On April 18, Attorney General William Barr will make public a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Trump campaign and administration. The report, a record of a wide-ranging probe launched nearly two years ago, is said to be nearly 400 pages long and to offer insights into the president’s ties to Russia and conduct that many believe constituted obstruction of justice.
Thanks to a four-page letter from Barr, we know one portion of the document already: “This report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” This caveat didn’t stop Trump from trumpeting “complete and total exoneration” on Twitter.
So, what are we to make of these mixed signals and how do we explain them to our four sons, some of whom are brighter than the others? Here’s a breakdown of how to handle their queries in the days leading up to the annual Seder.
The Wise Son:
We know that your Wise Son is a wonky type who subscribes to The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Jacobin. He has FiveThirtyEight as his landing page and will surely come at you tomorrow with all kinds of questions.
“What are the laws and statutes that Robert Mueller, our special counsel, was working within and what is the responsibility of Congress in reviewing his findings?” he’ll ask.
And to him you’ll explain that Mueller is a man who goes by the letter of the law and doesn’t believe that it is within the power of his ad hoc office to issue indictments, only to suggest them. You can then tell him about Congress’s role as a check to executive power and its duty to scrutinize Mueller’s findings and, if they feel the Justice Department is misrepresenting them, communicate their misgivings to the American people. But your Wise Son probably already knows all this and is only asking to demonstrate that he’s more up on the minutiae than you are.
He likes to hear himself speak. It’s ok. At least he pretends to be interested in what you think.
The Wicked Son:
Your Wicked Son is currently demonstrating a rather edgeless form of disaffection common to most adolescents. He’s been overheard claiming that all politicians are evil and communicating routine false equivalencies about the two major political parties.
So, between puffs on his Juul, he’ll probably say something like: “Why do you people care about this dumb report anyway, and why are you always watching CNN? It’s not like it’ll change anything.” (Note how he said “you,” unconcerned with why he, as an American, ought to care.)
To him you can respond passive aggressively: “I don’t know about you, but my Civics teacher taught me to take an interest in such things.” (Be sure to emphasize “me,” because had he been in Mr. Olsen’s class, he’d have definitely flunked it.)
The Simple Son:
Your Simple Son, Hashem bless him, watches Twitch streams all day and regularly mangles the special counsel’s last name (he’s recently discovered “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and every time you bring up the Trump-Russia thing he does a really unfunny Ben Stein impression by saying “Mueller… Mueller…”). So when the big document drops online, your Simple Son can be relied upon to say something to the effect of: “What’s this?”
If you feel like taking the time with him, you can simply say: “This is that thing your mother and I have been screaming about the last two years. Müller finally released it to the public.”
The Son Who Does Not Know How To Ask:
Forget it. He’s in college. He doesn’t answer your calls.
He wouldn’t ever think of asking you, but just in case you feel like trying him anyway, you can say: “David it’s your father, remember me? I know you don’t care and probably have better things to do, but I just wanted to say the Mueller report is out and you can read it. It says some interesting things. Call your mother. Also it’s your Zayde’s birthday, don’t forget. Also it’s Passover on Friday night and we need to know your travel plans. Ok. Again, it’s your father, who pays for your school. Goodbye.”
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture intern. He can be reached at Grisar@Forward.com.