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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann
WASHINGTON — The Mueller report makes a damning case about Trump’s dishonesty: One of the unmistakable takeaways after reading the Mueller report is how the president of the United States wasn’t honest with the American public when it came to Russia and the entire Russia probe.
During the 2016 campaign and afterward, Trump raised doubts that Russia really interfered in the election.
But as Mueller writes, “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.”
Trump denied that Putin and Russia wanted him to win.
But as Mueller writes, “[T]he investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would be benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”
Trump said he had no business ties with Russia.
But as Mueller writes, “Between 2013 and June 2016, several employees of the Trump Organization, including then-president of the organization Donald J. Trump, pursued a Moscow deal with several Russian counterparties.”
Trump and his team said former FBI Director James Comey was fired because of his handling of the Clinton email investigation.
But as Mueller writes, “[T]he White House maintained that Comey should be discharged for mishandling the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But the president had decided to fire Comey before hearing from the Department of Justice.”
And Trump wasn’t forthcoming — especially early on — about that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians.
As Mueller writes, “On several occasions, the president directed aides not to publicly disclose the emails setting up the June 9 meeting, suggesting the emails would not leak and that the number of lawyers with access to them should be limited.”
Bottom line: Almost every step of the way – during the campaign, during the investigation itself – the president and his allies weren’t being honest with the American people.
And outside of the questions about obstruction of justice and conspiracy/coordination/collusion, isn’t THIS dishonesty one of the biggest storylines out this entire Russia episode?
Normalizing foreign election interference
On “Meet the Press” yesterday, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani normalized foreign election interference by defending Trump’s use of the WikiLeaks disclosures during the 2016 campaign, as NBC’s Ben Kamisar put it.
TODD: So it is now okay for political campaigns to work with material stolen by foreign adversaries?
GIULIANI: It depends on the stolen material. If the stolen material is — first of all, was it all right for The New York Times and The Washington Post to print against the objections of the president…
Giuliani added on WikiLeaks: “They were putting out things that were true and very, very damaging to Hillary Clinton… It’d be like the Pentagon Papers. I mean, Pentagon Papers were stolen. They were stolen from the, from the, from the Department of Defense.”
One of the pragmatic reasons why Giuliani is making the WikiLeaks = Pentagon Papers argument is that the Roger Stone trial is coming, and this WikiLeaks story isn’t going away.
But also remember: Only one campaign/party had its emails stolen during the 2016.
Only one campaign/party weaponized those disclosures, even after the Obama administration said WikiLeaks was part of Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign.
And the 2016 election was decided by fewer than a combined 80,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Tweet of the day
Impeachment question divides Dems
As we said on Friday — the day after the Mueller report was released — Democrats are facing a gigantic split about whether to pursue impeachment proceedings against President Trump.
That divide now applies to the 2020 presidential field, after Elizabeth Warren became the first Dem presidential candidate to call for the House to begin the impeachment process.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office said they’re taking the Mueller aftermath one step at a time.
“We’re focused on getting the full unredacted version of the report and its underlying documents — as well as hearing from Mueller,” a Pelosi spokeswoman said, per NBC’s Rebecca Shabad. “The report raises more questions and concerns that we believe the American people deserve answers to.”
But also don’t miss what House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said on “Meet the Press” yesterday:
TODD: Do you think this is impeachable?
NADLER: Yeah, I do. I do think this, if proven, if proven, which hasn’t been proven yet some of this — if proven, some of this would be impeachable, yes. Obstruction of justice, if proven, would be impeachable.”
For Democrats, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
If they don’t go down Impeachment Road, they might regret it.
But they also might regret it if they go for it.
2020 Vision: Moulton’s in
This morning, Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., became the latest Democratic politician to jump into the 2020 presidential race.
His announcement video plays up his military service. “Before I knew it, I was commanding a platoon in the first company of Marines into Baghdad,” he says.
And Moulton, 40, calls for generational change. “The Greatest Generation saved our country from tyranny. It’s time for our generation to step up and do the same.”
NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald has more on Moulton’s bid: “[He] may be best known, however, for his opposition to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. His call for new leadership in internal House elections early this year cost him some support back home in his congressional district north of Boston, which includes Salem and the famous fishing town of Gloucester. He later came around to support Pelosi.”
On the campaign trail today: Amy Klobuchar stumps in New Hampshire… And Klobuchar (at 7:00 pm ET), Eliazbeth Warren (at 8:00 pm ET), Bernie Sanders (at 9:00 pm ET), Kamala Harris (at 10:00 pm ET) and Pete Buttigieg (at 11:00 pm ET) all take part in CNN/Harvard Institute of Politics town hall events in the Granite State.
Data Download: And the number of the day is … at least 290.
That’s the estimated death toll at this hour in Easter Sunday’s terrorist bombings targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka.
Another 500 were injured in the series of blasts, which the country’s government has blamed on little-known radical Islamist organization National Thowheeth Jama’ath.
Police said Monday that 24 suspects have been arrested.
The Lid: Almost a go for Joe
Don’t miss the pod from Friday, when we looked at what we don’t know yet about Joe Biden’s 2020 pitch.
ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss
Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky appears to be the new president of Ukraine.
The Trump administration is alarming criminal justice reform activists with a new hiring requirement.
One way aides have been protecting themselves from Trump fallout? They’re taking notes.
POLITICO looks at how Stephen Miller made the immigration policy fight personal.
The U.S. won’t renew sanctions waivers for importing Iranain oil.
Here’s Elizabeth Warren’s plan to wipe out student debt (and how she’d pay for it).
Other news that’s out there…
TRUMP AGENDA: Checkmate?
Mueller investigated whether Trump attended a 2016 chess championship alongside Russians.
The Washington Post offers a deep dive into the special counsel’s Russia work.
Trump is winning over the same big donors who avoided him during his first presidential run.
An armed militia was “detaining” migrants at the border. The leader has now been arrested by the FBI.
2020: Harris’ HBCU focus
Kamala Harris is making historically black colleges and universities a key part of her campaign strategy.
Elizabeth Warren is leading the 2020 pack on impeachment.
For Pete Buttigieg, the next big challenge is building an infrastructure that can harness the buzz.