What could inspire more hope and despair than a whole bunch of people who messed something up being granted a do-over? Tomorrow, all the reporters and publications who gave Donald Trump his “MUELLER FINDS NO COLLUSION” headlines, based on a few sentence fragments in a letter from attorney general William Barr, are supposed to get another document to analyze and quickly write headlines about.
Already, journalists are calling this document “the Mueller report.” It is not the Mueller report; that is, it will not be the report prepared by the special counsel investigating Russian election interference and the Trump campaign. It will be some other document. Its text, like the quotes used in the Barr letter, will be based on the text of the Mueller report, but it will have been edited down for release by William Barr, whose implicit and explicit theory of his job duties is that he is there to protect the president.
This isn’t speculation. It’s a description of what’s publicly known about the process, informed by Barr’s prior work with the Mueller report, his written record of his own thoughts on presidential immunity, and his history as a middleman in previous scandal coverage. Barr is a partisan, not a broker of facts, and it is a basic reporting error to treat material that’s passed through his control as definitive—a basic reporting error that major media outlets eagerly made, last time around.