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Photojournalists capture four pages of the Mueller report on the witness table in the House Intelligence Committee hearing room on Thursday. (Cliff Owen/AP)

Imagine Sen. Mitt Romney, instead of Bill Barr, was attorney general. This is what Romney's summary of the Mueller report might have said, based on his statement yesterday:

I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President. 
I am also appalled that, among other things, fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia — including information that had been illegally obtained; that none of them acted to inform American law enforcement; and that the campaign chairman was actively promoting Russian interests in Ukraine.
Reading the report is a sobering revelation of how far we have strayed from the aspirations and principles of the founders.

Reality check: Romney isn't A.G.

Barr is — and his selection, performance and public spin have turned out to be of inestimable value to the president in weathering Mueller's findings.

  • What's new: Barr’s spinmeistery press conference broke with DoJ practice by coming before any of the reporters there had seen the report, and seemed only to function as an effort to sell the report as good news for the president. 
  • Why it matters: Whether out of his own instincts or devotion to his audience of one, Barr dampened response to the Mueller report by preemptively describing it in terms that invited Trump to claim "Total EXONERATION."

Even Barr's summary letter made it clear that the report was mixed, at best.

  • But Trump and supporters filled the 25-day vacuum from letter to report with jubilant claims of vindication.

Be smart: It's working. Most Democrats, including Speaker Pelosi, are opposed to impeachment hearings. 

Subscribe to Axios AM/PM for a daily rundown of what's new and why it matters, directly from Mike Allen.
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GOP implosion: Trump threats, payback

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The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.

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There’s a growing consensus among Americans who want President Biden to cancel student debt — but addressing the ballooning debt burden is much more complicated than it seems.

Why it matters: Student debt is stopping millions of Americans from buying homes, buying cars and starting families. And the crisis is rapidly getting worse.

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In a world where most Americans are isolated and forced to laugh, cry and mourn without friends or family by their side, viral moments can offer critical opportunities to unite the country or divide it.

Driving the news: President Biden's inauguration was produced to create several made-for-social viral moments, a tactic similar to what the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign pulled off during the Democratic National Convention.