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After the Mueller report — what comes next?

The 360 is a feature designed to show you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories.

Speed read

What happened: Attorney General William Barr has released a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report on his probe into Russia’s effort to influence the 2016 presidential election and whether President Trump’s campaign was involved. The 448-page document included many revelations, including, as Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff reports, that Trump committed “multiple acts” aimed at obstructing the investigation but was saved from being charged with a crime in part because his top aides refused to carry out his orders.

What’s being debated and what comes next: All eyes are now on Congress, and lawmakers are now tasked with deciding whether to pursue impeachment proceedings or whether they should close the book and look forward. They must decide if Trump should be held accountable for actions that, while perhaps falling short of criminal, would likely have been career-ending for previous commanders in chief.

On Friday Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., became the first 2020 Democratic candidate to call for impeachment, breaking with the party’s leadership in the House of Representatives.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer have both downplayed the idea of impeachment, with Hoyer calling it “not worthwhile” and Pelosi saying she wouldn’t move forward without a bipartisan consensus.

See reactions from the full field of 2020 Democratic candidates

Perspectives from the press

Justice has not yet been done, and Congress deserves an uncensored report to act.

“It is up to Congress to decide whether the behavior described in this report meets an acceptable standard for the country’s chief executive. In order to adequately conduct such an investigation, Congress must have access to a fully uncensored version of the report and all its underlying materials. Congressional leaders are right to subpoena the full report, as the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerrold Nadler, said he would do on Thursday.” — editorial board, New York Times

Nothing in the end was obstructed.

“The FBI probe continued after Mr. Comey was fired, and Mr. Mueller wasn’t interfered with. Mr. Mueller prosecuted those he could find enough evidence to try to turn for state’s evidence, but there was no coverup because there was no collusion with Russia to cover up. None of this will placate Mr. Trump’s adversaries who will take Mr. Mueller’s Hamlet act on obstruction and perhaps try to turn it into an impeachable offense. Democrats have the constitutional power to try, and the media will be their handmaiden. But if even Robert Mueller and his relentless prosecutors couldn’t prove their case, we doubt the American public will look well on the effort.” — editorial board, Wall Street Journal

The Mueller report is the opposite of exoneration.

“From here, the House Judiciary Committee must hear directly from Mr. Mueller. Lawmakers should insist on reading the entire report, including substantial sections that have been redacted from public view. Then they may face a difficult balancing act between the many valid reasons to regard impeachment as a last resort, and their responsibility to ensure that no one is above the law.” — editorial board, Washington Post

The president must be impeached.

“It is not for me to split legal hairs in this document. But politically, the road forward from this report is obvious: President Trump must be impeached in the House of Representatives. It does not matter that his conviction in the Senate is vanishingly unlikely. America’s political moment now unambiguously calls for a prolonged, painful, and public hearing about the lawlessness of the president of the United States and his immoral and illegal efforts to bend America’s system of justice to his ill will.” — David Faris, The Week

Democrats would be foolish to push for impeachment.

“And as damning as the report is, particularly the details about Trump’s willingness to accept the benefits of Russian hacking of emails and his efforts to obstruct special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, moving to impeach Trump now would only make him stronger. Why? Because even if the House votes to impeach, the Republican-controlled Senate almost certainly would not convict him, which means the run-up to the 2020 election would be framed by the perception of Democrats seeking impeachment for political reasons, not over Trump’s efforts to thwart the investigation, making him a sympathetic figure to nonpartisans.” — Scott Martelle, Los Angeles Times

The real scandal is the Obama administration’s failure to prevent Russian meddling.

“On Thursday, President Trump was once again completely and totally vindicated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s full report of his two-year investigation into the 2016 presidential election. It is increasingly clear that the only scandal here is the Obama administration’s repeated failure to act against Russian cyber meddling, and instead, how they prioritized spying on a political opponent — the Trump campaign — and used a phony DNC-funded dossier as justification.” — RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Fox News

The breadth of the lies revealed shows why this probe was so necessary.

“I’m old enough to remember the closing days of the 1996 campaign, when the Clinton administration was already beset by an avalanche of scandals. Bob Dole looked into the cameras and asked a pointed question — ‘Where is the outrage?’ The same question applies today, but to a different audience. The lies are simply too much to bear. No Republican should tolerate such dishonesty.” — David French, National Review

By protecting the presidency, Mueller has hurt the country.

“In the end, what we learn from Mueller’s decision is that he is, at his core, an institutionalist. He might have looked at Trump’s conduct as that of an individual and concluded that it was over the line (and pretty far over the line) into the realm of obstructive criminal conduct. Instead, he took the perspective of one who is looking at the presidency as an institution and at Trump as the embodiment of that institution. Where any other citizen of the nation would likely have been charged with a crime, Mueller chose not to even characterize the president’s actions.


That is deeply troubling and disappointing. For on Mueller’s reading of prudential policy considerations, the president is above the law. In the United States, no person should be. Mueller’s fidelity to the institution of the presidency did damage to an even more important institution — that of American values and the rule of law.” — Paul Rosenzweig, The Atlantic

Barr’s redactions are cause for concern over how he views his role and his loyalties.

“When history judges Attorney General William Barr, the verdict on his decision to withhold large portions of the final report by the special counsel Robert Mueller from Congress is likely to be severe. Of course, we don’t know what lies underneath these redactions, but we have reason to worry: Mr. Barr has shown little appetite for asserting independence from President Trump. … When it comes to the Mueller inquiry into presidential misconduct, Mr. Barr has acted more like a loyal presidential aide than the leader of an agency charged with exercising independent judgment.” — Caroline Frederickson, New York Times

 

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