All the talk in Washington is that Robert Mueller will give his report soon to the new attorney general, William Barr, and it won't nail President Trump.
It's that we might have to take somebody's word on that.
As a special rather than independent counsel--because Ken Starr made such a fine mess that we changed the law--Mueller will make his report to the attorney general, not the Congress or the people.
The furor--there always will be furor--will be over whether Barr simply passes on the unabridged report to Congress and the people, or publicly summarizes it, as the law permits, in a way the Trump resistance can't or won't trust.
Thus, the next question will become whether the newly controlling Democrats in the House will--either way, based on Barr's untrusted summary or the full report itself--proceed full-speed on committee investigations of Trump on matters presumably covered in Mueller's report.
Our newly minted Trumpian spokesman of a governor, the Full Asa Hutchinson, went on Meet the Press on Sunday to perform an excellent Mike Pence impersonation.
The converted acolyte--Asa once didn't like Donald Trump at all--said Trump was doing a great job and that Democrats will look partisan if they continue committee investigations after a final Mueller report.
Asa, as you might recall, did not appear partisan at all--did he?--as a House member handling prosecutorial duty in the Senate in the late 1990s. That was after Starr, appointed to look at a silly little failed land deal, hung around long enough for Bill Clinton, inevitably, to have oral sex and not tell the truth about it under oath.
The issue was whether one could obstruct justice when he was really obstructing nothing more than injustice.
In the end, it turned out a spectacular waste of time. It takes too many votes in the Senate to convict via impeachment anybody short of John Dillinger in these polarized times.
There is an obvious fair and logical process to follow upon the delivery of this report, which means that process is probably out of the question.
Republicans can't have it both ways. They can't summarize the report--perhaps sanitize--and then accuse Democrats of partisan impropriety if they use their House chairmanships to hold investigative hearings into matters conceivably addressed in a Justice Department report that the Justice Department will sit on.
Only by conveying the report without redaction to congressional and public openness could Trump and the GOP find a leg to stand on in whining about partisan investigations.
Now it is likely true that House Democrats will proceed with committee probes either way--fully credibly without public release of Mueller's report and with legitimate issues of credibility with public release.
It is entirely possible the attorney general could convey the full report and the Democrats could say thank you for the openness and that the public deserves a fuller airing on a couple of these sections even if Mueller determined there was no cause for criminal action.
But that will be for the Democrats to decide and account. It will be for Republicans to assail with some credibility.
And it will be for voters to determine at the polling place in November 2020.
All of that hinges on the thing we don't yet know, which is what Mueller will report.
The speculation of the hour is that, since the report is imminent and Donald Trump Jr. hasn't been indicted yet, the report will fall short of clear findings of collusion by the campaign or the president himself.
And it's that obstruction of justice is a hard standard to impose on a president.
That Clinton could slide on perjury portends well for Trump's ability to slide on heavy-handed firing of Justice Department officials because they wouldn't stop investigating him.
Even so, the report might well be rife with intriguing findings short of criminal conspiracy about this president's dealings with Russian oligarchs and his tendency in office to oblige Vladimir Putin while ridiculing his own intelligence officials.
Mueller is a pro. His work will be thorough and fair.
We don't see much anymore in contemporary politics that is professional, thorough and fair. It would be sad not to let everybody behold such a rare thing.
How the politicians behave after that ... we can only judge that if and until we all see the full report.
First, the full report. Then, the political reaction. Then, the election.
That's how you do that.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at email@example.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.
Editorial on 02/26/2019
Print Headline: JOHN BRUMMETT: It all hinges on the report