March 24, 2019

Sunday School Extra - The Mueller Report, Concluded

Attorney General Bill Barr sent a short and sweet summary of the Mueller Report to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R- WH), Rep. Jerry Nadler (D- NY), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Rep Doug Collins (R-GA) letting them know the principal conclusions in the report.

First, some background: The investigation was exhaustive, involving 19 lawyer (including the 13 or 17 Angry Democrats, I would guess), 40 FBI agents, analysts, accountants, and staffers. In all, there were over 2800 subpoenas, some 500 or so search warrants, interviews with around 500 witnesses, and more.  No further recommendations for indictment were issued, and there are no sealed indictments waiting to be unfurled.

As to Barr's reading of the principle conclusions of the report (we leaned in advance what Rep. Nadler thinks of those):
  1. The report outlines how Russia tried to influence the 2016 presidential election; documents crimes committed by people "associated with the Russian government" in the influence effort; explains that a "primary consideration" of the investigation was to determine whether any Americans "joined the Russian conspiracies to influence the election" and noted that would be a federal crime had it occurred. And, "the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."
  2. Mueller's investigation found there were two main efforts by the Russians to mess with the election. First, the Internet Research Agency's social media disinformation campaign "designed to so social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with the election." Even though there was no involvement of Americans in that efforts, there were criminal charges against Russian people and companies. 
  3. Second, there was the hacking stuff, with Russians successfully hacking Clinton campaign and DNC emails and then sharing the info (remember Podesta's recipes?) through "intermediaries, including Wiki Leaks." This led to additional indictments against Russian military guys, but that no one from the Trump campaign fell for multiple overtures of assistance. 
  4. The part of the report that addressed obstruction of justice by the president spoke of a "thorough factual investigation" which did not lead to "a conclusion - one way or the other - as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction." Rather, Mueller and his team maid the case both for prosecution on the obstruction charges, and for not prosecuting on them, "leaving unresolved what the Special Counsel views as 'difficult issues' of law and fact." Importantly, and contrary to what the president and his minions are saying,  the report "does not conclude that the president committed a crime, (and) it also does not exonerate him." 
  5. Barr and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein (another target of the president) determined that Mueller's evidence is "not sufficient to establish" that the president committed a crime, and noted that they didn't take into consideration the constitutional issues around indicting and prosecuting a sitting president. Instead, they relied on Mueller's own information, including that "the evidence does not establish" that Trump was involved in any underlying crime tied to Russian interference, which makes proving obstruction much harder.  So, basically, Barr and Rosenstein did the same thing that James Comey did when he determined that not prosecutor would charge anyone who did what Hillary Clinton did.
Barr had said, in the hearing on his nomination that it was his intention all along to release as much information as he could of Mueller's report, within the confines of the law and Justice Department policies. That's going to take some time, as there's a lot of stuff that needs to be reviewed so as not to violate the confidentiality of grand jury matters, for example, or anything related to the spin-off investigations in New York and Virginia. Mueller is going to assist to make that happen as soon as possible.

In the meantime, we wait, and watch as the House and Senate majorities go their different different ways on all of this. The one thing we know for sure is that there will be investigations, with different targets, unless the leadership in both the House and the Senate can wrangle their respective folks in.

The larger issue, for me at least, is this: at what point do the majority Dems in the House turn their attention to governing, to legislating, to working on the things that have a direct impact on us? You know, taxes and social security and Medicare and voting rights and redistricting and not completely crashing the US and global economies with their Green New Deal, or wiping out the sixth of the economy that is health care and health insurance, and so on.

Those are things that we are just as entitled to as we are the Mueller report. 

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