a low-level volunteer. The number is zero.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 22, 2019
The Flynn and Manafort indictments were unrelated to collusion, remember. Even Carter Page escaped indictment, Ed notes to me in a message, suggesting that the original FISA warrant really was BS.
Update: Who’s going to write the first half-baked hot take that Putin somehow got to Mueller too?