RE: Barr Memo RE: Meuller Report
I thought we should wait to write about the Mueller Report until we had actually read it. Silly me.
We have now seen an incalculable amount of ink and airtime expended reporting on and analyzing the report by special counsel Robert Mueller into “any links and/or consultation between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”
We are told by Trump that the report completely exonerates him. And we have heard demands by Trump that the people who began looking into connections between Russia and the Trump campaign be investigated for treason.
We are told by a four page letter sent by Attorney General William Barr to Congress that the report “is nearly 400 pages long” not including tables and appendices, that the report “states: ‘[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.'” Notice the words “Russian government.” How about Russian businessmen and lawyers with known connections to the Putin cabal which runs that country? A little wordplay may keep a lawyer from being disbarred but it is what they call a distinction without a difference.
Furthermore we are told by Barr’s letter:
The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction. Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Barr goes on to say that in the absence of a conclusion by Mueller on the point of obstruction, “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. ”
Trump uber alles
With this Trump supporters have gone wild, led by the Trump news network, declaring Trump’s complete innocence and demanding the prosecution of his critics. Trump himself tweeted, “Congressman Adam Schiff, who spent two years knowingly and unlawfully lying and leaking, should be forced to resign from Congress!” Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee ambushed Schiff, committee chairman, with a similar demand.
But Schiff, who reportedly did not know the ambush was coming, had a response worth watching:
I’m going to turn to our witnesses, who are the subject of the hearing today, but before I do, and as it — as you have chosen — instead of addressing the hearing — to simply attack me, consistent with the President’s attacks, I do want to respond in this way.
My colleagues may think it’s okay that the Russians offered dirt on a Democratic candidate for President as part of what was described as the Russian government’s effort to help the Trump campaign. You might think that’s okay.
>My colleagues might think it’s okay that when that was offered to the son of the President, who had a pivotal role in the campaign, that the President’s son did not call the FBI, he did not adamantly refuse that foreign help. No, instead that son said that he would “love” the help of the Russians. You might think it’s okay that he took that meeting.
You might think it’s okay that Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, someone with great experience in running campaigns, also took that meeting.
You might think it’s okay that the President’s son-in-law also took that meeting.
You might think it’s okay that they concealed it from the public.
You might think it’s okay that their only disappointment after that meeting that the dirt they received on Hillary Clinton wasn’t better. You might think that’s okay.
You might think it’s okay that when it was discovered a year later that they’d lied about that meeting and said it was about adoptions — you might think it’s okay that the President is reported to have helped dictate that lie. You might think that’s okay — I don’t.
You might think it’s okay that the campaign chairman of a presidential campaign would offer information about that campaign to a Russian oligarch in exchange for money or debt of forgiveness. You might think that’s okay — I don’t.
You might think it’s okay that that campaign chairman offered polling data, campaign polling data, to someone linked to Russian Intelligence — I don’t think that’s okay.
You might think it’s okay that the President himself called on Russia to hack his opponents’ emails if they were “listening.”
You might think it’s okay that later that day, in fact, the Russian’s attempted to hack a server affiliated with that campaign — I don’t think that’s okay.
You might think that it’s okay that the President’s son-in-law sought to establish a secret back channel of communications with the Russians through a Russian diplomatic facility — I don’t think that’s okay.
You might think it’s okay that an associate of the President made direct contact with the GRU through Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks and considered — that is considered a hostile intelligence agency.
You might think that it’s okay a senior campaign official was instructed to reach that associate and find out what that hostile intelligence agency had to say in terms of dirt on his opponent.
You might think it’s okay that the national security adviser-designate secretly conferred with a Russian ambassador about undermining U.S. sanctions, and you might think it’s okay he lied about it to the FBI.
You might say that’s all okay. You might say that’s just what you need to do to win.
But I don’t think it’s okay: I think it’s immoral. I think it’s unethical. I think it’s unpatriotic. And, yes, I think it’s corrupt, and evidence of collusion.
Now, I have always said that the question of whether this amounts to proof of conspiracy was another matter. Whether the special counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the proof of that crime would be up to the special counsel, and I would accept his decision, and I do. He’s a good and honorable man, and he is a good prosecutor. But I do not think that conduct, criminal or not, is okay. And the day we do think that’s okay is the day we will look back and say that is the day America lost its way.
And I will tell you one more thing that is apropos of the hearing today. I don’t think it’s okay that during a presidential campaign, Mr. Trump sought the Kremlin’s help to consummate a real estate deal in Moscow that would make him a fortune — according to the special counsel hundreds of millions of dollars.
I don’t think it’s okay that he concealed it from the public.
I don’t think it’s okay that he advocated a new and favorable policy towards the Russians even as he was seeking the Russians’ help — the Kremlin’s help — to make money.
I don’t think it’s okay that his attorney lied to our committee. There’s a different word for that than collusion — and it’s called “compromise.” And that is the subject of our hearing today.
So where does that leave us? Right where we have been for nearly two years. Waiting for the Mueller Report. Will Barr release it with minimal redactions? Many have doubts. Or will Barr, a Republican political hack with a long history of covering up for Republican wrong doing, who wrote without benefit of evidence that Trump was not guilty in an unsolicited memo last year many see as a job application, turn the report into a piece of Swiss cheese? Barr, having prejudged the obstruction issue, should have recused himself from any connection with Mueller’s work. Even his predecessor, Jeff Sessions, did that.
Democrats in the House are demanding access to all the documents, and a Constitutional crisis looms. The Watergate Report was released in full. So too was the Starr Report, which Republicans insisted include the graphic details of President Clinton’s sexual relationship with an intern.
Whatever the outcome, let’s hope that the news media does a better job of reporting the actual report than it did on the Barr letter. Broadcasters, both reporters and pundits went on and on as if Barr’s representations were the true, fair and complete reflection of the report itself.
Careful reporters, and headline writers, noted that this was what the “Barr Summary” says, not what the “Mueller Report” says. The nation’s greatest newspapers fell into the trap too, their headlines a textbook case of overreach and poor judgment:
They can do better.