January 23, 2019

Feeling confident after helping pass criminal justice legislation, Jared Kushner is now certain he has the negotiating skills to end the government shutdown, now the longest one in U.S. history.

The Washington Post interviewed two dozen lawmakers, people close to President Trump, and friends of Kushner, all of whom had differing opinions of Kushner's political prowess. As a senior adviser and son-in-law to Trump, Kushner has his ear, and he told the president that because he has good relationships with many Senate Democrats, including Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), he feels he can reach a deal on his own. Kushner really is flying solo on this one, doing much of his work out of his West Wing office (which, apropos of nothing, has a Kanye West poster above the door) and away from other White House officials because he doesn't really trust them, the Post reports.

Every morning, Kushner meets with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and a handful of others to discuss strategy, White House aides said, and he's warned Trump against declaring a national emergency. While one senior Democratic aide described Kushner as being "totally a nonentity" and a senior White House aide called him "delusional" to think he'll end the shutdown, his old friend Ken Kurson was effusive with his praise, saying Kushner "could teach a master class in getting to yes" and has "helped the president put together a series of wins that many of those same pundits said were impossible. ... I think everyone in America, on all political sides, is glad Jared Kushner is in the room." Catherine Garcia

11:08 a.m.

The redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report has finally arrived.

The Justice Department on Thursday posted a PDF of the entire report into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which as expected contains redactions, on its website. You can read the report here.

The report was posted online just as Attorney General William Barr was set to deliver it to Congress. He spoke earlier in the morning in a press conference, reiterating his previous statements that Mueller concluded that President Trump's campaign did not collude with Russia and that Mueller did not make a determination on obstruction. Now, reporters are ready to dig in for themselves. Brendan Morrow

11:05 a.m.

White House lawyers were allowed to see Special Counsel Robert Mueller's private report days before a redacted version of it was to be released to Congress and the public, The New York Times reports. Department of Justice officials apparently had "numerous conversations with White House lawyers about the conclusions made by Mr. Mueller," with Axios' Jonathan Swan confirming that Trump's personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, "just told me he first saw the Mueller report on Tuesday afternoon."

Some critics have cried foul over Trump's team getting to see the report ahead of the public. CNN's Jeffrey Toobin called it a "cherry picking" of legal strategy that Barr would let the White House team review the report before letting it go to Congress.

While Barr emphasized in his press conference that Trump's team did not exercise any power over what portions of the report were redacted, the decision to let the White House get a sneak peek could still be consequential, the Times reports, writing "the information that Justice Department officials have provided to the White House could potentially be valuable for Mr. Trump's legal team as it finalizes a rebuttal to the Mueller report" and that "the president's aides have devised a strategy for numerous lawyers and political aides to quickly read different parts of the document to develop a rebuttal strategy." Read more about the White House legal team's early access to the report at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

10:34 a.m.

Fox News' Chris Wallace thinks Attorney General William Barr sounds a lot like a counselor to the president right about now.

The Fox anchor spoke after Barr's press conference about the impending release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, noting that the attorney general got into a "curious area" when he sympathetically talked about Trump's frustrations with the Mueller probe and the media's "relentless" coverage of it to argue Trump did not have corrupt intent.

Wallace observed that Barr "almost seemed to be acting as the counselor for the defense, the counselor for the president rather than the attorney general, talking about his motives, talking about his anger, his feeling that this was unfair … really making a case for the president.”

As a result of this, Wallace imagined that "Democrats' heads on Capitol Hill were exploding." Brendan Morrow

10:30 a.m.

Attorney General William Barr's press conference about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Thursday appeared to let President Trump off the hook for any "collusion" with Russian agents. But sharp-eared listeners also caught some particularly slippery language when it came to Barr addressing the 2016 Wikileaks scandal.

"The Special Counsel ... investigated whether any member or affiliate of the Trump campaign encouraged or otherwise played a role [in the dissemination of hacked Democratic emails]," Barr said. The attorney general added that "under applicable law, publication of these types of materials would not be criminal unless the publisher also participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy. Here too, the special counsel's report did not find that any person associated with the Trump campaign illegally participated in the dissemination of the materials."

That's the point reporters are hung up on: The report "did not find that any person associated with the Trump campaign illegally participated in the dissemination." As Jon Swaine, a reporter for The Guardian, tweeted, in Barr's comments the attorney general seemingly "left open the possibility that Mueller did find Trump associates were involved in the dissemination of hacked emails by WikiLeaks."

The public version of the Mueller Report will be released later Thursday, and you can bet all eyes are going to be on figuring out exactly what Attorney General Barr means with that "illegally." Jeva Lange

10:26 a.m.

House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) is already unsatisfied.

Attorney General William Barr delivered a press conference Thursday ahead of releasing a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report. He finished about an hour before Congress was expected to receive the report, yet Nadler still sent a letter to Mueller right as Barr wrapped, asking the special counsel to testify before his Judiciary Committee. Nadler had apparently made this same request in the past, he noted in his letter, and is now asking Mueller to appear "no later than May 23."

Nadler had already called on Barr to postpone his press conference until after the public saw the report, and his committee issued a subpoena to receive the full, unredacted report earlier this month. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:14 a.m.

Attorney General William Barr on Thursday painted a sympathetic picture of President Trump's actions and criticized the media for its coverage of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Barr spoke about Mueller's probe into whether President Trump tried to obstruct justice, saying it's "important to bear in mind the context" of what Trump did because he faced an "unprecedented situation" and had to deal with "relentless speculation in the news media about the presidency's culpability" even though "there was, in fact, no collusion."

Mueller in his report acknowledges, according to Barr, that there is "substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by his sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency." This, Barr suggests, is "evidence of non-corrupt motive," which "weighs heavily against any allegation that the president had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation."

The attorney general had previously told Congress that Mueller did not make a determination about whether Trump committed an obstruction of justice offense but that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded there wasn't enough that he did, pointing to this evidence he says shows the president did not have a corrupt motive. Upon taking questions, Barr objected to the idea that he was being "generous" to the president with this description. Brendan Morrow

10:10 a.m.

President Trump and his team came out swinging on Thursday after Attorney General William Barr announced that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report found that "Russian operatives" who tried to influence the 2016 election "did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign." Trump, who has tweeted all-caps proclamations of NO COLLUSION at various points over the course of the 675 days of Mueller's investigation, took a victory lap on Twitter referencing, inexplicably, Game of Thrones:

It is, bizarrely, not the first time Trump has used Game of Thrones on Twitter — a tweet last November from the president announced "Sanctions Are Coming" using the same font from the hit HBO show. HBO, though, was none too pleased at that last reference, telling CNBC: "We ... would prefer our trademark not be misappropriated for political purposes." HBO's official account even replied to his tweet, wondering, "How do you say trademark misuse in Dothraki?" Jeva Lange

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