The Mueller report released Thursday morning brought with it an avalanche of details about Donald Trump and Co.’s conduct on the campaign trail and in the White House. The sheer volume of the information included in the 448-page report means there will be stories developing for days, weeks, and likely months about the implications of Mueller’s findings.
After one frenetic day of parsing and reporting on the 22-month investigation’s findings, we’ve got a sense of some of the biggest storylines. And if you haven’t been Ctrl+F searching for “Ivanka” while at work today, here’s a summary of what you need to know so far.
“Insufficient Evidence” of Criminal Conspiracy
It has been established Russia made an orchestrated effort to influence the U.S. election by bolstering the Trump campaign. The question for the Mueller team was not just did the Trump campaign coordinate with the Russians, but did it rise to the level of criminal conspiracy? The Mueller report cites numerous contacts between Trump advisers and Russians before and after the election and found that while many Trump aides welcomed Russian election meddling to their benefit, it determined there was “insufficient evidence” to prove in a court they conspired with the Russians to tilt the election.
Obstruction of Justice, a Roadmap
You may have already heard that the Special Counsel also chose not to charge the president of the United States with obstruction of justice. Attorney General Bill Barr highlighted that fact in his summary of the findings, and Trump has touted it frequently on his DIY vindication tour. The Mueller report, however, states that there is no exoneration here. “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” Mueller’s investigators wrote. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.” In fact, the report highlighted 10 potential instances of obstruction.
Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern writes that while Mueller chose not to indict, what he did do is provide a roadmap for Congress that could be lethal for the Trump presidency. “Mueller only declined to indict the president because the Office of Legal Counsel, which provides legal advice to the executive branch, claimed that he could not,” Stern writes. “Instead, Mueller made the case for obstruction in his meticulous report, providing a road map to Congress, which he expects to consider impeachment proceedings. There appears to be more than enough proof of criminality for the House of Representatives to draw up articles of impeachment.”
Does That Mean Impeachment Is Back on the Table?
We’ll see. After 12 hours of life in the age of the Mueller report, Democrats have more legal ammunition than ever to initiate impeachment proceedings, Slate’s Jim Newell writes, but they haven’t shown much interest in actually doing so. (The Political Gabfest team also discussed the specter of impeachment in the post-Mueller report era.)
What Happens Now Is a Political Question, Not a Legal One
Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick found the “Mueller report as a fundamentally political document as much as a legal one” and the outcome of all this will be political too. “It’s a delineation, chapter and verse, of how Trump has conducted himself in office, and for anyone who believes that the president should not be above the law, this is a damning report of presidential lawlessness,” Lithwick writes. “[T]he American public can no longer claim that nothing has happened. Mueller has shown us what is true. Nobody in the White House has disputed it. We can decide we’re fine with it or that we are not fine with it. That’s a political question, not a legal one. I think that may be what needed to happen all along.”
Is Attorney General Bill Barr Acting in Good Faith?
The Attorney General held a press conference Thursday morning before the report was even released in an apparent effort to get first crack at defining what was about to come. In light of what is in the Mueller report, Barr’s initial letter to Congress looks even more willfully evasive.
“Barr’s spin on special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s report all but ignored the report’s damning findings, misrepresented significant parts of Mueller’s reasoning, and described President Donald Trump’s motivations and supposed cooperation in terms straight out of White House talking points,” Peter Shane writes. “Barr engaged in word-splitting pettifoggery that would make even Bill Clinton blush. Barr is clearly compromised by the partisan goals of this White House to the point where he cannot be trusted in the job. He should resign immediately.”
What About the Pee Tape?!
Yes, the infamous pee tape gets a mention in a footnote, but it doesn’t offer much new about the real star here—the mythical, and possibly totally hypothetical, Trump sex tape. The report does say that a Russian businessman who tipped off Trump weeks before the election about the tape’s existence said he was told it was fake. Stay tuned!
Home Run Line of the Report: “This Is the End of my Presidency. I’m Fucked.”
This was Trump’s response after first learning a special counsel had been appointed to head the Russia investigation. One for the ages.
Conclusion: Get some rest. This is far from over.