Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have received a “very brief letter” about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report from the Justice Department. The bottom line: The investigation found that neither President Trump nor any of his aides conspired with the Russian government.
However, on the obstruction of justice investigation, Mueller states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Read the letter here. So, release the full report and all its supporting documents so we can decide for ourselves.
Playbook: “Congress comes back to town tomorrow, and by Tuesday, the Capitol will be crawling with lawmakers, who will be forced to answer questions from reporters about the contents.”
“This is the kind of situation that will test Congressional leaders. The big questions: Will they be able to tamp down frustrated rank-and-file members who want more information than they are likely to have by early next week? Can Democrats successfully force all briefings to be unclassified, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have called for? One of the biggest challenges — especially in today’s media climate — is that leaders will try to have their party speak with one voice.”
David Frum: “Good news, America. Russia helped install your president. But although he owes his job in large part to that help, the president did not conspire or collude with his helpers. He was the beneficiary of a foreign intelligence operation, but not an active participant in that operation. He received the stolen goods, but he did not conspire with the thieves in advance.”
“This is what Donald Trump’s administration and its enablers in Congress and the media are already calling exoneration. But it offers no reassurance to Americans who cherish the independence and integrity of their political process.”
“The question unanswered by the attorney general’s summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report is: Why? Russian President Vladimir Putin took an extreme risk by interfering in the 2016 election as he did. Had Hillary Clinton won the presidency, the most likely outcome, Russia would have been exposed to fierce retaliation by a powerful adversary. The prize of a Trump presidency must have glittered alluringly indeed to Putin and his associates. Why?”
David Corn: “Barr’s note is clear that Mueller did not uncover evidenceTrump and his gang were in direct cahoots with Russia’s covert operation to interfere with the US election and boost Trump’s odds. But the hyper-focus on this sort of collusion—as if Trump instructed Russian hackers on how to penetrate the computer network of the Democratic National Committee—has always diverted attention from a basic and important element of the scandal that was proven long before Mueller drafted his final report: Trump and his lieutenants interacted with Russia while Putin was attacking the 2016 election and provided encouraging signals to the Kremlin as it sought to subvert American democracy. They aided and abetted Moscow’s attempt to cover up its assault on the United States (which aimed to help Trump win the White House). And they lied about all this.”
“And, yes, there were instances of collusion—not on the specifics of the attack, but secret scheming between Trumpworld and Russia.”
“None of the evidence underlying this is in dispute. No matter what Mueller report contains, a harsh verdict remains: Trump and his gang betrayed the United States in the greatest scandal in American history.”
Rick Hasen: “Attorney General William Barr’s decision to release a summary of the twin Robert Mueller conclusions in the special prosecutor’s still-secret report—no collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign and Mueller’s punt on whether Trump obstructed justice—leaves open many questions that cannot be answered until the Department of Justice releases the report itself.”
“At the top of my list of unanswered questions is why Mueller declined to prosecute former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort or Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. for violating laws prohibiting the solicitation of foreign contributions to American campaigns, based on those campaign surrogates’ June 2016 meeting with Russian agents at Trump Tower. How Mueller answered this question could have profound ramifications for what federal law enforcement will do to stop foreign involvement in the upcoming 2020 elections.”
New York Times: “After nearly three years of investigation, after hundreds of interviews and thousands upon thousands of pages of documents, after scores of indictments and court hearings and guilty pleas, after endless hours of cable-television and dinner-table speculation, the moment of reckoning has arrived.”
“It will be a reckoning for President Trump, to be sure, but also for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, for Congress, for Democrats, for Republicans, for the news media and, yes, for the system as a whole. The delivery of Mr. Mueller’s report to the Justice Department on Friday marked a turning point that will shape the remainder of Mr. Trump’s presidency and test the viability of American governance.”
Washington Post: “The political showdown over the Russia investigation that could reshape the remainder of President Trump’s term began in earnest Saturday even before the special counsel’s conclusions were known to the public, as Trump allies claimed vindication while Democrats demanded transparency and vowed to intensify their own probes.”
“Sen. Kamala Harris made the first major policy announcement of her campaign Saturday, promising to use federal dollars to boost teachers’ salaries as she spoke to a boisterous crowd at Texas Southern University,” the Washington Post reports.
“Harris didn’t reveal details of the plan, which her campaign says will come within days. But the crowd of 2,400 that gathered at the historically black school showed her ability to attract a diverse gathering, including older white voters from the Houston area, Latino students who drove from the University of Texas at Austin and a large contingent of African American voters.”
“Prosecutors suspect Paul Manafort might be trying to secretly claw back about a million dollars he agreed to hand over to the government for his financial crimes — and he could be using the same type of shell company at the core of his legal problems to fake a loan,” CNN reports.
“A mysterious shell company named Woodlawn LLC — which formed in the middle of special cousel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Manafort in August 2017 — claimed in court that it deserves $1 million from Manafort’s forfeiture proceeding. The company says Manafort, who was Donald Trump’s presidential campaign chairman, still owes that amount to pay back a 2017 mortgage loan.”
