While neither accusing him of a crime nor exonerating him, the second volume of special counsel Bob Mueller’s 448-page report details 10 episodes in which there is at least some evidence that Trump sought to obstruct justice. In most of them, at least one person from the president’s inner circle resisted entreaties to do something they felt was wrong.
“The president's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,” the Mueller report concludes.
In looking out for their own interests and reputations, Trump’s aides often protected the president from himself. Sometimes they said no and threatened to resign. Other times they said yes and just didn’t follow through, hoping the president would forget.
Mueller documents dozens of instances in which the president’s own people reined him in. If these officials had gone along with everything Trump had asked for, the evidence of obstruction would likely be much stronger, and calls for impeachment on the Hill today would almost certainly be louder.
-- Here are eight key figures who Mueller says resisted Trump at critical moments:
1) Jeff Sessions refused to unrecuse himself, even when Trump bullied him privately and publicly.
“Oh my God,” Trump said when Sessions informed him that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had just appointed Mueller as special counsel in May 2017, according to contemporaneous notes taken by Sessions’s then-chief of staff, Jody Hunt. “This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked.”
The president ripped into Sessions for his recusal, saying that he had let him down. “This is the worst thing that ever happened to me,” Trump said. “How could you let this happen, Jeff?”
“The President said the position of Attorney General was his most important appointment and that Sessions had ‘let [him] down,’ contrasting him to Eric Holder and Robert Kennedy,” the report says. “Sessions recalled that the President said to him, ‘you were supposed to protect me,’ or words to that effect.”
For months, Trump had tried to get Sessions to rethink his decision not to oversee the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The attorney general had played a leadership role in the president’s campaign and had been advised that the question of whether he needed to recuse himself wasn’t a close call. Sessions told prosecutors last year, while he was still attorney general, that Trump pulled him aside at Mar-a-Lago so they could speak alone and suggested that Sessions should "unrecuse.” A few months later, in the summer of 2017, he called Sessions at home and again asked him to reverse his recusal. Sessions would not do it. Months after that, in December 2017, Trump met with Sessions in the Oval Office and said that he would be a “hero” if he took back supervision of the Russia investigation.
With the president fuming at him, Sessions offered a letter of resignation to Trump in May 2017. He said he wanted to stay on but was willing to go. When then-White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon learned that the president was holding on to Sessions's resignation letter, the report says that they became concerned that it could be used to influence the Department of Justice.
“Priebus told Sessions it was not good for the President to have the letter because it would function as a kind of ‘shock collar’ that the President could use any time he wanted,” according to the report. “Priebus said the President had ‘DOJ by the throat.’ Priebus and Bannon told Sessions they would attempt to get the letter back from the President with a notation that he was not accepting Sessions's resignation.” Thirteen days after he handed the letter to Trump, they succeeded.
But Sessions carried a resignation letter in his pocket every time he went to the White House for a year afterward, according to Hunt.
2) White House counsel Don McGahn refused to have Mueller fired.
The Mueller report could also be called the McGahn report. The former White House counsel’s name appears 529 times, including in footnotes, on 66 separate pages. He clearly cooperated with prosecutors, and the portions of the report involving his interviews – given under oath – are gripping.
In June 2017, three days after The Washington Post revealed that the special counsel’s office was investigating whether the president had obstructed justice, Trump called McGahn at home and directed him to call Rosenstein and say that the special counsel had conflicts of interest and must be removed.
“McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre,” the report says. “McGahn recalled that the President called him at home twice and on both occasions directed him to call Rosenstein and say that Mueller had conflicts that precluded him from serving as Special Counsel. … He and other advisors believed the asserted conflicts were ‘silly’ and ‘not real,’ and they had previously communicated that view to the President. McGahn also had made clear to the President that the White House Counsel's Office should not be involved in any effort to press the issue of conflicts. …
“McGahn was concerned about having any role in asking the Acting Attorney General to fire the Special Counsel because he had grown up in the Reagan era and wanted to be more like Judge Robert Bork and not ‘Saturday Night Massacre Bork,’” the report explains. “McGahn considered the President 's request to be an inflection point and he wanted to hit the brakes. … McGahn recalled feeling trapped because he did not plan to follow the President's directive but did not know what he would say the next time the President called.
“McGahn decided he had to resign. … He then drove to the office to pack his belongings and submit his resignation letter. … That evening, McGahn called both Priebus and Bannon and told them that he intended to resign. … Priebus recalled that McGahn said that the President had asked him to ‘do crazy shit’ … Priebus and Bannon both urged McGahn not to quit, and McGahn ultimately returned to work that Monday and remained in his position.”
Seven months later, in early 2018, the New York Times reported the contours of that incident, and the president reacted by directing White House officials to tell McGahn to dispute the story. McGahn refused. “The President then met with McGahn in the Oval Office and again pressured him to deny the reports,” the Mueller report recounts. “In the same meeting, the President also asked McGahn why he had told the Special Counsel about the President’s effort to remove the Special Counsel and why McGahn took notes of his conversations with the President. McGahn refused to back away from what he remembered happening and perceived the President to be testing his mettle.”
The president insisted he never told McGahn to “fire” Mueller, but McGahn said that his notes showed Trump had told him that “Mueller has to go.” Trump then berated McGahn for keeping a record of their discussions. “Why do you take notes? Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes,” Trump told McGahn, according to McGahn’s account.
McGahn responded that he was a “real lawyer.”
“I’ve had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn,” Trump replied. “He did not take notes.”
Cohn, a key early mentor for Trump, was Joe McCarthy’s chief counsel in the Senate. He was later disbarred for unethical conduct – just like Michael Cohen, who would be Trump’s lawyer a generation later. The whole episode underscored why it made sense for McGahn to keep a paper trail.
Weighing in on Twitter this morning from Mar-a-Lago, Trump appeared to allude to this donnybrook over notetaking as he criticized Mueller and former aides who cooperated with the special counsel:
3) Rick Dearborn threw the president’s message for Sessions in the trash.
