Saturday, May 25, 2019

How Will Humans Manage In A CO2 World That Hasn't Existed For 3 Million Years? Ans. They Won't

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Exxon's own graph showing CO2 concentration increase with temperature as a function of time, from this Exxon paper

The news this past week that the CO2 concentration has now reached 415 parts per million, which hasn't been the case for 3 million years, ought to alarm everyone with a pulse and brain wave.  We are basically talking about atmospheric conditions that characterized our planet before the species Homo Sapiens emerged.  A time when sea level was 50 feet higher as well.

Indeed, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has accelerated from 400 ppm in 2013 to 415 ppm now. That is an approximately 6 year interval for a per year change in concentration of :

(415 ppm - 400 ppm)  / 6 yr  =   15 ppm / 6 yr  =  2.5 ppm/  yr.

This is 25 % higher than the previous average rate of increase, i.e. 2.0 ppm/ yr. Given we know that every increase in CO2 concentration by 2 ppm increases the radiative heating effect by 2 W/ m2 we also know that the associated radiative heating is now significantly higher.  This accounts for a major part of the increase of atmospheric temperature with CO2 concentration.

While it is true that  there is a yearly rise and fall   in CO2 concentration and May is usually the peak month for atmospheric CO2, we have also seen each yearly peak is inexorably higher than the last one.  This behavior has been noted for decades and hearkens back to the well -known Keeling curve, e.g.

In the wake of the findings, especially the graphs shown above, it is not at all beyond the realm of plausibility that the violent weather experienced in the past month: over 150 tornadoes in the plains, massive flooding, and triggering temperature extremes between eastern and western U.S., (we just had 6 inches of snow where we live in Colorado Springs three days ago, is tied to the higher CO2 concentration.

In the case of the above phenomena, start with repeated intrusions of destabilized polar air,  leading to frigid temperatures in the west - accompanied by massive snowstorms the past 3 weeks.  The frigid systems then moved to the east and met much warmer Gulf air, triggering violent circulation, thunderstorms, tornadoes and flooding of the Mississippi not seen in years.

And this is not novel at all.   The summer of 2018, for example, was truly apocalyptic, Across the Northern hemisphere railroad rails warped and pavement cracked. Nuclear plants cut power output when their water sources became too hot. Reideer sought relief inside Norwegian tunnels as as temperatures above the Arctic Circle approached 90 F.   Meanwhile, historic rain in Japan caused deadly floods and record breaking wildfires burned in California and Sweden.

On the Gulf coast of Florida, as my youngest brother Mike approached his end with terminal, stage IV liver cancer in May last year, he'd email me about the reeking dead marine life. Near the Gulf living in Port Charlotte, he was on the front lines  of a red tide invasion that generated more than 400 tons of manatee and fish carcasses.  The killer, as he informed me from the Port Charlotte papers?  A marine algae called Karenia brevis, which releases a potent class of neurotoxins called brevotoxins.  In high enough concentration it debilitates and kills manatees and other native marine species.

This climate -related havoc then spilled into the new year with polar vortex intrusions and super freezes, e.g.

Brane Space: Once Again: The Current "Super Freeze" Doesn't Mean ...

 No one could have foreseen at the time that the  intrusions would- by degree - become a repeated phenomena through the spring- as they have been. 

All this now as we've beheld (see middle graph)  daily atmospheric CO2  concentration cross above 415 ppm to 415.26 as measured at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii.  To provide perspective,  this is the first time for this dubious milestone since humans walked the earth — perhaps since  our ape-like ancestor Australopithecus.  

Even more confounding, Exxon climate researchers  predicted the current CO 2 threat as far back as 1982.   When Exxon Corporation was studying climate change seriously, its scientists produced papers predicting atmospheric CO2 and global warming under a number of scenarios, including a "high case" scenario  (well elucidated by Bill McKibben of ) in which fossil fuel burning would increase and previously unavailable carbon resources, from shale for example, would become extractable.

Look at the last chart at the top of this post, which is a chart from one of those Exxon papers (pdf). It extrapolates and projects  from a 1980 baseline, ultimately arriving at almost 620 ppm by 2080.  That level of CO2 concentration has been the threshold for the runaway greenhouse effect, as often expressed by the late Carl Sagan, and former Geophysical Inst. climate specialist Gunther Weller. .  The near term Exxon prediction has been startlingly accurate, at least so far. It put atmospheric CO2 (upper line) just below 420 ppm in 2019 and global warming (lower line) above 1.2°C after we add in the amount of global warming, 0.4°C, that occurred between the pre-Industrial low and 1980 [Hansen, 2018].  But even now many climate physicists indicate these values are low-balled and the actual temperature rise is far higher. See e.g.

Climate report understates threat


"So far, average temperatures have risen by one degree Celsius. Adding 50 percent more warming to reach 1.5 degrees won’t simply increase impacts by the same percentage—bad as that would be. Instead, it risks setting up feedbacks that could fall like dangerous dominoes, fundamentally destabilizing the planet. This is analyzed in a recent study showing that the window to prevent runaway climate change and a “hot house” super-heated planet is closing much faster than previously understood."

The question of whether Americans - or any nationality- can manage in a full out greenhouse world has been fairly well answered in the past week with its devastating tornadoes, flash floods and now - we are informed - a "death ridge" with triple digit temperatures ready to hatch over the southeast.  Now take all these calamities and multiply their intensity by two orders of magnitude to arrive at what life will be like in 2080 with the CO2 concentration at 620 ppm.

Such a projection is what awoke Greta Thunberg to the fact she and her young cohort may not have a future. It may even be gone before 2080.  As we read in the current TIME  (May 27, p. 38) on how she achieved climate wokeness:

"While Thunberg was studying climate change in school at he age of 11, she reacted in a surprisingly intense way: she suffered an episode of severe depression."

In her own words, quoted in the next paragraph:

"I felt everything was meaningless and there was no point going to school if there was no future."

