Happy Mueller-Report-Monday! Tips, comments, recipes? Reach out and sign up. Thanks for waking up with us.
BREAKING: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is cutting his trip to Washington short after a rocket launch from a Hamas position in the Gaza Strip struck a home in central Israel that wounded 7 people.
A POLITICAL RORSCHACH TEST: Democrats and Republicans are both looking at the same four-page summary of Robert Mueller’s investigation. But each side came away with staunchly different conclusions.
‘Total EXONERATION’: On one side, there’s President Trump and his allies, who celebrated the principal conclusions released publicly by Attorney General William P. Barr letter as complete vindication. “It’s a shame that our country had to go through this, to be honest, it’s a shame that your president has had to go through this,” Trump said.
- Trump took a victory lap:
No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2019
- The key quote from Barr that had Trump world celebrating: “The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election," Barr wrote in the summary of Mueller's 22 month long investigation.
‘Does not exonerate him’: Democrats, meanwhile, were fixated on the notable question mark from other part of Mueller's investigation — obstruction of justice. “President Trump is wrong,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) told reporters yesterday. “This report does not amount to a so-called ‘total exoneration.’”
- Key quote from Barr that Democrats keep highlighting: “The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,’ ” per Barr's letter.
- Open questions: Mueller's team “did not draw a conclusion — one way or the other — as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction," Barr wrote, and he “ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment.”
- So, Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein — both political appointees — made the conclusion themselves that there was insufficient evidence to “establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
Where that leaves Washington: “Next, more of the same, but with more entrenched division, a bitter crossfire of allegations and then, finally, a reckoning in the form of the 2020 presidential election,” my colleague Marc Fisher writes.
- “The long-awaited conclusion of [Mueller's] investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election is likely to harden congressional Republicans’ wall of support for President Trump, strengthen Democratic demands to hold Trump to account — and result in little change in public opinion, according to historians and politicians who have studied past national scandals.”
- “Mueller’s conclusion . . . is likely to propel Washington into a period of prolonged and even more heightened partisan combat. The report, as summarized Sunday by [Barr], contains fuel enough for both sides to cling to their version of the truth about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, and not nearly enough for either side to alter their views.".
- Notable: “It may well be that a good portion of the Republican base will continue to see this as a witch hunt,” David Greenberg, a historian of the presidency at Rutgers University, tells Marc. " In the past, in Watergate and in Iran-contra, some Republicans have been willing to break with their president, but now we’re just in a different cultural moment in terms of partisan and ideological rigidity and a right-wing media that keeps the party united behind Trump.”
two push alerts that somehow sum up two years pic.twitter.com/Z8IMpwLIlM— Mark Berman (@markberman) March 24, 2019
In light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department following the Special Counsel report, where Mueller did not exonerate the President, we will be calling Attorney General Barr in to testify before @HouseJudiciary in the near future.— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) March 24, 2019
IT'S NOT OVER 'TIL IT'S OVER: Democrats are demanding that the Justice Department make Mueller's full report available to the public as quickly as possible — and Barr is in the hot seat.
“Nadler, whose panel has jurisdiction over impeachment, pledged to pick up where investigators left off and, if necessary, subpoena [Barr] to testify,” my colleagues Felicia Sonmez, Rachael Bade, Karoun Demirjian and Paul Kane write.
“In an impromptu news conference in New York City, he seized on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s refusal to exonerate Trump on the question of obstruction of justice, suggesting that Barr’s summary was 'a hasty, partisan interpretation of the facts.'”
“In a joint statement Sunday night, Nadler, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) called for Barr to appear before the Judiciary panel 'without delay' and for the Justice Department to release the full Mueller report and all of the underlying documents.”
“The Special Counsel’s Report should be allowed to speak for itself, and Congress must have the opportunity to evaluate the underlying evidence. These shortcomings in today’s letter are the very reason our nation has a system of separation of powers,” the chairmen said.
“House Democrats have faced resistance from the White House to their repeated requests for documents, and the Barr summary and Trump’s response increase the likelihood of an escalating standoff between Congress and the executive branch over material and witnesses,” my colleagues write.
“The Mueller report must be made public. Not just a letter from someone appointed by Trump to protect himself — all of it,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) tweeted.
Expect the spotlight in Congress to shift to Barr's past statements: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer say Barr's letter “raises as many questions as it answers . . . Given Given Mr. Barr’s public record of bias against the Special Counsel’s inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.”
