Lawmakers and political observers spent most of the day Monday processing the nation’s first look at the findings of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE‘s nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Mueller did not uncover evidence to find that the Trump campaign had colluded with the Russian government, according to Attorney General William Barr, and while Mueller did not explicitly allege Trump obstructed justice, he did not exonerate the president either.
As Democrats and Republicans parse Barr’s interpretation of the special counsel’s findings and await a fuller report, here are some winners and losers based on Mueller’s core findings.
President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: ‘Haven’t thought about’ pardons for Mueller target Pence: Rocket attack ‘proves that Hamas is not a partner for peace’ Conservation remains a core conservative principle MORE
Mueller’s main findings as relayed by Barr delivered an unmistakable victory for the president, who quickly declared it a “Complete and Total EXONERATION.”
The special counsel’s investigation has hovered over much Trump’s presidency thus far, oftentimes overshadowing his meetings with foreign leaders and his interactions with lawmakers.
But the lack of findings of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government validated the president’s refrain of “no collusion,” and is certain to harden his support among Republicans.
As the cloud of investigation lifts, Trump could quickly pivot from deriding the special counsel’s probe as a “witch hunt” to wielding it as a political weapon.
“It was a false narrative, it was a terrible thing,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Monday. “We can never let this happen to another president again.”
Republicans who stood by Trump throughout the investigation were crowing on Monday after they won ammunition for the 2020 elections.
Reps. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanJordan: Mueller report should end congressional investigations into Trump Lawmakers clash over whether conclusion of Mueller investigation signals no collusion Top GOP Judiciary rep: ‘At this point the president has been proved right’ about no collusion MORE (R-Ohio) and Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsMueller delivers a win for Trump — Five Takeaways Meadows: ‘The clock has finally struck midnight on the Russian collusion fantasy’ Lawmakers clash over whether conclusion of Mueller investigation signals no collusion MORE (R-N.C.), among others, served as attack dogs for the president, fiercely defending him over the past 22 months against allegations of collusion, obstruction of justice and other wrongdoing, and questioning the motives of the special counsel’s team.
Mueller’s findings provide a clear-cut strategy for House Republicans seeking to chip away at the Democratic majority in the next election. They can seek to portray Democrats as more focused on investigating Trump than leading the country.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyMcCarthy: ‘Case is closed’ on Trump and collusion House leaders need to modernize Congress for the sake of America Overnight Energy: McConnell tees up vote on Green New Deal | Centrist Dems pitch alternative to plan | House Republican likens Green New Deal to genocide | Coca-Cola reveals it uses 3M tons of plastic every year MORE (R-Calif.) warned Democrats of the danger of “chasing imagined scandals” while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill’s 12: 30 Report: Trump, Dems eye next stage in Mueller fight House Oversight Dem wants Trump to release taxes and ‘get it over with’ Senate rejection of Green New Deal won’t slow Americans’ desire for climate action MORE (R-Ky.) and some of his colleagues had their trust rewarded after they resisted bringing a measure up for a vote that would give Mueller added protection in the event Trump ordered his firing.
Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow
Trump’s top attorneys in the Russia investigation joined other White House surrogates in a victory lap on Monday.
Giluiani and Sekulow guided Trump through a fraught legal process that at times appeared headed for court battles.
Ultimately, Mueller wrapped up his investigation without Trump ever sitting for an interview. Instead, Trump submitted written answers in November on Russia-related topics.
Even as questions linger about Mueller’s declination to exonerate Trump on alleged obstruction of justice, Sekulow and Giuliani both declared that the special counsel’s main findings had cleared the president’s name.
“The president shouldn’t be distracted with made-up stories,” Giuliani said on “Fox & Friends.” “Collusion is made up. If collusion is made up, how could you have obstruction? Plus, please guys, all of you wake up. The investigation wasn’t obstructed.”
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D’Alesandro PelosiThe Hill’s 12: 30 Report: Trump, Dems eye next stage in Mueller fight After Mueller, Democrats need to avoid the Javert trap More than a half-million web articles published on Russia, Trump, Mueller since investigation began: analysis MORE (D-Calif.)
While Mueller’s report did not deliver good news politically for Pelosi, it did provide a silver lining, as it could temporarily quell talk of impeachment within the Democratic ranks.
Pelosi and other top Democrats have sought to tamp down open talk of impeachment for much of Trump’s presidency, arguing that they should allow Mueller’s ongoing investigation to bear out the facts before proceeding.
The Speaker has said in interviews this month that it’s not worth launching impeachment proceedings without significant Republican support.
Any lingering GOP buy-in all but evaporated with the special counsel’s investigation clearing Trump on collusion allegations, essentially answering the question for Pelosi before it could spark a drawn out intraparty fight.
Pelosi has some new challenges ahead of her in the wake of Mueller’s findings, but it may help her argument on impeachment.