Which catapulted her to become a climate activist, now addressing - and shaming - the rich and powerful everywhere she appears,  from the World Economic Forum in Davos, to the UN Climate Change Conference in Poland.  

Will Thunberg's activist push,  getting others of her generation on board halt or slow the hurtle toward climate catastrophe? Probably not, but at least she is making a last stand for her generation and shaming those energy-guzzlers who have squandered the planet for them.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Mueller Wants To Testify In Private? A Non-Starter - We Need Men (Patriots), Not Mice

The hyper- cerebral, reserved Bob Mueller of today was a courageous FBI head who didn't dodge public hearings in the past.

"I think Robert Mueller is a little bit too concerned that his work could be interpreted politically.  You cannot take quite so much of the politics out of politics. ..While I certainly understand the idea that when you get put in front of a camera - given congress the way that it is - a lot of people are going to be grandstanding to create that one viral moment. 

Nevertheless the idea you don't do it because it could be politicized to the American people, I mean you're working for the American people.  So that doesn't quite add up to me".  Ezra Klein last night on 'Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell'

The news that broke last night on MSNBC (out of the mouth of Jerrold Nadler), that Robert Mueller has agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee in private - but not in public -  left many Dems deflated as it would.   The Mueller news broke mere hours after we earlier learned that Trump has given William Barr unprecedented authority to access select information (e.g. on FBI secret warrants etc.) to declassify.   That gives Barr the total power to control the narrative on the origins of the Russia investigation and the gist of the Mueller report itself. Even more worrying, that this fecal administration - full of obsequious sycophants-  now intends to use the 1917 Espionage Act against Assange as a means to attack and subvert the press and 1st amendment. In the words of Rachel Maddow last night:

"The Justice Department today just put every journalistic institution in this country on Julian Assange's side of the ledger, which I know is unimaginable. But that is because the Trump government is now trying to assert this brand new right to criminally prosecute people for publishing secret stuff. But newspapers, magazine and investigative journalists and all sorts of different entities publish secret stuff all the time. That is the bread and butter of what we do.... This is now a novel, legal effort to punch a huge hole in the first amendment, by labeling it spying, labeling it criminal espionage to publish secret stuff."

Anyone with half a brain should clearly be able to see we are in the midst of a 4-alarm constitutional fire that elicits the question of which patriot or patriots will step forth to put it out. The relentless stonewalling by Trump and his minions of the congress' oversight duty, by blocking all subpoenas, have brought us here. But also Barr himself twisting the significance and findings of Mueller's report two months ago.   

All of which begs the question of whether the guy who spent two years investigating the Trump criminal enterprise (with over 38 indictments) is a man - by that I mean a true patriot in these most parlous times   - or a veritable mouse?  This must be asked because all of Mueller's reservations about not wishing to be a political spectacle aside, his country desperately needs his testicular fortitude right now. Given how many subpoenas have been blown off, Trump aides denied appearing for House hearings,  this is Mueller's time to come forward. This is his time and opportunity to speak to Americans with cameras rolling, like John Dean did 45 years ago. 

The narrative that Mueller is a quiet man of rectitude who opts not to be in the spotlight in the midst of a "political circus" (which we know House GOOPs would create), was also shattered last night.  This was compliments of former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld (on MSNBCs 'Last  Word').  As Weld pointedly noted:

"I suspect he wants to avoid a circus. But he's testified many times before in high pressure situations with a lot of members from both parties from time to time being angry at the performance of the FBI. And he always stood there and took it. And he can do that again, believe me, he's a tough guy. I've worked shoulder to shoulder with him and he can more than hold his own."

Terrific that Mueller is - or was - a "tough guy"  and "could hold his own" in open hearings, but we need him to do that now in defense of the country, not just the FBI. As former Senator and Watergate prosecutor Elizabeth Holtzman has observed, Americans need to be educated about what's in the report, in open televised hearings such as with Watergate, not just be forced to read about it in an abstract format.  We, the American people, therefore need to see Mueller and hear his voice, not just read his answers on  transcripts! (Besides, as Marshall McLuhan once emphasized, "the medium is the message."  In this case, print simply doesn't carry the same punch as the voice, motions-emotions embodied in television.)

Barr has already made a mockery of Mueller's report, and his failure to render definitive judgments, leaving that to congress. But congress itself has now been hamstrung  in its investigatory oversight role by unilateral and pervasive stonewalling by Trump  - making the Constitution's separation of powers moribund, defeated and now almost irrelevant.

  We indeed are at a precipice where this Republic could find itself soon in a fascist maelstrom, as Trump and his cabal try to ramp up a pseudo investigation of the FBI ("investigate the investigators").  Oh, and use Julian Assange as a vehicle to attack press freedom, via the 1917 Espionage Act.  This move, especially if successful in getting Assange's extradition, would undermine first amendment protections for all citizens.  But especially those in the news media (e.g. NY Times) or those who circulate news ("divulging secrets") second hand that the Trump cabal doesn't want citizens to see - including bloggers like me.

Barely three weeks ago, NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd best summed up the predicament and Mueller's reticence to come to the aid of his country:

"The transformation of William Barr from respected establishment lawyer to evil genius outplaying and undermining his old friend Robert Mueller is a Grand Guignol spectacle.

At many of the most consequential moments in American history, I have watched officials bend over backward to be equitable, only to end up faltering and doing enormous damage to the Republic.

It is possible to be “fair” in a way that is not at all fair.

It’s simply bad judgment, ceding the ground to malevolent actors who use any means to achieve their ends, including flattening and sliming the proponents of “fairness.”

Ms. Dowd at the time was referencing Mueller's overwhelming reluctance to render definitive positions on Trump in his report. Indeed one NY Book Review take on it was that Mueller sought to be scrupulously  "fair".  Well, he was indeed that, to the point of folly and enabling the bad guys to get away with their evil deeds - and now put the good guys in their sights.