- Reminder: Barr wrote a 19 page memo last year “that excoriated special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into potential obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump, saying it is based on a 'fatally misconceived' theory that would cause lasting damage to the presidency and the executive branch,” The Wall Street Journal's Sadie Gurman and Aruna Viswanatha reported at the time.
Some legal experts and Trump critics were also concerned that two political appointees to made the determination that there was no obstruction:
“I think courageous people have the courage to make decisions, and those who don’t punt decisions,” said George Terwilliger, a former deputy attorney general who worked in the George H.W. Bush administration with Mueller and Barr, told my colleagues Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky.
“The fact that Mr. Barr rushed to judgment, within 48 hours, after a 22-month investigation, is deeply worrisome,” Neal Katyal, a law professor at Georgetown who drafted the special counsel regulations, wrote in the New York Times.
“Attorney General Barr, in the space of a weekend, is able to make the judgment that Mueller precisely avoided making and described as being ‘difficult,’ ” said David Kris, who ran the national security division of the Justice Department in the Obama administration.
Katyal also questions Barr for making a conclusion of Trump's intent without interviewing him. “What kind of prosecutor would make a decision about someone’s intent without even trying to talk to him?” (Notably, Trump did not sit down for an interview with Mueller).
THE GOP'S TRANSPARENCY TRAP: It's not just Democrats demanding that the report be released in full — don't forget that every single member of the House of Representatives voted in favor of a public release of Mueller's report earlier this month. And during the first two years of Trump's presidency, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee waged war with DOJ over obtaining access to some of the agencies “most sensitive case files.”
- Flashback: Nicholas Fandos and Katie Benner reported in May of 2018 that “the chairman, Representative Devin Nunes of California, has issued increasingly bold demands for access to some of the Justice Department’s most sensitive case files. He has courted a series of escalating confrontations over access to materials that are usually off limits to Congress under department policy . . . As Mr. Nunes sees it, the cycle of confrontation is part of a legitimate effort by him and other House Republicans to conduct oversight of obstinate law enforcement officials.”
- The Justice Department is traditionally reticent to release that kind of information, but the FBI turned over interview notes related to its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server — a fact you can certainly bet Democrats will remember.
On The Hill
ENTER CONGRESS: Beyond the Mueller probe, House Democrats are still investigating Trump — and documents that touch the very core of Trump’s personal business and even his family. While the president has dismissed the demands as “harassment” it is unlikely House Democrats will stop anytime soon. Here are key things we're watching:
- Trump’s tax returns: Democrats plan to request Trump's tax returns, but there is reportedly disagreement on whether how many years of returns to request and whether it should be Trump’s personal or business returns, or both. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), under an obscure law, is one of just three individuals who can make a request for any individual’s returns. Whether Neal or House Democrats could make Trump’s returns public is disputed and would surely be the subject of a legal fight. A spokesman for Neal told Power Up on Sunday that the formal request has not yet been made.
- Judiciary Democrats’ requests: Nadler’s committee earlier this month sent demands for documents to more than 80 people and institutions affiliated with Trump, including his two oldest sons, his 2020 campaign manager (Brad Parscale), his first 2016 campaign manager (Corey Lewandowski), a bevy of business associates and scores of administration and White House officials as part of his panel's investigation into potential obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power. Nadler said on “Meet the Press” on Sunday that besides the White House his committee is “getting a lot of good cooperation from a lot of different people.”
- More hush money payments: Cummings’s House Oversight committee is looking into a number of areas, including whether Fox News silenced a reporter who was looking into Trump’s alleged use of hush money payments more than a year before the story broke. An attorney for Diana Falzone, the former Fox reporter in question, has said that they will comply with the request.
- White House security clearances: Cummings is also investigating why White House adviser Jared Kushner was reportedly granted a security clearance despite career staffers advising that he be denied such access. The Maryland Democrat wrote in an op-ed for The Post just last week that the White House has not produced “not turned over a single piece of paper to our committee or made a single official available for testimony” for any of his requests thus far.
- THIS WEEK: Felix Sater, the point person for the proposed Trump Tower Moscow project, will testify publicly in front of the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. Remember that Michael Cohen is going to prison for lying about the timeline of the Moscow project. Sater previously turned over text messages showing the talks about the project extended well into the 2016 presidential campaign.
