Apr 20, 2019

Mueller report shows Trump’s biggest power play

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. 

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11:00 p.m. ET: 5,589,626 — Total deaths: 350,453 — Total recoveries — 2,286,956Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 11:00 p.m. ET: 1,680,913 — Total deaths: 98,913 — Total recoveries: 384,902 — Total tested: 14,907,041Map.
  3. Federal response: DOJ investigates meatpacking industry over soaring beef pricesMike Pence's press secretary returns to work.
  4. Congress: House Republicans to sue Nancy Pelosi in effort to block proxy voting.
  5. Business: How the new workplace could leave parents behind.
  6. Tech: Twitter fact-checks Trump's tweets about mail-in voting for first timeGoogle to open offices July 6 for 10% of workers.
  7. Public health: Coronavirus antibodies could give "short-term immunity," CDC says, but more data is neededCDC releases guidance on when you can be around others after contracting the virus.
  8. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 6 mins ago - Politics & Policy

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

There are no COVID-19 patients in hospital in New Zealand, which reported just 21 active cases after days of zero new infections. A top NZ health official said Tuesday he's "confident we have broken the chain of domestic transmission."

By the numbers: Almost 5.5 million people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus as of Tuesday, and more than 2.2 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 14.9 million tests).

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

Coronavirus antibody tests are still relatively unreliable, and it's unclear if people who get the virus are immune to getting it again, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautioned on Tuesday.

By the numbers: More than 98,900 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 384,900 Americans have recovered and more than 14.9 million tests have been conducted.