Good morning and welcome to Friday, which is also happens to be Passover and Good Friday. Frankly, most of the news the past 24 hours was about the Mueller report, so that’s where the Digest starts.
1. The president didn’t want the investigation, but was it illegal obstruction? Robert S. Mueller III revealed a frantic, monthslong effort by President Trump to thwart the investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference, cataloging in a report released on Thursday the attempts by Mr. Trump to escape an inquiry that imperiled his presidency from the start. The much-anticipated report laid out how a team of prosecutors working for Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, wrestled with whether the president’s actions added up to an indictable offense of obstruction of justice for a sitting president. They ultimately decided not to charge Mr. Trump, citing numerous legal and factual constraints, but pointedly declined to exonerate him. “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” Mr. Mueller’s investigators wrote. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.” Mr. Mueller inherited a sweeping inquiry 23 months ago into whether Mr. Trump or any of his aides had coordinated with the Russian government’s campaign to sabotage the presidential election. The report found numerous contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Russians in the months before and after the election — meetings in pursuit of business deals, policy initiatives and political dirt about Hillary Clinton — but said there was “insufficient evidence” to establish that there had been a criminal conspiracy. (New York Times)
2. President Trump says it’s over, Dems say not so fast. For nearly two years, President Donald Trump and his allies sought to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, attacking investigators’ credibility and playing down their findings. As a redacted version of Mueller’s report was finally released Thursday, Trump resorted to bluster, broadsides and falsehoods to try, once more, to frame the moment as a political victory. It began even before the public glimpsed the two volumes covering 448 pages . The report included an account of how the president attempted to seize control of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and force out Mueller from leading the inquiry. But that didn’t stop Trump from taking a public victory lap, declaring at a White House event that he was having “a good day.” Twelve times Trump took to Twitter in the hours before Attorney General William Barr outlined the findings of the report. The president proclaimed his innocence and insisted that the investigation was politically motivated. As soon as Barr concluded his remarks, and more than an hour before Mueller’s report was released, Trump tweeted a taunt over an image inspired by the HBO show “Game of Thrones.” “No Collusion. No Obstruction,” it said. “For the haters and the radical left Democrats — Game Over.” (AP)
3. Minnesota representatives’ reaction broke along party lines. Members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation have been weighing in on the release of the redacted Mueller report. Not surprisingly, their reaction is split along party lines. Prior to releasing the report Thursday Attorney General William Barr told reporters he had “no objection” to special counsel Robert Mueller testifying before Congress. That’s precisely what Democrats are demanding. Republicans say it’s time to move on. “I want to be able to ask Mr. Mueller, who is a former Republican-appointed FBI director, about what happened with this investigation,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaking with reporters in Iowa Thursday. Klobuchar, one of many Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls, says Congress needs to know more about the report’s findings that President Trump repeatedly tried to block the Mueller investigation. On the Republican side, 1st District Congressman Jim Hagedorn issued a statement saying Democrats should move on from what he’s calling a $25 million politically motivated investigation. And Tom Emmer, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, the GOP effort to win back control of the House in 2020, issued a statement on Twitter saying, “It is time for the emotional, socialist Democrats to knock it off with their childish temper tantrums, accept reality and get back to work.” (MPR News)
4. Noor’s partner testifies. Minneapolis police officer Matthew Harrity testified Thursday he heard a “thump” and a “murmur” in the alley and worried of a possible ambush before his partner, officer Mohamed Noor, shot and killed 911 caller Justine Ruszczyk. Harrity, the only other person alive besides Noor who can speak to all of what happened in the alley that night in 2017, took the stand Thursday at Noor’s trial. He told the court that he heard the thump as they drove through the alley. He said he saw a figure out of the corner of his eye, got startled and started to pull his gun when he heard a “mellow pop and saw a flash. Noor’s attorneys have said he fired his gun that night while sitting on the squad’s passenger side because he feared for his and Harrity’s lives after hearing a thump and seeing a figure by the squad shortly afterward raising an arm. Prosecutors, however, say talk of a thump was a made-up story that surfaced only later, that no officers discussed hearing such a sound and that Ruszczyk, barefoot and in her pajamas that night as she approached the squad, could not have been considered a legitimate threat to the officers. (MPR News)
5. IRRR hire prompts chances in policy. Gov. Tim Walz’s administration has announced it will change state hiring policy after a former state DFL legislator was appointed to a six-figure job at the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation without going through standard hiring procedures. Joe Radinovich, who ran unsuccessfully for the 8th Congressional District seat last year, was hired in March by the economic development agency based in Eveleth, Minn., as a senior manager at a salary of $100,000. The story was first reported Wednesday by the Timberjay newspaper. Documents show the the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation asked for and received special permission from the Minnesota Management and Budget office to post the position for only 24 hours, rather than the required 7-day minimum. In addition, an organizational chart produced five days before the job was posted showed Radinovich already installed in the position. Radinovich had previously worked as the department’s assistant commissioner before resigning to run for Congress. (MPR News)