Outside the Beltway
TRUMP'S LEGAL TROUBLES ARE FAR FROM OVER: "Nearly every organization Trump has run over the past decade remains under investigation by state or federal authorities, and he is mired in a variety of civil litigation, with the center of gravity shifting from Mueller’s offices in Southwest Washington to Capitol Hill and state and federal courtrooms in New York, the president’s hometown and the headquarters of his company," my colleagues Rosalind Helderman and David Fahrenthold report.
Here's a rundown:
- Hush money: "Federal prosecutors in New York have been investigating hush money paid before the 2016 election to two women who said they had affairs with Trump."
- Summer Zervos: "The president’s personal conduct will also be under the microscope in the coming months, when he is scheduled to sit for a deposition in a lawsuit filed in New York state by a former contestant on his reality television show who alleges Trump groped her in 2007 and then lied about it during the election....[Trump's] lawyers have said they plan to appeal, but if the ruling stands, it means Trump would probably have to sit for a deposition in the matter in coming months. He would face questions about Zervos’s allegations — she has said that Trump groped her and kissed her without consent during a 2007 encounter in a Los Angeles hotel room that she had believed was supposed to be a business meeting."
- Trump Foundation: "Trump and his company are also facing a battery of investigations from state authorities in New York. New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) is suing Trump in state court because of what the state called “persistently illegal conduct” at Trump’s 30-year-old charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation. The suit says that Trump used the charity’s money to buy paintings of himself, to pay off legal settlements for his for-profit businesses and to give his own presidential campaign a boost during the 2016 Republican primaries."
- Insurance fraud: "In addition, Trump’s company appears to be the focus of two new state inquiries that followed the congressional testimony by Cohen. Cohen told a House committee in February that Trump had submitted inflated summaries of his assets to both insurers and would-be lenders, seeking to mislead them about the state of his net worth. After that, state authorities sent subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and another bank that loaned money to Trump, and to Aon, Trump’s longtime insurance broker."
- Trump's Inaugural Committee: "...federal prosecutors in Manhattan in February also issued a wide-ranging subpoena to the presidential inaugural committee, the entity that organized Trump’s $107 million festivities when he took office in January 2017. The request sought documents covering nearly every aspect of the committee’s activities."
- Emoluments: "Trump is also facing two federal lawsuits alleging that he has violated the Constitution because his private company continues to do business with foreign governments. ...The Constitution prohibits presidents from taking 'emoluments' from foreign states or the governments of individual U.S. states."
- Don't forget about Congress: "Congressional Democrats have already issued dozens of requests for information about various topics related to Mueller’s investigation, the operations of Trump’s White House and Trump’s private business, and they have signaled they will press forward with those matters..."
Trump appears unbothered: “They say there are lots of things, but I don’t know about these things, okay, just so you understand,” Trump told Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo on Friday about the other investigations.
Two MSD survivors took their own lives this week.— Andrew Pollack (@AndrewPollackFL) March 24, 2019
This isn’t political, these are OUR KIDS! Our most precious commodities.
Students, please seek help. I don’t want any parent to feel how I feel. You’re loved.
Suicide Prevention Hotline:800-273-8255 https://t.co/0j1zu0xJ75
More heartbreak for Parkland: A year after 17 people were killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, two student survivors have committed suicide in the span of a week.
- Sydney Aiello, who graduated Stoneman Douglas High School last June, took her life last week. The Miami Herald's Monique Madan and Martin Vassolo report that Aiello's family "said she killed herself because of survivor’s guilt. She had recently been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder." The 19-year-old's funeral took place on Friday.
- On Sunday, a Coral Springs police spokesman confirmed a second "apparent suicide" of a minor who also attended Stoneman Douglas High School.
- "Ryan Petty, who lost his daughter Alaina during the massacre at Stoneman Douglas on Feb. 14, 2018, said the child who died on Saturday was a 16-year-old boy. Mr. Petty alluded to the boy’s death in a Twitter post late Saturday, in which he wrote “17 2” with an emoji of a broken heart," The New York Times's Patricia Mazzei reports.
Petty, who founded a suicide prevention foundation called the Walk Up Foundation after his daughter Alaina's death told the Miami Herald that “the issue of suicide needs to be talked about.”
- “This is another tragic example,” Petty said, who has partnered with Columbia University for his Foundation.
*[If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)]*