WASHINGTON — If Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton was a 3.0 on the political Richter scale, then special counsel Robert Mueller’s complaint about Trump Attorney General William Barr’s summary of his report on Russian interference is an 8.5.
“The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions,” Mueller wrote Barr on March 27, according to the Washington Post.
Mueller added, “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”
If you recall, here was Barr’s summary quoting Mueller — in a partial sentence: "[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."
But here’s what Barr left out from his quote: “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 …"
Here’s also Barr’s summary when it comes to obstruction of justice: “The Special Counsel’s decision to describe the facts of his obstruction investigation without reaching any legal conclusions leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime.”
Except here was Mueller saying Congress has a role in determining whether Trump obstructed justice:
“The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President's corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law,” Mueller said in his report.
And guess what – Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee at 10:00 am ET.
Democrats have a decision to make: Do they focus their fire on Barr, with some Democrats and 2020ers calling for the attorney general’s impeachment?
Or do they keep the impeachment focus on Trump?
Or all of the above?
Effort to oust Maduro in Venezuela flops — so far
If it walks like a coup and quacks like a coup, then it sure looks a coup – backed by the Trump administration.
“Before dawn Tuesday, Juan Guaido, flanked by his political mentor Leopoldo Lopez and a handful of soldiers who had broken ranks, issued a message to Venezuela and the world: The time to topple Nicolas Maduro’s authoritarian regime was right now,” Bloomberg News writes.
“By dusk, with Maduro still firmly in control of the military command, Lopez had sought refuge in the Chilean ambassador’s residence in Caracas before moving to the Spanish embassy, and the streets were beginning to empty of the protesters who had heeded Guaido’s call to join what he called Operation Liberty,” Bloomberg adds.
Democrats emoluments lawsuits against Trump proceeds
Wouldn’t it be ironic if emoluments – and not the Russia investigation – ultimately turned out to be the bigger problem for President Trump?
“Democrats in Congress can move ahead with their lawsuit against President Trump alleging that his private business violates the Constitution’s ban on gifts or payments from foreign governments, a federal judge ruled Tuesday,” the Washington Post says.
“The decision in Washington from U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan adopted a broad definition of the anti-corruption law and could set the stage for Democratic lawmakers to begin seeking information from the Trump Organization. The Justice Department can try to delay or block the process by asking an appeals court to intervene.”
2020 Vision: Sanders uses his Hillary playbook versus Biden
The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin says Bernie Sanders fired off three different shots at Joe Biden after the former vice president’s launch:
- He criticized Biden’s high-roller fundraiser.
- He said Biden backed NAFTA and TPP (while he did not).
- And he added that Biden voted for the Iraq war (while he did not).
If those broadsides sound familiar, it’s pretty much what Sanders used against Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Our question, as we asked last Friday: Does a Bernie-versus-Biden battle create an opening for someone else?
Or does the focus on those two entrench them at the top?
On the 2020 campaign trail today: Biden continues campaigning in Iowa, hitting Iowa City and Des Moines… And John Delaney also is in Hawkeye State.
Data Download: The number of the day is … 70 percent and 39 percent
Seventy percent and 39 percent.
Those are the shares of Democrats (70 percent) and Americans overall (39 percent) who say that the Mueller report should lead to impeachment hearings in Congress, according to a new NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll.
In other words, impeachment proceedings are unpopular overall, but popular with the Democratic base.
That puts 2020 candidates and House leadership in a sticky situation as they try to navigate those political realities (along with the practical realities of the partisan breakdown of the Senate.)
The poll also found a divide in whether Americans think Congress should keep investigating Russian election interference, with 48 percent wanting more and 46 percent saying the probes should end.
The Lid: Bump it up
Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at the realities — and the caveats — of Joe Biden’s bump in the polls.
ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss
The GOP primary for the late Rep. Walter Jones’ seat in North Carolina is heading to a runoff. (It’s between two doctors: a urologist and a pediatrician.)
Benjy Sarlin reports on Kirsten Gillibrand’s plan to give every voter up to $600 that they can donate to federal candidates.
House Democrats are getting more serious about their threats to penalize White House officials who don’t comply with requests for documents and testimony, per NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell and Alex Moe.
It looks like Fed pick Stephen Moore might not get over the finish line.
Trump and Democrats are aiming for a $2 trillion infrastructure package.
And WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for jumping bail in England in 2012.
Other news that’s out there…
Trump spent his morning retweeting content about firefighters who support him.
Trump is taking a big gamble on Venezuela.
Mick Mulvaney says he’s sticking around until 2020.
2020: Biden’s big start
Jonathan Allen takes a big look at Biden’s big start.
Cory Booker and Kamala Harris are both courting black voters. But their substance on economics is very different, the New York Times writes.
POLITICO takes a look at Democratic recruiting whiffs so far.