Trumpworld spent Sunday doing the unthinkable: using Robert Mueller to dunk on Democrats.
There was a collective sigh of relief among Trump loyalists—and a very public victory lap—in the hours after Attorney General William Barr released a summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report, which found no evidence of collusion between President Trump and Russia and inconclusive findings over whether Trump obstructed the investigation.
As Washington waits for Barr to release a version of Mueller’s full report—which he is expected to do in the near future—Democrats made clear that Sunday was just the beginning of the fight.
While top party leaders on Capitol Hill questioned Barr’s independence from Trump, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said he wants to bring the attorney general before his panel to answer questions about his handling of the investigation.
As Trump boarded Air Force One to return to Washington after a weekend in Florida, he told reporters that Mueller’s finding amounted to a “complete and total exoneration.” That line, echoed by many of Trump’s allies, is false, as Barr’s letter explicitly said Mueller’s report does not exonerate Trump, even though it did not find evidence he committed a crime.
“It was a shame our country had to go through this,” Trump said. “To be honest, it was a shame your president had to go through this before even I got elected.”
Ivanka Trump quoted Abraham Lincoln in a Sunday night tweet.
Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign adviser who became a peripheral figure in the Russia investigations, told The Daily Beast on Sunday that “the fat lady has sung.”
“Now there’s a couple dozen Trump associates who want to know where we go to get two years of our lives back, stolen in the name of a carefully curated conspiracy peddled to America just because Hillary Clinton lost, ” he said.
The view from the White House was reliably upbeat, with a senior official describing an “ecstatic” mood among colleagues to The Daily Beast, and the president’s re-election campaign quickly moved to fundraise off the news. “NO COLLUSION & COMPLETE EXONERATION! Dems raised millions off a lie. Now we FIGHT BACK!” read a message texted to Trump supporters.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans hustled to frame Barr’s summary of Mueller’s report as definitive proof that Democrats need to give up Russia-related investigations of the president. “This case is closed,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in a statement. “It is time we move on for the good of the nation.”
Congressional Democrats were hardly satisfied. In a joint statement, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Barr’s letter “raises as many questions as it answers.”
“Given Mr. Barr’s public record of bias against the Special Counsel’s inquiry,” they wrote, “he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.”
In a joint statement, the Democratic chairmen of three powerful House committees also called into question the integrity of Barr’s summary, suggesting he may be loyal to Trump. “We cannot simply rely on what may be a partisan interpretation of facts uncovered during the course of a 22-month review of possible wrongdoing by the President,” wrote Nadler, along with House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD).
Barr could soon face this tough line of questioning during testimony in front of congressional Democrats. Nadler, whose committee oversees the Justice Department, said in a tweet that his committee will call Barr to testify soon “in light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department following the Special Counsel report.” At a press conference in New York, Nadler said he would subpoena Barr if necessary to compel him to appear.
Spokespeople for Nadler did not respond to request for comment on whether the chairman also plans to ask Mueller, or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, to testify before the committee.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told The Daily Beast on Sunday that the panel is considering asking Mueller to testify on his report and the letter Barr sent to Congress that summarized the special counsel’s office findings.
There also is support among Democrats for testimony from Rosenstein, who worked with Barr to summarize the report. A spokesperson for Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), who serves on the Intelligence and Judiciary panels, said she supports bringing in Mueller, Rosenstein, and Barr to testify, along with the release of the report and all of Mueller’s collected materials.
Accessing Mueller’s paper trail is the next big fight for Democrats. They believe his findings, and the evidence that backs them up, are essential to advance their investigations of the president. Barr has said he wants to release as much of the report as he can.
A source with direct knowledge of the investigation told The Daily Beast that it was their interpretation that “Mueller was making a case to Congress, who (unlike DOJ, in Mueller’s view) is empowered to weigh the lawfulness of a president’s conduct.”
After two years of seeing Mueller’s integrity being impugned by the president and his allies, supporters of the special counsel enjoyed their own told-you-so moment. Robert Litt, who was general counsel for the director of national intelligence when Mueller served as FBI director, called the result a vindication of Mueller and “the rule of law.”
“Mueller and his staff have been unfairly attacked for two years, and by all measures they come up with a thorough and professional report,” he told The Daily Beast. “It’s not a surprise to anyone who knows Bob Mueller. But that point shouldn’t be lost here.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that a source with knowledge of the investigation told The Daily Beast it was their interpretation that “Mueller was making a case to Congress, who (unlike DOJ, in Mueller’s view) is empowered to weigh the lawfulness of a president’s conduct.”