Trump is apparently celebrating the letter published by Attorney General William Barr on the Mueller Report like an election win . Almost certainly this will prove to be the high water moment for him . Things will only get worse from now on.
So far headline commentary has not really examined the contents of Barr’s 4 page letter. It doesn’t make anything like as good reading for the President as the Republican Spin Machine is currently claiming . Of course the President with characteristic chutzpah is going beyond that and claiming complete exoneration which Barr’s letter explicitly does not give .
Firstly the AG’s letter largely rests on reflecting the high bar of proving a conspiracy between Trump Campaign Officials and Russian agents has not been met -‘whether any Americans …..joined the Russian conspiracies to influence the election ‘. This is unsurprising . However within the 4 page letter there is much recitation of contacts and offers made which hardly amount to an unalloyed clean bill of health for the Trump campaign
The AG’s letter also refers to findings about Russian efforts to hack Democratic Party computers . These are of course memorably associated in the public mind with Trump’s request to the Russians to obtain Clinton’s emails. The wider issue of Clinton’s emails is further connected with the Comey intervention which had such a marked effect on the Clinton campaign .
Barr on Obstruction of Justice
The report’s second part addresses a number of actions by the President – most of which have been the subject of public reporting – that the Special Counsel investigated as potentially raising obstruction-of-justice concerns. After making a “thorough factual investigation” into these matters, the Special Counsel considered whether to evaluate the conduct under Department standards governing prosecution and declination decisions but ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment. The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction. Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Barr goes on that Mueller states ‘the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference’ and then he (Barr) goes on to say ‘while not determinative the absence of such evidence bears upon the President’s intent with respect to obstruction .
So Mueller has left the judgement as to prosecution with the AG whose decision falls considerably short of the claimed full exoneration. Tonight is as good as it gets for Trump .Battle will now be joined as to the release of the full Mueller Report to Congress .Assuming it is released , and failure to do so will inevitably give rise to the perception that facts are being concealed , Trump faces the possibility of his own campaign chant being turned against him : Lock Him Up !