The long wait for (redacted) clarity is almost over. After almost two years of special-counsel investigation, the Department of Justice will publish the report from Robert Mueller into Russia-collusion, or lack thereof, on Thursday morning.
Start your hot-take engines — and get out your color-code charts:
Lawyers from the Justice Department and the special counsel’s office have gone word by word, sentence by sentence through the nearly 400-page confidential report that Robert S. Mueller III completed last month, using color coding to conceal classified or other protected information.
The Justice Department will release the redacted report on Thursday morning, a spokeswoman said Monday.
Not to be outdone, the White House has its own report on its way:
Trump’s lawyers have prepared a counter report to give the public a competing narrative to Mueller’s document. Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who represents the president, said Sunday that the legal team was “polishing it up.”
That might raise a few eyebrows. Democrats have accused Attorney General William Barr of potentially allowing the White House a free look at the report, or even an opportunity to edit it. The latter seems unlikely, but if the Giuliani report offers a point-by-point rebuttal to the Mueller report, critics will assume that the former took place. It wouldn’t be illegal or even unethical, considering that the Mueller report is an executive-branch product, but that won’t stop critics from accusing the administration of violating the law, ethics, or both.
Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi continued the Democrats’ strange offensive on the Mueller report yesterday, suggesting that Barr “may be whitewashing” what Mueller found. Even before we found out that the report would come out on Thursday, this was a tired play:
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) April 15, 2019
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: The Mueller report is about an attack on our elections by a foreign government. And we want to know about that. We wanna know about that in terms of being able to prevent it from happening again. So it’s bigger even than Donald Trump.
She says she doesn’t trust Attorney General William Barr.
Lesley Stahl: Do you think that the attorney general is covering anything up?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: I have no idea. I have no idea. He may be whitewashing, but I don’t know if he’s covering anything up. There’s no use having that discussion. All we need to do is see the Mueller report.
“There’s no use having that discussion” is perhaps the smartest statement a Democrats has yet made on the Mueller report. Unfortunately, neither Pelosi nor most of her fellow Democrats seem capable of taking that advice. Stung by Barr’s summary of Mueller’s findings, they have instead pretended that Barr somehow found value in lying about them for a grand total of three weeks while betting that Mueller and his team would join silent monasteries for the rest of their lives.
Why not just wait for the report? Well, they’re doing that too. When the report finally does drop, both sides will be ready to fully weaponize it. Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn reports on the preparations for light-speed dissection of the report by the spinmasters hoping desperately that they can find any traction with a collusion-weary electorate:
From the moment it drops, the scramble will be on—to defend the president, to plan new lines of attack, or to put this whole big crazy story into the wider context of American history. So much material released all at once raises the question of how to dig in on something so dense, with so much buildup, where the feeding frenzy will be instant among the cable TV chattering classes and Twitter piranhas.
The capital has already evolved one model for processing a big tell-all book: “the Washington read,” where you scan the index (assuming there is one) to find everything it says about you, your boss and your enemies and then fake like you’ve read the rest. But this time that won’t be enough. The goods might not come easily. They might be buried in an obscure subsection. And there’s way more at stake than in the typical gossipy memoir.
The report by special counsel Robert Mueller could be the biggest oppo dump in history. It could be a fizzle. Although Mueller didn’t find enough evidence to charge President Donald Trump for conspiring with Russia to win the White House, and Attorney General William Barr has concluded that it doesn’t show Trump obstructed justice, the report itself is expected to be rich with details uncovered by the sweeping 22-month investigation.
That creates a problem for Republicans that might be bigger than the one facing Democrats. Pelosi’s troops will undoubtedly find nuggets that will make Trump look bad, either out of context or perhaps perfectly within context. It might be tougher for Republicans to find pull quotes that praise Trump or fully exonerate him past what Barr has already declared in his summary of the report. Paul Sperry reports at Real Clear Investigations that Republicans are already complaining that Mueller’s team may have made Democrats’ job too easy — on purpose:
Seeking to manage public perceptions about the Mueller report as much as Democrats are, Republicans say their counterparts are bent on cherry-picking its details to make it still look as if President Trump coordinated with Russia, part of their effort to keep the collusion narrative alive heading into the 2020 presidential election. They fear Mueller will make it easy for them to continue spinning that tale.
Senior Republicans on investigative committees on Capitol Hill, who have reviewed some of the same evidence Mueller’s investigators have examined, complain that the special counsel’s team of mostly Democratic prosecutors shaded evidence in charging documents filed against a number of Trump associates for process crimes unrelated to collusion (mostly lying to investigators) to suggest a broad conspiracy. They say that the special counsel and prosecutors misled the court and the media by, among other things, editing the contents of emails to cast a sinister shadow on otherwise innocuous communications among Trump advisers and by omitting exculpatory information. …
Last month, in another little-noticed letter to Barr, Senate Judiciary Committee investigators elaborated on the Papadopoulos matter and what they described as Mueller unfairly cherry-picking from internal Trump campaign emails. They claimed that he and his prosecutors had cited only fragments of the emails in the charging document against Papadopoulos. And they pointed out that this “selective use” of the emails made it seem as if the adviser and the campaign were working behind the scenes with Russia, when in fact that was not the case.
Taken in their fuller context, the emails showed Papadopoulos was in fact discouraged from meeting with Russians. Additional context showed that Papadopoulos, acting as a foreign policy adviser, had conversations with representatives from multiple governments, not just Russia, and that his supervisor Sam Clovis, along with campaign chair Paul Manafort, had opposed any trip to Russia for Trump and the campaign.
All of this tends to confirm what seemed to be the case when Barr released his summary letter — that it was going to be the high point for Trump. The letter almost certainly provided an accurate summary of Mueller’s conclusions, but that doesn’t mean that details don’t exist that might paint Trump and his associates in a less-than-pure light. It’s also very possible that Mueller’s team might have been tempted to justify their continued operation by shearing context off of some issues, such as those with Papadopoulos.
This presents two lessons for everyone else outside of the Beltway. First, both sides are shaping the political battleground before the release of the Mueller report. Second, we’re all better off waiting for its release and reading it ourselves. Until then, we’re all bit players in the latest Game of Groans episode.
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