Last week, the House of Representatives voted 420-0 for a measure calling for the Justice Department to release Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report to the public. The resolution made its way over to the Senate, where Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) blocked it from being brought up for a vote, arguing that it should include an amendment to name a new special counsel to investigate how the FBI handled the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Even Graham admitted he was being cute. “I’m just making a political point,” he said, according to the Charleston Post and Courier.
As evinced by the 420-0 vote, though, there’s no good reason the report that results from Mueller’s two-year investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia shouldn’t be made public. President Trump has said that it will be up to Attorney General William Barr to decide what to do with Mueller’s report, but on Wednesday he told reporters on the White House lawn that he was open to report coming out. “I don’t mind,” he said. “I mean frankly, I told the House if you want, let them see it.”
He then started ranting about former attorney general Jeff Sessions and his 2016 Electoral College victory. “Explain that, because my voters don’t get it, and I don’t get it,” Trump said of the decision to appoint Mueller. “It’s sort of interesting that a man just out of the blue writes a report,” he continued. “I got 306 electoral votes against 223. That’s a tremendous victory. I got 63 million votes, and now somebody just writes a report? It’s ridiculous.” (Trump actually received 304 electoral votes to Clinton’s 227.)
Reporter: Does the public have a right to see the Mueller report?
Trump: I don't mind. I mean, frankly, I told the House, if you want, let them see it pic.twitter.com/SYLzbT6ouO
— POLITICO (@politico) March 20, 2019
Trump also said Wednesday that he has “no idea” when Mueller’s report is going to be released. Join the club.
In recent months, several reports have indicated that Mueller and his team were on the verge of wrapping up their investigation and presenting their findings to the Justice Department. The most recent tease came in February when CNN reported that Mueller was preparing to file his report to the DOJ in a matter of days, which would be followed by Barr submitting a summary of the report to Congress. That never happened, and now, once again, speculation is building that a report is imminent. Trump has been using Twitter to rail against the investigation more than usual, which is saying a lot, and earlier this week Mueller’s office asked for an extension on a filing deadline, citing the “press of other work.” Some have wondered whether the “other work” is the report.
Barr isn’t giving any clues.
Attorney General Bill Barr just walked past me inside the Justice Department. I asked him, "Is today the day?"
His response: a death stare… before walking off without saying a word.
— Mike Levine (@MLevineReports) March 21, 2019
When Mueller does file his report to the Justice Department, it will mark the end of what could go down as the most consequential investigation in American history. Several of Trump’s associates, including Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, have already been indicted and/or convicted as a result of Mueller’s work. It’s not unreasonable to assume that Mueller could possess evidence that the president has committed a host of crimes ranging from obstruction of justice to conspiracy against the United States. Regardless, Mueller has said that he will abide by Justice Department guidelines holding that a sitting president cannot be indicted. The onus will then be placed on Congress, which can use Mueller’s findings to facilitate additional investigations, or, depending on how incriminating the report is, move to impeach the president.
The only certainty in all of this is that both sides will lose their mind trying to parse the report’s contents. Mueller’s investigation has largely defined the bulk of Trump’s time in office. No matter what the report says, Trump and his allies will undoubtedly claim it exonerates the president and proves that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia. On the other hand, Democrats thirsty for incontrovertible proof of the president’s criminality are liable to overreact to some of Mueller’s findings. It’s going to be a mess.
On Wednesday, Supreme Court lawyer Neal Katyal tweeted a guide to how to respond to the report when it’s released.
5 RULES FOR WHEN NEWS ABOUT MUELLER REPORT COMES OUT.
1. Believe only the text of the Report, not others’ characterizations of it. This WH in particular spins “up” as “down” (like the Nunes documents).
— Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) March 20, 2019
Katyal cautioned that observers should pay attention only to the text of the report; consider the report’s scope; examine whether the report is limited to criminal acts; ask what, if anything, the report resolves; and ponder whether Trump would have still been elected in 2016 if voters knew the contents of the report at the time.
“Don’t focus on the one-line spin,” Katyal concluded. “Focus on the facts, judgments, and limitations in the Mueller Report. And ask yourself, if Trump had just been honest and forthcoming about all of this, we could have spared this long ordeal.”
That’s a pretty big “if.”