Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Other Voices On The Barr Version Of The Mueller Report

Other voices commenting on AG William Barr's 4 -page summary take on the Mueller Report. (Warning: Not for the politically squeamish!)

by P.M. Carpenter | March 26, 2019 - 6:45am | permalink


I'm still mired in the inescapable epic of Donald J. Trump, Attorney General William Barr and Special Counsel Bob Mueller. For two years we've watched on the screen and read in B & W mounting evidence of Trump Inc.'s multiple ties with Russian intelligence, shady hackers and WikiLeaks' mediation, in addition to evidence of the president's nearly countless obstructions of justice.

Yet in less than two days, Barr both read Mueller's evidentiary submission (of possibly immense length) and wrote a four-page, single-spaced letter to Congress, neatly disclosing that all, after all, is well: The astoundingly criminal Mr. Trump is blameless. This came as even bigger news than the facts that Donald had spooned with Vladimir and has lied about it repeatedly ever since.

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The "chickenshit club" is a phrase coined by James Comey after he was US attorney for the Southern District of New York back in 2002. The title means he was head of an office of over 200 assistant US attorneys. Several months into his job, Comey, who would later head the FBI for four years before being dismissed by US President Donald Trump in 2017 in what some saw as an obstruction-of-justice move, called a staff meeting.

As reported by Jesse Eisinger in his book, The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives, "Comey asked the seated prosecutors a question, 'Who here has never had an acquittal or a hung jury. Please raise your hand.' The go-getters and resume builders in the office were ready. This group thought themselves the best trial lawyers in the country. Hands shot up. Backs straightened in preparation for praise. Comey looked at his flock with approbation. 'You are members of what we like to call the Chickensh** Club'."

Prosecutors who had never lost a case were prosecutors who had never dared to take tough cases. White collar cases are the toughest to make and there are multiple reasons for this. They tend to take place in linguistic fogs. Instead of money taken at the point of a gun, it's taken by promises and claims that can be made to appear as merely over-ambitious, misunderstandings of complex rules, just careless, or actually made by underlings.

Donald Trump has been playing those games his whole life in white-collar crime court cases he has faced, as did his father before him, as have his children, his foundation, his company, and his associates. Rich white collar defendants have lots of money for their defences. Money throws enough muck around the courtroom to befuddle jurors and bedazzle judges so much that they throw their hands up inconclusively.

If a wealthy white-collar person is convicted, expect their attorneys to appeal. In recent decades the Supreme Court has reversed very solid white collar convictions and federal appeals courts have followed that lead. These have given very clear signals to prosecutors.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller sent out clear - though silent - signals before the release of the report that he had joined the chickensh** club. He didn't indict Donald Trump, Jr and Jared Kushner for possible offences they may have committed, like lying to Congress and failing to disclose foreign contacts, and then interview them, if they were to be charged. That would have set up an interview with the president himself.

by Jaime O'Neill | March 26, 2019 - 7:00am | permalink


There is, in fact, nowhere to look that isn't dark. As we all try to absorb the deep disappointment of the Mueller Report, it feels more and more like our country has experienced a hostile takeover, a coup that was unfolding in the late summer and fall of 2016 when we were all being told that, though he was a Republican, FBI Director James Comey was a guy with impeccably impartial standards, a comic book model of probity, honor, and adherence to truth, justice, and the American Way, a man who made Superman look a little shaky in his sense of right and wrong. But then Comey did that thing he did when he violated FBI protocol, first by announcing that the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email was being shut down for lack of evidence of wrongdoing, then adding an editorial opinion, stating that in his view, she'd acted recklessly and exercised poor judgment. But that was in June of 2016. In October as the election drew near, he strode forth once more to tell the nation that the investigation into Hillary's emails was being reopened. By nearly all accounts, that act sealed the election for Trump, even as the Comey was withholding the information that an investigation was already underway into the Trump campaign's connections with Russian operatives working to deliver the election to the man they wanted to see become the President of the United States.

From then on, the attempts to hide the truth and obstruct justice became ever more obvious, ever more blatant, ever more open and in plain sight. From the interview with Lester Holt in which Trump said getting the Russian thing off his back was the reason he fired Comey, to the constant denigration of Jeff Session, Trump's hand-picked and deep-dyed racist Attorney General who was insufficiently willing to define the AG's office as being Trump's personal law firm, to the daily Big Lie the Republicans were telling with such determined repetitions: "There was no collusion.

Despite the meetings, the indictments, the money changing hands that enriched Manafort, Trump's campaign manager, to the determination of so many to evade the truth, the "no collusion" mantra was sounded again and again. The word "collusion" was heard ever day, mostly in those denials, but the collusion seemed to be everywhere, not just with Russians, but with the news media that had given Trump so much free air time, that had spent so much time talking about Hillary Clinton's emails, and far too little time airing details of Trump's shady business deals, his inexplicably easy loans from Deutsche Bank, or the host of sexual abuse allegations against him, some of which he seemed to acknowledge, unwittingly, when he was caught on tape bragging to Billy Bush about his pussy grabbing proclivities, or his locker room talk with Howard Stern, radio douchebag.

