After years of waiting, we will finally get to read the Mueller report—or at least as much of it as Attorney General William Barr is willing to let the American public read. The redacted version of the report may tell us more about Barr than it tells us about President Donald Trump, and the document is sure to shape the legacy of both men. A few key pieces of the report will speak volumes.
Anyone suspicious of the president will no doubt be scanning madly through the 400-page document searching for embarrassing details to support theories that Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia to sway the 2016 election. But there might be less than they’re hoping for.
Why not —and what is likely to be the crux of the report? I wouldn’t expect Barr to reveal anything additional related to Roger Stone’s efforts to coordinate with Wikileaks, given Stone’s pending criminal matter. You can also expect Barr to aggressively redact material that is classified or could jeopardize ongoing criminal or counterintelligence investigations. And if something juicy does emerge related to the infamous Trump Tower meeting, for example, or former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s delivery of internal polling data to alleged Russian intelligence operative Konstantin Kilimnik, these facts will matter more in the court of public opinion than in a court of law, given the sizable gap between publicly reported facts and the high bar needed to prove a conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt.
As a former federal prosecutor who has been following Mueller’s work closely, my attention will immediately focus on one specific aspect of the report: Mueller’s explanation of why he declined to “make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” regarding obstruction of justice. This is the part of the report that could have the most immediate public consequences, since it bears most directly on the offense that could cause Democrats to seriously push for impeachment.