On today's exciting episode we look at the Mueller Report from the perspective of the New York Times story about how Mueller insiders are upset that Attorney General William Barr's claims for the report don't give a proper idea of what is actually in it.
Given that the Mueller team was rock-solid leak-proof during the two years of the investigation, the fact that anything has been said by team members about the report before its public release is significant -- but the fact that what's been reported is they're upset with how their report has been portrayed strikes me as seismic.
As I said just one paragraph earlier -- given that the Mueller team was rock-solid leak-proof during the two years of the investigation, I don't think we'd have heard a peep if there were merely nuanced differences of opinion in interpretation. My sense is that what is in the report has to be substantively fundamental for anyone on the team to be so upset that they'd speak out.
Three things come to mind.
The first is something I felt likely the moment I read Barr's letter -- and have been surprised that more in the press didn't come to the same conclusion, though a few did, as well as some former prosecutors. But now with this New York Times story, I feel near-certain. And it's that the report will say that Trump committed levels of obstruction of justice that would have gotten him indicted except that he's president, and it's against Justice Department policy to indict a sitting president. And it will lay out all the evidence and conclusions to support that charge.
The second is that there will be other areas of crimes committed by Trump and members of the administration for which no one got indicted by Mueller because they don't fall under his mission for investigation (money laundering, for one example), and so it would be improper to for this report to indict them, but the files and evidence have been transferred to other divisions of the Justice Department for whom that is their responsibility.
And the third is that there are actions by Trump and others in the administration who committed actions that may not be crimes, or are crimes with evidence but that couldn't be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for which it's the purview of Congress to deal with. ethics violations, perhaps, like emoluments issue with Trump getting foreign "gifts" of money through his business interests, or security violations by Trump in his dealings with the Russians Chinese and Saudis, recklessly being duped to act on behalf of them. Or Influence peddling by Jared Kushner trying to make deals with foreign nations to get needed-money for his troubled real estate ventures. Or campaign and foreign contact offenses at the Trump Tower meeting with Don Jr., Kushner, and Manafort. And more. Much more. (We're already seeing deeper investigations into the Inaugural and possible improper dealings with Russians.)
I don't know. I could be totally wrong.
But for someone going around and trying to crow about how "exonerated" he was by the report, Trump has been having major whining meltdowns every day since. You'd expect someone who knew he was, in fact, "totally exonerated" would do everything in his power to get the report out in the public as soon as possible. And for Trump, "everything in his power" is not only near-total power, but means something as simple as picking up the phone and saying, "Bill, release the report." And consider too that the House of Representatives had previously voted 420-0 (that's "zero," not a single person objecting), it's profoundly telling that now members of the House are backpedaling from that so fast you worry for their well-being, angrily fighting in committee hearings to block the release of the report -- which they had recently voted 420-0 to release.
One other thing: Who releases a nearly 400-page report to say, "We didn't find anything"??
Given all that. And given that members of Mueller's team are letting it be known that they're upset at how their work has been portrayed by the Attorney General -- who they know got his job by writing an unsolicited letter to the Justice Department saying that he didn't think the investigation was proper and that a president couldn't be indicted -- as much as I could be wrong...I don't think I am. Maybe on some of the details, but not the overall observation.
And maybe not even on the details.
Rule #1 -- Don't take a victory lap until the race is over. Indeed, I think the race has only barely started.