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Could The Release Of The Mueller Report Change President Trump's Narrative?


President Trump's take on all this - no collusion, no obstruction, complete and total exoneration. And we know all that because that's what the president tweeted shortly after Attorney General William Barr released his four-page summary of the Mueller report last month. So could the release of the report change the president's narrative, or how could it affect the political landscape in Washington? We're going to tackle some of these questions with Susan Glasser. She writes the Letter From Washington column for The New Yorker. Welcome to the studio.

SUSAN GLASSER: Thank you so much.

CORNISH: So as we just heard Carrie say, there is a lot of nuance that could be revealed in the report, right? For example, the reason why Robert Mueller decided not to charge the president with obstruction of justice because of - was it because of Justice Department policy or was it because he truly did not obstruct justice? But have perceptions been set already?

GLASSER: Well, that's right. There's obviously not a lot of nuance that can be conveyed in either a four-page letter or a 140-character tweet. And President Trump has been very clear in trying to establish a political narrative around what the attorney general has characterized as the findings in the report. So the question is, is there anything that's going to change, essentially, the political point of view surrounding this report that we're going to learn? Or, essentially, has the news cycle moved on?

Remember, President Trump has had such a consistent approval and disapproval rating. Basically, people's minds are made up about the president. And so I think, from the point of view of Washington and politics, one big question - is there anything in this report - any fact, any conclusion, any information - that offers the possibility of changing the minds of the very few people whose minds are still available to be changed about the president?

CORNISH: Right. I mean, did poll numbers tell us anything even when the summary first came out? We've had, you know, some time since then.

GLASSER: Well, that's right. I mean, look. Consistently, surveys have shown that people in both parties want the report released. It took a little bit of time, but you have seen Republicans migrating around to the narrative that the president has offered for them that, in fact, this report does offer exoneration and vindication. But interestingly, the president himself appears to be somewhat more nervous and concerned about what is actually in this report than he was initially.

Remember, there was this sort of jubilance. The president was in Florida at his golf club when the initial reports about the report came out. And he exclaimed with what clearly was a great relief that he was off scot-free. There was no collusion. Now he's back to criticizing - just this morning, again in a tweet - the Mueller team, who has written this report, as if they were partisan, angry Democrats. And you hear increasing calls on the Republican side that they should investigate the investigators.

CORNISH: Right. This is questions about whether or not the investigators surveilled the Trump campaign, whether they overstepped in doing so. In the time we have left, what does this mean for Democrats?

GLASSER: Well, there was already a very, very robust debate that's only likely to grow about 2020 and how best to confront and to run against Donald Trump. Is it about his character? Is it about his conduct while in office? Is it about questions that may be raised in the Mueller report and other investigations? Or should Democrats really pursue a conversation and offering the American people their substantive, policy-oriented agenda? And I think this will help to answer some of that debate a little bit, what we find out this week.

CORNISH: That's Susan Glasser, staff writer at The New Yorker. Thank you for speaking with us.

GLASSER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.