The same dynamic is at work  with this desire to do private testimony but with a slight variation: Mueller doesn't want the bright lights and cameras on him (like James Comey faced in 2017, courageously I might add) because it might have "political" fallout and repercussions. Hence, Mueller only wants to be questioned behind closed doors and what he says there released later in transcripts.  But this is the weasel's way out, because Mueller has to know Americans don't have the time or patience to read testimony in transcripts.  Hence, they need to see it live,  televised in real time on TV, for the impact to sink in - precisely Elizabeth Holtzman's point, as well as many other former Watergate staffers, i.e. Jill Wine-Banks.

As a case in point, though I took the time and trouble of excerpting Don McGahn's key testimony to Mueller's investigators - extracted verbatim from the full Mueller report- only 17 have read that Wednesday post up to now.   Not a very auspicious sign, though true, ten times more may read a Mueller transcript. 

This is why we need to hear and see Mueller in full disclosure mode, nothing held back, to do what John Dean did for the nation 45 years ago in his three days of Watergate hearings. We need that patriot to come forward, not the more recent "mouse" iteration who prefers to hide in the shadows - his words emitted second hand in filters. 

This is given how each hearings setback, each subpoena ignored,  is another win for Trump which he will use to beat our Republic into his own fascist autocracy.  The time is critical, and Mueller's testimony in the open now could pave the way for an impeachment inquiry  in the next few weeks

 More to the point, I suspect the Mueller who once had the courage to testify in public hearings - as told by Bill Weld - has since become  a victim of his  own self-perceived rectitude. Perhaps since being named special prosecutor, who knows?   This has engendered  his compulsive 'need' to err on the side of caution:  bending over too far backwards so as not to appear unfair. In the case of his own report, faced with the OLC  trope that "no president can be indicted" -  and Trump's refusal to show up to answer questions in person. Thus he reasoned he had no choice other than to punt. (Though Weld suggests that Barr threatened to kill any indictments if Mueller delivered them.)  Despite all that, as the now nearly 1000 plus former prosecutors attest - his report was an indictment in all but name.   Read it and you will agree as well!  Ah, but yeah, it's too much to read at 448 pages, and hell even a 22 page excerpt is too much to read when there's Fortnite to play and a holiday to enjoy.

The FBI Mueller of recent history, it is true, would face the cameras and speak truth to power -  ally and foe alike. The new "special prosecutor"  Mueller is averse to public testimony because: 1) He doesn't want too many millions of Americans directly seeing and hearing what he said or concluded - because of the political heat he might take, and 2) he doesn't want to lock horns with his old pal and original "mentor" Barr.  But look, that cow escaped after the barn door was left ajar - not long after Barr issued his spurious summary of Mueller's report - when Mueller left that 'door' open to mischief.  I'd also affirm the politics escaped back then too, lest we forget.  

Not too happy about Barr's disingenuous presentation, Mueller wrote in the wake of its release: "There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel to assure public confidence in the outcome of the investigations."

The letter in its totality,  according to The Washington Post, was described as laying out Mueller's concerns "in stark terms that shocked Justice Department officials".

So hey, the cat is already out of the bag that Mueller may not be a big fan of Barr's any more. It's long past time then to ditch the bromance and bring on the Brigadung, to use the Bajan parlance.    As Bill Weld put it last night, "believe me, he's a tough guy. I've worked shoulder to shoulder with him and he can more than hold his own."

Well, we will see, indeed whether he has the gumption to go live and in person like James Comey did.  With all the GOP-Trump stonewalling on legislative oversight, spitting on the Constitution in one former Watergate prosecutor's words, we need a patriot and hero to come forth. Someone with the moxie to unflinchingly face those cameras, like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford did back in October. Someone (we hope) who possesses the moral compass and cojones to speak truth no matter the lights, Reepo (or Trump) blowback,  and chaos that might ensue.

Bob Mueller, your country is calling you now! Are you up to it ?  Or will you opt to hide behind closed doors and deliver your testimony via a "transcript" that virtually no one will read?  A move that will only empower Trump further and allow Barr to distort your report even more - as he turns investigators on the investigators. It is time for good (and courageous!)men to come to the aid of their country, as my revolutionary war ancestor Conrad Brumbaugh did over 245 years ago.

If Mueller isn't courageous enough to don the patriot mantle, and disdains descending into the fray, then Jerrold Nadler has no choice but to issue a subpoena for him to testify publicly. No more "Mr. Nice Guy"!

See also:

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"Mueller doesn’t get to be the ultimate arbiter of what is and isn’t political. And he’s not a flower that will wilt with too much exposure."


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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Evangelicals Give Artificial Intelligence A Fair Shake? Don't Make Me Laugh!

Evangelicals evidently are ready to take on artificial intelligence, A.I., according to a recently released document by 'The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission' of the Southern Baptist Convention.   According to a recent WSJ piece ('Evangelicals Take On Artificial Intelligence', May 10, p. A13) the document "addresses topics from sex and medicine to accountability and the image of God". And the underlying theme is 'What does it mean to be human?"

The author, S. Joshua Swamindass, is exceptional in not only being an evangelical but an "artificial intelligence scientist" in his own words.  This interjected some cognitive dissonance even as I read the piece, but by the end I became convinced he had his head screwed on straight in terms of the questions he asked, and the challenges to the document made.

For example, he notes the document claims that "moral decision making is the exclusive responsibility of humans".  Kind of astounding given that A.I.-driven vehicles must make intant decisions i.e. "in facing a potential accident the car may need to make moral decisions".  For example, the A.I. vehicle is suddenly faced with a deer in the middle of the highway. Does it veer to avoid it, thereby crossing into the oncoming lane - and colliding with vulnerable humans? Or opt to  hit the deer?  In the latter,  more moral example, human life is preserved but the  animal is sacrificed.

As Swamindass puts it: "The document seems to oppose artificial intelligence where it might delegate moral decisions like this but it is not clear. This risks unnecessary  prohibitions of life-saving technology."

He goes on to cite the same document in claiming that "God alone has the power to create life"

But notes,

"This phrase appears in traditional theology as an affirmation of God's providence and authority"

Adding that clearly it "doesn't prohibit creating life through reproduction" (though theists I've debated have insisted this is still "secondary divine creation, since the humans who reproduced were already created by God".)

