Mueller’s Report Was Intended to be a Road Map For Congress to Use for Impeachment
The Report is finally here but this day in infamy began with AG Bill Barr standing up before the world and acting as Trump’s publicist/fixer claiming, falsely, that the Report says there is no collusion (four times) and that he, Barr, is the decider when it comes to obstruction. Also wrong. Barr’s statements were riddled with just plain lies about the Report. Shame on him. He is supposed to be OUR attorney general. He is not. He is Trump’s Roy Cohn. May he never live it down that he sold out our country.
The Mueller Report comes in two chapters. The first is about the Russian troll farm and cyber attack and information linking the Trump Campaign to Russians. The second chapter is about obstruction of justice. Chapter two is a lot longer than the first chapter because it is chock full of evidence (ten specific episodes) about what people did and said to protect Trump, warn Trump, and also struggle with their own personal better angels about whether to carry out Trump’s illegal demands of them as Trump tried his damn best to obstruct justice.
First things first. Barr lied to us. Here is what he lied about.
- Barr said that the Russian influence operation described by Mueller was an “attempt” to interfere. It was not an attempt. What is described in the Mueller Report is an extremely successful Russian influence operation that resulted in Trump gaining the presidency. Mueller was given an overly narrow mission. He was constrained to try to find evidence of a clear pact between Trump and his campaign with the Russian GOVERNMENT. When Manafort is described in the Mueller Report meeting with Kilimnik at the cigar bar and repeatedly on other occasions handing over campaign polling data for the key Midwest states- including Wisconsin, Minnesota. Pennsylvania and Michigan, that should have been evidence of a conspiracy. But given the extremely high bar Mueller had been set (an agreement with the Russian government). Mueller was thwarted. He was also thwarted because, as he reports, so many witnesses lied to him. That was more evidence of obstruction. Trump instructed, even begged these people, to lie to protect him.
- Barr tells us that unless the Trump campaign engaged in the hacking, presumably along with Julian Assange (Wikileaks), they have not committed an offense. But Mueller cites evidence about how the Trump campaign benefited, knew, welcomed and was rewarded by the hacking by the Russians and the strategic and timely dumping by Wikileaks. There should be a campaign finance law violation in there because they encouraged and benefited from the stolen materials disseminated by Wikileaks. There is a lot of smoke even if there was not enough to get beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Next, Barr told us the White House and Trump “fully cooperated” with the investigation. That is wrong. Mueller paints a very different picture. He tells us Trump did not agree to be interviewed after many many attempts to meet with him, which would have helped Mueller understand Trump’s intent. Instead, Trump stonewalled Mueller and tried to get everyone else on his team to do the same. When Mueller agreed to try to get at intent using written responses, Trump claimed 37 times in the written responses that he could not recall, could not remember yada yada yada. That was stonewalling. That was obstruction. After that Mueller had a tough choice to make. He could subpoena Trump to appear before the grand jury (and there is a tantalizing redaction that may be covering up that the grand jury wanted to have that happen), but the fight in court would take a very long time and go all the way to the Supreme Court. Mueller did not want to delay that long. So, you could say Trump’s stonewalling was effective. It worked to foil Mueller in the sense that Mueller could not get at the underlying intent Trump had when he did what he did and said what he said.
- Barr told us that the OLC (Office of Legal Counsel) rule that a sitting president cannot be indicted was irrelevant and that Mueller was not relying on that idea. Barr said Mueller was just treating the president as if he was any person, any ole guy, and looking at the evidence from that perspective. That was a lie. Throughout the Report, Mueller is struggling with the fact that a sitting president cannot be indicted, and he has clearly accepted that DOJ opinion and is abiding by it. That means Mueller is not looking at Trump through the lens of criminality with an eye to indicting him now. Why? Because he cannot indict a sitting president no matter what he finds out. Trump can only be impeached or indicted after leaving office. So Mueller provides a thorough road map to do that.
