Something we’ve all been waiting for.
Something downright biblical, to tell by the hailstorm that engulfed the city of Washington and then cleared into a serene spring evening just in time for a commute home that you won’t be making, because something happened.
Something huge, like Mount Rushmore in your imagination, and yet underwhelming, like Mount Rushmore in real life.
Yes: Six hundred and seventy-four days since Robert Swan Mueller III started working on his report in an office in Southwest Washington, or possibly in a roiling cloud above Mount Sinai, the report has been completed and turned in to Attorney General William P. Barr.
The waiting is over. And now . . . we wait.
What did the president know, and when did he know it?
More importantly, when do we get to know it?
For now it’s all known unknowns and the tantalizing possibility of unknown unknowns. No collusion, yes collusion, no obstruction, yes obstruction. The existence of a certain tape, or tapes (Lordy . . .). Something about Prague, or maybe the Seychelles. Or maybe it’s a flash drive containing a solitary video file of Rick Astley singing “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Who knows?
William Barr, that’s who.
The only thing anyone else knew, or thought they knew, was that this investigation would come to an end. By June of last year The Washington Post was reporting that Mueller hoped to have the thing written by summer’s end. By October, Politico indicated that the special counsel appeared “eager to wrap it up.” Nearly two months ago, then-acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker told a House committee that the investigation was “close to being completed.”
And Wednesday night, Associated Press photographer Andrew Harnik — with the help of D.C. police — found his lost cellphone after hours of searching for it, to find a message from his editor waiting for him.
“Be at Mueller’s office by 6 a.m.” it said.
By 7:15 the next morning, Mueller rolled into work through a dark rain, with his car’s sun visors down, and ball cap on.
“He was expecting people,” Harnik said. Harnik got the shot — a portrait of a man, half masked by the shadow of his rearview mirror, his lips flat and inscrutable — one of the first new photos of an enigma in months. If this were the day, the photo could be in history books. But, no. More waiting. The sun set somewhere behind clouds that had literally doused Washington with cold water all day, and Harnik set his alarm to try again the next morning.
Friday began with the president leaving the White House for Florida. On his way to Marine One on the South Lawn, Trump was asked by a journalist if he expected the report to be submitted today. “I have no idea about the Mueller report,” the president replied, adding that “it’s going to be very interesting. But we’ll see what happens.”
And so, the day marched forward: the 10th-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes upset the Cincinnati Bearcats in the first round of the NCAA March Madness tournament; White House press secretary Sarah Sanders sent journalists a quote about how much Trump likes North Korea’s Kim Jung Un, and Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, compared waiting for the Mueller report to waiting for a baby to be born.
At 4:50, the Washington press corps started feeling labor pains.
“BREAKING: The House Judiciary Committee is told to expect notification by 5pm that the Mueller report has been delivered to Barr,” The Post’s Ellen Nakashima tweeted.
Because why would anyone hand in a report like this at any time other than right before the end of the day Friday? There’s a reason former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus used to call it “the witching hour.”
Inside the bubble, dinner plans were canceled, statements were crafted, and joke tweets were sent.
In the real world, the news was yet to fully register.
Outside of the White House, where tourists on Segways cut long shadows across the sidewalk, and where gaggles of eighth-graders in MAGA hats took selfies, there was no talk of Mueller.
A Reuters journalist and videographer struggled to find any tourists to say something informed or cogent about the Mueller report.
“I don’t know what that word is,” a high schooler from Iowa told her when she mentioned Mueller.
A block away, at Union Trust, a watering hole known to be frequented by White House staffers, the televisions were unconcerned with the news. One featured March Madness, the other TruTV.
Three friends from the Midwest were drinking prosecco, in honor of their friend whose funeral is tomorrow in Arlington. They had toured the Capitol today but had not heard about the Mueller report being delivered to the Department of Justice.
“I’m very curious to find out what it says,” said Nancy Peterson of St. Paul, Minn. “If somebody scammed an election . . . ”
And if that did happen? If the president was involved in some malfeasance?
“Leave him in office but don’t reelect,” Peterson said. “Impeachment is totally distracting from getting real work done.”
“They’re already ramping up for the next election,” said Barb Lindberg, from Menomonie, Wis., exasperated.
“Maybe he’ll kick into gear and really get things done because he knows he’s on his way out,” said Linda Lenz, also of Menomonie.
At the Trump International Hotel, there was more talk of cherry blossoms than impeachment above the din of club music. The televisions, as if contractually obligated, were turned to Fox News, but few paid much mind to the endless loop of Mueller photos and the chyrons blaring “No further indictments.”
At the sports bar Nellie’s, nine of their screens were tuned to NCAA — and then the Mueller report broke. Three switched to the local CBS station.
Gary Griffin and his wife Tracey came to watch the Oregon vs. Wisconsin game when they saw three of the flatscreens switch to the news.
“We heard about it on the drive coming in,” Gary Griffin said. “But we’re surprised they broke in” the NCAA game. “It was such a classic D.C. thing.”
“I hope there’s a smoking gun in there so bad, but I think if there was, it would have leaked,” Gary said before they went back to watching the game.
Said Mark Hunker: “I will stop my life — if I can read it.”
But life continued like normal at Mar-a-Lago, down to the Porsches and Rolls Royces in the parking lot, and the female guest arriving in a black fur coat despite the pleasant weather.
Inside, Trump phoned German Chancellor Angela Merkel to talk about Brexit and hosted a meeting with five leaders from the Caribbean. At 6:30 p.m., in the gold ballroom, the Republican Party of Palm Beach County was scheduled to open its annual “Lincoln Day Dinner,” with Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) listed as the keynote speaker. The cheap seats were $375; VIP tables were available for $25,000.
Unlike in previous years, the media would have to stand outside, and wait.