The author also adds the example of "creating new viruses in a lab", but most theists again would argue the proto-life or other chemicals needed for this lab creation "were already created by a divine entity."

Which is why the Materialist (or Atheist) scientist simply refers to the chemical dynamics associated with colloidal, non-living droplets, that subsequently evolve to a rudimentary life form.

So we begin with  colloidal micro-spheres  - abundant in the primitive Earth - capable of exchanging energy with their surroundings. To get energy, these self-sustaining coacervate droplets could use one or two basic reactions involving adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and adenosine diphosphate (ADP):[1]

L*M + R + ADP + P -> R + L + M + ATP

ATP + X + Y + X*Y -> ADP + X*Y + X*Y + P

In the above, L*M is some large, indeterminate, energy-rich compound that could serve as ‘food’. Whatever the specific form, it’s conceived here to have two major parts capable of being broken to liberate energy. Compound R is perhaps a protenoid, but in any case able to act on L*M to decompose it. Concurrent with the first reaction is the possibility of a second, entailing autocatalytic molecules designated X*Y. These molecules can accelerate their own formation, using ATP.

On the basis of the chemical reactions, the hypothetical coacervate would consist of the chemical combination: X*Y + R. What properties might we expect for any such primitive life form? They’d include: simple organization, ability to increase in size, and ability to maintain itself over extended intervals. Does the coacervate meet these conditions?

Well, it has a very simple organization consisting of the molecules X*Y and R. It can increase its size by synthesizing more of X*Y, growing until unstable. Finally, it can maintain itself over indefinite intervals, so long as it can extract the chemical components it needs. What about replication? We expect that this is feasible when it splits into ‘daughters’ after growing too large. Then, so long as each has some of the protenoid R there is the capacity for replication.

A logical question is whether there is anything that can remotely compare to the theoretical construct above. In fact, there is, and it’s called a pleuro-pneumonia like organism or PPLO for short. The PPLO is as close to the theoretical limit of how small an organism can be[3]. Some figures clarify this. It has about 12 million atoms, and a molecular weight of 2.88 million Daltons[3]. Compared to an amoeba, it weighs about one billions times less.
So here we have the author's dilemma solved!

His related objection to the evangelicals' document is "it seems to declare artificial minds either impossible or immoral."  Then asking: "Why not encourage scientific inquiry?"  Well, because that process is foreclosed by doctrinal, supernaturally -mesmerized minds which abhor the scientific process itself.  Let's examine why:

You have data, and accessory information which leads to some initial result which tests a particular hypothesis- call it 'x'.

You then acquire better data (perhaps because of refined instruments, techniques ) and are led to a modified (improved) result such that:

x (n+1) = x + P(x)

where x(n +1) denotes an improvement via iteration, with P(x) the process (acting on x) that allows it.

Later, more refined data become available, such that:

x(n + 2) = x(n + 1) + P'(x + 1)

And so on, and so on and so forth.

Each x, x(n+1), x(n+2) etc. being a successive approximation to what the objective, genuine value should be.

Religions - by contrast- simply impose their truth ab initio by fiat or decree. There is no attempt whatever to incorporate any approximation, since that implies limits and the possibility of contradiction. Hence, to even acknowledge that 'truth' can't be accessed all at once. Rather, one must set rational truth aside and succumb to ‘faith”.  Given the Southern Baptist Convention is committed to faith, not successive approximations and testing of their beliefs, it follows no scientific inquiry would ever be undertaken by them.  Why would it if there exists even a remote possibility of their claims being proven wrong?

From this, and given the rigid beliefs the WSJ author cites in the Baptists' document it ought not surprise anyone that they'd regard artificial minds as either "impossible" or "immoral". Why? Because those are the only two options available to the closed religious mentality unwilling to test its convictions, beliefs, dogmas and pronouncements.  Knowing full well that, if tested, any or all may be found wanting.

Indeed, a more pertinent question (for Southern Baptist evangelicals)  than: 'Why not encourage scientific inquiry?'  is: Why is Swamindass himself  an evangelical?  How does he manage to pursue scientific inquiry if he embraces a faith that has no use for research based on successive approximations? If he could answer that he might be able to grasp why "a far reaching statement of religious convictions never began with a list of questions".    The religiously molded don't want or need questions, they already have the answers in their "good book".

[1] See, e.g. Zindler, Frank: 1989, How Did Life Begin- Part III, The American Atheist, April, 1989, page 42.

[2] Viruses are smaller, of course, but they’re not regarded as free living organisms. That is, they require a host in order to live, replicate.

[3] One Dalton: roughly the mass-weight of a hydrogen atom or 1.66 x 10-27 kg

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

OK, So Don McGahn Refuses To Testify - Then Let's Look At What He Said In The Mueller Report (Vol.II)

Yes, I admit it would have been classic 'Watergate' -style TV to have Trump former Lawyer Don McGahn -  in front of the TV cameras-   telling the House Judiciary Committee how Trump tried to get him to fire Mueller.  It would have been spellbinding stuff, almost like seeing John Dean deliver his devastating account of Nixon's antics over 40 years ago.  But it was not to be as McGahn - following Trump's orders- failed to appear.  So the next best thing is to read about it, and in this post I have extracted the relevant sections on McGahn's interactions with Trump. (Let's recall that McGahn spoke to Mueller's special investigators for over 30 hours.)

 As the stonewalling by Trump and his minions continues it becomes more and more important Americans know what the hell was in the report that led House Dems to issue subpoenas for the same minions to testify.  .  All of this comes from the Mueller Report Volume II. When reading the relevant sections I have below,  try to imagine McGahn on TV - before the House -  repeating Trump's words, i.e. his orders, or what he related to the Special Counsel.  This is also an opportunity to try to get as many citizens as possible to read the report to get an idea of what these characters would be saying if ever forced to testify, say before the House Judiciary Committee.

