5 Reasons Why Democrats Shouldn’t Freak Out About Barr’s Summary

Attorney General William Barr's summary of the Mueller report has stirred up some disappointment on the left.
Attorney General William Barr – 26 February 2019 (Department of Justice)

Attorney General William Barr – 26 February 2019 (Department of Justice)

On Sunday, less than 48 hours after receiving Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, Attorney General William Barr released a 4-page summary to Congress. In the summary, Barr sought to characterize the key conclusions of Mueller’s findings when it came to a potential conspiracy between the Russian government and the Trump campaign as well as obstruction of justice.


After the summary of the report was released, elected Democrats immediately demanded Mueller’s full report and underlying evidence be released. Republicans gloated about “total exoneration,” and unsurprisingly the media overcorrected. Among those in the Democratic base who put many of their hopes in Mueller, there was a lot of disappointment.

Here’s why Barr’s summary isn’t the end of the world:

1. Mueller didn’t reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice.

In spite of the Trump administration’s claim that Mueller’s report is a “total exoneration” of President Trump, Barr’s summary claims that Mueller’s report states the following when it comes to obstruction of justice: “‘…while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’”

Mueller left the question of obstruction unanswered, laying out evidence on both sides of the case. It’s likely Mueller was laying this out for Congress to determine, but Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (who wrote the memo justifying the firing of FBI Director James Comey) took it upon themselves to clear President Trump of obstruction of justice within 48 hours of receiving the report. It’s since been reported that Mueller told Barr 3 weeks ago he would not reach a conclusion on obstruction of justice.

Last year, Barr wrote a 19-page memo lambasting Mueller’s obstruction of justice case against President Trump. Barr was subsequently nominated and confirmed as Attorney General and swiftly cleared Trump of obstruction of justice. Given the fact it appears Barr appears to have made his choice before analyzing evidence, he will likely be called to testify on how he came to the conclusion to clear the president within 48 hours of seeing Mueller’s final product. Barr has a DOJ budget hearing with the House Appropriations Committee on April 9th, so this topic may come in that hearing.

2. You might see the full report and hear from Mueller himself.

When it comes to obstruction of justice, Mueller’s report was inconclusive. According to Barr, Mueller is far more definitive when it comes to conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. Barr quotes the report as saying “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

A footnote defines “‘coordination’ as an ‘agreement—tacit or express–between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference.’” Just because there wasn’t a criminal “tacit or express” agreement between Russia and Trump to conspire does not void all of the suspicious contacts we saw in public. We know there were at least 14 Trump associates who had over 100 contacts or meetings with Russian nationals during the course of the campaign and transition. We know the Trump Campaign knew about Russia’s efforts to help them via Donald Trump Jr.’s emails, and we also know the Trump Campaign knowingly promoted Wikileaks dumps and sought out updates on future dumps from Roger Stone.

Calls for the full report to be released have surged, and there are also calls for Mueller to testify before Congress about his findings. The full report and Mueller’s testimony would provide the American people a better accounting of what he found as well as insight into why he didn’t levy conspiracy charges. Just because there wasn’t a criminally chargeable conspiracy, does not mean the Trump Campaign’s openness to accept help from Russians was not improper.

3. The reporting on Trump-Russia was accurate and you aren’t crazy.

As Republicans attack the media and claim victory, many reporters are already heavily overcorrecting and behaving as if they were wrong. Many have been running with the idea that the press needs to reflect on their Trump-Russia coverage. They don’t. Their reporting on the ties between the Trump Campaign and Russia was largely accurate and mainstream outlets never reported definitively on a “criminal conspiracy” between the campaign and Russian government. What Republicans fail to mention is the fact this development equally undermines their false “deep state” narrative claiming Mueller and the Justice Department has been out to take him down. If anything, the report was the great equalizer.

4. Mueller’s findings aren’t as bad for Democrats in 2020 as people think.

Many people are speculating that Mueller’s conclusions will have a negative impact on Democrats’ 2020 prospects. While it is accurate to say that the Russia collusion related probes in the House will have less credibility, it’s inaccurate to say this will thoroughly damage Democrats at the ballot box. The 2018 midterm polling showed voters care about the issues significantly more than this investigation. Democrats win on the issues. It goes without saying, but Barr’s letter doesn’t change the fact that the Republican Party’s policies are unpopular with most Americans.

Another thing to keep in mind about 2020 is the fact Trump voters are deeply motivated by fear, anger, and grievance – not successes. Trump no longer has his “deep state” fight. The more Trump has to fight against, the better he’ll do in 2020. Trump now has one less fight.

5. It was always going to come down to you.

While many in the Democratic base looked to Special Counsel Robert Mueller as their potential savior, they were always going to have to be their own saviors. Liberals should pay attention to the other corruption probes but they should do so without the emotional investment that they will bring down this presidency. It all comes down to your vote and organizing efforts ahead of 2020. Trump is no less corrupt, indecent, or incompetent after this development. Trump has governed for the wealthy, targeted the vulnerable, capitulated to dictators, and ignored climate change. The American people won’t forget that on November 3, 2020.

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Opinion // Donald Trump / Robert Mueller / Rod Rosenstein / William Barr