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Is the last word on Mueller at hand? Not a chance

Attorney General William Barr during a House hearing

Attorney General William Barr during a House hearing on April 10. Credit: AFP/Getty Images/Mandel Ngan

It's Mueller Madness Day

Almost two years after Robert Mueller began his Russia investigation, the nation will get to see an edited version of his report on Thursday. But not before Donald Trump's attorney general, his lawyers and maybe even the president himself get a chance to spin it first.

There's been controversy and bitter partisan fighting every step of the way, so why stop now? AG William Barr has scheduled a news conference for 9:30 a.m. Mueller will not be there. Redacted versions of the 400-page report for Congress and the public aren't scheduled to be available until 11 a.m. at the earliest. That means reporters won't be able to ask questions based on its contents.

Trump revealed Barr's plan in an interview on Washington's WMAL radio. "You’ll see a lot of very strong things come out tomorrow," Trump said. "Attorney General Barr is going to be giving a press conference and maybe I’ll do one after that, we’ll see."

It's not likely the president and his legal team are going to be surprised by what Mueller wrote, good or bad. Justice Department officials have had numerous conversations about Mueller's conclusions in recent days with White House lawyers, which is helping Trump's attorneys prepare a rebuttal, The New York Times reported.

Democrats, who will continue to demand the full, unredacted report, erupted in fury at Barr's choreography for the rollout.

"The process is poisoned before the report is even released," tweeted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. "Barr shouldn’t be spinning the report at all, but it’s doubly outrageous he’s doing it before America is given a chance to read it." He accused Barr of "acting more like a Trump campaign spokesman than an independent agent of the law."

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler tweeted: "I’m deeply troubled by reports that the WH is being briefed on the Mueller report AHEAD of its release … This is wrong.” 

What to look for

Barr's synopsis last month said Mueller came to no conclusion on whether Trump committed obstruction of justice in trying to thwart Russia probe investigators, but the special counsel didn't exonerate him either and listed evidence on both sides of the issue. Now Americans will be able to weigh the evidence against Trump's claim of "TOTAL EXONERATION."

According to Barr, Mueller "did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts" to interfere in the 2016 election. But the report is expected to lay out the extent of those efforts and Moscow's outreach to the Trump campaign, as well as attempts on the president's side conceal or minimize them.

Trump wants the books closed on the Russia probe and investigations of the investigators. Barr signaled to Congress last week he will accommodate him. But an AP-NORC poll found a majority of Americans — 53% to 45% — wants Congress to keep investigating Trump's ties with Russia. About 6 in 10 believe Trump obstructed justice and 53% say that's grounds to consider impeachment.

Locking them up

In support of Trump's demands for tougher border policies, Barr announced a new policy under which detained asylum-seekers will no longer be able to ask a judge to grant them bond even if they have shown they have a credible fear of returning to their country. 

The attorney general has the authority to overturn prior rulings made by immigration courts, which fall under the Justice Department. The ruling would take effect in 90 days — a delay Barr acknowledged was necessary because detention centers now are strained beyond capacity. The wait for the asylum hearings takes months or even years.

Court challenges to Barr are expected.

Janison: Trump card for Saudis

Trump used the second veto of his presidency to turn back a rare attempt by Congress to note its authority under the 1973 War Powers Act.

Trump blocked a symbolic House and Senate resolution that called for ending American material support for Saudi Arabia’s efforts to crush an Iran-allied rebellion in Yemen. The war has resulted in the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Trump has generally spoken against U.S. involvement in foreign clashes. So has his frequent ally Sen. Rand Paul — who backed the resolution. But Trump has made partnership with Saudi Arabia a key to his Middle East policy. See Dan Janison's column for Newsday.

GOPer: Sanctuary threat cens-less

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is all for tougher border policies, but he suggests Trump's threat to dump migrants on so-called "sanctuary cities" as an act of political revenge could backfire on Republicans.

