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Confirmation

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The Mueller report took a little while to read, at 448 pages of fairly dense type. (I did skip many of the footnotes.) But it sped along in many places for this reason: So much of what it had to say, the people involved and the things they were doing, is by now familiar.

One of the appendices includes a list of the people involved, a rather long list. Some of the names tend toward the obscure, but a great many, from members of the Trump family to campaign personnel to shadowy Russian operatives, have become household names over the last nearly three years.

They’ve gotten that way through news stories – in newspapers, wire services and magazines – and through books and other media. In fact, if you’ve read the books about the Trump White House from writers from Bob Woodward to Michael Wolff to Cliff Sims, you’ve seen this story. (The fullest still might be Seth Abramson’s Proof of Collusion, which covered much of the same territory as the Mueller Report but also reaches further back in time.)

It’s not that there’s nothing new here. There are new pieces, and even some striking quotes from Donald Trump, and a good deal of additional context has been added. Even if you’ve read many of the earlier reports, there’s reason to add this one to your reading list. (And it reads in a clear enough manner that non-lawyers can absorb it readily enough.)

But the really striking thing about the Mueller Report is this: It confirms so much of what we already knew.

If you thought, or wondered, if much of what we’ve been told about the White House, Russia, cover-ups and related matters was true, then the Mueller Report as much as anything else serves as confirmation of it. Seldom has so much investigative work by news reporters been so firmly nailed down – by documents, sworn testimony and much more – than it has in this case. Mueller did not set out simply to provide confirmation of news reporting, but he wound up doing it.

Others have remarked about how no additional new charges came out of the final report, and the president was neither charged nor exonerated. And the point has been made, as Mueller took great care to do, that he felt constrained (by Justice Department rules and procedures, legal definitions and interpretations and other considerations) when deciding not to turn the final report into a prosecutor’s charging document.

So then what was it for? It was written, and in the end released (the redactions raise serious questions but do not seem critical to the overall effort), with the same idea as the news reports were: To shine a light, to encourage action where it should be taken.

The location for that action, presumably and for now, is Congress.

Secondarily, next year, it may be as well in a more scattered location: The ballot box. And that might come be considered the final confirmation.
 

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