«

»

Mar 25 2019

End Of The Beginning

I suspect many of you are just as frustrated and furious about recent developments as I am. I’m grateful that between Curling and Basketball and American Gods I’ve had enough distraction that I have not yet damaged equipment I can ill afford to replace or gotten arrested (I’m always depressed, anxious, and angry, that’s my secret).

I’ve also been looking for a piece that summarizes the events and puts them in a positive context. emptywheel delivers-

How William Barr Did Old Man Back-Flips to Avoid Arresting Donald Trump
by emptywheel
March 24, 2019

When we were awaiting the Mueller report yesterday, I wondered whether William Barr was thinking about two things he had said as part of his confirmation process. First, in his column that has always been interpreted to say that a President can’t obstruct justice, at the bottom of the first page, he instead acknowledged that a President actually could obstruct justice.

Barr — who at the time had no understanding of the evidence — made three comments in his confirmation hearing about obstruction. Among others, he point blank said that a person could not lawfully issue a pardon in exchange for someone’s promise not to incriminate him.

We know Trump has repeatedly floated pardons to witnesses who have, in hopes of obtaining a pardon, not incriminated him.

That’s true of Paul Manafort most of all.

So on the basis of what he said to get this job, Barr is already on the record saying that Trump obstructed justice.

Barr ignores the crimes in front of him to avoid considering whether Trump obstructed those crimes

Now consider how Barr — having been given the job by Mueller of deciding whether Trump obstructed justice — avoided holding himself to sworn views he expressed during confirmation.

In the letter sent to Jerry Nadler (who surely just kicked off an impeachment inquiry in earnest) and others, his analysis consists of the following.

The guts of the letter describe the two parts of Mueller’s report. The first part reviews the results of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. It describes the conclusions this way:

  • [T]he Special Counsel did not find that any U.S. person or Trump campaign official or associate conspired or knowingly coordinated with the IRA in its efforts
  • [T]he Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in [its] efforts … to gather and disseminate information to influence the election

Note that the second bullet does not even exonerate Roger Stone, as it pertains only to the Russian government, not Russians generally or WikiLeaks or anyone else. This is important given that we know the Trump campaign knew of and encouraged Roger Stone’s coordination with WikiLeaks.

Then Barr moves along to the second section, in which Mueller considered whether Trump obstructed justice. In it, Barr doesn’t mention the scope of the activities that Mueller considered evidence of obstruction of justice.

Barr and Rod Rosenstein have spent less than 48 whole hours considering that evidence.

Here’s the thing, though: at least given what they lay out here, they only considered whether Trump was covering up his involvement in the hack-and-leak operation. It doesn’t consider whether Trump was covering up a quid pro quo, which is what there is abundant evidence of.

They didn’t consider whether Trump obstructed the crime that he appears to have obstructed. They considered whether he obstructed a different crime. And having considered whether Trump obstructed the crime he didn’t commit, rather than considering whether he obstructed the crime he did commit, they decided not to charge him with a crime.

Greg Sargent at the WaPo is also helpful-

Trump won with illicit help. He abused his power. His AG is blocking a full reckoning.
By Greg Sargent, Washington Post
March 25, 2019

  1. Donald Trump got elected president in part due to a massive foreign attack on our democracy.
  2. Even if Trump’s campaign didn’t collude with that act in a criminally chargeable manner, he committed extraordinary abuses of power to try to prevent a full accounting of that attack on our democracy from taking place.
  3. Trump’s attorney general is in the process of preventing a real public airing of the full dimensions of both of the above points.

Multiple news organizations are pushing variations on the idea that a “cloud” has lifted from Trump. The president himself claims “Complete and Total EXONERATION.”

This is nonsense. Indeed, one of the most important takeaways from Barr’s brief summary of Robert S. Mueller III’s conclusions is that it underscores the above three points with fresh urgency.

On collusion, Barr writes, Mueller’s investigation “did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with the Russian government” in its sabotaging of the election on Trump’s behalf, via massive cybertheft and disinformation warfare. As the Lawfare team notes, while this is certainly exonerating, it’s possible Mueller documented collusion-like behavior that fell just short of criminality, but we can’t know without seeing the full report.