During a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office in June 2017, Trump dictated a message for his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to deliver to Sessions: Meet with the special counsel and get him to limit his jurisdiction to future election interference, rather than look backward on the 2016 election.
Lewandowski scheduled a meeting with Sessions to convey this message for the following evening at his office, but Sessions canceled because of a last-minute conflict. “Lewandowski wanted to pass the message to Sessions in person rather than over the phone. He did not want to meet at the Department of Justice because he did not want a public log of his visit and did not want Sessions to have an advantage over him by meeting on what Lewandowski described as Sessions's turf,” the report says. “Lewandowski stored the notes in a safe at his home, which he stated was his standard procedure with sensitive items.”
A month later, in a second private meeting, Trump asked what came of his message to Sessions. Lewandowski said he would circle back. Then Lewandowski approached Dearborn, who was at that time deputy White House chief of staff and had worked for Sessions in the Senate, to ask him to pass along the message.
“Lewandowski saw Dearborn in the anteroom outside the Oval Office and gave him a typewritten version of the message the President had dictated to be delivered to Sessions,” the report says. “The message ‘definitely raised an eyebrow’ for Dearborn, and he recalled not wanting to ask where it came from or think further about doing anything with it. Dearborn also said that being asked to serve as a messenger to Sessions made him uncomfortable. He recalled later telling Lewandowski that he had handled the situation, but he did not actually follow through with delivering the message to Sessions, and he did not keep a copy of the typewritten notes Lewandowski had given him.”
4) Rob Porter refused to call the No. 3 at the Justice Department.
“In early July 2017, the President asked Staff Secretary Rob Porter what he thought of Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand,” the report says. “Porter recalled that the President asked him if Brand was good, tough, and ‘on the team.’ The President also asked if Porter thought Brand was interested in being responsible for the Special Counsel's investigation and whether she would want to be Attorney General one day. Because Porter knew Brand, the President asked him to sound her out about taking responsibility for the investigation and being Attorney General. Contemporaneous notes taken by Porter show that the President told Porter to ‘Keep in touch with your friend,’ in reference to Brand.
“Later, the President asked Porter a few times in passing whether he had spoken to Brand, but Porter did not reach out to her because he was uncomfortable with the task,” the report continues. “In asking him to reach out to Brand, Porter understood the President to want to find someone to end the Russia investigation or fire the Special Counsel, although the President never said so explicitly. Porter did not contact Brand because he was sensitive to the implications of that action and did not want to be involved in a chain of events associated with an effort to end the investigation or fire the Special Counsel.”
Porter was pushed out of the White House in February 2018 when both of his ex-wives publicly accused him of physical abuse.
5) Chris Christie refused to contact Comey.
During a private lunch on Feb. 14, 2017, at the White House, Trump asked then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – who had led his transition team until being fired shortly after the election – if he was still friendly with Comey, who was still FBI director.
“Christie said he was,” the report says. “The President told Christie to call Comey and tell him that the President ‘really like[s] him. Tell him he's part of the team.’ At the end of the lunch, the President repeated his request that Christie reach out to Comey. Christie had no intention of complying with the President's request that he contact Comey. He thought the President's request was ‘nonsensical’ and Christie did not want to put Comey in the position of having to receive such a phone call. Christie thought it would have been uncomfortable to pass on that message.”
6) Rosenstein refused to hold a news conference.
The night Trump fired Comey in May 2017, the White House Press Office called the Justice Department and said that it wanted to put out a statement saying it was the deputy attorney general’s idea to get rid of the FBI director. “Rosenstein told other DOJ officials that he would not participate in putting out a ‘false story,’” the report says. “The President then called Rosenstein directly and said he was watching Fox News, that the coverage had been great, and that he wanted Rosenstein to do a press conference. Rosenstein responded that this was not a good idea because, if the press asked him, he would tell the truth that Comey's firing was not his idea.”
That same night, then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters, “It was all [Rosenstein]. No one from the White House. It was a DOJ decision.”
7) K.T. McFarland wouldn’t send a memo.
After Michael Flynn was pushed out as national security adviser in February 2017, Priebus and Bannon told his No. 2 that the president wanted her to resign, but they suggested that she could be made ambassador to Singapore instead.
“The next day, the President asked Priebus to have McFarland draft an internal email that would confirm that the President did not direct Flynn to call the Russian Ambassador about sanctions,” the report states. “Priebus called McFarland into his office to convey the President's request that she memorialize in writing that the President did not direct Flynn to talk to [Sergey] Kislyak. McFarland told Priebus she did not know whether the President had directed Flynn to talk to Kislyak about sanctions, and she declined to say yes or no to the request.”
McFarland then reached out to John Eisenberg in the White House Counsel’s Office to check about the propriety of the request. “Eisenberg advised McFarland not to write the requested letter,” the report states. “As documented by McFarland in a contemporaneous ‘Memorandum for the Record’ that she wrote because she was concerned by the President’s request: ‘Eisenberg thought the requested email and letter would be a bad idea – from my side because the email would be awkward. Why would I be emailing Priebus to make a statement for the record? But it would also be a bad idea for the President because it looked as if my ambassadorial appointment was in some way a quid pro quo.’ Later that evening, Priebus stopped by McFarland’s office and told her not to write the email and to forget he even mentioned it.”
The report notes that there’s “some evidence” that Trump knew about the existence and content of Flynn’s calls when they occurred, “but the evidence is inconclusive and could not be relied upon to establish the President’s knowledge.”
8) Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats wouldn’t put out a statement.
Trump reached out to the former Indiana Republican senator, whom he had just appointed, after Comey disclosed in March 2017 that the FBI was investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including any links or coordination with the Trump campaign. The president asked Coats whether he could say publicly that no link existed between Trump and Russia.
“Coats responded that [his department] has nothing to do with investigations and it was not his role to make a public statement on the Russia investigation,” the report says. “Coats told this Office that the President never asked him to speak to Comey about the FBI investigation. Some ODNI staffers, however, had a different recollection of how Coats described the meeting immediately after it occurred.”
