Predictably, the full 448-page special counsel report into Russian interference in the 2016 election offered a much more complicated picture than the one presented in the four-page summary by Attorney General William Barr that had dominated discussion.
While it did, indeed, say that neither President Trump nor his campaign illegally conspired with Russia (or, in Trump parlance, “no collusion”), it also confirmed numerous contacts between the two sides and detailed a litany of attempts by the president to throttle the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
The fight now moves to Congress and the political realm.
Here are some of the potential ramifications:
Democrats made clear they will continue investigating, including calling Barr and Mueller to testify before House committees.
And despite the report finding no criminal conspiracy between Trump or his campaign and Russia, they believe there is enough damning information in the obstruction section to keep the heat on the administration.
» READ MORE: Read the Mueller report in full
“It must fall to Congress to assess the president’s improper, corrupt and immoral conduct in an effort to obstruct the investigation,” six key House committee chairs wrote in a statement. Not that there is a rush toward impeachment.
Yet Trump seems to want the fight, too. He and his allies, while deriding the investigation as politically motivated, also called for their own investigations against Democrats who they accused of ginning up the conspiracy issue.
"It’s time to investigate the liars who instigated this sham investigation into President Trump, motivated by political retribution and based on no evidence whatsoever,” the Trump reelection campaign said.
So while the Mueller investigation is over, the issue seems sure to play a major factor in the coming campaign.
But will Democrats push for impeachment? Despite some calls from the party’s most strident members, it seems unlikely — for sensible political reasons.
Even before the report’s release, many Democrats decided the only way to remove Trump from office is via next year’s ballot. Even if the House impeached the president, the GOP-led Senate would almost surely acquit. A no-win fight that might even backfire electorally, much as impeachment against Bill Clinton did in the 1990s for the GOP.
“Election time is when you beat Trump,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D., Ariz.), who previously supported impeachment, told Politico.
Rep. Madeleine Dean (D., Pa.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said it would be “foolhardy” to pursue impeachment at this stage.
“I don’t think we’re there yet," said Dean, of Montgomery County. "I think we have to actually do our job and speak to the people and expose to the light of the day” the details of the investigation and other potential wrongdoing by Trump.
The report details a litany of instances in which Trump and his aides flatly lied to the public.
For example, it says Trump “denied having any business in or connections to Russia, even though as late as June 2016 the Trump Organization had been pursuing a licensing deal for a skyscraper to be built in Russia called Trump Tower Moscow.”
In another instance he urged chief counsel Don McGahn to deny a New York Times report that McGahn said was accurate. And press secretary Sarah Sanders admitted that when she told reporters that FBI agents had lost confidence in former FBI Director James Comey, the comment was “ ‘in the heat of the moment’ that was not founded on anything.”
In the scope of an investigation into potential federal crimes, such routine deceptions were relegated to second-tier discoveries.
But, even if many have become inured to them, deceptions so blatant remain remarkable behavior for officials in the country’s highest office, and in nearly any administration would be big scandals.
Trump has typically lumped together the investigation of possible coordination and even the very idea of Russian interference as one giant “hoax.”
But while Mueller found no crime, he is the latest in a long line of law enforcement officials who have concluded that Russian interference in 2016 was undoubtedly real, and he has documented it in painstaking detail. Even Barr, while echoing most Trump talking points, stated that Russia interfered.
Will Trump accept that conclusion now?
It’s a vital question because his own security aides have warned that Russia is likely to try to disrupt the 2020 campaign as well. Yet Trump, in seeking to dismiss all things Russia-related, has shown no indication that he has made stopping the country’s interference a priority.
His allies instead blasted the Obama administration Thursday for not doing enough to stop Russia last time. It remains to be seen if Trump acts where he says his predecessor failed.
The investigation has been the most high profile and, politically, the most dangerous challenge of the Trump administration.
Yet if history holds, even this report might not change public opinion very much.
One of the most stubborn realities of Trump’s tenure is that even major events fail to move the dial.
His approval rating has remained fixed in the 35 to 45 percent range, and in the current media age, with voters’ ability to hear the news they want and the president’s talent for promoting his own message, the contrasting results in the report provide ample fodder for partisans to affirm their previous beliefs.
There was no conspiracy, but real Russian contact. No charges for obstruction, but many attempts to obstruct.
Voters may simply return to their preconceived views of the president. Most were already there before the report came out.
The report references 14 investigations that spun off from Mueller’s inquiry. Only two were revealed: one involving accusations against Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, and charges against Gregory B. Craig, a former Obama aide accused of concealing work for a foreign agent during his time as a lobbyist.
What might the 12 others reveal?