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Mueller report promises to fuel America's blazing partisan fires

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: Mueller report will mark beginning of new phase of Trump presidency; why Crimea is playing a central role in Ukraine's presidential election.

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

Robert Mueller, seen here during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2013, has not spoken publicly about the investigation into U.S. election tampering since a one-line statement upon taking on the responsibility in May 2017. His team's redacted report is due to be released to the public Thursday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.


  • The public release of Robert Mueller's report on U.S. election tampering tomorrow — less a whole bunch of information that has been redacted on privacy, national security, legal and other grounds — will touch off a global media frenzy.
  • Crimea is playing a central role in Ukraine's upcoming presidential election.
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Mueller report

Donald Trump  says he hasn't yet read the Mueller report.

And everything we know about the U.S. president suggests he never will.

For one thing, the special counsel's Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election clocks in at close to 400 pages, plus appendices.

Trump, who prefers his information in bullet points, rarely tackles any memo or briefing that runs longer than a single sheet of paper. It's a habit so ingrained that his frustrated White House advisors have adopted all sorts of strategies to try to get him to pay attention, including visual aids like charts and graphs, and packing each paragraph with mentions of his own name.

U.S. President Donald Trump, seen at the airport in Minneapolis on Monday, has said on Twitter that the Mueller report reveals no collusion related to his election campaign. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

It's not even clear if Trump has fully read the four-page summary of Robert Mueller's findings that his Attorney-General, William Barr, sent to Congressional leaders late last month. At least not when it comes to the part about his possible attempts to obstruct justice. "While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him," the special counsel pointedly noted.

The public release of Mueller's report tomorrow morning — less a whole bunch of information that has been redacted on privacy, national security, legal and other grounds — will touch off a global media frenzy.

There are already dozens and dozens of articles about what to watch for in the ex-FBI director's findings, as well as plenty of speculation about what it might all mean.

But Trump long ago boiled it all down to four oft-repeated words.

What tomorrow will mark, however, is the beginning of a new phase of the Trump presidency. Mueller's findings are unlikely to change many people's minds, but they will add considerable fuel to America's partisan fires.

The White House and Republicans are already planning an aggressive campaign to flood the airwaves and internet with their preferred narrative that the two-year investigation — 500 search warrants, 2,300 subpoenas, and 37 indictments — has been a costly, fruitless "witch hunt."

The Democrats intend to treat Mueller's findings as a roadmap, using their control of the House to launch investigations into the president's businesses, banking arrangements and relationship with Vladimir Putin, among other things.

Trials for some of the people who have been caught up in the investigation, like Trump advisor and online fashion columnist Roger Stone, still lie ahead.

Attorney General William Barr, left, has put himself in the middle of a political firestorm over how much of the special report from Robert Mueller, right, the public should be allowed to see. (Aaron P. Bernstein, Molly Riley/Reuters)

And millions of Americans — mostly those who already dislike Trump — will read the report themselves in hopes of confirming their biases.

They'll be helped along by at least three different publishing houses that have plans to rush the report out in book form within a week.

Ken Starr's investigation into Bill Clinton, replete with steamy details of the president's relationship with Monica Lewinsky, was a runaway best seller in the fall of 1998.

The details might not be as strange and shocking this time, nor does Trump appear likely to face impeachment. But Clinton was already at the tail-end of his second and constitutionally final term in office when the report landed, while Trump is ramping up for his 2020 re-election campaign.

The current president has been obsessed with Mueller for 23 months, referencing him and his investigation hundreds of times in his tweets, speeches and press conferences — more often than he has mentioned North Korea's Kim Jong-un.

People march in New York on April 4 demanding the release of the full text of Robert Mueller's report on the special investigation into U.S. election tampering. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

With the Democrats determined to keep the Russia questions alive, that won't change anytime soon.

Americans have yet to read the Mueller report either, but they already have a sense of what they think will be in it.

A poll, released this morning, found that 97 per cent of respondents were aware of Mueller's investigation, but that only 30 per cent believe Trump's contention that he has been "exonerated."

