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The Brief Summary of the Mueller Report By Trump’s AG Does Not Exonerate Trump

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– The Justice Department on Wednesday appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, including potential collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials.

This has already been a massively successful spin operation, but Ken White has a good summary of what is actually in the 4 page letter released today:

Next, Barr reported that the special counsel concluded that Russia attempted to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. That interference involved disinformation campaigns, efforts to sow “social discord” online, and hacking the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party and distributing misappropriated emails through Wikileaks. But crucially, Mueller reported that his investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” whether expressly or tacitly. To use the popular cable-news vernacular, Mueller did not establish “collusion.” (Never mind that “collusion” is not a legal term, and that the special counsel’s mission was to investigate “links and/or coordination” with the Russians.)

Trump’s triumphant supporters notwithstanding, we don’t yet know what that means. When a prosecutor says that an investigation “did not establish” something, that doesn’t mean they concluded it didn’t happen, or even that they don’t believe it happened. It means the investigation didn’t produce enough information to provethat it happened. Without seeing Mueller’s full report, we don’t know whether this was a firm conclusion about lack of coordination or a frank admission of insufficient evidence. The difference is meaningful, both as a matter of history and because it may determine how much further Democrats in Congress are willing to push committee investigations of the matter.

The other big reveal in Barr’s letter is that Mueller “determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” about whether the President has obstructed justice in the course of the two-year investigation of Russian interference in the election. Instead, Mueller laid out the relevant evidence “on both sides” of the issue but did not resolve what the special counsel saw as the “difficult issues” of fact and law concerning “whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction.” Mueller’s report “does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it does not exonerate him.” Mueller punted.

It’s also worth noting that Barr’s summary of Mueller’s findings on the collusion question pertained to a very narrow aspect of potential collusion:

As Brian goes on to say, because Mueller had every intention to adhere to DOJ rules that the president can’t be indicted, he was on a fact-finding mission. The remedies for Trump’s misconduct are political, not legal. Until see Mueller’s actual report we simply don’t know what he learned, and a brief summary obviously intended to put the most favorable spin on the report leaves plenty of open questions.

Finally, this has been a persistent theme around here, but as Matthews says Mueller was never going to “save us,” simply because there was never going to be anything in the report that would compel Senate Republicans to remove him. To the extent to which the report reduces pressure on House Dems to initiate counterproductive impeachment proceedings this is a good thing.

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