For a political junkie like me, today's non-stop coverage of William Barr's embarrassingly awful press conference and subsequent analysis of the redacted Mueller report has felt like taking a really long hot shower that leaves you both blissfully exhausted and pleasantly energized.
I've read the tweets. I've looked over Washington Post and New York Times stories. I've listened to much of what MSNBC had to offer, while fast forwarding through repetitive or uninteresting parts. I've scanned some of the report.
Here's what leaps out at me after the initial coverage of the lengthy Mueller report.
Barr should be impeached. Likely he won't be, but some smart political analysts have suggested this as a seemingly foolproof way for Democrats to get the unredacted Mueller report. It's clear that Attorney General Barr lied in his initial four-page letter about the Mueller report. He mischaracterized the report's findings and is now acting like Trump's personal attorney, rather than as the leader of a Justice Department that serves the American people, not the president.
Mainstream media has been vindicated. Despite Trump's inane claims of "fake news," virtually everything that's been reported about the Mueller investigation over the past few years turns out to have been true. This includes commentators who argued that collusion occurred between Russia and the Trump campaign, and that Trump engaged in obstruction of justice. Both things happened.
Collusion, yes; conspiracy, no. Above is a screenshot from page 2 of the Mueller report. Trump and Barr have been (figuratively) screaming No collusion! However, Mueller made clear that collusion, or even coordination, don't have settled definitions in federal criminal law.
In the excerpt above, he strongly implies that the Trump campaign did engage in actions that "were informed by or reponsive to" actions and interests of Russians, along with WikiLeaks. There wasn't an agreement between the Russian government and the Trump campaign regarding election interference. But there was a heck of a lot of collusion between Russians and people associated with the campaign.
Russian interference in the election is undeniable. Page 1 of the report makes this clear, as shown above. The Russians favored trump and disparaged Clinton. Russia stole documents from the Clinton campaign, which then were released by WikiLeaks.
And there were numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Paul Manafort provided polling data to Russians relating to key midwest battleground states that Trump won with the aid of Russian disinformation efforts through social media.
Trump engaged in obstruction of justice. Mueller provides ten pieces of evidence relating to obstruction of justice. Yet he didn't issue an opinion on this part of the investigation. Instead, it's clear from the report that Mueller left it up to Congress to decide what to do on this front, since a sitting president can't be indicted on this charge (or maybe any charge).
So Barr lied when he claimed in his four-page report that Mueller's failure to say that Trump engaged in obstruction of justice had nothing to do with the fact that a president can't be indicted. Actually, that fact was the main reason Mueller left it up to Congress to decide how to handle the obstruction charges.
Trump encouraged people to lie. He repeatedly tried to get Mueller fired. He did fire Comey, the Attorney General at the time. There's compelling evidence that Trump obstructed justice. Fortunately, he didn't succeed, but not for lack of trying. The only question is how House Democrats should hold him accountable for this.
Impeachment seems more likely, though not inevitable. Until today I'd been thinking that impeachment was off the table for Democrats. However, the Mueller report contains so much damning information about Trump (much of it already known, but not clearly packaged), it's hard to see how Trump should be allowed to get off without further investigations of some sort.
If Congress doesn't serve as a check on how Trump has been abusing presidential power, future presidents will be tempted to further expand the boundaries of criminality and unethical behavior. Sure, politically impeachment may be a bad idea that would help Trump's re-election chances. But holding oversight hearings could be the next best thing.
Investigations are ongoing. Even a cursory review of the report shows numerous mentions of "Harm to Ongoing Matter," or HOM -- such as this section regarding the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks.
So while Trump may hope that the Mueller investigation is behind him, spinoff investigations continue. Plus, there are several other investigations by both federal and state authorities into possible wrongdoing by Trump and his companies. We're at the end of a beginning, but likely not at the beginning of the end.
Sleaze and bad behavior. All of the evidence in the Mueller report about sleazy, unethical, and generally bad behavior by Trump and his cronies would cause massive headlines in every newspaper if so much of this hadn't already been reported on. There's no doubt that the Trump presidency is deeply flawed, to put it mildly.
Ordinarily, the White House press secretary lying about staff in the Justice Department being pleased with Comey's firing would lead to a firing. Or at least an abject apology. But Sanders lies so often about everything, as do many others in the Trump administration, we've gotten used to this crap -- in line with the frog slowly boiling in water analogy.
Like a Mafia crime family, Trump has been able to get away with (non-literal) murder because his fingerprints aren't directly on the crime scene. And the Mueller report says that people associated with Trump were able to delete electronic evidence, or hide it on encrypted devices, which made it difficult to investigate certain areas.
Hopefully the Democratic leadership in Congress will be able to find a way to do the right thing for our country, while also doing the right thing for the Democrat 2020 nominee to beat Trump. Impeachment may not be the best option, but doing nothing about the deeply disturbing Mueller report findings also isn't an option.