They’re having a good day and hey, I’m having a good day too.
That’s from Donald Trump, who spoke on Thursday morning during an event for wounded warriors.
Of course the president considers himself something of a “wounded warrior”, after enduring two years of scrutiny surrounding alleged coordination between his campaign and the Russian government and possible efforts on the part of the White House to obstruct an investigation into that coordination.
It came as no surprise on Thursday when William Barr delivered a deferential (almost obsequious) press conference ahead of the Justice Department’s release of the redacted Mueller report. It was equally unsurprising that the report itself revealed a far more nuanced take on the “no collusion” narrative than the attorney general originally let on.
Additionally, the report comes nowhere close to exonerating Trump on obstruction. Although Barr made it clear that Mueller had not made a determination in that regard, the full report finds Mueller citing “multiple acts by the president that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations.”
Here’s the clip of Trump taking a victory lap – this came just minutes after he posted (another) Game of Thrones meme on Twitter addressed to “haters” and “radical Democrats”.
And now begins the fallout.
“This is exactly why we need to hear directly from Special Counsel Mueller and receive the full, unredacted report with the underlying evidence”, Jerry Nadler tweeted, alongside a screenshot of the report with the now infamous “…it also does not exonerate him” passage highlighted.
Adam Schiff sent a letter to Mueller, seeking to set up a “mutually agreeable day in May” for the special counsel to testify. Nadler has asked Mueller to testify sometime before May 23.
For its part, the Trump campaign is already on the offensive, piggybacking on Barr’s “spying” comments from last week. “It’s time to investigate the ‘liars’ who started the probe”, the campaign said. “Justice will be served”, Brad Parscale promised.
The RNC called the report a “total vindication” of the president, despite it being anything but.
Again, what we would note is that if you actually read the report, Mueller does not exonerate the president on obstruction. Barr explicitly communicated that in his initial 4-page letter to Congress, but the message hasn’t sunk in, precisely because the Justice Department, under Barr, didn’t want it to. That’s why the attorney general made a determination of his own accord and rendered judgement on the obstruction angle within 36 hours of receiving the report (although he was apparently aware that the special counsel did not intend to rule on the issue weeks ahead of time).
That won’t matter in the eyes of Trump’s base, though, partly because many of the president’s most loyal supporters actually wouldn’t care if he had obstructed justice. Indeed, it’s probably not a stretch to suggest that a sizable contingent of Trump voters wouldn’t have minded if there was, in fact, coordination between the campaign and Moscow. Now that Mueller concluded there was no coordination, those voters care even less about the obstruction angle and because Barr roped in Rod Rosenstein in determining Trump’s innocence, it will be extremely difficult for Congress to make the case to the public that impeaching the president is warranted.
Throw in the fact that the vast majority of Americans will not even read the report that everyone waited two years to see, and it seems highly unlikely that Mueller’s actual conclusions are going to matter.
That is of course unless he testifies publicly and Americans hear it straight from him in language that leaves no room for equivocation.