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Attorney General Barr submits summary of Robert Mueller's findings

Two days after promising Congress a summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's "principal conclusions," Attorney General William Barr released his overview.
Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI)Director Robert Mueller testifies during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee's Commerce, Justice, Science,...

On Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller wrapped up his investigation of the Russia scandal, submitting a report to Attorney General William Barr on his findings. Soon after, Barr, who was only confirmed last month, formally notified Congress that he'd received Mueller's report and shared a vague commitment.

"I am reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the special counsel's principal conclusions as soon as this weekend," the attorney general wrote.

All of which brings us to right now. The document -- Barr's summary of the Mueller report, not the special counsel's own findings -- is online here.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) warned us shortly before its release that Barr's document would be "very brief," and he wasn't kidding. After two years of intense scrutiny, the summary is four pages.

As you -- and I, and everyone else -- start digging in, keep in mind that this will advance our understanding of the special counsel's investigation, but it does not constitute full transparency. The attorney general's document helps us know more than we did, but this will not end calls for the release of the entirety of the Mueller report and its supporting documents.

This post will be updated, probably more than once.

Some takeaways as I read:

* After we learned on Friday that Mueller would issue no additional criminal indictments, there were lingering questions about the possibility of other indictments that were under seal. According to Barr, those charges do not exist. In other words, the special counsel team's prosecutions really are done.

* On the question of coordination between the president's political operation and Russia, Barr wrote, "The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."

* Specifically on the question of obstruction of justice, Barr quotes the Mueller report directly: "The Special Counsel states that 'while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.'"

* Also on obstruction, Barr's summary added, "After making a 'thorough factual investigation' into these matters, the Special Counsel considered whether to evaluate the conduct under Department standards governing prosecution and declination decisions but ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment. The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion -- one way or the other -- as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction. Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as 'difficult issues' of law and fact concerned whether the President's actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction."

Or put another way, that makes it sound as if Mueller presented the facts and left it to Barr and the Justice Department to decide how -- and whether -- to proceed. It's the attorney general, tapped by Trump, who has apparently made the decision that the evidence is "not sufficient to establish" that the president crossed the legal line.

* For what it's worth, when Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton were accused of obstruction of justice, it wasn't their own attorneys general who made the final call about how/whether to proceed.

* There is no scenario in which Barr's four-page summary quiets calls for the disclosure of Mueller's entire report. Indeed, it's a safe bet that congressional Democrats will seek everything -- every interview, every memo, every note -- created by the special counsel's team.

Whether the attorney general's office will be amenable in response to these appeals is not yet clear. If not, it's likely we'll see a series of subpoenas, hearings, and court fights.