On Friday evening, Donald Trump issued a pair of tweets that—sadly enough—summed up the current position of the nation. After two years of investigation, declared Trump “I got the answers I wanted” from the letter issued by attorney general William Barr. But when it comes to releasing the actual Mueller report, Trump complains that “no matter what the Radical Left Democrats get, no matter what we give them, it will never be enough” and as a result “maybe we should just take our victory and say NO, we’ve got a Country to run!”
Barr may object to calling his letter a summary of the special counsel report, but it’s hard to find a better summary of the current situation: Trump got what he wanted from Barr, and now he wants to “take his victory” and refuse to release anything more. Trump has spent the week waving around the letter provided by Barr and shouting “total exoneration!” He’s screamed about it at a rally and used it as a means to attack both the news media and Democrats in Congress (Trump followed his just “say NO” to releasing the report tweet with one declaring that media should be striped of awards for covering the investigation). With letter in hand and a thousand headlines declaring “Mueller report says…” Trump is absolutely prepared to walk away from the entire investigation not only unscathed, but riding a wave of justified rage. That threat to just say no … is a real one.
Congressional Republicans, who have enjoyed a week of ambushing their Democratic colleagues with calls to resign, creating campaign-ready stunt footage from the House floor, and elbowing each other for talking time on Fox have been equally unenthusiastic about the real report coming out. On the same day that Barr sent his letter to Congress, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes was on Fox News to state that the Mueller report should be burned, unseen.
But as the public edges closer to seeing at least part of the actual document that the special counsel dispatched to Barr, all the signs indicate that the neat, all-good-here summary that Barr provided of the report’s contents is far from what’s really in the text.
The first clue that the Barr letter and the Mueller report are very different animals is how strongly Barr objected to the description of his first letter as a summary of the special counsel results. In his second letter to Congress, Barr went out of his way to say “I am aware of some media reports and other public statements mischaracterizing [the first letter] as a ‘summary’ of the Special Counsel’s investigation and report.” Which is interesting especially because in that first letter, Barr described it as a summary. Barr’s statement in the second letter that the first “did not purport to be an exhaustive recounting” of the special counsel documents strongly suggests that there’s a big difference between the all-good-here results that Barr delivered to Congress and the contents of the actual report.
Before the release of the first Barr letter, multiple sources, including Los Angeles Times columnist Virginia Heffernan, indicated sources within the Justice Department claiming that the Mueller report was “harsh” and even tougher on Trump than expected. Some of those same sources reacted with near shock when Barr produced a letter in record time that seemed to wave off anything found by the special counsel.
Former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega has gone as far as calling Barr’s letter the end game of a “long con,” one that began with Barr applying for the position of attorney general with a letter showing that he would never allow Trump to be indicted, and finished with Barr removing all evidence of Trump’s crimes. “The Mueller Report is so, so, so bad that Barr does not want anyone who does not have a need to know, even people on their own team, to see it” says de la Vega. “I doubt that Trump has been shown a copy of this report.”
Trump may not have seen it, but there is certainly enough information floating around that Trump knows the longer the full report remains out of view, and the less of it that ever comes into view, the better off he’ll be.