The report outlines conflicting accounts of what happened next: “According to senior ODNI official Michael Dempsey, Coats said after the meeting that the President had brought up the Russia investigation and asked him to contact Comey to see if there was a way to get past the investigation, get it over with, end it, or words to that effect. Dempsey said that Coats described the President's comments as falling ‘somewhere between musing about hating the investigation’ and wanting Coats to ‘do something to stop it.’ Dempsey said Coats made it clear that he would not get involved with an ongoing FBI investigation.
“Edward Gistaro, another ODNI official, recalled that right after Coats's meeting with the President , on the walk from the Oval Office back to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Coats said that the President had kept him behind to ask him what he could do to ‘help with the investigation.’ Another ODNI staffer who had been waiting for Coats outside the Oval Office talked to Gistaro a few minutes later and recalled Gistaro reporting that Coats was upset because the President had asked him to contact Comey to convince him there was nothing to the Russia investigation. … Coats recalled the President bringing up the Russia investigation several times, and Coats said he finally told the President that Coats's job was to provide intelligence and not get involved in investigations.”
BILL BARR IS UNDER FIRE:
-- Fact Checker Sal Rizzo concludes that Barr’s statements are “incomplete or misleading” when compared with what's actually in the Mueller report.
-- The attorney general is also being criticized for parroting the president's favorite talking points during his news conference yesterday. Matt Zapotosky and Josh Dawsey report: Barr “declared five times that investigators had found no ‘collusion’ between the Trump campaign and Russia. Once, he even seemed to chide reporters for their ‘relentless speculation’ about President Trump’s possible personal wrongdoing — while declaring the president correct in his pushback. … The president reacted with glee on Twitter and privately told advisers that [Sessions], with whom he famously sparred, would not have done so well … But the roughly half-hour, televised event also cemented the view among wary Democrats and some in the legal community that Barr was more politically motivated and protective of Trump than they had realized.”
- Barr revealed that he and Rosenstein disputed some of Mueller’s “legal theories,” saying the two of them stepped in to declare there’s no prosecutable obstruction case against Trump only after Mueller wouldn’t make the call.
- Presidential candidate Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) called for Barr's resignation: “You can be the President’s defense attorney or America’s Attorney General, but you can’t be both,” he said.
- But Barr has a constituency of one: White House officials said the AG's performance will likely insulate him from any Trump opprobrium over the next few days.
-- Even though Mueller cited instance after instance in which the president's actions could amount to obstruction of justice, the special counsel and his team decided not to accuse the president of a crime, in part because the veteran prosecutors didn’t believe they had the legal authority to do so. “Barr did not feel so inhibited and definitively declared that the president hadn’t obstructed justice,” Carol Leonnig, Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey report. “He went so far as to suggest during his news conference before the report was released that the president’s actions were understandable because he was upset that the investigation and the attention it received were undermining his presidency. ‘There is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks,’ he told reporters. … David Alan Sklansky, a Stanford law professor and expert on prosecutorial restraint … argued that Barr has left the impression with the public that Mueller believed it was too difficult to reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice when the report shows the special counsel’s office believed it was its job to investigate the issue and leave it to Congress to act.”
THE POLITICAL FALLOUT:
-- As expected, the House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena this morning for the full, unredacted Mueller report. “Earlier this month, the committee authorized its chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), to subpoena Mueller’s report and the investigation’s underlying documents from Barr,” John Wagner and Rachael Bade report. “The subpoena requests that Barr turn over the documents by May 1 at 10 a.m. The fight over the Mueller report could land in the courts. In a statement, Nadler said he is ‘open to working with the Department to reach a reasonable accommodation for access to these materials, however I cannot accept any proposal which leaves most of Congress in the dark, as they grapple with their duties of legislation, oversight and constitutional accountability.’ ‘My Committee needs and is entitled to the full version of the report and the underlying evidence consistent with past practice,’ he added, calling the redactions ‘significant.’”
-- “The report suggests — though never explicitly states — that Congress, not the Justice Department, should assume the role of prosecutor when the person who may be prosecuted is the president,” Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky note in the paper's lead story. “The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law,” Mueller’s team wrote.
-- Democratic congressional leaders avoided calling for Trump’s impeachment after the report dropped. Rachael Bade and Chelsea Janes report: “Still, [Mueller’s] signal in his report that Congress should decide whether the president broke the law is certain to embolden liberals who favor impeachment to pressure party leaders and White House hopefuls. … That was the reason Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) signed on to an impeachment resolution Thursday after the report’s release and Democratic donor and billionaire Tom Steyer renewed his call for Congress to impeach Trump. For now, they are outliers, at odds with congressional leaders and several candidates. … [House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)] told CNN that ‘based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point. Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months, and the American people will make a judgment.’ … Presidential candidates hoping to face off against Trump next year accused the president of misconduct but also steered clear of impeachment talk. Even Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a self-described democratic socialist who often spurns the establishment’s caution, made no mention of impeachment.”
-- Trump’s congressional allies, as expected, claimed the report vindicated the president. “Many Senate Republicans, however, were far less eager than their House counterparts to jump to conclusions about a report that was still damning,” Politico’s Melanie Zanona, Sarah Ferris and Burgess Everett report. “The majority of them said they were eager to review the report and were hopeful that when they did, it would validate the more reflexive statements by GOP lawmakers saying it’s already time to move on.”
HOW IT'S PLAYING:
-- More team coverage from The Post:
- Roz Helderman, Tom Hamburger, Karoun Demirjian and Rachel Weiner: “Mueller’s report paints a portrait of a campaign intrigued by Russian overtures.”
- Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima and Craig Timberg: “Through email leaks and propaganda, Russians sought to elect Trump, Mueller finds.”
- Phil Rucker and Bob Costa: “Paranoia, lies and fear: Trump’s presidency laid bare by Mueller report.”