Commencing on P. 85 :

On Saturday, June 17, 2017, the President called McGahn and directed him to have the Special Counsel removed. McGahn was at home and the President was at Camp David. In interviews with this Office, McGahn recalled that the President called him at home twice and on both occasions directed him to call Rosenstein and say that Mueller had conflicts that precluded him from serving as Special Counsel.

On the first call, McGahn recalled that the President said something like, "You gotta do this. You gotta call Rod." McGahn said he told the President that he would see what he could do.

McGahn was perturbed by the call and did not intend to act on the request. He and other advisors believed the asserted conflicts were "silly" and "not real," and they had previously communicated that view to the President.  McGahn also had made clear to the President that the White House Counsel's Office should not be involved in any effort to press the issue of conflicts. McGahn was concerned about having any role in asking the Acting Attorney General to fire the Special Counsel because he had grown up in the Reagan era and wanted to be more like Judge  Robert Bork and not "Saturday Night Massacre Bork".

 McGahn considered the President's request to be an inflection point and he wanted to hit the brakes.

When the President called McGahn a second time to follow up on the order to call the Department of Justice, McGahn recalled that the President was more direct, saying something like, "Call  Rod, tell Rod  that Mueller has conflicts and can't be the Special Counsel."

McGahn recalled the President telling him "Mueller has to go" and "Call me back when you do it."

McGahn understood the President to be saying that the Special Counsel had to be removed by Rosenstein. To end the conversation with the President, McGahn left the President with the impression that McGahn would call Rosenstein.

McGahn recalled that he had already said no to the President's request and he was worn down, so he just wanted to get off the phone.

McGahn recalled feeling trapped because he did not plan to follow the President's directive but did not know what he would say the next time the President called.  McGahn decided he had to resign. He called his personal lawyer and then called his chief of staff, Annie Donaldson, to inform her of his decision.

He then drove to the office to pack his belongings and submit his resignation letter. Donaldson recalled that McGahn told her the President had called and demanded he contact the Department of Justice and that the President wanted him to do something that McGahn did not want to do. McGahn told Donaldson that the President had called at least twice and in one of the calls asked "have you done it?" McGahn did not tell Donaldson the specifics of the President's request because he was consciously trying not to involve her in the investigation, but Donaldson inferred that the President's directive was related to the Russia investigation.

Donaldson prepared to resign along with McGahn.

That evening, McGahn called both Priebus and Bannon and told them that he intended to resign. McGahn recalled that, after speaking with his attorney and given the nature of the President's request, he decided not to share details of the President's request with other White House staff. Priebus recalled that McGahn said that the President had asked him to "to do crazy shit," but he thought McGahn did not tell him the specifics of the President's request because McGahn was trying to protect Priebus from what he did not need to know.596 Priebus and Bannon both urged McGahn not to quit, and McGahn ultimately returned to work that Monday and remained in his position. He had not told the President directly that he planned to resign, and when they next saw each other the President did not ask McGahn whether he had followed through with calling Rosenstein.

Around the same time, Chris Christie recalled a telephone call with the President in which the President asked what Christie thought about the President firing the Special Counsel. Christie advised against doing so because there was no substantive basis for the President to fire the Special Counsel, and because the President would lose support from Republicans in Congress if he did so.


In analyzing the President's direction to McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed, the following evidence is relevant to the elements of obstruction of justice:

a. Obstructive act. As with the President's firing of Corney, the attempt to remove the Special Counsel would qualify as an obstructive act if it would naturally obstruct the investigation and any grand jury proceedings that might flow from the inquiry. Even if the removal of the lead prosecutor would not prevent the investigation from continuing under a new appointee, a fact finder would need to consider whether the act had the potential to delay further action in the investigation, chill the actions of any replacement Special Counsel, or otherwise impede the investigation.

A threshold question is whether the President in fact directed McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed. After news organizations reported that in June 2017 the President had ordered McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed, the President publicly disputed these accounts, and privately told McGahn that he had simply wanted McGahn to bring conflicts of interest to the Department of Justice's attention. (See Volume II, Section II.I, infra.)  Some of the President's specific language that McGahn recalled from the calls is consistent with that explanation. Substantial evidence, however, supports the conclusion that the President went further and in fact directed McGahn to call Rosenstein to have the Special Counsel removed.

First, McGahn's clear recollection was that the President directed him to tell Rosenstein not only that conflicts existed but also that "Mueller has to go." McGahn is a credible witness with no motive to lie or exaggerate given the position he held in the White House. McGahn spoke with the President twice and understood the directive the same way both times, making it unlikely that he misheard or misinterpreted the President's request. In response to that request, McGahn decided to quit because he did not want to participate in events that he described as akin to the Saturday Night Massacre. He called his lawyer, drove to the White House, packed up his office, prepared to submit a resignation letter with his chief of staff, told Priebus that the President had asked him to "do crazy shit," and informed Priebus and Bannon that he was leaving. Those acts would be a highly unusual reaction to a request to convey information to the Department of Justice.

Second, in in the days before the calls to McGahn, the President, through his counsel, had already brought the asserted conflicts to the attention of the Department of Justice. Accordingly, the President had no reason to have McGahn call Rosenstein that weekend to raise conflicts issues that already had been raised.

Third, the President's sense  of  urgency and repeated requests to McGahn to take immediate action on a weekend-"You gotta do this. You gotta call Rod."-supports McGahn's recollection that the President wanted the Department of Justice to take action to remove the Special Counsel. Had the President instead sought only to have the Department of Justice re-examine asserted conflicts to evaluate whether they posed an ethical bar, it would have been unnecessary to set the process in motion on a Saturday and to make repeated calls to McGahn.

Finally, the President had discussed "knocking out Mueller" and raised conflicts of interest in a May 23, 2017 call with McGahn, reflecting that the President connected the conflicts to a plan to remove the Special Counsel. And in the days leading up to June 17, 2017, the President made clear to Priebus and Bannon, who then told Ruddy, that the President was considering terminating the Special Counsel. Also during this time period, the President reached out to Christie to get his thoughts on firing the Special Counsel.

