Opinion writer

* Natasha Bertrand examines one unexplored part of the Mueller report:

Mueller’s nearly 450-page report granularly describes ... how Putin explicitly encouraged his country’s wealthiest and most powerful businessmen to make contact with Trump’s transition team after the election. The directives help explain the “flurry” of contact the oligarchs made with Trump’s associates in the weeks following the reality TV star’s unexpected victory, Mueller wrote.

Even though Mueller did not establish any conspiracy between Trump’s team and Russia, the special counsel’s report shows how important it was to Putin to establish a backchannel line of communication to Trump’s transition team — and how receptive Trump’s associates were to the overtures.

“As soon as news broke that Trump had been elected President, Russian government officials and prominent Russian businessmen began trying to make inroads into the new Administration,” Mueller’s team wrote in their final report.

Well sure — they didn’t invest in Trump’s victory but not expect a return.

* Mike Memoli reports that Biden-mania is on its way to a town near you, as long as you live in Iowa:

Advisers to former Vice President Joe Biden are finalizing plans for the launch of his presidential campaign next week, ending months of suspense that has hung over the Democratic nominating race.

Discussions among his core group of advisers about the exact timing of his announcement and subsequent campaign events are ongoing and subject to change, multiple officials said. Those discussions were set into motion earlier this month, as Biden himself publicly acknowledged a decision was all but a formality.

He’s going to bury his face in America’s hair, and then plant a gentle kiss on the top of America’s head.

* Nancy Cook, Andrew Restuccia, and Caitlin Oprysko report that Trump is furious about the harsh coverage of the Mueller revelations, leading White House aides to brace for him to lash out at advisers who cooperated. Wait, not “total exoneration” after all?

* Ron Brownstein has a good piece explaining how the Mueller revelations could further alienate the college educated whites who are already moving away from Trump, with big ramifications for 2020.

* Jason Sattler explores just how dishonest Attorney General Barr was in what he told the public about the Mueller report.

* Simon Rosenberg has a good Twitter thread explaining how Russia’s attack on the integrity of our electoral system, and more importantly Trump’s refusal to secure it, are central to where this story must go next.

* Corey Brettschneider argues that Congress now has the obligation to determine whether Trump obstructed justice, and take appropriate action if he did.

* Steve Benen demonstrates that the idea that the Mueller report vindicates those who treated Russiagate as a non-story is a total crock.

* Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy report on how the presidential candidates have been spending their money so far.

* Lisa Friedman and Maggie Astor get all the Democratic candidates on record about their ideas to combat climate change.

* Jed Kolko explains why big cities and rural areas are the places most dependent on immigration for growth.

* Michael Hobbes takes a close look at Pete Buttigieg’s tenure as South Bend mayor, and finds good news and bad news.

* And Kurt Bardella says it’s time for Sarah Huckabee Sanders to resign, given that the Mueller report demonstrated that nobody in the press corps (or anywhere else) can believe a word she says.