- Barr told us that given the evidence in the Report, Trump is not guilty of obstruction. He and Rod Rosenstein are in agreement on that. But guess who is not? Mueller! That’s right, Mueller lays out the evidence for obstruction all the way down to the tweets, the comments, the demands made on others around him, like Don Mc Gahn, former White House counsel, to do, as Mc Gahn says, “crazy shit” like fire Mueller because the president ordered him to do that. Instead, Mc Gahn tells Trump it would be like the Saturday Night Massacre in Watergate and warns him not to, threatens to quit over it, and essentially stops the president from committing clear obstruction of justice. Should Trump be rewarded for not firing Mueller in the end? I think not. Trump avoided the Saturday Night Massacre by the skin of his teeth and only because Mc Gahn and others in the White House acted as his guardrails. Of course, now Mc Gahn and many others have left the White House. Many guardrails are gone. That is very frightening. Especially with an ever more emboldened Trump who thinks he can get away with everything.
- Barr told us that Mueller lays out the pros and cons of the evidence of obstruction. Mueller’s Report is ALL about the obstruction. No pros. All cons. No two sides of the evidence. It is all negative for Trump. Barr lied.
- Barr insists that Trump cannot have obstructed justice if there was no underlying crime. Mueller is very clear about the fact that obstruction can occur -it often does- as a stand alone crime. Ask Martha Stewart. She served time solely for obstruction of justice. In this case it may have been that Trump was trying hard to obstruct so that people would not find out about his Trump Tower Moscow deal or any of the countless other bad acts he wanted to keep secret that an investigation would uncover.
What was Mueller trying to do with his Report? He was clearly trying to put together a Road Map to help Congress do its job since he, Mueller, was prevented from indicting a sitting president (or so he believed). On Page 2 of Chapter 2 Mueller says he cannot charge a sitting president. But when he looks at all the evidence that he has assembled he cannot say Trump is not guilty of obstruction.
This is important information. What Mueller is doing here is throwing a pass to Congress to take the ball and run with it since he cannot. He is saying it particularly carefully because if you are not charging someone with a crime, you are also not supposed to impugn them. (Remember how Comey got in trouble for what he did with Hillary? Mueller is trying to avoid that.) Mueller was bending over backwards to be fair to Trump because, he reasons, a normal person charged with a crime can get a speedy trial but a president has trouble clearing his name and the disruption to government is also very great.
Trump himself understood the peril he faced once Robert Mueller was appointed as Special Counsel. In a very telling account in the Report, when Sessions tells Trump that Mueller has been appointed, Trump says, “Oh my god this is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked.” Trump’s reaction tells us his state of mind. He knew all the bad stuff he had done and eventually it would be found out if he was investigated. At one point in a reported conversation, we learn that Trump knew in advance that Wikileaks was about to dump more dirt, for example. Trump knew what the Russians were doing to help him out and he was all for it.
After the appointment of Mueller, Trump immediately blames Sessions for allowing this to happen. After that he engages in attempt after attempt to end the investigation, stop it, stonewall it, and get everyone around him to protect him and tweets out his rage with Sessions and then Mueller and the FBI etc etc. This is textbook obstruction of justice. Full stop. Game. Set. Match.
In short, the take away from the Mueller Report is that Mueller was constrained and hemmed in and limited in his investigation. By refusing to be interviewed and by getting everyone he could to lie for him, Trump gamed the system and has seemingly won this early round. But this is not over. Not by a long shot.
Because Mueller could foresee that he would be limited by Rosenstein, by the DOJ rule, and now by Barr, he spun off at least 14 continuing investigations to other offices including the SDNY as well as others. In addition, Mueller’s Report will now go to the Dems in the House. They are going to find a way to get the full report. The easiest way might be to subpoena Mueller to testify in person in an open, public hearing to talk about what he is saying in his Report and bring his Report with him. Even if he sticks to only what is in this report, it is quite damning.
At one point in the Report Mueller says that if the FBI did a further investigation it would find crimes that Trump and his campaign engaged in. Well that’s interesting! It tells us that Mueller saw more bugs crawling under the rock that is Trump and his gang of enablers, but he was constrained from investigating further by his limited mission.
Our country is now at the moment of truth. Literally. Do we care about the truth? Are we going to let Trump get away with defying the law? If he does get away with this, what will he be emboldened to do next? Mueller says in this Report no one in this country is so high that he is above the law. But it will be up to the House Dems to prove Mueller right.
We the People need to be ready to support our lawmakers who, I hope, are going to try to do something that not even Mueller could do- namely, tell Donald Trump he is not above the law. He needs to be impeached. And Bill Barr should be impeached too. And the start of all that is to have open hearings so that the public can understand how bad Trump really is for our country.