March 24, 2019

Sunday School 3/24/19

Just one classroom this morning - CNN's State of the  Union, with Dana Bash sitting in today for Jake Tapper.  

Guests included former US Attorney Preet Bharara and NY Rep. Jerry Nadler, where we kick things off. 

Focus, of course, was on the delivery of the Mueller Report to AG Bill Barr on Friday, and Barr's promise to get a summary of some kind, the "principal conclusions," to Congress, maybe before the end of the day today.

Nadler and other Dems are very much interested not only in that summary, but also in the full report and its underlying evidence being released to Congress and to the American people. Heck, even most Republicans want the whole report released, confident in its conclusions, I guess. It's against that backdrop that Bash declared the state of our union is "on the edge of our seats."

(As I write this, my phone is blowing up with reports that Congress can expect Barr's summary shortly, so we'll have an update later.)

Anyway -- let's listen to Bash and Nadler for a bit stating with whether Nadler accepts that no additional indictments are coming from Mueller, according to reports, and that no member of Trump's team participated in "that kind of criminal conspiracy" with Russia?. 
Well, I don't know. First of all, we don't know what indictments are forthcoming from other investigations that have been spun out...
Nadler's referring to investigations that were handed off to the Justice Department's Southern District of NY and the Eastern District of Virginia. 
DB: Do you think... he, Mueller, would send that to other parts of the Justice Department?
JN: I don't know. That's one of the things we will have to see when we read the report. And that's one of the reasons that I think it's so crucial that the entire report and the evidence underlying it be released to the public. Transparency is key here. I mean, obviously, we know there -- we know there was some collusion. We know that the president's son and campaign manager were involved in a meeting with the Russians to receive stolen - what they thought was stolen information, stolen by the Russians from the DNC, as part of the Russian government attempt to help Trump in the election...
DB:  But none of what you just said has risen to the level of a criminal indictment by the special counsel.
 JN: No, it hasn't, as far as we know. But we know there was collusion. Why there's been no indictments, we don't know. Let me say further, we know a number of things. We know what I just said. We know that the president pressured the FBI to go easy to stop investigating Flynn and various other people. We know that he fired the FBI director, as he put it - to NBC, to "take care of the Russia thing," in order to stop the investigation of various people associated with him. We know that he concocted the lie about the purpose of that Russian meeting. We know that he - that a lot of his top associates have been indicted and convicted, and we know that he has engaged in a relentless two-year attack against the FBI, various law enforcement agencies. 
DB; So, on that note, Mr. Chairman, what you are describing is evidence to back up what you said before, that the you believe the president has obstructed justice. You still believe that? 
JN: Well, there have been obstructions of justice. Whether they are -- clearly. Whether they are criminal obstruction is another questions. But we have -- the special prosecutor is limited in scope. His job was limited in scope and limited to crimes. What Congress has to do is look at a broader picture. We are in charge -- we have the responsibility of protecting the rule of law, of looking at obstructions of justice, at looking at abuses of power, at corruption, in order to protect the rule of law, so that our democratic institutions are not greatly damaged by this president. And that's what we intend to do.
That led to a  brief discussion about impeachment ("way too early to speculate about that"), but the larger focus was on transparency and letting the American people see the entire document - even, Nadler maintained, if it includes the names of people who were not indicted, which goes against the "don't publicly tarnish someone" thinking that Dems put on the table back during the Clinton investigations. If the FBI wasn't going to indict her, they shouldn't have released all the information they did, according to the Dems. And had all of that not occurred, well... 

But that doesn't matter now, it seems. 
DB: So, why shouldn't allegations that don't reach an indictment threshold - I'm talking not about the president but on everybody else - stay confidential?
 JN: Well, because we need to know what was going on here. And it's not just the question of indictments. It's a question of protecting the rule of law and of obstruction of justice and abuses of power and protecting our government and our whole system.
And that was basically the gist of it. Congress is not the same as the special counsel, different goals, and pretty much no reason for anything to stop. Nadler did say that, if necessary, he'd subpoena to have the report released, and to go all the way to the Supreme Court if he had to, but hoped that they can talk about it and get things squared away. 

On whether he'd "accept at face value" Barr's report of the main conclusions, Nadler wasn't at all convinced. 
Well, we're likely to see what Barr characterizes as the main conclusions of the Mueller report. And we will accept them, but subject to seeing all of the underlying data. We have to make judgments, the American people have to make judgments as to how founded those conclusions are or Barr's summary of the conclusions are. 
He denied saying that he didn't trust Barr's judgment, but that seemed pretty clearly what he was saying, no matter his attempt at spin:
But I am suggesting that people make judgments, and those judgments could be right or wrong, in other words, in making a judgment as to how to characterize an observation.
And on the conclusions drawn by the Mueller team? 
So my expectation is that, yes, I would trust that, but, like any other product of human hands, we have to look at the underlying evidence and make our own judgments as to their judgments.  
I don't know about you, but I honestly can't sit through any more of this. Nadler is giving me a headache, and a stomachache. 

Preet Bharara helped alleviate the nausea a bit. On the lack of any additional indictments from Mueller, here's how he responded to Bash's question about that being a big deal:
It's a big deal politically, I guess. I don't know how big a deal it is otherwise. I mean, the main goal of the Mueller investigation, which people seem to forget, and his mission was not to get someone and not to bring about a particular outcome or result. 
That's not how it works. His job was to be as thorough as possible and as fair as possible and investigate all of the facts, and  if he doesn't come up with something, then so be it...He's made a determination, as prosecutors do, that there's not sufficient evidence to indict someone for that (conspiracy or collusion).
And finally, on the investigations by the SDNY, Bharara's old office, Bash wondered if those were anything the president needs to be concerned about. Remind her that he has no personal knowledge, he noted
I mean look, I think it's very significant and we have to wait. I think that people shouldn't be taking victory laps or jumping off bridges, depending on their political viewpoint, based on the fact that a Mueller report has been concluded and there's no indictments. But Donald Trump is not out of legal jeopardy.
And the Southern District of New York did not have the narrow mission that the special counsel had. And they are aggressive and tough and independent and fair and apolitical. And if there's things that they think are worth pursuing and charging, they will do so. And if that means there's legal jeopardy for people around the president, then we will, I guess have to see. 
And that's where we'll leave it for now.

See you around campus. 

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