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🔍 All things Mueller - What we know he has on Trump 'n Co

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#261

:100: Must Listen! :headphones:

Mr. Schmidt postulates that the Office Special Counsel had failed by not reaching a conclusion obstruction of justice, which in turn, politicize is the process. The purpose of the Special Cousel being appointed is to remove any objectivity or political bias. That didn’t happen when Barr and Rosenstein felt they were left with the final decision on Obstruction of Justice.

On today’s episode:

  • Michael S. Schmidt, who has been covering the special counsel investigation for The New York Times.

Background reading:


#262

The hope is that Congress/Gang of 8/public can see the Mueller Report. But how much of it can be seen or altered, via Barr is the quandary.

Read the NYT article below which weighs in on what the precedent has been and what kinds of legal arguments are at play.

Both parties are going to fight tooth and nail on releasing the report, and McConnell has already decided no. (McConnell says Mueller Report needs modifying - the Hill)

The question of obstruction has emerged as the most debated part of Mr. Mueller’s investigation. According to a summary by Mr. Barr, Mr. Mueller did not establish a conspiracy between Mr. Trump and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential campaign, but when it came to obstruction of justice, the special counsel neither accused the president of a crime nor exonerated him.

President Trump has thrown out the unwritten rules that have bound other chief executives in the 45 years since President Richard M. Nixon resigned.

Beyond those bottom-line conclusions, Mr. Mueller’s full report has yet to be released, and it remained unclear if it ever would be. House Democrats have demanded that it be sent to them by next Tuesday, but the Justice Department outlined a longer schedule, saying that it will have its own summary ready to send to lawmakers within weeks, though not months.

So far, there are no plans to give a copy of the report to the White House in advance of any public release, according to a Justice Department official.

At the heart of the obstruction question is when a president’s use of his otherwise legitimate authority under the Constitution becomes an abuse of power. When the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against Mr. Nixon for covering up the Watergate burglary and other crimes, it asserted that “he knowingly misused the executive power by interfering with agencies of the executive branch,” including the F.B.I. and the Justice Department.

In effect, the result was to draw a line that subsequent presidents steered clear of, no matter how frustrated they might be at times with investigators pursuing them. To prevent a repeat of Mr. Nixon’s actions, including his order firing the Watergate special prosecutor, Congress enacted a law creating an independent counsel who would not report to the president.

Since Mr. Mueller’s report remains undisclosed, it is not known how much these constitutional arguments weighed in his decision not to make a finding on obstruction. Mr. Barr argued that since there was no underlying crime of conspiracy, it would be harder to prove a corrupt intent to obstruct.

Some expressed skepticism that the line has necessarily moved. “I don’t think that means that the definition of obstruction has changed,” said Timothy Naftali, a New York University professor and former director of the Nixon presidential library. “What I think we may find is the evidence wasn’t sufficient to take on the huge battle of indicting a president.”

But the end result may be the same in terms of setting a new standard for future presidents. The hands-off attitude when it came to investigations of the past no longer applies.

“The extremes we have gone to accommodate the president’s authority are a terrible precedent for going forward as a democracy built on separation of power and balance of powers,” said Richard Ben-Veniste, a former Watergate prosecutor.

Mr. Rivkin, however, argued that the potential downside of a president interfering in law enforcement actions out of political motives was outweighed by the danger of such powerful agencies operating without anyone overseeing them.

“Do you want to have the F.B.I., C.I.A. and N.S.A. accountable to nobody but themselves?” he asked, citing “serious abuses of civil liberties” that have occurred in American history. “Choose your poison. When someone talks about the possibility of corruption, my response is what’s the alternative? Do you have a better alternative?”


#263

Through the Twitter vine, I’ve heard that it’s more than 300 pages but less than a 1000 pages. The Times is saying at least 300.

The still-secret report on Russian interference in the 2016 election submitted by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, last week was more than 300 pages long, according to the Justice Department, a length that raises new questions about Attorney General William P. Barr’s four-page summary.

