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The Mueller Bait and Switch

Thanks to US Attorney General William Barr's "summary" of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, President Donald Trump and most of the Republican Party can implant the idea in the mind of much of the public that Trump did nothing wrong. The truth will have a hard time catching up.

WASHINGTON, DC – The American people should have known that something was awry when President Donald Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, announced on Friday, March 22, that he had received special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and would provide a summary of its findings to certain congressional leaders over the weekend.

We should have asked: Why Barr’s summary and not Mueller’s? Presumably, Mueller had attached one to his report. It turned out there was a propagandistic reason for this unusual arrangement: Barr issued the best possible interpretation of Mueller’s report – from the president’s standpoint – including perhaps even a twist on what Mueller had said and intended. This allowed the president and his backers to propagate and celebrate what Mueller didn’t say: that the report’s conclusions were a “total exoneration” of Trump. In fact, even Barr’s brief summary, quoting Mueller’s report, said, “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

A version of Mueller’s report for release is supposedly in the works – scrubbed of classified material, grand jury testimony (which is always supposed to remain secret), or information on ongoing investigations. No one knows when it will appear (indeed, no one outside the Justice Department even knows how long the Mueller report is). But on March 25, six House committee chairs wrote to Barr demanding that he produce the report by April 2. Meanwhile, Trump and his boosters, including most of the Republican Party, get to carry on about the president’s supposed total exoneration, implanting the idea in the mind of much of the public. As is often the case with Trump’s presidency, the truth will have a hard time catching up.

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