Political reaction to the report had been baked into the cake by Barr’s four-page summary last month. Trump and Republicans inevitably circled the wagons and claimed vindication again; Democrats seized on the damning evidence that the president attempted to obstruct justice and was saved only by those around him.
The timing of the report was fortunate for Trump, with Congress not in session and Washington winding down for Easter. Attorney general William Barr also did his best to positive spin on the findings in a pre-publication briefing. Garry Kasparov, the Russian human rights activist, tweeted: “Barr’s press conference reminded me of the Soviet spokesmen reassuring people in bread lines that the grain harvest is again at record levels.”
Responses to the report itself broke down along predictably partisan lines. Trump himself, speaking at an unrelated White House event, said: “This should never happen to another president again. This hoax – it should never happen to another president again.” He added on Twitter: “GAME OVER” with a photoshopped image from Game of Thrones.
There was also a preview of how Trump will attempt to use the report to his advantage in next year’s presidential election, arguing that it was cooked up by Democrats and the deep state in an attempt to thwart his supporters.
His reelection campaign said in a statement: “President Trump has been fully and completely exonerated yet again. Now the tables have turned, and it’s time to investigate the liars who instigated this sham investigation into President Trump, motivated by political retribution and based on no evidence whatsoever.”
There were few cracks in the Republican wall. Congressman Jim Jordan, ranking member of the House committee on oversight and reform, said: “It would be a miscarriage of justice to use cherry-picked bits of information from the report to sow further divisiveness and spread conspiracies that serve only to undermine our democratic institutions.”
But there was plenty of fodder for Democrats and other critics of the president, including his attempt to remove Mueller, which McGahn refused. Mueller writes: “The president’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a joint statement: “The differences are stark between what Attorney General Barr said on obstruction and what Special Counsel Mueller said on obstruction.
“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.”
House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler added: “Even in its incomplete form, the Mueller report outlines disturbing evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice and other misconduct.
“The report concluded there was ‘substantial evidence’ that President Trump attempted to prevent an investigation into his campaign and his own conduct. Contrary to the Attorney General’s statement this morning that the White House ‘fully cooperated’ with the investigation, the report makes clear that the president refused to be interviewed by the special counsel and refused to provide written answers to follow-up questions; and his associates destroyed evidence relevant to the Russia investigation.”
Democrats have called for Mueller to testify on Capitol Hill. Some may even reconsider whether to push for Trump’s impeachment, although Republican control of the Senate could make that a messy and inconclusive process.