- Marc Fisher: “The art of loyalty, the pain of betrayal: Mueller shows how Trump has always operated.”
- Dan Balz: “Report paints a damning portrait of the Trump presidency.”
- Harris: “Trump campaign attempted to obtain Hillary Clinton’s private emails.”
- Michael Brice-Saddler and Jackie Alemany: “Here's what Trump and his associates said at the time. Now, read what the Mueller report tells us.”
- Philip Bump: “What we learned about the 2016 campaign from the redacted Mueller report.”
- Adam Taylor: “Russia wanted chaos from Trump. They got it.”
- Dan Zak, Ben Terris and Avi Selk: “‘It’s absolutely gripping.’ Washington races to make sense of the Mueller report.”
-- Trump’s written responses to Mueller’s questions about Russian interference are full of versions of “I do not remember” or “I do not recall.” Those terms are there at least 37 times. Trump did not agree to a sit-down interview, and he refused to answer any written questions related to obstruction of justice or events that occurred during the transition.
-- Mueller's report showcases administration officials repeatedly making false statements to reporters. Paul Farhi writes: The report “cites multiple instances in which Trump and White House aides misled or lied to journalists or in public statements as the investigation was unfolding,” including White House press secretary Sarah Sanders telling reporters in May 2017 that she’d personally heard from “countless” FBI agents that they were “grateful and thankful” to Trump for firing Comey. She admitted that this never happened when under oath. More on this from Alemany and Brent Griffiths.
-- Mueller’s probe spawned 14 other investigations and referrals, including two unidentified cases that remain ongoing. “Information about two transferred cases was redacted, but prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office for the District have confirmed one is a continuing grand jury investigation in connection with a foreign state-owned mystery company that refused to comply with a Mueller subpoena,” per Spencer Hsu.
-- Other good takes from the mainstream media:
- “A Portrait of the White House and Its Culture of Dishonesty,” from the New York Times’s Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman: “The White House that emerges from more than 400 pages of Mr. Mueller’s report is a hotbed of conflict infused by a culture of dishonesty — defined by a president who lies to the public and his own staff, then tries to get his aides to lie for him. At one juncture after another, Mr. Trump made his troubles worse, giving in to anger and grievance and lashing out in ways that turned advisers into witnesses against him.”
- “The Mueller Report Is Much Worse for Trump Than Barr Let On,” from Wired Magazine's Garrett Graff: “If Donald Trump isn’t guilty of obstruction of justice, who ever could be?”
- “The law behind Mueller’s findings on obstruction, collusion,” from the Wall Street Journal’s Jacob Gershman: “There is no specific crime of collusion. Legally, the term ‘collusion’ came into use as a shorthand for various conspiracy, corruption and campaign-finance offenses. … The obstruction inquiry proved more challenging. In contrast to most crimes, the most important question in white-collar obstruction cases often isn’t what a defendant did—but why. Obstruction of justice is known as a ‘coverup’ crime.”
- “Mueller calls out high profile Americans who unwittingly helped Russian trolls,” from CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan: The report outlines “how the troll group … known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA), also successfully used fake accounts on Twitter to provoke reactions from high profile American users from across the political spectrum. … The report names former Ambassador Michael McFaul, political operative Roger Stone, Fox News host Sean Hannity, and Michael Flynn Jr., the son of Trump's former national security adviser, as either responding to or retweeting tweets sent by the Russian group.”
- “The Mueller Report shows just how much Russia trolled Americans in real life, too,” from Slate’s April Glaser: “The Russian trolls planned dozens of rallies across the U.S. ahead of and even after the 2016 election. … One of the larger rallies was held in Miami in August 2016. The Trump campaign took notice of this covertly Russian-organized event and posted images of the rally on the then-candidate’s official Facebook page, prompting a Russian troll–operated fake American persona, Matt Skiber, to boast in a Facebook message that ‘Mr. Trump posted about our event in Miami! This is great!’”
- Mueller's report details how Betsy DeVos's brother Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater, a security firm that played a major and controversial role in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, funded an effort to obtain Clinton's emails from shadowy operatives. The New Yorker's Jane Meyer reports: “According to the report, Prince 'provided funding to hire a tech advisor to ascertain the authenticity' of e-mails that conservative activists had obtained. Prince, who was interviewed by the special counsel’s team, said that the cache of e-mails in question turned out to be fakes.”
- Mueller demonstrates how WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange smeared Seth Rich, the murdered Democratic National Committee staffer, as a cover for taking stolen emails from Russian military intelligence, the Daily Beast's Kevin Poulsen notes.
WHAT COMMENTATORS ARE SAYING:
-- From The Post's opinion page:
- The Editorial Board: “The Mueller report is the opposite of exoneration.”
- George Conway (Kellyanne's husband): “Trump is a cancer on the presidency. Congress should remove him.”
- Max Boot: “The Mueller report reads like an impeachment referral.”
- Karen Tumulty: “Trump’s greatest sin wasn’t what we thought it was.”
- David Ignatius: “The U.S. has lost moral authority under Trump. The Mueller report gives some back.”
- Michael Gerson: “There is no vindication for Trump.”
- E.J. Dionne Jr.: “Mueller’s report is the beginning, not the end.”
- Eugene Robinson: “Only Congress can hold Trump accountable now.”
- John Podesta: “The Mueller report shows an attack on our democracy. It’s time to act.”
- Jennifer Rubin: “Five questions that still need to be answered in the Mueller report.”
- Alexandra Petri: “My book report on ‘The Mueller Report.'”
-- From the left:
- Bloomberg News’s Editorial Board: “Mueller did his job. Now it’s our turn.”
- The Atlantic’s Yoni Appelbaum: “The Mueller report is an impeachment referral.”
- The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan: “Dear Democrats: Mueller just handed you a road map for impeachment. Follow it.”
- Jill Filipovic on CNN: “Barr mansplains away Trump’s emotions.”
