|BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP-GETTY IMAGES|
to be Individual One ~ MSNBC analyst Chuck Rosenberg
Donald Trump's lawyers chortled that it was a "total victory" for the president. But beyond the confines of the fever swamp in which they toil in defending the indefensible, the 448-page "Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election," as the summary of the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is formally titled, paints a devastating portrait of a White House deeply imbued with a culture of dishonesty and scheming and an unhinged and paranoid president constantly flirting with criminality as he lurches from crisis to crisis.
In perhaps the most memorable passage in the report, Trump is told in the Oval Office on May 17, 2017 that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had appointed Mueller. Trump "slumped" over in his chair, according to the report, and uttered "Oh, my God, this is the end of my Presidency. I'm fucked."
Despite an abundance of evidence, the special counsel was prevented from indicting Trump for conspiring with America's historic arch enemy to gift him a presidency he could never have attained on his own because of a legal quirk -- not being able to indict a sitting president -- and found ample evidence that Trump obstructed justice although his aides repeatedly refused to carry out his orders to do just that. Mueller deferred to Congress on taking further action.
Herewith are 22 takeaways from the report, one for each month of the special counsel's investigation:
(1.) Mueller, working under extraordinary circumstances and unrelenting pressure, did not let down the American people. He conducted a highly professional, by-the-book and leakproof investigation into the greatest scandal since Soviet spies stole U.S. atomic bomb secrets over 70 years ago.
(2.) Attorney General William Barr, in ignoring evidence of Trump's wrongdoing, not only let down the American people, he willingly sacrificed his sworn constitutional duties, as he was ordered to do, in a profound dereliction of duty reminiscent of John Mitchell during the Watergate scandal.
(3.) Barr, in a March 24 summary of the report, took Mueller's words out of context in saying Trump had no motive to obstruct, omitted words suggesting Trump campaign coordination with Russia, and left out that Mueller noted the possibility that Trump could be charged after he left office.
(4.) The report will not mean the end of Trump's presidency, but it will continue to be consumed by its findings and the several other investigations that Mueller spun off of it, rendering the "witch hunt" imprecations hurled by Trump even more hollow.
(5.) Trump's unceasing scheming to end the investigation was driven by his belief that the intelligence community's conclusive determination of Russian interference threatened the legitimacy of his election. Communications director Hope Hicks told investigators that was his "Achilles heel."
(6.) The report is astounding in its sweep. But while it contains a number of new revelations, much of its content -- including many of the contacts between Trump associates and Russians -- already was publicly known because of news media investigations and White House leaks.
(7.) The report states that Trump and 18 of his associates had at least 140 contacts with Russian nationals and WikiLeaks, or their intermediaries, during the campaign and presidential transition. Michael Cohen had at least 25 contacts, Donald Trump Jr. at least 17, and Trump himself at least 13.
(8.) Investigators were unable to reconcile conflicting accounts about several of the contacts, including a much-analyzed August 2, 2016 New York meeting involving campaign chairman Paul Manafort, deputy chairman Rick Gates and suspected Russian spy Konstantin Kilimnik.
(9.) Mueller lamented that some key conversations between Trump associates and Russians were beyond investigators' reach because of end-to-end encrypted communications or devices that deleted relevant communications or did not provide for long-term data retention.
(10.) Investigators examined in great depth possible criminal charges related to the infamous June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting where a Russian cutout promised "dirt" on Hillary Clinton and interviewed most of the participants, but ultimately concluded there was not sufficient evidence regarding "intent."
(11.) Jared Kushner makes numerous appearances in the report, including his effort to establish a backchannel through which his father-in-law could secretly communicate with Vladimir Putin, but Kushner's covert efforts apparently were not considered to be chargeably criminal.
(12.) The report details the campaign's sustained effort to obtain from non-Kremlin sources 30,000 "missing" Clinton emails that Trump, in a stump speech, urged Russia to find. These sources included now-deceased Trump supporter Peter Smith, but it appears the emails may have never existed.
(13.) Eight key figures resisted Trump at critical junctures: Former AG Sessions, White House counsel McGahn, deputy chief of staff Dearborn, staff secretary Porter, New Jersey Governor Christie, deputy AG Rosenstein, transition aide McFarland and director of national intelligence Coats.
(14.) Conspicuous in its absence from the report is what happened to the counterintelligence investigation that Mueller inherited from fired FBI Director James Comey. The report is silent on whether Trump acted wittingly or unwittingly or under the influence of or in collaboration with Russia.
(15.) About 10 percent of the report was redacted. According to one analysis, 69 percent of the nearly 1,000 redactions were because of ongoing investigations, 18 percent because of rules that generally forbid disclosure of grand jury material, and 8 percent because of classified intelligence information.
(16.) It can be surmised based on the material surrounding two grand jury redactions that Mueller's grand jury wanted to subpoena Trump and Donald Jr. and Donald Jr. may have indicated that he would take the Fifth. If that is the case, it is unclear how they dodged having to testify.
(17.) Another redacted section alludes to potential criminal conduct involving Russian intelligence services coordinating with WikiLeaks the release of hacked Clinton and Democratic emails, but presumably was blacked out because of the ongoing criminal investigation involving longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone.
(18.) Trump's evasion of a face-to-face interview with Mueller on advice of his lawyers, who were convinced that he would try to mislead and lie, proved to be a successful legal strategy since Mueller chose not to subpoena the president because it would delay the investigation.
(19.) The report contains over a dozen passing references to the Steele dossier, which detailed contacts between campaign officials and Russians. Some of the more sensational dossier claims apparently were impossible to prove and some appear to be false, although the report does not say why that may be so.
(20.) While Trump has spent the last two years denouncing the news media and accusing journalist of peddling "fake news," Mueller concluded that the president himself employed the tactic and that the most unflattering stories about him were accurate.
(21.) Victory was assured for Putin no matter the outcome of the investigation. Partisan tensions were enflamed, public confidence in government institutions was eroded, the investigation consumed the nation's attention and Putin got an easy-to-manipulate American president.
(22.) Former President Obama comes off as looking weak. The report flatly states that Russia began interfering in American democracy in 2014, and over the next two years that effort blossomed into interfering in the 2016 election. The Obama administration knew this was going on and yet did next to nothing.
Oh, and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denies lying although the report states she admitted doing so to investigators.
Meanwhile, on Friday the House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena demanding that Barr hand over to Congress an unredacted version of the report and all of the evidence underlying it by May 1, while the House Judiciary Committee announced that it will hold "major" public hearings in the wake of the release of the report.
Mueller, who will testify before Congress, concluded in his report that Congress "may apply the obstruction laws to the president's corrupt exercise of the powers of office [because it] accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law."
The question now becomes, should House Democrats initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump and Barr?
The answer: Absolutely.
Click HERE for a searchable version of the Mueller report.
Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.