Mr. Barr wrote to Congress on Sunday offering what he called the “principal conclusions” of the report — including that Mr. Mueller had not found evidence that the Trump campaign took part in a conspiracy to undermine the election. But he had notably declined to publicly disclose its length.

The total of 300-plus pages suggests that Mr. Mueller went well beyond the kind of bare-bones summary required by the Justice Department regulation governing his appointment and detailed his conclusions at length. And it raises questions about what Mr. Barr might have left out of the four dense pages he sent Congress.

Democrats, who like all other lawmakers have not seen the report, have all but accused Mr. Barr of covering up damaging information it contains. They have specifically focused on an apparent difference between the views of Mr. Barr and Mr. Mueller on whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice. Democrats have demanded that the attorney general make the full report and evidence public.

NBC confirms

WSJ reporting:

Mr. Barr has said he is working to release more from the report. He spoke briefly with Rep. Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, on Wednesday. A Justice Department official said the report was more than 300 pages but less than 1,000 pages, but didn’t provide an exact number. A person familiar with the report’s length said it was between 300 and 400 pages, not including exhibits.


#264

The anticipation of getting the Mueller Report, then having Barr virtually clear T of real wrongdoing (my synthesis: No Collusion, and a smidgen of Obstruction, which is not at the level of bringing charges) has been hard to take. But some WH staffers are suggesting that there may just be those ugly reveals about the family and some underhanded dealings from within the T camp.

Hard to see how we are moving ahead except in terms of many in the camp who do not want to re-elect T and those who do.

In interviews with New York , White House officials and people familiar with internal events have described mood swings rippling through the administration: First came relief, in the form of smiles and tears and bottles of Champagne; then, the catharsis of “righteous anger,” with fuck you s to the press, Democrats in Congress, and members of the intelligence community; as the excitement waned, “cooler heads” emerged in the White House with brand-new anxieties about a president inclined to inflict self-harm by taking things too far. "There will be plenty of unfavorable things about the president in the full report, which we think will eventually come out, so let’s not go overboard saying there’s no wrongdoing. Let’s move on,” one senior White House official told me.

This person added, “Everybody’s saying, ‘Oh, let’s just move on,’” recalling in particular a Democrat saying something to the effect of, “‘All right, well, we’ll just move to the next day and the next thing they’ve done wrong.’ And it’s like, ‘Wait a minute, you’re making it seem like all these things that you said were actually true, and they’re not true.’

The president is not, in other words, the only one who might have trouble moving on —something that worries others around Trump not only about him, but about his like-minded staffers.

“We’re letting people have a week to say, ‘Investigate the investigators!’ Take the victory lap, everyone agrees. Spike the football,” the first senior White House official said. “But then we need to put this behind us. Let’s not relive this. Let’s not drag Andrew McCabe in front of a panel or something that goes on forever.” The senior official said this view was widely held inside the White House.

For this to be successful, the president — who is, after all, still reliving the events of the 2016 Republican primary and general election, a tale more than three years old at this point — would need to seal himself off in a cocoon and emerge another man.


#266

Huh, look at that…


#267

More from NBC news,

According to a senior law enforcement official who has spoken to members of Mueller’s team, Mueller team members say it includes detailed accounts of Trump campaign contacts with Russia. While Mueller found no coordination or criminal conspiracy, the official said, some team members say his findings paint a picture of a campaign whose members were manipulated by a sophisticated Russian intelligence operation. Some of that information may be classified, the official said, so it’s not clear whether it will be released in a few weeks when Barr makes public a redacted version of the Mueller report.

We have a term for this, it’s called a “useful idiot”.


#268

Funny tidbit in the WSJ :tumbler_glass:

There also is a question of in what form the report will be delivered. Will it be on paper or digitally? Which color-coding will be used for the redactions? Will it be a searchable PDF document or sheets of paper fed into a scanner? Some congressional offices have stockpiled whiskey and drafted pizza orders in anticipation of a reading marathon.