- Noah Bookbinder in the New York Times: “Mueller’s damning report.”
- New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait: “Congress should impeach William Barr.”
- Richard Hasen for Slate: “All the mistakes Mueller made in declining to prosecute Donald Trump Jr.”
-- From the right:
- Fox News’s Chris Wallace: “Barr seemed more like counselor to Trump than attorney general, was 'making a case for the president.’”
- The Wall Street Journal's Kim Strassel: “Mueller's report speaks volumes.”
- Bloomberg News’s Ramesh Ponnuru: “A lucid portrait of an untrustworthy presidency.”
- National Review's David French: “The Mueller report should shock our conscience.”
- The New York Post’s Andrew C. McCarthy: “Mueller completely dropped the ball with obstruction punt.”
- The Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson: “Mueller report directly contradicts bombshell BuzzFeed story.”
- The Washington Examiner’s Editorial Board: “Trump’s worst enemy was never the special counsel – it was Trump.”
- The Bullwark’s Jonathan Last: “Portrait of the president as a gangster.”
-- A closing thought: Read the full report. It’s probably the best book that’s been written on the Trump presidency to date, and it’s free to download. Don’t listen to partisans and pundits spin what it says. Study the facts for yourself.
-- Programming note: In observance of Easter, we won’t publish on Monday. Reminder: Today is Good Friday, and Passover begins at sundown.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Joe Biden plans to officially launch his presidential campaign Wednesday with a Web video, the Atlantic’s Isaac Dovere reports: “Biden’s announcement video will draw in part on footage shot two weeks ago outside his old family home in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he likes to bring people and tell stories about how his grandfather would sit at the kitchen table, talking about making ends meet. But the campaign is still making key decisions on what will happen next, including whether to go cute for a launch event by doing it on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, famous for the training montage from ‘Rocky,’ or whether to go for a powerful challenge directed right at Donald Trump by heading to Charlottesville, Virginia, where Trump infamously blamed ‘both sides’ of a neo-Nazi march in August 2017.”
-- The Federal Trade Commission is considering whether to specifically target Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in its probe of the social media giant’s mishandling of user data. Tony Romm reports: “Such a move could create new legal, political and public-relations headaches for one of Silicon Valley’s best known — and image conscious — corporate leaders. … Often, the FTC does not target executives in cases where it finds a company’s business practices have violated web users’ privacy. But critics said that targeting Zuckerberg could send a message to other tech giants that the agency is willing to hold top executives directly accountable for their firms’ repeated data misdeeds. … One idea that has been raised could require him or other executives to certify the company’s privacy practices periodically to the board of directors, two people familiar with the matter said, along with heightened oversight by the FTC. … But Facebook has fought fiercely to shield Zuckerberg as part of the negotiations, one of the sources familiar with the probe said.”
GET SMART FAST:
The death of James W. McCord Jr., the Watergate conspirator who linked the scandal to the Nixon White House, went largely unnoticed for two years. McCord, a retired CIA employee who was convicted in connection with the 1972 break-in, died of pancreatic cancer in June 2017 at age 93. But his passing caught the attention of national media outlets only after it was referenced last month on the website Kennedys and King. (Emily Langer, Harrison Smith and Kate Morgan)
The National Enquirer is being sold to Hudson News CEO James Cohen for $100 million. The decision to sell came after Anthony Melchiorre, the hedge fund manager whose firm controls the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., became disillusioned with the reporting tactics of the Enquirer and the legal and political pressure that resulted from them. The Enquirer is overseen by AMI President and CEO David Pecker, Trump’s confidant dating back many years. (Sarah Ellison)
A former chief economist for a NASA-funded nonprofit was charged with wire fraud after officials said he expensed visits to escorts and prostitutes. Federal prosecutors charged Charles Resnick, who worked for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which manages the International Space Station National Lab, last week in Florida. (Eli Rosenberg)
- Journalist Lyra McKee was killed in what police have called a “terrorist incident” in Derry, North Ireland. The 29-year-old reporter was known for her work covering the fallout of violence in Northern Ireland and was at the site of a riot when shots were fired. (BuzzFeed News)
The U.S. ranking in the World Press Freedom Index fell for the third consecutive year. For the first time since creating the index in 2002, Reporters Without Borders ranked the United States alongside countries whose treatment of journalists is considered “problematic.” (Paul Farhi)
- The parents of three New York children are facing $1,000 fines for not getting their kids vaccinated against measles. City health officials issued summonses to the parents for violating a mandatory vaccination order meant to combat New York’s measles outbreak, which has surged to 359 cases. (Lena H. Sun)
The Washington state Senate narrowly passed a measure to make it harder for parents not to vaccinate their children against measles. The bill would eliminate personal or philosophical exemptions from the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. It’s a big victory for public health advocates. (Lena H. Sun and Lenny Bernstein)
Greenland’s summer melt season began more than a month ahead of schedule. Experts warned that such weather events will probably become more common as global warming progresses. (Matthew Cappucci)
Ancestry.com pulled an ad amid backlash that it whitewashed slavery’s violent history. The ad depicted a white man romantically pursuing a black woman in what seems to be the slave-owning South. (BuzzFeed News)
Three famed mountain climbers are presumed dead after an avalanche in Alberta, Canada. The climbers were identified as Jess Roskelley, an American, and Austrians David Lama and Hansjorg Auer by their sponsor, the North Face clothing company. (New York Times)
Professional freeskier Dave Treadway died after falling about 100 feet into a crevasse while skiing in British Columbia, Canada. The 34-year-old and his family were well known in the skiing community, which has expressed shock over Treadway’s death and helped to raise nearly $200,000 for his wife and three children. (Cindy Boren)
Former House speaker John Boehner is set to collect $1.59 million once shareholders approve Canopy Growth’s acquisition of Acreage Holdings, whose board he’s on. If Congress helps make marijuana federally legal, Boehner could receive Canopy shares worth about $16 million. (Bloomberg)
- The spreading legalization of marijuana has spurred the publication of cannabis cookbooks. Readers of books such as “Bong Appétit” and “Pot in Pans: A History of Eating Cannabis” can learn recipe recommendations as well as tips on how to best prepare dishes. (Maura Judkis)
THE DOMESTIC AGENDA:
-- An independent analysis by the International Trade Commission found that Trump’s North American trade deal would increase U.S. economic output by a modest 0.35 percent. David J. Lynch reports: “In a 379-page report released Thursday, the ITC said the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement would ‘have a positive impact’ on both manufacturing and services industries. The largest gains would arise from eliminating ‘uncertainty’ by preventing future barriers to cross-border e-commerce, services and investments. … Notably, the deal would increase auto parts production and employment, key administration goals. But the narrow benefits for the auto sector would come at the expense of the broader economy, making overall U.S. production more expensive, reducing exports, and denting wages and employment, the report said. Congress required the assessment, which was delayed five weeks by the partial government shutdown, before lawmakers hold an up-or-down vote on the agreement.”
