So our weekend of waiting for Attorney General William Barr’s letter summarizing Bob Mueller’s report finally ended on Sunday afternoon. To say that there are any bombshells in here that weren’t already being circulated or would rock the world is an understatement. Of course, since this is the Trump administration’s AG’s summary of the findings, that fact will no doubt give Trump critics plenty of room to engage in whataboutism.
NBC News tweeted out the full letter if you care to read it for yourself, as you probably should.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 24, 2019
The key elements everyone is focusing on had already been hinted at. Yes, the Special Counsel feels that Russia definitely attempted to interfere with the 2016 election. They did this in two key areas. One of these was a campaign to spread information favorable to one side and harmful to the other. The second was Russia’s hacking attacks and subsequent release of hacked information via Wikileaks and other channels.
As for the question of “collusion” or “cooperation” between the Trump campaign (or anyone associated with it) and Russia, the conclusion seems to be clear. It didn’t happen.
“The Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government…”
In terms of the claims made by many, including Adam Schiff, that’s pretty much game, set and match. But what about the obstruction of justice claims? That’s where Robert Mueller apparently couldn’t resist dangling some red meat for Trump’s detractors. In very vague terms, Mueller says that they couldn’t make “a traditional prosecutorial judgment.” This convoluted explanation goes on to state that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
In other words, obstruction requires a number of factors to prove it took place. Part of that is intent and Mueller ducks around that one with what amounts to an explanation that he can’t read Trump’s mind. I don’t know if we should have been expecting any more than that. But it seems clear that the report offers some dangling questions that will give Adam Schiff and his Democratic colleagues (along with most of the MSM) reason to keep banging this gong. Does Mueller’s “traditional prosecutorial judgment” quote mean that it was unclear or that it might be, but prosecutors would lose the fight? What won’t happen is any sort of effort at prosecuting the President or any member of his team on charges associated with Russian interference in the election.
The big, remaining question is whether or not this introductory letter is the end of it. Barr is making it sound as if there’s plenty more to come, but only the portions of the report that he can release under the law. There have been exceptions made in the past to the general rule of not exposing the proceedings of grand juries or the details of investigations into citizens who are not subsequently charged with a crime. But there need to be good reasons since the number of these exceptions is small. And simply saying that The Orange Man Is Bad and We Are Sad That He Won the Election doesn’t seem to rise to that level.
My prediction is that Barr will release more of the report in the coming days and weeks, but not everything. This vacuum will give CNN and MSNBC, along with the Gray Lady and the WaPo, plenty of room to continue flogging this deceased equine. In other words, even without the Southern District court in New York going on a fishing expedition of their own, this will remain in the media on a daily basis right through the 2020 elections.
So remind me again… why did we appoint a Special Counsel in the first place?