At Democratic Campaign Events, Mueller Report Is Not the Main Topic

RYE, N.H. — For Democratic presidential candidates on Saturday, it wasn’t quite campaigning as usual after the delivery of a long-awaited report from the special counsel roiled Washington over the weekend. But it was pretty close.

At events across early primary states, voters asked about health care and school shootings and immigration. Questioners were far less likely to address the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, which was delivered to Attorney General William P. Barr on Friday.

Democratic voters said they cared deeply about the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election but weren’t quite sure what to make of the latest twist, exactly.

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“We don’t know what’s in it,” said Alane Sullivan, 63, a retired businesswoman, after attending a town hall meeting with Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota in Rye, N.H. “One thing about people in New Hampshire: They are looking for answers, and they knew she wouldn’t know yet.”

The lack of questions at campaign events about the report surprised some of the candidates, who had come prepared with lines about the latest development in the nearly two-year investigation.

“I tried to kind of delicately bring it up because I think it is the major issue,” Ms. Klobuchar said in an interview after her event.

Ms. Klobuchar used a question about the separation of powers to mention her desire that the findings be made public — but that was the beginning and the end of public conversation about the topic.

In South Carolina, the one question Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman seeking the Democratic nomination, fielded about the Mueller report came from State Senator Marlon Kimpson, a local Democrat and a host of the event. He asked whether Congress should consider impeaching the president “assuming there’s facts and evidence” that President Trump knew about collusion or coordination with Russians who meddled in the 2016 election.

But others in attendance figured the answers would come later.

“I don’t think you can really process anything right now, because we don’t know what’s in it,” said Amy Drennan, 42, who works for a magazine publisher.

Mr. O’Rourke said that the nation should “employ this mechanism of impeachment as an absolute last resort. Ultimately, that will be a decision for our representatives in Congress to make.” But he also said that the matter would “ultimately” be decided “at the ballot box in 2020.”

The response received warm rounds of applause.

With no detailed information available, Democrats have focused their attention on pressuring Mr. Barr to release the full report quickly. In the hours after Justice Department officials announced that the inquiry was over, Democratic presidential candidates called for the rapid and complete release of the findings.

“My No. 1 focus right now is to get it public,” Ms. Klobuchar, who said she was worried that Mr. Barr would resist releasing details, told reporters after her town hall meeting. “Ninety percent of Americans want to see it public.”

The conclusion of the investigation signifies a turning point in Donald Trump’s presidency, one that Democrats hope will bolster their efforts to depict his administration as corrupt, self-serving and divisive.

But the fact that Mr. Mueller did not charge any Americans with conspiring with Russia to influence the election immediately buoyed Republicans seeking to lift the cloud of scandal that has surrounded the president for much of his time in office.

Still, Democratic candidates and people who showed up at their campaign events on Saturday tended to focus on more immediate concerns.

“Free every Dreamer of any fear of deportation by making them American citizens now,” Mr. O’Rourke proclaimed, responding to a question about the children of immigrants who are known as Dreamers that came from a Hispanic woman who said she herself was one of them.

A middle-school-age boy said he wanted to know what could be done to make him feel safer in his classroom. Mr. O’Rourke called for ending the sale of weapons designed “for the express purpose of killing people.”

If they are boilerplate liberal messages, the messenger was received as something special, particularly in Charleston, S.C., where Mr. O’Rourke, at a town hall-style meeting at a local high school and a Friday night event at an area brewpub, drew largely white and well-heeled crowds bursting with excitement.

Here and elsewhere, Mr. O’Rourke delivered his message with a rat-a-tat urgency, his knees bouncing in rhythm with his words, with one hand grasping a microphone and the other one gesticulating like a bull rider out of the chute.

Frankie Galizia, 27, a human resources manager from Hilton Head Island, S.C., said he was sold on Mr. O’Rourke because of his “relatable” style and because he hoped he would do a better job on issues he cares about, like L.G.B.T. rights.

He wanted to know as much as possible about the Mueller report’s contents, he said. But for now, it “takes a complete back seat to the major issues this country faces.”

The situation was much the same in Concord, N.H., where John Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor, was meeting with voters.

Mr. Hickenlooper, standing on a pair of barstools inside a packed brewery, told the tale of his rise from laid-off geologist to state leader, and then took questions on single-payer health care and the national debt.

Henry Herndon, 26, an independent voter who works for a green energy advocacy group, said he had little reaction to the news that the report had been completed. He stood in the back of the brewery, chewing on a soft pretzel.

“I’m numbed to it,” he said, “the media hype hype hype of this issue.” He didn’t think candidates should be taking on stance on it right now, he said.

“There’s nothing to comment on. Yet.”

Patricia Shearin, 54, a farmer and a Democrat, said she saw no reason candidates should comment on the report at this stage, and she urged them to refrain from calling for impeachment.

“I think if you talk about impeachment you are going to anger those embedded supporters of Trump even more. And we want him out of the White House. I think the report should be made public and hopefully those that are in place to make decisions will be ethical.”

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