Media talking heads
Pundits, cable television analysts and Democratic surrogates breathlessly anticipated each new development in Mueller’s investigation over the past two years, hyping up the special counsel’s potential endgame.
Those who at various times predicted additional indictments involving the president’s family or a declaration of Trump’s guilt have been left with egg on their face.
Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffThe Hill’s 12: 30 Report: Trump, Dems eye next stage in Mueller fight Sanders: ‘No discussion’ of pardoning former Trump aides White House exults on Mueller victory lap MORE (D-Calif.)
Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, became a staple on Sunday morning talk shows in recent months as he insisted that evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia was in “plain sight.”
Earlier this month, the California Democrat said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that emails between a Russian intermediary offering dirt on 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpEx-federal prosecutor says there’s enough evidence to corroborate Cohen testimony on hush money payments Mueller’s end: A conclusion on collusion, but confusion on obstruction Trump Jr. trolls Schiff after Mueller summary’s release MORE represented “direct evidence” of collusion, and he pointed to “abundant circumstantial evidence” as well.
Mueller’s findings did not confirm his assertions, however, and conservatives took notice.
“Adam Schiff should resign,” White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayThe Hill’s 12: 30 Report: Trump, Dems eye next stage in Mueller fight Conway calls on Schiff to resign over past collusion comments George Conway fires back at Sarah Sanders, says Mueller report ‘does not exonerate’ Trump MORE said. “He has no right as somebody who has been peddling a lie day after day after day unchallenged. Unchallenged and not under oath. Somebody should have put him under oath and said, ‘You have evidence, where is it?’”
Ex-Obama administration officials
Former Department of Justice and FBI officials who served in the Obama administration have already been a favored target among conservatives, and the conclusion of Mueller’s investigation is likely to exacerbate that.
Former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyWhy Mueller’s hedge on obstruction decision was a mistake The Hill’s 12: 30 Report: Trump, Dems eye next stage in Mueller fight Treason narrative collapses; who bears responsibility? MORE, former CIA Director James Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperThe wisdom of Trump’s lawyers, and the accountability that must follow Mueller’s report Dem rips Clapper: He ‘needs to stop making excuses for lying to the American people’ Hillicon Valley: Senators urge Trump to bar Huawei products from electric grid | Ex-security officials condemn Trump emergency declaration | New malicious cyber tool found | Facebook faces questions on treatment of moderators MORE have taken heat for their role in the genesis of the investigation into Russian interference.
Brennan has emerged as a fervent Trump critic, and regularly weighed in on the special counsel’s investigation. He said earlier this month that he wouldn’t have been surprised to see additional indictments from Mueller, though no such indictments ever came.
He acknowledged on Monday that he “suspected there was more than there actually was” to the investigation.
“I am relieved that it’s been determined there was not a criminal conspiracy with the Russian government over our election,” Brennan added. “I think that is good news for the country.”
Trump suggested that those who perpetuated the investigation should face consequences. He did not specify who he was talking about, other than to say they “lied to Congress.”
“There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things. Very bad things. I would say treasonous things against our country,” Trump said during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“And hopefully the people that have done such harm to our country … those people will certainly be looked at,” he continued. “I’ve been looking at them for a long time and I’m saying, why haven’t they been looked at?”
The case for removing Trump from office took a hit with the summary of Mueller’s core findings, as they did not explicitly accuse the president of high crimes or misdemeanors.
Still, some of the most ardent proponents of impeachment were unfazed by Mueller’s findings.
Rep. Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition – Mueller report is huge win for President Trump Rep. Al Green still pushing impeachment after Mueller findings The Hill’s 12: 30 Report: Trump attacks on McCain rattle GOP senators MORE (D-Texas) argued that the special counsel’s investigation did not address “bigotry,” a major force behind the congressman’s push for impeachment.
Tom Steyer, a Democratic donor who has poured millions of dollars into his anti-Trump “Need to Impeach” campaign, said in a statement that Congress should call for the release of the full Mueller report before moving on.
“Congress must make its own determination from the direct evidence uncovered by the special prosecutor and the criminal and impeachable actions by Trump that have already come to light,” he said.
Potential Trump primary challengers
Had Mueller delivered a blow to Trump by implicating him in a conspiracy or obstruction, the president’s critics within the party may have had an opening to argue for an alternative atop the ticket in 2020.
Barr’s release of Mueller’s main findings is likely to solidify Trump’s support among his base, which had not wavered even as the president’s former associates were implicated in the investigation over the past 22 months.
A CNN poll conducted earlier this month showed 89 percent of Republican respondents gave Trump positive marks. That number, and Trump’s overall approval rating, could enjoy at least a brief boost immediately following the publication of Barr’s summary.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) has taken steps to ensure Trump has the full backing of the party’s infrastructure heading into 2020, and party leadership has sought to ward off any challengers.
Mueller’s findings could further discourage those weighing a primary bid.