And, despite daily assaults on our national sense of decency, honesty, class, or dignity, we were told to pin our hopes on Robert Mueller, the pillar of all that was good, right, true, and righteous left in the United States of America. Look up "rectitude" in the dictionary, and there was his picture. Look up Boy Scout, and you'd be told to "see, Mueller, Robert." Look up "hero," and there he was again, with his long face just oozing probity and integrity and gravitas.

He was the bulwark. He was going to save our sorry asses. He was the guy the media had meant to describe when they were saying all those great things about the sainted James Comey. He was the fearless guy who was going to get to the truth. He was, at last, the one goddamned Republican we could trust to put the nation ahead of even the softest whisper of partisanship.

....What took Robert Mueller and his team some 22 months to gather and write took Bill Barr less than a weekend to read and digest, at which time he offered us all a four-page summary concluding that there really wasn't much to see there, that there wasn't much the public needed to know in that undisclosed number of pages that constituted the full report, and that the Republicans could begin to plan how to spend all the loot that would soon flood in for Trump's 2nd Inaugural shindig.

by William Rivers Pitt | March 26, 2019 - 6:24am | permalink


From the moment the Mueller investigation began to the moment Attorney General William Barr released hissummary of Mueller’s labors, Donald Trump acted like the guiltiest man on Earth. His efforts to obstruct the inquiry were egregious, vocal and constant, his denials facile and unconvincing in their serial repetitions. His now-notorious Twitter eruption the weekend before the report’s conclusion was every inch the child frantically deflecting blame after pushing his sister down the stairs.

The third week in January of this year provided a perfect example of the phenomenon when it was revealed that Trump made a habit of confiscating the translators’ notes after every meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin before swearing the translators to absolute secrecy. This was unprecedented behavior with potentially staggering implications, and never mind the hypocrisy; had Barack Obama done something similar during his tenure, the outrage on the right would have been visible from space. With Trump, however, it was business as usual.

The announced completion of Robert Mueller’s investigation on Friday launched a 48-hour period of media mayhem not seen since a certain white Bronco was on the loose in California 25 years ago. Those who were expecting a detailed impeachment map to be immediately revealed endured a number of existential crises after exposing themselves to the television coverage. DEAR GOD WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN was the going media refrain, and no answers were forthcoming until the attorney general released his review on Sunday afternoon.

To the astonished horror of millions, Barr’s very short “summary” announced that Mueller had found no evidence of collusion between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and agents of the Russian government. Barr further announced that the report contained no actionable evidence to support charges of obstruction of justice against the president. No new indictments would be forthcoming from Mueller’s end of the pool.

Only one scant sentence out of Barr’s entire four-page letter — “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” — serves to correctly note that Mueller did not exonerate Trump from wrongdoing. More ominously, Mueller’s office refused to endorse the conclusions reached in Barr’s letter. Perhaps they are playing it with their usual caution, but such an endorsement would have ended the discussion with a resounding thud.

After the initial shock wore off, anger flooded the feed. “Nothing Trump is accused of from now on by the press will be believed by huge chunks of the population,” writes Rolling Stone columnist Matt Taibbi, “a group that (perhaps thanks to this story) is now larger than his original base. There will be people protesting: the Mueller report doesn’t prove anything! What about the 37 indictments? The convictions? The Trump tower revelations? The lies! The meeting with Don, Jr.? The financial matters! There’s an ongoing grand jury investigation, and possible sealed indictments, and the House will still investigate, and…. Stop. Just stop. Any journalist who goes there is making it worse.”

Much respect to Matt — I’m a definite fan — but this journalist is going there, because something reeks. If the moment arrives when crow must be eaten, I will devour my fair portion because it is the writer’s lot to say so when they have been wrong at the top of their lungs. We are not there yet, and Taibbi himself accidently explained why. “There will be people protesting,” he wrote. “The Mueller report doesn’t prove anything!” Here’s the problem: We are not talking about the Mueller report. We don’t know what’s in the Mueller report. All we have to go on is the word of William Barr, and speaking personally, that simply isn’t good enough.

by Marc Ash | March 26, 2019 - 5:53am | permalink

Attorney General William Barr stood before reporters and beside Donald Trump in the Oval Office on March 15th and said with unqualified certainty that the president’s Declaration of an Emergency at the U.S./Mexican border was not only constitutionally legal but absolutely justified by the circumstances there. It seemed a statement tailored to support the conclusion Trump sought and the political outcome Trump wanted.

Sunday’s carefully worded summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report by Attorney General Barr seems to pursue the same outcome.

The attorney general’s summary does a far better job of supporting Trump’s assertions and talking points than shedding any real light on the substance of the special counsel’s actual report.

If the attorney general’s objective was to preempt that spin cycle and create political ammunition for the White House in advance of the actual report being made available to Congress or the public, this summary seems ideally suited to for that express purpose.

What does Mueller’s report actually say? We are still not permitted to know. Mueller’s report is still the same mystery, the same enigma it has been for two years.

Congress and the public must be allowed to view the special counsel’s report, in its entirety. Not an avowed Trump loyalist’s interpretation of the report.

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