And even among Republican voters, 38 per cent expressed doubts that the president is off the hook.

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Ukraine election tension

Crimea is playing a central role in Ukraine's presidential election, Moscow bureau reporter Chris Brown writes.

When Volodymyr Zelenksy suggested after his first-round election victory last month that Russia should end its "occupation" of Crimea and pay Ukraine compensation, the response from the Kremlin to the Ukrainian comedian-turned-presidential-frontrunner was curt.

"Russia does not occupy any Ukrainian territories," said Vladimir Putin's chief spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.

He was repeating Russia's often-heard talking point: that its 2014 military takeover of the Black Sea peninsula, followed by a snap referendum, was perfectly in accordance with international norms.

Ukraine's presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky, who led the first round of presidential polls, speaks to media in Kyiv on April 5. (Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images)

Most of the rest of the world has rejected that view and hit Russia with heavy sanctions to back it up.

On our recent trip to Kyiv, we met Sergei Mokreniuk and his wife Elmaz, who have built a new life in Ukraine's capital that revolves around resisting Russian rule in Crimea. His official title is director of Ukraine's "Ministry of Temporary Occupied Territories," and one of his chief functions is to come up with that sanctions list, which western nations (including Canada) use to levy penalties on Russian officials and entities doing business in Crimea.

The Putin government, however, has gone to great lengths to ensure Crimea stays Russian.

It has invested billions — no-one is really sure precisely how much — to build a new road and rail bridge connecting the peninsula to the rest of the country. And billions more to encourage investment in the region.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied that Russia is occupying any Ukrainian territories in its claim to Crimea. (Maxim Shemetov/AFP/Getty Images)

Needless to say, the future of Ukraine's so-called "occupied territories," namely Crimea and the breakaway regions of Donbass and Lugansk, will loom as an immediate challenge for the winner of Sunday's runoff vote.

And all the signs point to Zelensky soundly defeating incumbent President Petro Poroshenko.

How, precisely, a Zelensky presidency might engage Russia in a discussion about Crimea's future is unclear. But for thousands of Crimeans in exile, the hope remains that the blue-and-gold colours of Ukraine's flag will fly over the disputed territory again.

Watch our report Crimea and Ukraine's election tonight on The National.

- Chris Brown

NHL playoffs

The National may be delayed on the CBC television network in Newfoundland & Labrador and provinces in the Eastern time zone due to the National Hockey League playoffs. The show will air at its usual time, 9 p.m. ET, on News Network and online.

A few words on ... 

The perils of couch surfing.

Quote of the moment

"Tonight Albertans have decided that we will no longer passively accept the campaign of defamation against the industry that has helped us to create one of the most prosperous and generous societies on Earth."

- Jason Kenney, the premier-elect of Alberta, casts himself as the oil and gas industry's new champion

United Conservative Party (UCP) leader Jason Kenney speaks Tuesday night at his provincial election headquarters in Calgary. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

What The National is reading

  • Notre-Dame to be closed for up to six years, says cathedral's rector (CBC)
  • Columbine-related threat by woman with gun shuts all Denver schools (LA Times)
  • Peru's ex-president kills himself before arrest (BBC)
  • North Korea nuclear site shows signs of activity (Guardian)
  • U.S. to allow lawsuits over property seized by Castro's Cuba (Associated Press)
  • Russian scientists are developing a "lasso" to round up space debris (Moscow Times)
  • Lucky to be alive after "horrifying" polar bear encounter, couple says (CBC)
  • Dog found swimming 135 miles off the coast of Thailand (CNN)

Today in history

April 17, 1964: Buster Keaton profiled on CBC's Telescope

The deadpan comic spent 17 years in vaudeville learning how to pratfall and deliver his lines without even a hint of a smile before he made his screen debut in 1917. Here, sitting in his backyard, he reminisces about the correct way to throw a pie, the questionable work ethic of the Marx Brothers and why you never exit a scene without your hat.

The great comedian and film director reflects on six decades in show business. 20:47

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About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.