-- The Department of Health and Human Services is launching a program aimed at reducing opioid overdose deaths by 40 percent over three years. Lenny Bernstein reports: “The $353 million effort will test the idea that the best approaches to combat the drug crisis are well known but poorly implemented and coordinated. It will employ a comprehensive strategy in each community that encourages the involvement of doctors, treatment providers, law enforcement, courts, churches and even housing providers — an approach that has worked in a few places.”
-- HUD officials are drafting a federal rule to require carbon monoxide detectors in public housing following a report that the poisonous gas has killed 13 public housing residents since 2003. NBC News’s Suzy Khimm and Laura Strickler report: “The new requirement will go through the federal rulemaking process, which means it could be months, at a minimum, before it's implemented.”
-- Mitch McConnell said raising the legal age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21 would be a “top priority” once the Senate returns from recess. Politico’s Burgess Everett reports: “The Senate majority leader’s move comes one day after he announced his reelection campaign and shows the changing politics of tobacco. While tobacco has long been a key industry in his home state of Kentucky, McConnell said he wants to change the law to discourage vaping and teenage nicotine addiction and improve Kentucky’s public health.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- The first round of peace talks between Afghan leaders and Taliban insurgents, which were scheduled to begin today in Doha, has been postponed. Taliban leaders complained the Afghan delegation was too large and poorly organized. Pamela Constable reports: “It was not clear how soon the talks would be rescheduled, but some Afghan officials said a small group might travel to the Qatari capital from Kabul on Friday, while efforts continued to pare down and reconfigure the full list of 250 delegates from across Afghan society that was announced by the government Tuesday.”
-- The death of a 19-year-old Bangladeshi woman, who was doused with kerosene and set on fire after publicly accusing her headmaster of touching her inappropriately, has cast a spotlight on the conservative country’s treatment of sexual assault victims. The BBC’s Mir Sabbir reports: “Many girls and young women in Bangladesh choose to keep their experiences of sexual harassment or abuse secret for fear of being shamed by society or their families. What made Nusrat Jahan different is that she didn't just speak out - she went to the police with the help of her family on the day the alleged abuse happened. … Nusrat's death has sparked protests and thousands have used social media to express their anger about both her case and the treatment of sexual assault victims in Bangladesh.”
-- Election workers in India traveled 300 miles over four days to set up a voting booth for a single voter. The country's rules mandate that no voter should have to travel more than 1.24 miles to vote. Which means that, “in the western state of Gujarat, a team will cross a lion-infested jungle to find a single voter. In the region of Ladakh, high in the Himalayan mountains, teams will be airlifted before trekking for one day with oxygen cylinders to reach voters. Far off the country’s east coast, on the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the teams braved crocodile swamps for nine voters.” (Niha Masih)
-- Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó is waging an election-style campaign — but his country has no plans for an election. Arelis R. Hernández and Mariana Zuñiga report: “Guaidó is traveling Venezuela, addressing crowds and meeting with interest groups, as aides develop a governing platform, recruit local committee members and try to raise money. Organizers say the effort is modeled, in part, on a presidential run — and on one level, it’s working. At the start of the year, the 35-year-old leader of the center-left Popular Will party was a relative unknown in national politics. Now he commands crowds in many corners of the country and has a national approval rating around 60 percent.”
-- Billionaires raced to pledge money for the reconstruction of Paris's Notre Dame. Then came the criticism. James McAuley reports: “The cascade of cash that materialized overnight to save the cathedral has raised eyebrows in France, still in the throes of a crippling protest over rising social inequality and whose leader is regularly decried as the 'president of the rich.' ... 'If they can give tens of millions to rebuild Notre Dame, then they should stop telling us there is no money to help with the social emergency,' Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT trade union, said ... The cash flow has also furrowed brows abroad, with critics emphasizing that destroyed landmarks in non-Western locales ... have hardly inspired such a global groundswell. 'In just a few hours today, 650 million euros was donated to rebuild Notre Dame,' South Africa-based journalist Simon Allison tweeted. 'In six months, just 15 million euros has been pledged to restore Brazil’s National Museum. I think this is what they call white privilege.'"
-- Benito Mussolini’s great-grandson, Caio Giulio Cesare Mussolini, is running for a seat in the European Parliament. Anna Momigliano reports: “There’s little doubt that Mussolini was nominated because of — not despite — his relationship to Il Duce … Mussolini repeatedly hinted he views his great grandfather as an inspiration. … Like some other descendants of the former Italian dictator, Caio maintained an ambivalent relationship with family history. In a recent interview with Il Corriere della Sera, he claimed that he is ‘not a fascist,’ but on April 16 he was scheduled to hold a lecture about fascist doctrine at a Fratelli D’Italia event in Padua.”
