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For quite awhile, Robert S. Mueller III was one of the most mysterious men in Washington. But on May 29, he came before the cameras to make an in-person closing statement about his time as special counsel.
Mueller’s words were sparing, and there were few pithy quotes. But one unmistakable message came through:
He wants us to read his report.
Because, Mueller suggested, the 448-page report is the best way to find out what the Russian government did to interfere with the 2016 election and how President Donald Trump reacted when American investigators started digging.
"There has been discussion about an appearance before Congress," Mueller said. "Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself. And the report is my testimony. … I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments, that there were multiple systemic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American."
Are Americans ready and willing to read the Mueller report? Maybe.
Print editions of the report have made the New York Times best sellers list, even though a free digital copy is available online. At the end of April, a CNN poll said only 25% of the public had read even some it. Some members of Congress say that many of their fellow members haven’t read the report.
In the days before and after Mueller’s comments, many have said that Mueller should testify before Congress, that his findings won’t have an impact without on-camera testimony or a splashy hearing.
But the report itself is comprehensible and not particularly complicated. It may be long and, arguably, boring at times. But it’s written in plain language and lays out its findings in a clear, orderly manner.
Here at PolitiFact, we have a special devotion to primary documents; they tend to be sharp knives cutting through puffery and exaggeration. And we wouldn’t be fact-checkers if we didn’t love to read. By inviting you to read the Mueller report, we are not suggesting that you take sides or come to a predetermined conclusion. Rather, we’re inviting you to do what we do every day: Keep an open mind while you look at the facts in order to determine what actually happened.
So this summer, we invite you to join a special online book club: PolitiFact’s Mueller Report book club. We’ll introduce you to the report and each week suggest a set amount of reading. As we read the report together, PolitiFact journalists will offer analysis and take your questions. We’ll compile the most insightful reader conversations and post them to our website. (The online book club is free; you just have to sign up for our weekly email.)
In an age of distraction, the ability to read at length and think critically is more important than ever. And the duties of citizenship require us to keep ourselves informed so that we can cast votes responsibly and hold our elected officials accountable. It’s not often that a book club is also an act of civic responsibility, but this may be that time. We hope you’ll join us.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report, April 18, 2019
PolitiFact, "The redacted Mueller report: The fight over what we won’t see," April 17, 2019
PolitiFact, "The Russia investigation and Donald Trump: a timeline from on-the-record sources (updated)," March 22, 2019