The main thing that continues to jump out at us is the Attorney General’s summary does not quote the Mueller report directly much, like hardly at all.
And it’s not like we’re looking for things that are wrong with William Barr’s 4-page summary, which we’ve linked to again here. One of the reasons we felt compelled to go over it again is that we didn’t feel it was very nuanced at all when we read it the first time, yet it’s been subject to so much interpretation in all kinds of things we’ve been reading. So we thought we might have missed something. Especially since other people are finding so much in it. Peter Baker’s piece in the New York Times about the legacy of this inquiry is great.
Just in terms of the summary itself, which is all almost anyone’s got to go on at this point, we don’t see as much to be puzzled about as people seem to be puzzled about. Except that Barr quotes Mueller so darn sparingly. Barr’s providing more of a description of the Mueller report than a summary.
Does that make any difference? We don’t know. All we know is this is what puzzles us.
The only two direct quotes of more than a word or two that Barr does lift directly are both very important. But it’s not at all clear in what context they’re presented in Mueller’s report, since Barr provides all the context.
“[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
And this, which is only a portion of a sentence:
“while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Beyond that, we re-read it to make sure we hadn’t missed any obvious equivocations, or even hidden clues.
The summary is really in 4 parts:
• The first describes the scope of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The key sentences here seems to be:
“During the course of his investigation, the Special Counsel also referred several matters to other offices for further action. The report does not recommend any further indictments, nor did the Special Counsel obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public.”
That clarifies a question we saw many times: whether other shoes were going to drop–or had already dropped–that we didn’t yet know about. Sort of. Because Barr doesn’t tell us if we already know about the “several matters” Mueller referred to “other offices.”
• The 2nd part firmly establishes that there were “two main Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election”.
That part is being lost. And it’s particularly significant because the President himself has not yet endorsed that finding. And it’s a huge part of what the Mueller report is about. Trump says he believes Russian President Putin when he tells Trump he didn’t do it.
“…the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple efforts from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.“
That seems to be a pretty clear statement, except it’s Barr’s words, not a direct quote from Mueller. Why not?
• The 3rd part has to do with “obstruction of Justice”, and that’s been by far the most discussed. Specifically why Mueller did not offer an opinion one way or the other “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”. Because he still could’ve made a recommendation to Congress, that would’ve made this all go a lot more smoothly, one way or the other. Because Barr then says he’s concluded there’s not enough evidence to “establish that the President committed an obstruction of justice offense”. When a lot of people are saying that was presumptuous and preemptive, because that decision should really be made by Congress.
• The 4th part has to do with the status of the full report, which has still not been released, and may not be for a while. Barr repeats what he said during his confirmation hearings:
“I am mindful of the public interest in this matter. For that reason, my goal and intent is to release as much of the Special Counsel’s report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies.”
So already he’s hedging. And then he goes on for two more long paragraphs describing why probably a good portion of the report will not be released. He does embed one interesting thing into this section:
“I must identify any information that could impact other ongoing matters, including those that the Special Counsel has referred to other offices.”
Which might answer our question above about whether we already know about all the “other ongoing matters” Mueller referred to “other offices” or not. Or maybe it doesn’t. We just don’t know. And we may never know.
The Chaos Report is on the road, so for the rest of this week and some of next, the content and format of the report might be a little different, and the time we publish every morning might be a bit off.
We ask for your understanding: we are a very lean operation and because we have so few people, we rely on a lot of coordination. Thank you for your understanding, and continued support.