Doug Schoen: Barr handling of Mueller report helps Trump score a big win

With his news conference Thursday morning on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in our 2016 presidential election, Attorney General William Barr helped President Trump score political points by framing the Mueller report in a positive light.

The attorney general held his news conference shortly before he made the redacted Mueller report public and sent it to Congress. This enabled Barr to lay out his interpretation of the report and set the narrative that will dictate how millions of Americans will view Mueller’s findings and how the initial details are perceived.

Thursday’s news conference followed a letter Barr sent to Congress and made public March 24 summarizing what he said were key findings of the Mueller report. First, that neither Trump nor his campaign colluded with Russia to win the presidential election. And second, that Barr concluded Trump did not obstruct justice by interfering in the Mueller investigation, even though Mueller reached no conclusion on that question.

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To be sure, the Mueller report contains damaging language, damaging information, and other details that will surely provide new insight into the 2016 campaign and reflect poorly upon the president.

However, Barr’s presentation in his March 24 letter and his news conference Thursday – and the Mueller report itself – make it abundantly clear that the winner politically in all of this is President Trump.

In regards to Russian election interference, Barr said Thursday that the Russians “did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign, or the knowing assistance of any other Americans.”

More importantly, Barr said Mueller’s team found “no evidence” that any Americans – particularly anyone associated with the Trump campaign – conspired with the Russian government to help Trump win the 2016 presidential election.

All of this cannot distract from the fact that in many ways, the news conference was surreal.

I expect that following President Trump’s vindication from the Mueller report his approval ratings will not suffer. And it is now clear that there is no basis for impeachment and no basis for removal of the president from office.

Barr became testy during questioning and was clearly frustrated by reporters’ questions about the nature of his relationship with the president and specific details in Mueller’s report. At the end, Barr simply ended the news conference by walking away from the podium.

It became clear through Barr’s statements that he is shielding the president. He clearly laid out information that cleared the president of wrongdoing and sought to show that Mueller need not present the report to the American people himself.

Importantly, Barr’s news conference will most likely protect the president from any immediate drop in polls.

The RealClear Politics aggregate of polls on President Trump’s job approval currently stands at 44 percent, while the most recent Fox News poll has the president’s job approval rating at 45 percent. The most recent Rasmussen Reports poll has President Trump’s job approval at the highest point among the polls, at 50 percent.

I expect that following President Trump’s vindication from the Mueller report his approval ratings will not suffer. And it is now clear that there is no basis for impeachment and no basis for removal of the president from office.

This will drive the Democrats crazy.

Democratic Reps. Jerrold Nadler of New York and Adam Schiff of California have both expressed their interest in further investigating the 2016 election. I think that’s a mistake. My advice to my fellow Democrats continues to be that it is now time to move on.

Mueller’s report has been the only truly non-partisan investigation into the 2016 campaign. It will be important to closely and carefully review the information the report contains.

But considering the findings presented by Barr virtually exonerate the president, any attempt to relitigate the 2016 election now will be viewed by most Americans as a partisan attempt to unseat a Republican president.

It is time that the Democrats return to the issues facing our nation today and in the years ahead – not the 2016 election – if they want to be successful in the 2020 elections and beyond.

The Democrats must talk about health care, job creation, economic inequality and infrastructure. All these topics were massively successful for Democratic candidates in swing districts in the 2018 midterm elections, enabling them to win majority control of the House of Representatives.

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If Democrats want to maintain their majority in the House, regain majority control of the Senate, and ultimately win back the White House they must focus on building a better and more prosperous future for the American people.

With the redacted version of the Mueller report finally released, it is time that the Democrats stop looking in the rearview mirror, put 2016 to rest and look forward to the issues Americans care about going into the 2020 elections.

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