Mueller's Verdict May Be In, But Closure Is Out of Reach
After nearly two years of alternating White House angst and Democratic anticipation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and final report set off a frenzy in Washington over the weekend but provided neither closure nor solace for a divided nation.
Indeed, it seemed to cement America’s dueling split-screen political realities in place for years to come.
In anticipation of the “big reveal,” Fox News’ Sean Hannity ran a banner headline Friday night: “Collusion Delusion.” Meanwhile, Neal Katyal, the acting solicitor general under President Obama, promised on MSNBC that Democrats would sink their teeth in further.
“Today what happened was the end of the beginning,” Katyal predicted.
He was one of the first in a long line of Democrats to vigorously denounce the findings as inconclusive and promise to use their House majority status to launch a long series of overlapping investigations to re-litigate the probe.
The report’s mixed messages – finding no actionable evidence of collusion but leaving the decision of pursuing obstruction of justice charges to the attorney general – left the door wide open for wildly divergent partisan interpretation.
“While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Mueller said in the report, according to a four-page summary released by Attorney General William Barr.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, on Sunday took issue with the report’s ambiguity regarding whether President Trump and his team worked to obstruct justice during the investigation.
Citing “very concerning discrepancies and final decision-making at the Justice Department,” Nadler announced on Twitter plans to haul Barr before Congress “in the near future” to look into every detail of Mueller’s investigation.
“There must be full transparency in what Special Counsel Mueller uncovered to not exonerate the President from wrongdoing,” he tweeted. “DOJ owed the public more than just a brief synopsis and decision not to go any further in their work.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told fellow Democrats on a conference call Saturday she wouldn’t accept a private, classified briefing on Mueller’s report. Instead, she said she would demand that Mueller and his team provide the information to Congress in a way that allows them to discuss all the details publicly.
Six Democratic committee chairs and senior members of the delegation also reiterated their push to force Mueller to release the full report and all the underlying documents used to reach his conclusions.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat and member of the Judiciary Committee, rejected the five-page summary from Barr, arguing that it didn’t reveal enough about Mueller’s deliberations. “The American people deserve the Mueller report, not just the Barr report. Indeed, this set of summary conclusions hardly constitutes a report,” he said.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, went even further, calling the summary from Barr “crib notes” that desperately need fleshing out.
“We don’t want to see simply crib notes, we don’t want to see an outline, we don’t want to see an executive summary,” he told CBS’s “Face the Nation” before the Sunday afternoon release of the Barr summary. “We need to see everything so that the American people can draw conclusions on their own.”
Trump was clearly relieved and reinvigorated after Barr concluded that the special counsel’s evidence of obstruction of justice was “not sufficient” to pursue charges against the president or any current or former members of his team.
Speaking to reporters in Florida, he labeled the report “a total exoneration.”
“There was no collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction,” he said.
When returning to the White House later Sunday, Trump was even more ebullient. “I just want to tell you, America is the greatest place on earth – the greatest place on earth,” he told reporters before proceeding into the White House’s South Portico without taking questions.
Fellow Republicans backed him up, blasting Democrats’ plans to pore over every detail of the probe in open hearings. GOP leaders argued that two years of investigations hanging over Trump’s presidency was enough, and that it’s time to move on. They pointed to the probe’s 2,800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants, nearly 50 wiretaps and 500 interviews.
“Now that this investigation is over, Democrats need to finally end their baseless investigations and political crusade against President Trump for the good of the country,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.
Still, it was clear that Republicans, too, weren’t ready to let the issue go and miss the opportunity to investigate the investigators.
Top Republicans promised to resurrect the probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails and launch their own aggressive investigations into allegations that the FBI and Obama Justice Department colluded to change the narrative and take down Trump.
Former FBI Director James Comey reacted to the Mueller report Sunday evening by tersely tweeting, “So many questions.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Judiciary Committee chairman and Trump’s most powerful ally in the Senate, fired back: “I could not agree with you more. See you soon.”
On Friday night, one of the most pivotal moments for Trump as he awaited the results of the Mueller probe, Graham was at Mar-a-Lago for a Florida GOP fundraiser. He vowed to fully investigate the alleged anti-Trump biases of Comey and other Justice Department officials and whether they concocted a plot to force him from office.
The earlier news of no indictments was enough to buoy Trump supporters. During remarks to the crowd, Graham called for an investigation into Hillary Clinton and the origins of the infamous dossier that served as the basis for the FBI’s Russia collusion investigation.
“Lock her up!” the Trump supporters chanted cheerfully, as Trump looked on from a side table in the ballroom. That echo of the 2016 campaign seemed to underscore the “Groundhog Day” nature of national politics, a permanent state in which acrimony and distrust circle back in an endless feedback loop.