Washington • All sides found something they wanted on Robert Mueller Day.
The long-anticipated report from special counsel Robert Mueller landed Thursday, and this town, full of policy wonks, political activists and journalists, was obsessed. People gathered around office TVs to watch the unveiling. They pulled up the report on their iPhones on the bus and the train.
Even cabdrivers were talking about it.
“No Collusion — No Obstruction!” President Donald Trump tweeted minutes after Attorney General William Barr described the report as absolute proof that there was no “collusion" between the president’s campaign and Russia.
Responded House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.: Mueller’s “report does not exonerate the president. Indeed, the report indicates that President Trump tried on multiple occasions to obstruct justice, only to be thwarted by advisers who knew better.”
Unsurprisingly, despite few people having read the entire 448-page report (sans its plentiful redactions), everyone had an opinion within hours. Or minutes.
"I am pleased that special counsel Mueller was able to complete his investigation and is helping bring to justice those who allowed Russian meddling in the 2016 election,” Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, said in a statement that came 20 minutes before the actual report was released.
McAdams said he looked forward to reviewing it and the public deserved to see it.
“If the conclusion remains that there is no further criminal wrongdoing," McAdams said, “I think we should, as a country, move on and ensure that Russia cannot interfere again.”
Depending on which side folks found themselves Thursday, there was plenty of information to back a case.
Did the campaign collude? There wasn’t proof.
Did the president obstruct justice? He tried.
Was Russia trying to help Trump? Yes.
Did Trump’s associates want that help? Yes.
Nearly two years and tens of millions of dollars spent by the special counsel’s office confirmed reporting that the public had already seen, but it wasn’t swaying the stalwarts who have accused the president of wrongdoing or his defenders who backed Trump’s assertion that the whole thing was a witch hunt.
“The Mueller report is finally available and it is definitive: there was no collusion,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, tweeted.
Mueller’s findings back that up, though don’t ever use the word collusion: “Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
That said, the 22-month investigation brought charges against 34 people and three entities — a total of 200 criminal counts. That includes convictions or guilty pleas by Trump’s former campaign manager, his former national security adviser and his former lawyer. Longtime adviser Roger Stone is still awaiting trial and denied the charges.
While the president and allies claimed victory, the report was far from the clean bill of health the White House wanted.
The president, the report says, directed aides at times to take actions — like firing Mueller, for instance — and they refused out of concern they might be breaking the law.
“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” the report said. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”
“While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime," the report adds, “it also does not exonerate him.”
That was not a line Republicans used in commenting on the report.
“I am encouraged that we may now turn the page on this distracting chapter of U.S. history,” said Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah. “The office of the attorney general and the special counsel have concluded that there was no collusion and no obstruction. I am satisfied with these conclusions and ready to move forward. I urge all my congressional colleagues to return their attention to legislating and serving our constituents.”
In fact, the report says that multiple members of Trump’s team lied to investigators or to Congress and the president had attempted to stymie the Mueller probe but was saved by aides from crossing the legal line.
Though it was clear the report would not be the end of the Russia investigation and probes of Trump — there are ongoing investigations in New York and Congress is likely to call Mueller to testify soon — the message from the right flank on Thursday was it’s time to move on.
"Mr. Mueller conducted a detailed and thorough investigation that mirrors what we found in the House Intelligence investigation — no collusion or conspiracy between the Trump Campaign and Russia,” said. Rep. Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican who sits on the House Intelligence Committee and has been a staunch defender of Trump in the Russia probe.
“Now that the American people know the truth," Stewart continued, “I look forward to moving beyond the political theatrics and coming together to work on behalf of the American people.”
But, first, interested people will likely try to finish reading the report.