AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
- The release of the Mueller report has only hardened the previously-held stances Democrats and Republicans have on President Donald Trump.
- Democrats took issue with Attorney General William Barr’s handling of the report’s release.
- Republicans focused on part one of the report, which did not find evidence of collusion.
- Overall, not much as changed on Capitol Hill, where investigations and infighting will likely continue.
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WASHINGTON — The special counsel’s final report released Thursday, revealing that no one in President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with the Russians to fix the election but left the question of obstruction of justice somewhat open-ended.
For everything the report revealed — and did not reveal — it has not seemed to change much of anything on Capitol Hill. Almost immediately after Attorney General William Barr concluded his press conference and sent copies of the report to Capitol Hill, lawmakers quickly reverted back to their familiar positions, suggesting more of the same old Washington infighting will continue for the foreseeable future.
Right off the bat, Republicans focused on part one of the report, which did not find evidence of collusion. The hardline conservatives, like House Oversight Committee ranking member and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, called for counter investigations into how the probes started.
"It’s time for us to figure out this Comey cabal — these top people at the FBI — who launched this whole thing based on the dossier," he told a Sinclair Broadcasting reporter. "We need to go back to these five people: [James] Comey, [Andrew] McCabe, [James] Baker, [Peter] Strzok, [Carter] Page and figure out what exactly happened right from the get-go."
Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, hammered in a similar point.
"In the coming weeks ahead, I look forward to joining my colleagues in getting to the truth on how this investigation was apparently allowed to begin without sufficient basis," he said in a statement. "Overwhelming evidence we’ve seen suggests a few rogue actors at the FBI and DOJ cut corners, broke protocol, and acted recklessly to retaliate against a duly elected President—opening an investigation based on flimsy evidence and illegitimate methods."
Republican leaders and establishment types followed a similar tone, focusing heavily on the collusion aspect of the report, followed by calls to "move on" and accept the results.
"Nothing we saw today changes the underlying results of the 22-month long Mueller investigation that ultimately found no collusion," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement.
Democrats split over how to handle the Mueller report
It only took a couple hours after the Mueller report’s release for Democratic leadership to take the same tone they have throughout this entire process: that impeachment is not a worthy pursuit.
"Based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point. Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months, and the American people will make a judgement," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told CNN."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who in the past has tamped down on impeachment talk within the Democratic Caucus, told reporters while on a trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland Thursday that Congress will continue proper oversight, as is their duty laid out in the Constitution. But Pelosi would not comment directly on impeachment, avoiding creating any kind of frenzy around the issue.
Democratic committee chairmen ramped up their independent probes of Trump, demanding Mueller come before Congress to testify.
The pro-impeachment crowd remains pro-impeachment. Democratic lawmakers like Rep. Al Green of Texas and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — both of whom have tried to gin up support for impeachment — are likely staying in their lanes.
One element that turned up for Democrats was scrutiny over Barr. Democrats had already been uneasy about him as attorney general, partly due to comments he made prior to being confirmed. But his handling of the report’s release, in which he held a press conference beforehand, thus driving the news cycle, greatly angered Democrats.
Democratic leaders took a more nuanced approach, but reiterated their frustration with Barr.
"Special Counsel Mueller’s report paints a disturbing picture of a president who has been weaving a web of deceit, lies and improper behavior and acting as if the law doesn’t apply to him," said Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in a joint statement. "But if you hadn’t read the report and listened only to Mr. Barr, you wouldn’t have known any of that because Mr. Barr has been so misleading."
"The differences are stark between what Attorney General Barr said on obstruction and what Special Counsel Mueller said on obstruction," Pelosi and Schumer added in separate joint statement. "As we continue to review the report, one thing is clear: Attorney General Barr presented a conclusion that the president did not obstruct justice while Mueller’s report appears to undercut that finding."
Now as the dust settles, not much has changed on Capitol Hill.
Republicans have hardened their positions and unwavering support for Trump. Democrats will continue with their investigations, while the left-wing, pro-impeachment members will ramp up calls for impeachment. Democratic leadership will try to walk a fine line, taking into consideration their 2020 election strategy.
But Washington is most certainly not moving on.
- House Democrats subpoena the full Mueller report and its underlying evidence
- Mueller referred 14 criminal matters to other prosecutors, but only 2 of them are public so far
- All the times Trump campaign figures shared false information sponsored by Russia that were included in the Mueller report