David Remnick: “The emergency that the Trump Presidency represents leaves the Democratic Party’s cast of candidates with a singular responsibility—to win the election—and two colossal reclamation projects. The first involves the environment. Presidential debates in past elections have largely ignored the costs of climate change. But public opinion on the topic is moving, and there is cause for at least some political optimism in the fact that many Democrats have gotten behind the idea of a New Deal-scale effort to address the issue. Candidates who can best give shape to that impulse and find a plausible way to make it a legislative reality deserve the most urgent attention.”
“The second reclamation concerns Trumpism. Somehow, sometime, Trump will leave the political stage; but the moral and material corruption he has inflicted will be with us for a long while. Who has the vision and the language to confront xenophobia and white-supremacist ideology? Who has the dexterity and the pragmatism to enact reforms on voting rights, health care, immigration, mass incarceration, and campaign finance, and so strengthen a stressed democracy? Who has the political acumen to argue for policies adequate to resolve our crises and, at the same time, to win back the millions of voters who cast a ballot for Barack Obama and then shifted to Trump?”
Greg Mankiw, an economics professor at Harvard who served as an adviser to both George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, writes that senators should “do their job” and ensure Stephen Moore is not confirmed as a Fed governor.
Said Mankiw: “Steve is a perfectly amiable guy, but he does not have the intellectual gravitas for this important job. It is time for Senators to do their job. Mr. Moore should not be confirmed.”
“President Trump has publicly boasted that he could beat any of his 2020 Democratic challengers. But privately, several members of the Trump campaign see a few who could pose a threat to his re-election, and are in the early stages of building out their strategy for attack,” Axios reports.
“The three candidates that seem to concern the Trump campaign most are Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke. That’s in no particular order, and you’ll get a different answer depending on who you talk to.”
Politico: “Barr’s summary makes clear that there was no coordinated high-level conspiracy between Russia and Trump to tilt the 2016 presidential election in his favor…”
“But there are also many aspects of Trump’s behavior toward Russia, both as a candidate and as president, that remain baffling. His obsession with that Kremlin bogeyman, NATO. His failure to disclose his pursuit of a hotel project in Moscow even as he ran for the White House, and his subsequent lying about it. His real estate business’ many years of heavy reliance on Russian money.”
“Strangest of all is Trump’s relationship with Putin, whom he never criticizes directly. Flash back to that fawning July 2018 news conference in Helsinki, at which Trump stood next to his Russian counterpart and said, ‘I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.’ It remains one of the more bizarre performances by an American president abroad.”
Senior Conservatives tell the BBC that Theresa May could gain support for her Brexit deal if she promises to stand down as prime minister. “MPs in the party have said they might reluctantly back the agreement if they know she will not be in charge of the next stage of negotiations with the EU.”
“Newspapers claim cabinet ministers are plotting a coup against the prime minister, aiming to replace her with a caretaker leader until a proper leadership contest is held later in the year.”
U.K. Chancellor Philip Hammond told Sky News that a second Brexit referendum “deserves to be considered,” a day after more than one million people marched through London calling for another vote.
Said Hammond: “I’m not sure there’s a majority in parliament in support for a second referendum, but it’s a perfectly coherent proposition. It’s a coherent proposition and it deserves to be considered.”
The Independent reports Hammond became the first Cabinet minister to agree that supporters of a second referendum have a case.
David Nather: “The candidates of the crowded fields in the last few presidential elections — even the also-rans — almost always came out ahead or, at worst, ended up in the same place.”
“Unless they have skeletons in their closet that could be exposed, there’s really no reason for yet another longshot candidate not to give it a chance.”
Elizabeth Spiers: “O’Rourke was a skater (sort of); he was in a punk band called Foss; he was, we learned recently, part of a hacker collective called the Cult of the Dead Cow, where he ran a bulletin board called TacoLand. You know this type: Home decor dominated by vinyl. Wore eyeliner every day for three months in the mid-’90s. Still talks about that Joseph Campbell book that really made him think. I’ve never met O’Rourke, but I wouldn’t be surprised to read next that he once considered naming a pet or a child after Stephen Malkmus, the frontman for Pavement.”
“I don’t object to this, personally. I’m a Gen Xer, too — born in December 1976 — and I’ve been imprinted with many of the standard Xer cultural markers. I know that Powell Peralta is not a law firm; that in global thermonuclear war, the only winning move is not to play; that selling out is a moral failure and not a desirable state in which customers have purchased all your inventory. I think Fugazi is a reasonable name for a cat, and if I’m being ruthless in my self-interrogation, I have to admit that high school freshman me would have probably had a crush on high school senior Beto.”
“But O’Rourke so completely — and hilariously — embodies the stereotype of a white male Xer that if someone wrote him into a dystopian fantasy about a youthful 40-something ex-punk-rocker dropped into politics (reluctantly and with some conflictedness, of course) to save America from a selfish boomer narcissist who failed upward into the presidency despite a history of corruption and incompetency, the character would be way too on the nose.”