This evidence shows that the President was not just seeking an examination of whether conflicts existed but instead was looking to use asserted conflicts as a way to terminate the Special Counsel.

b. Nexus to an official proceeding. To satisfy the proceeding requirement, it would be necessary to establish a nexus between the President's act of seeking to terminate the Special Counsel and a pending or foreseeable grand jury proceeding.

Substantial evidence indicates that by June 17, 2017, the President knew his conduct was under investigation by a federal prosecutor who could present any evidence of federal crimes to a grand jury. On May 23, 2017, McGahn explicitly warned the President that his "biggest exposure" was not his act of firing Comey but his "other contacts" and "calls," and his "ask re: Flynn."

By early June, it was widely reported in the media that federal prosecutors had issued grand jury subpoenas in the Flynn inquiry and that the Special Counsel had taken over the Flynn investigation.On June 9, 2017, the Special Counsel's Office informed the White House that investigators would be interviewing intelligence agency officials who allegedly had been asked by the President to push back against the Russia investigation.

On June 14, 2017, news outlets began reporting that the President was himself being investigated for obstruction of justice. Based on widespread reporting, the President knew that such an investigation could include his request for Comey's loyalty; his request that Comey "let[] Flynn go"; his outreach to Coats and Rogers; and his termination of Comey and statement to the Russian Foreign Minister that the termination had relieved "great pressure" related to Russia.

And on June 16, 2017, the day before he directed McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed, the President publicly acknowledged that his conduct was under investigation by a federal prosecutor, tweeting, "I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director!"

c. Intent. Substantial evidence indicates that the President's attempts to remove the Special Counsel were linked to the Special Counsel's oversight of investigations that involved the President's conduct-and, most immediately, to reports that the President was being investigated for potential obstruction of justice.

Before the President terminated Comey, the President considered it critically important that he was not under investigation and that the public not erroneously think he was being investigated. As described in Volume TI, Section TI.D, supra, advisors perceived the President, while he was drafting the Comey termination letter, to be concerned more than anything else about getting out that he was not personally under investigation. When the President learned of the appointment of the Special Counsel on May 17, 2017, he expressed further concern about the investigation, saying "[t]his is the end of my Presidency." The President also faulted Sessions for recusing, saying "you were supposed to protect me."

On June 14, 20 17, when the Washington Post reported that the Special Counsel was investigating the President for obstruction of justice, the President was facing what he had wanted to avoid: a criminal investigation into his own conduct that was the subject of widespread media attention. The evidence indicates that news of the obstruction investigation prompted the President to call McGahn and seek to have the Special Counsel removed. 

By mid-June, the Department of Justice had already cleared the Special Counsel's service and the President's advisors had told him that the claimed conflicts of interest were "silly" and did not provide a basis to remove the Special Counsel. On June 13, 2017, the Acting Attorney General testified before Congress that no good cause for removing the Special Counsel existed, and the President dictated a press statement to Sanders saying he had no intention of firing the Special Counsel. But the next day, the media reported that the President was under investigation for obstruction of justice and the Special Counsel was interviewing witnesses about events related to possible obstruction-spurring the President to write critical tweets about the Special Counsel's investigation. The President called McGahn at home that night and then called him on Saturday from Camp David. The evidence accordingly indicates the news that an obstruction investigation had been opened is what led the President to call McGahn to have the Special Counsel terminated.

There also is evidence that the President knew that he should not have made those calls to McGahn. The President made the calls to McGahn after McGahn had specifically told the President that the White House Counsel's Office-and McGahn himself-could not be involved in pressing conflicts claims and that the President should consult with his personal counsel if he wished to raise conflicts. Instead of relying on his personal counsel to submit the conflicts claims, the President sought to use his official powers to remove the Special Counsel. And after the media reported on the President's actions, he denied that he ever ordered McGahn to have the Special Counsel terminated and made repeated efforts to have McGahn deny the story, as discussed in Volume II, Section II.I, infra. Those denials are contrary to the evidence and suggest the President's awareness that the direction to McGahn could be seen as improper.

Commencing on P. 113:

I. The President Orders McGahn to Deny that the President Tried to Fire the Special Counsel


In late January 2018, the media reported that in June 2017 the President had ordered McGahn to have the Special Counsel fired based on purported conflicts of interest but McGahn had refused, saying he would quit instead. After the story broke, the President, through his personal counsel and two aides, sought to have McGahn deny that he had been directed to remove the Special Counsel. Each time he was approached, McGahn responded that he would not refute the press accounts because they were accurate in reporting on the President's effort to have the Special Counsel removed. The President later personally met with McGahn in the Oval Office with only the Chief of Staff present and tried to get McGahn to say that the President never ordered him to fire the Special Counsel. McGahn refused and insisted his memory of the President's direction to remove the Special Counsel was accurate. In that same meeting, the President challenged McGahn for taking notes of his discussions with the President and asked why he had told Special Counsel investigators that he had been directed to have the Special Counsel removed.


I. The Press Reports that the President Tried to Fire the Special Counsel

On January 25, 2018, the New York Times reported that in June 2017, the President had ordered McGahn to have the Department of Justice fire the Special Counsel. According to the article, "[a]mid the first wave of news media reports that Mr. Mueller was examining a possible obstruction case, the president began to argue that Mr. Mueller had three conflicts of interest that disqualified him from overseeing the investigation."The article further reported that "[a]fter receiving the president's order to fire Mr. Mueller, the White House counsel ... refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel, saying he would quit instead." The article stated that the president "ultimately backed down after the White House counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive."After the article was published, the President  dismissed the story when asked about it by reporters, saying, "Fake news, folks. Fake news. A typical New York Times fake story."

The next day, the Washington Post reported on the same event but added that McGahn had not told the President directly that he intended to resign rather than carry out the directive to have the Special Counsel terminated. In that respect, the Post story clarified the Times story, which could be read to suggest that McGahn had told the President of his intention to quit, causing the President to back down from the order to have the Special Counsel fired.

