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Russian interference is the red flag from Mueller that everyone is missing

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Special counsel Robert Mueller speaks at the Department of Justice
Special counsel Robert Mueller speaks at the Department of Justice Wednesday, May 29, 2019, in Washington, about the Russia investigation.Carolyn Kaster / AP

WASHINGTON — As everyone continues to parse Robert Mueller’s words from Wednesday — “It’s time to impeach!” “Trump is exonerated!” “Congress needs to do its job!” — most politicians and commentators are still missing his unequivocal message.

Russia clearly interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Here were Mueller’s last two sentences from yesterday: “I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments — that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election.”

“That allegation deserves the attention of every American.”

Well, guess what isn’t getting attention today.

Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election resulted in the ouster of the chair of the Democratic National Committee.

It produced Hillary-versus-Bernie chaos entering the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.

It helped launch scores of stories looking into internal Clinton communications — from John Podesta's hacked emails.

And it aided part of Donald Trump’s closing message, with him mentioning the word “WikiLeaks” some 140 times in the final month of the general election — a race decided by fewer than 80,000 votes in three states.

The lack of urgency and attention to that interference remains, in many ways, the real scandal.

That applies to a president who continues to describe that interference as a hoax.

“Russia, Russia, Russia! That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax...And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected. It was a crime that didn’t exist. So now the Dems and their partner, the Fake News Media,...” Trump tweeted this morning.

And it applies to a Congress that’s been unable to mount a united front to prevent future interference.

Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees.

The Dem’s oversight strategy has been “an incoherent muddle”

As congressional Democrats continue to play Hamlet on impeachment – “To impeach or not to impeach, that is the question” – Lawfare’s Ben Wittes makes an excellent point.

Democrats are experiencing a crisis — or failure — of oversight.

“Since the Trump administration has made it abundantly clear that it will not cooperate with routine congressional follow up to the Mueller report, what questions does Congress really want to explore and which questions are less important?”

“Is it to evaluate Trump’s conduct?”

“Is it to establish a factual record to support some piece or pieces of legislation?”

“Is it to set the table for impeachment? Or is it to dramatize and bring to life the 448 pages of the Mueller report?”

Bottom line, Wittes says, “Congress’s current strategy is an incoherent muddle.”

Over to you, Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders…

2020 Vision: Freeze frame

By the way, if you wanted a taste of what the 2020 Democratic presidential race might look like if Congress does go down the impeachment rabbit hole, you got it yesterday after Mueller’s statement.

The 2020 field took second (or third) stage.

Impeachment most likely would relegate the Dem race to the backburner and freeze the contest until afterward.

Just imagine how impeachment — or a similar storyline — might have affected the 2008 Obama-versus Hillary race.

Would Hillary’s debate flub over drivers’ licenses have received the attention it did?

What about Obama’s J-J speech in Iowa? (“I don’t want to spend the next year or the next four years re-fighting the same fights that we had in the 1990s.”)

On the campaign trail today

Joe Biden holds Memorial Day commemorations in Delaware (NBC’s Mike Memoli says Delaware has a strange quirk where many towns still celebrate the original Memorial Day date of May 30)… Bernie Sanders remains in Nevada… Amy Klobuchar also campaigns in Nevada… And Pete Buttigieg holds a “Mayor’s Night Out” town hall in South Bend, Ind.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 50

That’s the number of days that passed between Israel’s last national election (on April 9) and when Israel’s parliament dissolved (on May 29) after it was unable to form a government, per the New York Times.

A new vote is set for Sept. 17.

The Lid: Ante up

Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we checked in with the new rules from the DNC to qualify for the third debate.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

Joe Biden's personal family losses are becoming a feature of his interaction with voters on the trail, NBC's Mike Memoli writes.

Our White House and Hill teams report that the response to Mueller within the Trump administration has been "muted" — but that Trump is feeling the pressure on impeachment.

And the New York Times notes that House Democrats are trying to figure out how to get more from Mueller.

Louisiana is the fifth state to pass a fetal heartbeat bill, and Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards says he'll sign it.

Trump says he didn't know anything about a decision to move the USS McCain out of sight during his stop in Japan.

And Nancy Pelosi is taking on Facebook.

Trump agenda: “Unreliable”

Here's the Washington Post's review of Michael Wolff's "unreliable" latest book.

The last time the Supreme Court was asked to overturn Roe, here's how things went.

2020: What’s Bernie’s ceiling?

Can Bernie Sanders grow his base? (And can he expand his base to older Democrats?)

Roy Moore has some things to say.

Only a handful of Democratic candidates are really talking about immigration.

Kirsten Gillibrand has her first New Hampshire endorsement.