Recently posted, and worth reading in full. Some key summations:
But Barr’s summary would also be broadly consistent with many other possible reports. It would be consistent with, for example, a report that finds lots of “evidence of collusion” that for one reason or another falls short of criminal conduct. It would be consistent with a report that describes conduct that falls short of the criminal standard by the barest of technicalities. It would be consistent with a report that finds that individuals associated with the president’s campaign were aware of the Russian efforts to interfere in the election, welcomed such assistance, and did not in any way warn the American public about it—but who did not take the requisite step of entering into any criminal agreement to assist the effort either. It would also be consistent with a report that suggested that Trump’s principal engagement with the Russians was not over hacked emails at all, but instead about the tower he was negotiating to build in Moscow even as the campaign was going on.
Our point here is not that that report suggests any of these things or that if one squints at Barr’s summary long enough, it is actually bad for the president. It isn’t. The point, rather, is that there is a huge range of conduct and findings that would be consistent with this top-line summary. How good the outcome is for the president—and to what extent it puts L’Affaire Russe to rest—depends on what the underlying facts look like.
It also makes clear that the Mueller report creates an extensive record on the obstruction question. And that may well be the point. After all, what is the point of a prosecutor’s amassing a factual record and then refusing, as Mueller apparently has refused, to evaluate it in a traditional prosecutorial framework? The answer the letter suggests but does not state is that the Mueller report has teed up the question of presidential obstruction for evaluation by a different actor—to wit, by Congress—on a decidedly noncriminal basis. Mueller, being barred from indicting the president, has done the investigation, has apparently declined even to evaluate the matter as a prosecutor, and has laid out all of the facts and the arguments for and against treating the president’s behavior as criminal. It is now for other actors to decide whether the conduct Mueller describes is acceptable in a president.
That Mueller was able to write his report, to document his findings in a fashion that can allow for transparency and, if necessary, accountability, is of immense value. The question of what to do with the record Mueller has compiled will ultimately fall to Congress.