-- Gérard Araud, the departing French ambassador to the U.S., spent one of the last days in his post reflecting on a turbulent time in Washington. Karen DeYoung reports: “'I think I have a great advantage on the Americans,’ he said. ‘First, I am not an American, which means I am not emotionally committed to what is happening in your country. So I believe I can be coldly clinical. … Second, I also know what is happening in Europe . . . and our political scenes are compatible.’ In France as well as the United States, Araud said, anger and resentment are being translated into nationalism. Trump, he said, is merely the manifestation of the phenomenon.”
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- Members of armed right-wing militias are detaining a large number of migrants at the border and then calling U.S. Border Patrol agents to arrest them, new videos shared by the American Civil Liberties Union show. The Guardian's Sam Levin reports: “Several videos taken at the border in New Mexico this week appeared to show men belonging to a group that calls itself the United Constitutional Patriots approaching migrant families and children, ordering them to sit down, calling federal agents on them, and at one point potentially misrepresenting themselves by saying 'border patrol' as they approached. ... The group has repeatedly appeared in local news stories in recent weeks, expressing support for Trump’s proposed border wall and presenting themselves as 'volunteers' aiding border patrol efforts.”
-- Trump lost another fight over California's “sanctuary city” laws after a court decided the state doesn't have to cooperate with deportation efforts. Bloomberg News's Kartikay Mehrotra and Peter Blumberg report: “The three-judge panel also upheld a California measure that requires private employers to alert workers before federal immigration inspections, while directing the lower-court judge to re-examine part of a third law that authorizes the state attorney general to inspect facilities that house immigrants not detained for criminal offenses. ... The appeals court concluded that while Congress may have expected cooperation between state and federal authorities on immigration enforcement, Washington doesn’t have the constitutional power to require California’s assistance.”
-- The Trump administration's plan to reduce the backlog in immigration courts will only make it worse, writes Pacific Standard's Massoud Hayoun: “A proposed rule change under review by the White House would allow judges on the Board of Immigration Appeals to issue so-called Affirmances Without Opinion, allowing deportation rulings to stand without requiring the appellate judge to offer an explanation that would amount to proof of their full consideration of the case. ... Under the administration of President George W. Bush, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft allowed appellate immigration judges to issue AWOs. ... Many cases with AWOs were then appealed outside of the immigration court system, to the federal Circuit Courts, significantly lengthening proceedings.”
-- Mexican restaurateurs in New York are taking the lead on immigration activism. Eater's Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya reports: “Mexican restaurateurs around the city, like Daniel Ortiz De Montellano Luft of Casa Publica and Guillaume Guevara of Miscelanea, have been vocal advocates for Mexico and for their communities here in NYC. [They] have spoken out on Trump’s immigration policies, and Guevara launched a line of pro-immigration goods like hats, pins, and stickers in his Mexican deli that benefits the American Civil Liberties Union. Luft and chef Fany Gerson (the two are married) have assisted their employees with immigration proceedings and paperwork. Luft feels strongly compelled to do this work. 'Hearing these stories from the people who work for us, it’s hard not to be engaged,' he says.”
-- When Latinos are polled, Julián Castro's 2020 chances go up. NBC News's Suzanne Gamboa and Stephen Nuño-Pérez report: “A poll released this week of national Latino voters had Castro, a former U.S. housing secretary and mayor of San Antonio, in fourth, with 45 percent. The poll was conducted by Latino Decisions for the National Association of Latino Elected Officials Educational Fund, a bipartisan group. That was much better than Castro, 44, the only Latino in the 2020 race, has fared in other polls on the Democratic primary race that polled fewer Latinos.”
-- Besides the consensus on staying in the Paris agreement, Democratic presidential candidates wildly differ when it comes to climate policy. The New York Times’s Lisa Friedman and Maggie Astor report: “Just seven of the 18 Democrats put their weight firmly behind a carbon tax, which economists widely view as the most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. … All of the 2020 Democrats vowed to restore Mr. Obama’s regulations [on limiting carbon emissions] and recommit to the Paris Agreement, the global climate pact that Mr. Trump plans to abandon. But only nine of the 18 said unequivocally that they would push for additional, stronger federal rules, and still fewer explained what those rules would be. … By contrast, every Democrat supported greater investment in research and development.”
-- The campaign committee for embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) spent $30,000 on lawyers and hundreds of dollars at Trump hotels and liquor stores during the first quarter. Hunter, who says he’s running for reelection in 2020, and his wife are defending themselves against a 60-count federal indictment over allegations that they stole more than $250,000 in campaign money. (San Diego Union-Tribune)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The ousted FBI director reacted positively, but abstractly, to the Mueller report last night:
The president imagined himself as a “Game of Thrones” hero:
HBO once again asked the president to stop making "Game of Thrones" references:
Kellyanne Conway also said she was celebrating:
Donald Trump Jr. claimed vindication:
Eric Trump was also watching CNN:
Ivanka Trump, however, steered clear from the conversation and instead shared a video from her Africa trip:
Conservative commentator Candace Owens criticized AOC for saying that she’d read the report:
Ocasio-Cortez didn’t respond to the taunt, but she did add this to her original tweet:
Watch for more Trump tweets today:
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) reacted to Trump's claims of presidential harassment after he tweeted a controversial video about her:
Actress Mia Farrow noted those previously indicted in the probe:
A Bloomberg News reporter provided this historical context:
From a top GOP operative and the chief strategist on Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign:
From a Politico editor:
An NPR editor imagined the redacted pages of the Mueller report as looks on the red carpet:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- ProPublica, “How the IRS Gave Up Fighting Political Dark Money Groups,” by Maya Miller: “Since 2015, thousands of complaints have streamed in — from citizens, public interest groups, IRS agents, government officials and more — that C4s are abusing the rules. But the agency has not stripped a single organization of its tax-exempt status for breaking spending rules during that period. (A handful of groups have had their status revoked for failing to file financial statements for three consecutive years.) Most cases do not even reach the IRS committee created to examine them.”