2. The President Seeks to Have McGahn Dispute the Press Reports

On January 26, 2018, the President's personal counsel called McGahn 's attorney and said that the President wanted McGahn to put out a statement denying that he had been asked to fire the Special Counsel and that he had threatened to quit in protest. McGahn's attorney spoke with McGahn about that request and then called the President's personal counsel to relay that McGahn would not make a statement. McGahn 's attorney informed the President's personal counsel that the Times story was accurate in reporting that the President wanted the Special Counsel removed. Accordingly, McGahn's attorney said, although the article was inaccurate in some other respects, McGahn could not comply with the President's request to dispute the story. Hicks recalled relaying to the President that one of his attorneys had spoken to McGahn's attorney about the issue.

Also on January 26, 2017, Hicks recalled that the President asked Sanders to contact McGahn about the story. McGahn told Sanders there was no need to respond and indicated that some of the article was accurate. Consistent with that position, McGahn did not correct the Times story.

On February 4, 2018, Priebus appeared on Meet the Press and said he had not heard the President say that he wanted the Special Counsel fired.After Priebus's appearance, the President called Priebus and said he did a great job on Meet the Press. The President also told Priebus that the President had "never said any of those things about" the Special Counsel.

The next day, on February 5, 2018, the President complained about the Times article to Porter. The President told Porter that the article was "bullshit" and he had not sought to terminate the Special Counsel. The President said that McGahn leaked to the media to make himself look good.The President then directed Porter to tell McGahn to create a record to make clear that the President never directed McGahn to fire the Special Counsel. Porter thought the matter should be handled by the White House communications office, but the President said he wanted McGahn to write a letter to the file "for our records" and wanted something beyond a press statement to demonstrate that the reporting was inaccurate.

The President referred to McGahn as a "lying bastard" and said that he wanted a record from him. Porter recalled the President saying something to the effect of, "If he doesn't write a letter, then maybe I'll have to get rid of him."

Later that day, Porter spoke to McGahn to deliver the President's message. Porter told McGahn that he had to write a letter to dispute that he was ever ordered to terminate the Special Counsel. McGahn shrugged off the request, explaining that the media reports were true. McGahn told Porter that the President had been insistent on firing the Special Counsel and that McGahn had planned to resign rather than carry out the order, although he had not personally told the President he intended to quit.

 Porter told McGahn that the President suggested that McGahn would be fired if he did not write the letter. McGahn dismissed the threat, saying that the optics would be terrible if the President followed through with firing him on that basis. McGahn said he would not write the letter the President had requested.807 Porter said that to his knowledge the issue of McGahn's letter never came up with the President again, but Porter did recall telling Kelly about his conversation with McGahn.

The next day, on February 6, 2018, Kelly scheduled time for McGahn to meet with him and the President in the Oval Office to discuss the Times article.The morning of the meeting, the President's personal counsel called. ,McGahn's attorney and said that the President was going to be speaking with McGahn and McGahn could not resign no matter what happened in the meeting.

The President began the Oval Office meeting by telling McGahn that the New York Times story did not "look good" and McGahn needed to correct it.

 McGahn recalled the President said, "I never said to fire Mueller. I never said 'fire.'  This story doesn't look good. You need to correct this. You're the White House counsel."

In response, McGahn acknowledged that he had not told the President directly that he planned to resign, but said that the story was otherwise accurate.The President asked McGahn, · "Did I say the word 'fire'?"McGahn responded, "What you said is, 'Call Rod [Rosenstein], tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can't be the Special Counsel. "' The President responded, "I never said that."

 The President said he merely wanted McGahn to raise the conflicts issue with Rosenstein and leave it to him to decide what to do. McGahn told the President he did not understand the conversation that way and instead had heard, "Call Rod. There are conflicts. Mueller has to go." The President asked McGahn whether he would "do a correction," and McGahn said no. McGahn thought the President was testing his mettle to see how committed McGahn was to what happened. Kelly described the meeting as "a little tense."

The President also asked McGahn in the meeting why he had told Special Counsel's Office investigators that the President had told him to have the Special Counsel removed. McGahn responded that he had to and that his conversations with the President were not protected by attorney-client privilege.

The President then asked, "What-about these notes? Why do you take notes? Lawyers don't take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes." McGahn responded that he keeps notes because he is a "real lawyer" and explained that notes create a record and are not a bad thing.The President said, "I've had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn. He did not take notes."

After the Oval Office meeting concluded, Kelly recalled McGahn telling him that McGahn and the President "did have that conversation" about removing the Special Counsel. McGahn recalled that Kelly said that he had pointed out to the President after the Oval Office that McGahn had not backed down and would not budge. Following the Oval Office meeting, the President's personal counsel called McGahn' s counsel and relayed that the President was '"fine" with McGahn.


In analyzing the President's efforts to have McGahn deny that he had been ordered to have the Special Counsel removed, the following evidence is relevant to the elements of obstruction of justice:

a. Obstructive act. The President's repeated efforts to get McGahn to create a record denying that the President had directed him to remove the Special Counsel would qualify as an obstructive act if it had the natural tendency to constrain McGahn from testifying truthfully or to undermine his credibility as a potential witness if he testified consistently with his memory, rather than with what the record said.

There is some evidence that at the time the New York Times and Washington Post stories were published in late January 2018, the President believed the stories were wrong and that he had never told McGahn to have Rosenstein remove the Special Counsel. The President correctly understood that McGahn had not told the President directly that he planned to resign. Tn addition, the President told Priebus and Porter that he had not sought to terminate the Special Counsel, and in the Oval Office meeting with McGahn, the President said, "I never said to fire Mueller. I never said 'fire."' That evidence could indicate that the President was not attempting to persuade McGahn to change his story but was instead offering his own-but different-recollection of the substance of his June 2017 conversations with McGahn and McGahn's reaction to them.

