The Mueller report is here at last - so what's next?

Donald Trump Image copyright Reuters

Finally. At last. The day has come. The Mueller report. It is here.

And for all the hype, the expectation that Washington and cable news specialises in, on the one to 10 scale where one is a barely audible whimper and 10 is the eruption of a Krakatoan volcano, this is almost certainly going to be at the lower decibel end.

Why do I say that? Because the Attorney general, Bill Barr, blew any cliff-hanger season finale moment with his four-page letter summarising the findings.

On collusion with Russia, there was none. On whether the president obstructed justice, the Mueller report was more equivocal.

And that is fascinating and why we shouldn't just roll over and go back to sleep.

Donald Trump has made clear what he thinks it amounts to: "Total exoneration."

But the one sentence of the report that was released in the attorney general's summary is far more tantalising.

Mueller wrote: "While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it does not exonerate him." And what that amounts to is going to engulf debate once this report lands.

Image copyright AFP/Getty

Jonathan Turley is the incredibly well plugged in professor of law at George Washington University.

"Critics of Trump will come in and they will look specifically at obstruction and find a lot of material there, of conduct that may not be indictable but certainly could be contemptible, or even impeachable.

"For Trump supporters they will look at the collusion section and say 'that's what started all this and they found nothing, and this whole narrative proved to be false.'"

The frustrating part about when we eventually get our hands on the report will be how much of it is redacted.

Helpfully the excisions will be colour-coded. One colour if it is intel too sensitive for public consumption; another if it is material being considered by a grand jury; another still if it is criticism of a third party who hasn't been indicted.

In other words it might look more like a colouring book than a report.

So should we expect Democrats to create a hue and cry? Back to my one is a whimper and 10 is volcanic scale, I think they will be around the seven to eight mark.

Already Democratic party-controlled committees in the House of Representatives are issuing subpoenas to get access to all sorts of information.

They will reject the 'there's nothing to see here, just keep moving along the sidewalk, ladies and gentlemen' - Donald Trump's opponents will insist there are questions to be answered.

But out on the stump across the country it feels different - remember in the US you are never far away from an election.

At the moment there is a heap of Democratic hopefuls hurtling around the country honing messages for 2020. They are debating jobs, the environment, taxes, health, immigration. But Mueller? Not so much.

Nancy Pelosi, the strategically astute Speaker of the House, said this on a trip to Europe this week:

"People are concerned about their kitchen table issues: are they going to be able to pay the bills. So I have not been one of these focusers on impeachment and reports and the rest of that, let the chips fall where they may when we have the evidence and the facts."

Now this needs decoding a bit.

Image copyright Reuters

She's not giving the president a clean bill of health. What she's saying is the last thing Democrats need is a messy and almost certainly futile attempt at impeachment; much better to have a president who is wounded and weakened by Mueller.

One other thing: Timing. It's the day before Good Friday. It is Spring Break. American schoolchildren are on holiday. Some families are at the beach. In the national parks. Enjoying Easter.

And on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are never more than a few yards from a microphone, they're in recess.

It's no accident that the Justice Department is releasing the Mueller report today.

More on this story