On obstruction of justice, Barr’s letter says that Mueller declined to decide whether Trump had committed crimes. Instead, Mueller’s report “sets out evidence on both sides of the question,” and explicitly says that it “does not exonerate” Trump of criminality. That left the decision to Barr, who says he and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein determined that the evidence developed by Mueller is “not sufficient to establish” obstruction.

Multiple legal observers have been scaldingly critical of Barr for making this decision, because of its haste, and on substantive grounds. Marcy Wheeler points out that during his confirmation hearings, Barr flatly conceded that certain types of conduct Trump has actually committed would constitute obstruction of justice. So why the absolution?

Underscoring that point, former prosecutor Ken White notes that Barr is silent on a crucial question: whether he concluded Trump didn’t interfere in the investigation in an obstructive manner based on the evidence, or, by contrast, that Trump didn’t obstruct justice because interfering inherently cannot be obstruction when done by the head of the executive branch.

Barr made this latter argument in an unsolicited memo that has been sharply criticized by legal experts. Crucially, this is also the theory advanced by Trump’s own lawyers. The question is whether Barr based the decision on this theory. If so, as Neal Katyal suggests, this would put Trump above the law.

But we cannot even evaluate Barr’s decision unless we see the evidence that Mueller laid out “on both sides of the question.”

Barr could release the obstruction portions right now

We do have some sense of the evidence Mueller amassed from reporting on Trump’s efforts to derail the investigation. They include firing his FBI director after demanding “loyalty”; pressing him to lay off his national security adviser; leaning on other intelligence officials to corral him; and Trump’s effort to bully his former attorney general into protecting him from the probe. While establishing criminal obstruction is tricky, those are all flagrant abuses of power.

It’s all but certain Mueller has established substantially more about those episodes than is publicly known. And as Katyal points out, Barr’s letter notes that Mueller investigated numerous potential acts of obstruction, not all of which have been publicly reported, meaning there are episodes we still don’t know about.

Mueller amassed all this evidence without exonerating Trump on obstruction. Barr looked at all of this evidence and did exonerate him — allowing Trump to claim vindication on obstruction as well.

“Barr gave the president a powerful talking point that Mueller didn’t,” former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller told me.

But what’s stopping Barr from releasing the facts Mueller established, so we can evaluate this decision for ourselves? Nothing, Miller argues, because this evidence wasn’t gathered via grand jury, which could require the maintenance of secrecy.

“There’s never been any sign that Mueller used the grand jury for the obstruction inquiry,” Miller told me. “The White House produced documents and witnesses voluntarily. If there’s no grand jury involvement, then Barr could release that portion of the report today.”

Let’s remember what this is really about

Trump’s efforts to derail the investigation weren’t merely about halting scrutiny of “collusion.” They were also about halting an accounting of the Russian attack on our democracy irrespective of whether “collusion” happened. Barr’s letter reminds us of this, by noting that Mueller’s report documents Russia’s extensive efforts to swing the election, including a concerted campaign to divide the country along social lines.

We already know a great deal about this from Mueller’s indictments of Russians. But Mueller’s report would likely tell us much more.

We know Trump has long opposed a full accounting of that Russian attack — not just because he denies collusion but also because he reportedly saw the very existence of that attack as undermining the greatness of his victory. Indeed, it’s been documented that this is why he did so little to secure the country against the next Russian attack.

Thus, what Barr’s letter really tells us is that, without the Mueller report, we are being denied a full reckoning into that subversion of our democracy and a full public airing of Trump’s efforts to prevent that reckoning from happening.

Lots of gaslighting coming out of D.C. because our elected “Representatives” and their toady Versailles Villagers are too craven to confront the fact that Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottmless Pinocchio is guilty of Treason. He is a Money Launderer for Russian and Saudi Oligarchs. He has accepted Quid Pro Quo Bribes from Foreign Nationals and Governments. He has Abused his Power to attack his political enemies and thwart the normal processes of Government. He has lied in official filings and directed his subordinates to Lie to Congress in testimony. He runs a Criminal Organization as defined by RICO. He’s guilty of Felony Campaign Finance Violations. And he Obstructed Justice to cover up his crimes.

Just the highlights.

On January 21st 2017 I and about a Million other people just in D.C. alone took to the streets to make the point that whatever was necessary, we would not rest until this Human Stain was locked up.

My resolve has not faltered.