After Mueller report, are apologies in order?

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Speed read

What’s happening: The report is in and President Trump has taken a victory lap. After a nearly two-year probe, special counsel Robert Mueller concluded that no one in the Trump campaign, including the president, conspired with Russia when it meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Attorney General William Barr, who read the report, issued a four-page summary. According the Barr’s letter, Mueller stated “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it does not exonerate him either.” That left it to Barr to determine whether Trump broke the law and obstructed justice. In his letter, Barr said the evidence collected in Mueller’s probe was “not sufficient to establish” that the president committed a criminal obstruction offense.

Trump allies then claimed vindication over what the president has repeatedly called a “witch hunt.”

So that’s it then? Not quite …: There’s still a lot up for debate. Democrats want the full report to be released. Several Republicans have raised questions about how the probe was conducted. Trump allies say the media and prominent Trump opponents should apologize for overly critical coverage of the president. Speaking on CNN, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani demanded the network “apologize” for its “overreaction to collusion.” Meanwhile, Senate Republicans want Barr to appoint another special counsel to investigate whether law enforcement made missteps during the probe.

In sum, the official investigation may have concluded, but this conversation is far from over.


The full report should be released to the public.

“Now Attorney General William Barr, facing a series of decisions that will determine his legacy, needs to release the report to the public — promptly and, apart from any redactions needed to protect national security or grand jury secrecy, in full. A synopsis will not do, nor will a heavily redacted version. The American people have a right to know the degree to which Russia conspired to help Donald Trump win the election, as well as the degree to which Trump or his advisers did or did not conspire in this effort.” — Editorial Board, USA Today

Trump won. It’s time for Democrats to move past Russia.

“Democratic candidates can talk about all the indictments and charges the special counsel’s office brought against Russian nationals and Trump advisers, but most Americans will tune them out. Better now for Trump’s antagonists to focus on the stream of lies constantly spewed by the president about policies that impact Americans’ lives every day.” — Joe Scarborough, Washington Post

Saying the probe can’t “establish” collusion doesn’t mean there wasn’t any.

“Saying that the investigation did not establish that there was collusion is not the same thing as saying that the investigation established that there was no collusion. Two points are worth emphasizing. … By using the same language that Mueller used with respect to “establishing” coordination with Russia, Barr’s letter suggests the possibility that, rather than “no evidence” of collusion, Mueller did find such evidence — but similarly did not conclude it warranted a criminal prosecution. Clearing up this ambiguity is yet another reason why the Mueller report should be released promptly.” — Robert Litt, Lawfare Blog

The media has covered Trump with a drama filter not used for past presidents. 

"This question of Trump’s treatment during the Russia investigation, what he sees as a ‘witch hunt’ perpetrated by the elite media, is a complicated one for me. My first instinct, and I don’t think it’s a purely defensive one, is that if Trump hasn’t been afforded the same presumption of innocence that other presidents have enjoyed, it’s because he lies routinely in a way other presidents have not. … That said, I think we have to admit an inescapable and uncomfortable truth about the Trump presidency more generally, which is that the media that covers him is almost unrecognizable from the media that covered every previous president. He’s just right about that.” – Matt Bai, Yahoo News

The media should apologize for portraying Trump as a traitor.

“The press, in its zeal to believe the worst, sometimes published too-good-to-check erroneous reports. Otherwise serious opinion writers accused Trump of being a traitor or perhaps a Russian asset since 1987. … Mueller ended up proceeding in the same rut as most special-counsel probes, prosecuting a lot of process crimes and a few more-serious offenses not directly related to the matter at hand. There was plenty to work with here, since Trump’s associates, from Paul Manafort to Roger Stone, were such a motley, sleazy crew. They are marks against his judgment; that never made Trump a traitor. If nothing else, Mueller will have accomplished something important if he’s managed to put that poisonous charge to bed.” — Editorial, National Review

“We in the media allowed unproven charges and false accusations to dominate the news landscape for more than two years, in a way that was wildly unbalanced and disproportionate to the evidence. We did a poor job of tracking down leaks of false information. We failed to reasonably weigh the motives of anonymous sources and those claiming to have secret, special evidence of Trump’s ‘treason.’ As such, we reported a tremendous amount of false information, always to Trump’s detriment.” — Sharyl Attkisson, The Hill

The system worked — DOJ did its job and did it well.

“DOJ leaders — and Robert Mueller — deserve our thanks. In a time of (justified) collapsing public trust in American institutions, our best available evidence indicates that they responded to a challenging moment with integrity and resolve. It is a relief to say, with a high degree of confidence, that in the Mueller investigation our system worked.” — David French, National Review

President Trump is exonerated.

“That the president of the United States appears to have been exonerated of treason — collusion with a hostile foreign power to win an election — should make every American happy. … Trump deserves the benefit of the doubt for the next two years. The president was robbed of that because collusion mania set in immediately, never allowing his administration to function under the usual sunshine instead of clouds. His decisions have been deemed illegitimate by many Democrats who couldn’t accept an election outcome and needed to salve their emotional wounds by inventing this Russian collusion story.” — Scott Jennings, USA Today

Mueller’s findings did not exonerate President Trump.

“The president is entitled to take satisfaction in some of what Mueller concluded. But Congress must not take Barr’s summary of Mueller’s conclusions as “total exoneration” of the president or a substitute for Congress’ own responsibility to investigate important matters. They include the president’s firing of former FBI director James B. Comey and Comey’s allegation that Trump pressured him to drop an investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. … There is a long list of reasons why we think Trump is unfit for the presidency and dangerous for the country. The only thing we learned from Barr’s summary is that colluding with Russia is no longer on it.” — Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times

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