The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Happy Hour Roundup

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* It’s done. At least, this chapter is, anyway:

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has submitted a confidential report to Attorney General William P. Barr, marking the end of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by President Trump, a Justice Department spokeswoman said.
The Justice Department notified Congress late Friday that it had received Mueller’s report but did not describe its contents. Barr is expected to summarize the findings for lawmakers in coming days. ...
Barr wrote that Mueller submitted a report to him explaining his prosecution decisions. The attorney general told lawmakers he was “reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.”

Multiple news organizations are reporting that Mueller will recommend no further indictments. We’ve been a broken record on this, but once again, this is no way, shape or form either vindication for Trump or a sign that the Mueller probe was a “dud.” I took a first stab at summarizing why in this quick reaction thread. And here’s a list of everyone who’s been charged, convicted, or pleaded guilty. -- gs

* Meanwhile, Ellen Nakashima and Rachael Bade report that Democrats are concerned about key information in the Russia scandal disappearing:

The Democratic chairs of the six House committees investigating potential abuse of power by President Trump and his campaign’s business and alleged foreign ties will ask several executive branch agencies to preserve information they provided to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as he investigated Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to congressional aides familiar with the plan.
The six House leaders and their Senate Democratic counterparts have signed a letter that will be sent to the Department of Justice, FBI and White House Counsel’s Office, among other agencies, shortly after Mueller submits his report to Attorney General William P. Barr, signaling the investigation’s conclusion.
It is an effort to ensure the agencies retain correspondence, memos, reports and other material should the committees request it, the aides said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss lawmakers’ planning.

After we learn whatever it is DOJ will release about Mueller’s findings, there are still going to be lots of questions to ask.

* John Hudson and Josh Dawsey report that President Trump is eager to help his good friend Kim:

President Trump sparked confusion on Friday by announcing the cancellation of sanctions aimed at North Korea that his own Treasury Department had just announced, an apparent effort to salvage his administration’s nuclear negotiations.
“It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea. I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!” Trump tweeted Friday.
Trump administration officials could not immediately explain which sanctions Trump was referring to because no new sanctions were announced Friday. However, the Treasury Department announced new sanctions late Thursday against two Chinese shipping companies for their alleged role in evading U.N. sanctions against North Korea.
When asked to explain Trump’s tweet, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders simply noted that “President Trump likes Chairman Kim and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary.”

This is how policy is made in the Trump era: The president tweets some dramatic policy shift, then his own administration says “What the hell is he talking about?” and scrambles to figure it out, then they pretend that the whole thing was very carefully considered all along.

* Ally Mutnick reports that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is trying to discourage primary challenges by saying it will refuse to work with any consultant who works with someone challenging an incumbent Democrat.

* David Drucker reports that Republican strategists have resigned themselves to Trump losing the popular vote, aka “the vote” in 2020, and are actually counting on the electoral college to save him once again.

* David Ignatius makes the important point that no matter what the Mueller report tells us about Russian meddling in our election, we’ll still be vulnerable to spies and hackers.

* Sulome Anderson examines how Islamic extremism and white supremacy mutually reinforce each other online.

* Steve Benen looks at the latest signs that Trump has forfeited the American role as a global leader, and that he’s in total denial about it.

* Eliza Newlin Carney considers Mitch McConnell's horror at more Americans getting out to vote.

* Jason Sattler explains why Joe Biden could turn out to be the Jeb Bush of 2020.

* David Folkenflik talks to the senior Murdoch executive who quit because of the anti-Islamic rhetoric on Fox News.

* Joan Biskupic reports on the elaborate horse-trading John Roberts did when the Supreme Court was considering the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Just calling balls and strikes!

* And Ayal Feinberg, Regina Branton, and Valerie Martinez-Ebers report their research showing that counties that hosted a Trump rally in 2016 showed a tripling of reported hate crimes in subsequent months compared to comparable counties that Trump didn’t visit.