-- Los Angeles Times, “This cafe in India is fully run by acid attack survivors,” by Soumya Karlamangla: Madhu Kashyap, 39, “was at work at Sheroes’ Hangout, a cafe in this tourist city that is staffed by survivors of acid attacks. More than 300 attacks are reported each year in India, though human rights groups say the count probably exceeds 1,000. The perpetrators are often men who want to punish women for ending a relationship or spurning unwanted advances. Most attackers’ aim, experts say, is not to kill, but to maim and embarrass. The cafe in Agra offers a place for these women to earn money and find acceptance. At Sheroes, survivors don’t cover their faces. They comfortably discuss the scariest moments of their lives and chat with customers from around the world. They wear makeup to accentuate their features. They laugh.”
-- Foreign Affairs, “Spies, Lies, and Algorithms,” by Amy Zegart and Michael Morell: “Today, confronted with new threats that go well beyond terrorism, U.S. intelligence agencies face another moment of reckoning. From biotechnology and nanotechnology to quantum computing and artificial intelligence (AI), rapid technological change is giving U.S. adversaries new capabilities and eroding traditional U.S. intelligence advantages. The U.S. intelligence community must adapt to these shifts or risk failure as the nation’s first line of defense.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Laura Ingraham insulted Chrissy Teigen. Then the model called the host a white supremacist,” from Deanna Paul: “Time magazine on Wednesday released its list of 100 most influential people, naming cookbook author and model Chrissy Teigen among them. It didn’t take long for Fox News host Laura Ingraham — who was not on the list — to rain on her parade. Visibly miffed, Ingraham mocked the model and wife of singer John Legend during Wednesday’s episode of ‘The Ingraham Angle.’ … Teigen ‘was chosen, according to the profile, because ‘all her life Chrissy Teigen has liked to eat. She’s not shy about that — or anything else, really,' ‘ Ingraham said using air quotes and reading from the magazine. (The profile, written by chef Eric Ripert, also lauded Teigen’s elegance and sense of self, which Ingraham did not mention.) … [Teigen] cursed Ingraham and predicted the host would appear on a list of the ‘100 most influential white supremacists.’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Cooper vetoes NC ‘abortion survivors’ bill,” from the Raleigh News & Observer: “Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a controversial abortion bill Thursday, saying it’s unnecessary and ill-advised. The bill would create new criminal and civil penalties for infanticide, specifically for situations in which a baby survives an abortion procedure. … Supporters of the ‘Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act’ have not shown evidence of it happening in North Carolina. And if it were to happen, the perpetrator can already be charged with murder. But they say the bill is needed, to make sure it doesn’t happen. Cooper disagreed. … Republicans quickly criticized the veto. In a joint statement two of the bill’s top supporters, Sen. Joyce Krawiec of Forsyth County and Rep. Pat McElraft of Carteret County, said that ‘caring for a living, breathing newborn infant is too restrictive for Governor Cooper’s radical abortion agenda.’”
Trump is at Mar-a-Lago and has no events on his public schedule.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Trump once again joked about extending his presidency beyond two terms. After he was presented with a gift at an event for the Wounded Warrior Project, Trump said, “Well, this is really beautiful. … This will find a permanent place, at least for six years, in the Oval Office. Is that okay?” Turning to Lt. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, chief executive of the veterans charity, Trump added, “I was going to joke, General, and say at least for 10 or 14 years, but we would cause bedlam if I said that, so we’ll say six.” (Felicia Sonmez)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Bring your umbrella, rain boots and poncho: It’s going to pour. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Showers and storms may also bring some flooding risk, damaging wind gusts and perhaps even a tornado or two to our area this afternoon and overnight. Please consider canceling late-day activities if they are outdoors, and have your mobile device enabled to receive warnings.”
-- The Capitals fell to the Hurricanes 2-1, tying the first-round playoff series at two games apiece. They play again tomorrow in Washington. (Isabelle Khurshudyan, Samantha Pell, Neil Greenberg and Mike Hume)
-- The Nationals beat the Giants 4-2. (Sam Fortier)
-- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed nearly 200 bills into law. Ovetta Wiggins reports: “Hogan said the package of bills included many the late House Speaker Michael E. Busch ‘would have been proud of.’ Busch, who died on April 7, a day before the close of the legislative session, sponsored the legislation that makes sweeping changes to the scandal-plagued [University of Maryland Medical System] board. Hogan also signed a bill Busch sponsored to designate June 28 as Freedom of the Press Day, in honor of the five victims of the Capital Gazette shooting. … [A] cyberbullying bill makes cyberbullying with the intent to induce a minor to commit suicide a misdemeanor punishable up to 10 years in prison.”
-- Hogan signed an executive order for a May 1 special session of the General Assembly to choose a new Maryland House speaker. Wiggins notes: “Three of Busch’s top lieutenants — Economic Matters Committee Chair Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s), Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) and Appropriations Chair Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) — are competing to succeed him.”
-- Elon Musk’s Boring Company is one step closer to being able to build a D.C.-to-Baltimore “loop.” The Transportation Department announced that the project has completed its environmental assessment. (Politico)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
This is the moment that Trump's press secretary falsely insisted to reporters that she had been in touch with countless FBI agents who were grateful that the president had fired Comey. She told Mueller's team that this comment had no basis in fact, which is remarkable when you watch the earnestness with which she said it:
Stephen Colbert thinks the Mueller Report was worth the wait:
Given that Barr briefed the White House on the report, Seth Meyers wondered whether a certain leader in Russia also got a peek:
And Jimmy Kimmel came up with a “Schoolhouse Rock!” explanation of what a redaction is:
The conservative group Republicans for the Rule of Law shared this advertisement, which will run on Fox News over the weekend, urging Republican lawmakers to hold Trump accountable over the report’s findings:
Pete Buttigieg's criticisms of the vice president have revived complaints that Pence had previously expressed support for conversion therapy. The Post's Fact Checker could not find a record to substantiate that claim, but it also did not come across any instance of Pence denouncing conversion therapy in his own words:
Firefighters who helped put out the blaze at Notre Dame were recognized by the French president:
And a CNN reporter had a slight critter issue on-air: