The TAKE with Rick Klein
The end of the Robert Mueller era of the Trump presidency leaves precious little political clarity, beyond the affirmation of the divides the whole Russia investigation has exposed.
But while Mueller’s exit from the public stage forces tough choices on Democrats in Congress regarding their next moves, the major presidential candidates have largely made their choices: They have moved on.
Fourteen candidates have called for President Donald Trump’s impeachment, with no new names added to the list after Mueller’s day on Capitol Hill. The most prominent Democrat to still stop short of calling for impeachment -- former Vice President Joe Biden -- nonetheless says Trump "should be tried" for "impeachable offenses" that he believes the president has committed.
The view from the campaigns is not that what Mueller found doesn’t matter. Even his testimony, with both broad and detailed rebukes of Trump’s honesty and motivations, underscore the severity of the stakes going into 2020.
But what works in a fundraising appeal doesn’t necessarily move voters. It may be that the whole bucket of issues elevated by Mueller and his team matters quite a bit for the general election, but almost not at all in a Democratic primary where candidates and voters have long since made up their minds on Trump.
"Accountability," in the context of Congress, is being used as a stand-in phrase in lieu of impeachment. But there’s another way to replace a president, of course.
The RUNDOWN with Terry Moran
The stage was set. The bright light switched on. The players took their places.
But from the first moments, Robert Mueller made clear that he was not going to be cast as anyone’s hero or villain, that he would stubbornly stay out of the political maelstrom swirling around him.
Again and again, Mueller demurred. Democrats wanted him on the record so he could tell the country that, if Donald Trump were not president of the United States, he’d be indicted for obstruction of justice.
Republicans wanted to use Mueller to confirm their theory that the origins of the Russia counterintelligence probe, and his own investigation, were all fatally poisoned by partisanship and bogus evidence from the start.
He fought on, for the work he and his colleagues did, and for their report, which he kept urging people to read. It’s all there. Not the spin or the conspiracy theories. But the real thing. For anyone who cares to read it.
The TIP with Molly Nagle
While Washington had its eyes on Capitol Hill, another fight was brewing between Biden and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., over their respective records on criminal justice. Booker criticized Biden as the "architect of mass incarceration" for his role in passing the 1994 crime bill and Biden hit back -- criticizing Booker for "stop-and-frisk" policies used in Newark, New Jersey, while Booker was mayor.
Their feud seems unlikely to end any time soon, as the two will be shoulder to shoulder on the second night of the Democratic debate next week. Biden said he’s "anxious" to have a debate with Booker but his campaign is already trying to get ahead of the inevitable clash.
"Since next week’s debate format will give Senator Booker twice as much time to make his attacks than it allows Vice President Biden to respond to them, we thought we would begin to respond now," Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager, said in a statement Wednesday, going on to say Biden has been working on criminal justice "for decades."
Booker’s campaign manager, Addisu Demissie, fired back at that notion on Twitter, saying "That’s the problem."
ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Thursday morning’s episode features ABC News’ Terry Moran and Mary Bruce who walk us through the moments that mattered from Robert Mueller’s testimony on Capitol Hill. Then, ABC News’ Luis Martinez explains the significance of North Korea’s recent projectile launches. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis every weekday.
The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.