Other evidence cuts against that understanding of the President's conduct. As previously described, (see Volume IT, Section ILE, supra), substantial evidence supports McGahn's account that the President had directed him to have the Special Counsel removed, including the timing and context of the President's directive; the manner in which McGahn reacted; and the fact that the President had been told the conflicts were insubstantial, were being considered by the Department of Justice, and should be raised with the President's personal counsel rather than brought to McGahn.

In addition, the President's subsequent denials that he had told McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed were carefully worded. When first asked about the New York Times story, the President said, "Fake news, folks. Fake news. A typical New York Times fake story." And when the President spoke with McGahn in the Oval Office, he focused on whether he had used the word "fire," saying, "I never said to fire Mueller. I never said 'fire"' and "Did T say the word 'fire'?" The President's assertion in the Oval Office meeting that he had never directed McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed thus runs counter to the evidence..

In addition, even if the President sincerely disagreed with McGahn's memory of the June 17, 2017 events, the evidence indicates that the President knew by the time of the Oval Office meeting that McGahn's account differed and that McGahn was firm in his views. Shortly after the story broke, the President's counsel told McGahn 's counsel that the President wanted McGahn to make a statement denying he had been asked to fire the Special Counsel, but McGahn responded through his counsel that that aspect of the story was accurate and he therefore could not comply with the President's request.

The President then directed Sanders to tell McGahn to correct the story, but McGahn told her he would not do so because the story was accurate in reporting on the President's order. Consistent with that position, McGahn never issued a correction. More than a week later, the President brought up the issue again with Porter, made comments indicating the President thought McGahn had leaked the story, and directed Porter to have McGahn create a record denying that the President had tried to fire the Special Counsel.

At that point, the President said he might "have to get rid of' McGahn if McGahn did not comply." McGahn again refused and told Porter, as he had told Sanders and as his counsel had told the President's counsel, that the President had in fact ordered him to have Rosenstein remove the Special Counsel. That evidence indicates that by the time of the Oval Office meeting the President was aware that McGahn did not think the story was false and did not want to issue a statement or create a written record denying facts that McGahn believed to be true. The President nevertheless persisted and asked McGahn to repudiate facts that McGahn had repeatedly said were accurate.

b. Nexus to an official proceeding. By January 2018, the Special Counsel's use of a grand jury had been further confirmed by the return of several indictments. The President also was aware that the Special Counsel was investigating obstruction-related events because, among other reasons, on January 8, 20 I 8, the Special Counsel's Office provided his counsel with a detailed list of topics for a possible interview with the President.

 The President knew that McGahn had personal knowledge of many of the events the Special Counsel was investigating and that McGahn had already been interviewed by Special Counsel investigators. And in the Oval Office meeting, the President indicated he knew that McGahn had told the Special Counsel's Office about the President's effort to remove the Special Counsel. The President challenged McGahn for disclosing that information and for taking notes that he viewed as creating unnecessary legal exposure. That evidence indicates the President's awareness that the June 17, 2017 events were relevant to the Special Counsel's investigation and any grand jury investigation that might grow out of it.

To establish a nexus, it would be necessary to show that the President's actions would have the natural tendency to affect such a proceeding or that they would hinder, delay, or prevent the communication of information to investigators. Because McGahn had spoken to Special Counsel investigators before January 2018, the President could not have been seeking to influence his prior statements in those interviews.

But because McGahn had repeatedly spoken to investigators and the obstruction inquiry was not complete, it was foreseeable that he would be interviewed again on obstruction-related topics. If the President were focused solely on a press strategy in seeking to have McGahn refute the New York Times article, a nexus to a proceeding or to further investigative interviews would not be shown. But the President's efforts to have McGahn write a letter "for our records" approximately ten days after the stories had come out-well past the typical time to issue a correction for a news story-indicates the President was not focused solely on a press strategy, but instead likely contemplated the ongoing investigation and any proceedings arising from it.

c. Intent. Substantial evidence indicates that in repeatedly urging McGahn to dispute that he was ordered to have the Special Counsel terminated, the President acted for the purpose of influencing McGahn 's account in order to deflect or prevent further scrutiny of the President's conduct towards the investigation.

Several facts support that conclusion. The President made repeated attempts to get McGahn to change his story. As described above, by the time of the last attempt, the evidence suggests that the President had been told on multiple occasions that McGahn believed the President had ordered him to have the Special Counsel terminated. McGahn interpreted his encounter with the President in the Oval Office as an attempt to test his mettle and see how committed he was to his memory of what had occurred. The President had already laid the groundwork for pressing McGahn to alter his account by telling Porter that it might be necessary to fire McGahn if he did not deny the story, and Porter relayed that statement to McGahn.

Additional evidence of the President's intent may be gleaned from the fact that his counsel was sufficiently alarmed by the prospect of the President's meeting with McGahn that he called McGahn's counsel and said that McGahn could not resign no matter what happened in the Oval Office that day. The President's counsel was well aware of  McGahn's resolve not to issue what he believed to be a false account of events despite the President's request. Finally, as noted above, the President brought up the Special Counsel investigation in his Oval Office meeting with McGahn and criticized him for telling this Office about the June 17, 2017 events. The President's statements reflect his understanding-and his displeasure-that those events would be part of an obstruction-of-justice inquiry.

Reading the sections above --  extracted verbatim from the Mueller report - should see every reasonable citizen concur with Justin Amash that Trump committed obstructive acts, i.e. impeachable offenses.  Again, don't just take my word for it, read the whole report yourself and form your own conclusions, e.g.

What should also be obvious from reading these sections from the Mueller Report is that it is absolutely critical that the House Democrats get McGahn's in-person testimony - televised live before millions. Why? Because most Americans will not read any of the Mueller report, including the sections for which I've provided a transcript here (minus the footnotes, to reduce the content. To see the footnotes go the pages referenced in the link shown above..)

Let me also remind readers the branches of government are not "co-equal".  By the Article I powers designated in the Constitution the legislative branch (congress) has precedence, and hence oversight over the executive. This is why today's lead WSJ editorial ('Don McGahn's Immunity' )  is rubbish, based as it is on "co-equal" branches.

See also:
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