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opinion

Donald Trump has won his greatest moment of vindication since his election victory in the 2016 election. The Mueller report summary released on Sunday was an I-told-you-so moment for him, an eat-crow day for the Democrats.

“No collusion,” the U.S. President has shouted dozens of times during the 22 months of the Mueller investigation into alleged collusion between Republicans and Russians in the 2016 election campaign. Opponents didn’t believe him. They had a track record to look at. It showed that he was a serial liar, a truth fornicator of considerable renown.

But they have to believe him now. The Mueller report summary was unequivocal on the point. The Russians offered help, the report said. The Trump team did not join hands with them.

Collusion was the question that towered over everything. We can imagine Mr. Trump will be pillorying the Democrats and berating the “fake news” media on the point from now to the 2020 election. In terms of his re-election chances, an enormous burden has been lifted.

On the second big allegation – whether the President committed obstruction of justice – the report is less clear. According to the summary points of the report delivered by Attorney-General William Barr to Congress Sunday, “The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’”

But in interpreting Mr. Mueller’s report, Mr. Barr, an appointee of the President, explained that “the report identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct.” Part of the reasoning is the argument that you can’t have obstruction when there is no underlying crime. The report established no underlying crime.

After spending the morning golfing with Senator Lindsey Graham in Palm Beach, Mr. Trump called the report “a complete and total exoneration.”

The Democrats will not be treating it that way. Because there isn't enough evidence for criminal charges doesn't mean there is not enough evidence for political charges or for even starting impeachment proceedings.

So much will depend on what is in the full report. All Congress saw Sunday was a four-page summary which Mr. Mueller did not take part in drawing up. How much of the full report will be disclosed is uncertain. All grand jury testimony, for instance, will not be made public.

But any effort by the Democrats to prolong the fight will be met with derision not only by President Trump’s base but likely by Americans who have been undecided on the question. In his reaction Mr. Trump threatened to go after the Democrats, saying what has transpired is “an illegal takedown that failed.” He said that hopefully someone will be looking at that. He might ever well make that happen.

The President will now feel more empowered to lord over the Justice Department and intelligence agencies, which he has castigated ever since the Mueller inquiry was called. If he has been authoritarian in his disposition of presidential powers to date, just watch him in the time to come.

James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence and a biting critic of Mr. Trump, changed his tune Sunday. Mr. Trump and his team are “spiking the ball in the end zone with some justification,” he said.

The Mueller inquiry is only one of many legal hurdles the President faces. Federal and state prosecutors are engaged in as many as a dozen other investigations, most of which emanated from findings by Mr. Mueller and his team. Those cases will proceed in courtrooms in New York, Virginia and Washington and will likely continue into the election campaign season next year.

As well congressional committees have been holding investigations in regard to Russian electoral interference. The Mueller report summary will not stop them. They could well subpoena Mr. Mueller and probe further, especially on his statement that Mr. Trump is not exonerated.

Mr. Trump and his friends at Fox News will particular delight in the coming months in mockery of the media for giving the collusion story so much priority over the last two years. Expect to see Mr. Trump’s phrase “enemy of the people” used time and time again, not only with respect to reporting on Russian collusion but in respect to any other allegations thrown at him.

As he has repeatedly demonstrated through crisis after crisis throughout his pre-political career and during this time as President, he has extraordinary resilience. No matter what is thrown at him, he survives. By the look of the Mueller report summary, he has survived again.