Johnson pointed out that pouring migrants into Democratic-run cities could swell their population count in the 2020 census, putting Republicans at a disadvantage in the subsequent rounds of redistricting. 

“I’m not sure, politically, whether that’s the smartest thing to do,” Johnson told The Washington Post. “I’m far more interested in, ‘Let’s fix the problem so we don’t have to worry about where all these people are being dispersed to, in America.’” 

Democrats have accused the Trump administration of seeking to suppress the count by trying to add a citizenship question to the census. They said it would make immigrants fearful of participating.

What's in a nickname?

Trump isn't known as an environmentalist, but it appears he believes in recycling nasty nicknames on his nemeses. Or he's just running low on ideas.

In a tweet Tuesday night, he predicted the two finalists for the Democratic nomination will be "Crazy Bernie Sanders vs. Sleepy Joe Biden." Last year, a Trump tweet called the former vice president "Crazy Joe Biden," but he seems to have decided that two Crazys at the same time would be too crazy. 

But "Sleepy" also is a hand-me-down. The host of NBC"s "Meet the Press" has been "Sleepy Chuck Todd," "Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd" or other variations on that tired-sounding theme since 2011.

There's also been a lot of Crazy on Trump's Twitter over the years. In media, he's torched "Crazy @megynkelly," "Crazy Joe Scarborough," "crazy @morningmika," "Crazy Maureen Dowd" and "Crazy Jim Acosta." In politics, "Crazy Maxine Waters." Celebrities: "Crazy Dennis Rodman." Nuts, huh?

Cain't take a hint

Former pizza chain CEO and 2012 presidential contender Herman Cain said he won't drop out of consideration for the Federal Reserve Board, even though Republican defections would seem to doom his chances of Senate confirmation.

Cain told The Wall Street Journal that he’s “very committed” to sticking with the process of being vetted by the White House as it considers whether to formally nominate him. "I don’t want an out," he said. "They might be getting a lot of blowback from some folks, I don’t know. But I don’t think they’re getting uncomfortable with it.”

Another 'beautiful letter' to follow?

North Korea has test-fired a "new-type tactical guided weapon," its state media announced.

The move could be an attempt to register the country's displeasure with currently deadlocked nuclear talks with the United States without causing those coveted negotiations to collapse, The Associated Press reported.

After a denuclearization summit in Hanoi between Trump and Kim Jong Un broke down earlier this year, the two sides have had little reported contact.

What else is happening:

  • Is it a big, beautiful stonewall? The White House plans to resist congressional subpoenas for multiple Trump investigations, making court fights likely, and has instructed Cabinet agencies to seek White House permission before giving any documents to Congress, The Washington Post reported.
  • Ivanka Trump, on a tour of Africa, said a visit to the continent would inspire her dad, and she hopes he will go there. “I’ve been deeply, deeply inspired by my trip here. And I think he will be as well,” she told The Associated Press. Trump last year described Africa in vulgar terms as he disparaged immigrants from there.
  • The president's daughter also told AP she turned down his offer to lead the World Bank. Her father told The Atlantic in an interview published last week that "she would’ve been great at that because she’s very good with numbers."
  • Beto O'Rourke was confronted at a town hall Tuesday on why his tax returns show only $1,166 in charitable contributions on an adjusted gross income of $366,455 with his wife. He responded that serving in public office should count. He also said he made “thousands of dollars” in donations that weren't recorded with his deductions.
  • Trump gave South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg a mention, though not an attempt at pronunciation, when asked about potential Democratic rivals during his Sirius XM radio interview. "It may be Bernie has the most spirit over there right now. Could be the mayor from Indiana. I think I'd like running against him, too,” Trump said.
  • Sanders' campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, gave The Atlantic this assessment of his chances of winning the Democratic nomination. "There’s a three-out-of-four chance we are not the nominee,” Shakir said, “but that one-in-four chance is better than anyone else in the field.”

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