Clear your calendar for Thursday! You’re going to have a lot of reading to do.
The Department of Justice announced this morning that Attorney General William Barr will release the redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his team’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and the Trump campaign’s involvement with both foreign influences and the administration’s efforts to obstruct the inquiry.
.According to Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec, the report will be released on Thursday morning to both Congress and the general public with color-coded redactions indicating the reason that any particular section was being withheld from the public record at the current time.
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Up until the report is released the only indication of its contents has been the controversial four-page summary written by the Attorney General which was dismissed by many people as an inadequate partisan document that allowed President Trump to crow about his total exoneration despite the fact that the letter specifically says that the report does not exonerate the president.
After the summary was released, the normally circumspect members of Mueller’s investigatory team began to leak murmurs of dissatisfaction with Barr’s characterization of the report’s findings, claiming that the report was far more damaging in its depiction of the president’s actions than media accounts — and the White House — were depicting.
With Mueller having determined — according to Barr’s summary of the report — that there was not enough evidence to prove conspiracy between the president himself and the Rusian government and having mysteriously left open any conclusion regarding obstruction of justice charges against Trump to be decided by the Attorney General himself, the release of the redacted report will give everyone the first opportunity to judge the legitimacy of Barr’s decision not to pursue the allegations of obstruction, many of which were based on actions that President Trump took in public view.
With Barr’s credibility already in question due to the unsolicited memo he sent to Trump before he was nominated for his current position — asserting the highly unorthodox view that a sitting president constitutionally cannot be seen as obstructing justice since he oversees the Justice Department — the Attorney General further weakened any sense of independence from the Oval Office by subscribing to the tin hat conspiracy theory being pushed by Trump and his most extreme right-wing defenders in Congress that the investigation into the multiple documented contacts between his campaign and Russia constituted illegal “spying” that he would now begin to investigate in a move widely interpreted as retaliation against the senior intelligence community who instigated the probe.
In the run-up to the release of the redacted report, we can surely expect increasingly unhinged behavior from the president that is likely to include more mischaracterization of the report as a complete exoneration, more attacks on the team that compiled the report, and more actions to distract from the details included in the redacted version.
Once the report is public, expect it to be worse, with Democratic questions about what was withheld from publication — and why — dominating the conversation and demands made for the release of the full report to qualified members of Congress with proper security clearances.
With Frank Figliuzzi, the former FBI director of counterintelligence, estimating that Barr may redact anywhere from 50%-70% of Mueller’s report, a grand legal battle is likely in the offing.
On the Republican side, charges of illegal investigations, improper warrants, and “Witch Hunts” will likely commingle with cries of “No Collusion” and “No Obstruction” as the fight to define reality for the American public continues.
Hold on to your seats. It will be a bumpy ride.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.