Updated at 2:30 p.m.
The release of the special counsel’s 448-page redacted report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election set off a debate online, in print and on the airwaves. Lawyers raised questions about Robert Mueller’s restraint, U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s press conference describing the report and what, if anything, should happen now.
Mueller, of course, didn’t make a traditional charging recommendation on whether President Donald Trump tried to obstruct the investigation, but the special counsel’s team did present 10 “episodes” of possible obstruction.
“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,” Mueller’s team said in the report.
Barr faced criticism over the remarks he gave at Main Justice shortly before Mueller’s report was released Thursday. That criticism focused on whether he was being too “generous” to the president—adopting his “no collusion” line and appearing more as his defense lawyer than an independent U.S. attorney general.
Trump on Friday morning was back on Twitter lambasting Mueller’s report, calling any assertion that he attempted to impede the Russia investigation “total bullshit.”
Debate over the report, and what’s next, will last for months. On Friday the U.S. House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for the full Mueller report and underlying documents. Barr is expected to testify in May—and it’s possible Mueller will get the call, soon, to appear in Congress.
Here’s a roundup of some of the things lawyers are writing and saying:
>> Robert Bauer, former Obama White House counsel: “Mueller’s restraint reveals the continued imperfection of the system for containing presidential misconduct. Trying yet one more time to fix that system is an urgent task.” [The Atlantic]
>> George Conway, Wachtel, Lipton, Rosen & Katz counsel and husband of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway: “The special counsel’s report is damning. Mueller couldn’t say, with any ‘confidence,’ that the president of the United States is not a criminal. He said, stunningly, that ‘if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.’ Mueller did not so state. That’s especially damning because the ultimate issue shouldn’t be—and isn’t—whether the president committed a criminal act. As I wrote not long ago, Americans should expect far more than merely that their president not be provably a criminal. In fact, the Constitution demands it.” [The Washington Post]
>> Kenneth Starr, former D.C. Circuit judge who served as the independent counsel investigating President Bill Clinton: “There was no obstruction here. The 10 obstructive acts don’t add up to be an obstruction of justice in the criminal sense.” Starr added: “The law cares about what is done, not what is thought and what is said. And so the president’s instincts were very aggressive. He knows how to fire people and he fires people. But, guess what? He may have come to the brink but he didn’t walk across that as it were a red line.” [Fox News]
>> Neal Katyal of Hogan Lovells and Joshua Geltzer, executive director of Georgetown’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection: ”The redacted version of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report made one thing quite clear: Attorney General William Barr has gone out of his way to try to exonerate the president.” [The Washington Post]
>> Ty Cobb, former lawyer for President Donald Trump: “People would be astonished to know how collaborative—as opposed to adversarial—it was. Everybody had an interest in doing this professionally and appropriately for the country. You know, there were disagreements, but they were never personal. There were negotiations. Once it was agreed what would be provided, there was every effort to make that happen quickly. All the documents were provided in a period of 90 days or so once an agreement was reached as to what documents were desired.” Cobb said he thought Barr’s four-page summary, issued last month, “compares very favorably with the report.” [CBS News]
>> Shanlon Wu of Wu, Grohovsky & Whipple, and former Rick Gates defense lawyer: “To me, they laid out a chargeable obstruction case.” [Reuters]
>> George Terwilliger III, a McGuireWoods partner and former deputy U.S. attorney general: “[Barr] knows the report’s going to be out there. The fact that he saw fit to talk to the press about the report and the process and the reasons for the steps that he took seem to me to be being quite open, rather than something nefarious.” [The Washington Post]
>> Robert Litt, of counsel at Morrison & Foerster: “[Barr has] really shown himself to be principally focused on defending the president.” [Reuters]
>> John Yoo, law professor at the University of California at Berkeley: “It’s impeachment or bust. That’s the message sent by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to critics of President Trump. In his release of the Mueller report Thursday, Attorney General William P. Barr only underscored this lesson by finding that the evidence does not support charging the president with obstruction of justice.” [The Washington Post]
>> Jennifer Daskal of American University Washington College of Law: “Perhaps one of the most striking takeaways from the report is the degree to which the president and those close to him tried their very best to coerce, coordinate and conspire—and ultimately break the law—but couldn’t quite succeed in doing so. Failure may be the key thing that has, at least for now, saved Trump and his immediate family members from indictment.” [The Washington Post]
>> Renato Mariotti, a partner at Thompson Coburn: “Now that we have seen almost the entire report of more than 400 pages, we know Barr intentionally misled the American people about Mueller’s findings and his legal reasoning. As a former federal prosecutor, when I look at Mueller’s work, I don’t see a murky set of facts. I see a case meticulously laid out by a prosecutor who knew he was not allowed to bring it.” [Politico]