#269

That Michael Cohen, Buzzfeed, Trump thing

The Mueller report finds that Cohen lied, that he did so at what he believed to be the president’s behest, that the president knew he was giving false testimony, and that the president’s lawyers encouraged that testimony. In his report, Mueller wrote that Trump’s attorney told Cohen to “stay on message, and not contradict the President.”

Cohen has also spoken publicly in more detail about the Trump Moscow lies.

On Feb. 27, Cohen testified before a congressional committee that Trump “told” him to lie to Congress “in his way,” using a coded style of speech that Cohen said was familiar from past interactions.

Two weeks ago, Cohen’s attorneys sent a lengthy memo to lawmakers, including more than 100 pages of documentation, that stated Cohen’s false testimony was based on “Trump and associates’ overall and intense effort to persuade Cohen to commit crime of lying to congress.”

“Cohen explained that he was, in effect, instructed to lie about the January 31, 2016 date through the use of Trump code words that could only be interpreted as an instruction or ‘directive,’” the memo states, "to cover-up the fact that Cohen had been in contact with Russians during most of the presidential campaign, from the day of the Iowa caucuses, February 1, through all the primaries and caucuses and until June 2016, after Trump had become the putative Republican nominee by assembling a majority of delegates.”

The facts of Cohen’s lies and his interactions with Trump are, largely, now settled. Our sources — federal law enforcement officials — interpreted the evidence Cohen presented as meaning that the president “directed” Cohen to lie. We now know that Mueller did not.

I think it was understood that Cohen would lie for Trump. He was already Trumps attack dog, it’s not the same as subornation of perjury but still he lied to protect Trump. Unethical and morally corrupt.


#270

The first important point here is that the GRU and the Trump campaign—including Trump himself—were not operating in parallel worlds but in interative interaction with one another. On July 27, 2016, Trump in a speech publicly called for Russia to release Hillary Clinton’s missing server emails: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” The reference here was not to the hacking the GRU had done over the past few months but to the hypothesized compromise of Clinton’s private email server some time earlier—an event of which there is no particular reason to believe took place at all.

The GRU, like many Trump supporters, took Trump seriously, but not literally. “Within approximately five hours of Trump’s announcement,” Mueller writes, “GRU officers targeted for the first time Clinton’s personal office.” In other words, the GRU appears to have responded to Trump’s call for Russia to release a set of Clinton’s emails the Russians likely never hacked and thus didn’t have by launching a new wave of attacks aimed at other materials.

Trump has since insisted that he was joking in that speech. But the public comments mirrored private orders. After the speech, “Trump asked individuals affiliated with his Campaign to find the deleted Clinton emails," the report states. "Michael Flynn . . . recalled that Trump made this request repeatedly, and Flynn subsequently contacted multiple people in an effort to obtain the emails.”

Oh.

And remember Mr. Smith, who was found dead in a hotel room?

Two of the people contacted by Flynn were Barbara Ledeen and Peter Smith. Ledeen had been working on recoving the emails for a while already, Mueller reports. Smith, only weeks after Trump’s speech, sprang into action himself on the subject. The result was the operation about which Matt Tait wrote a first-hand account on Lawfare. “The investigation established that Smith communicated with at least [campaign officials] Flynn and [Sam] Clovis about his search for the deleted Clintoin emails,” Mueller writes, though “the Office did not identify evidence that any of the listed individuals initiated or directed Smith’s efforts.” Ledeen obtained emails that proved to be not authentic. Smith, for his part, “drafted multiple emails stating or intimating that he was in contact with Russian hackers”—though Mueller notes that the investigation “did not establish that Smith was in contact with Russian hackers or that Smith, Ledeen, or other individuals in touch with the Trump Campaign utlimately obtained the deleted Clinton emails.”

In other words, it wasn’t that Trump was above dealing with Russian hackers to get Hillary’s emails. He not only called publicly on the Russians to deliver the goods on his opponent, he privately ordered his campaign to seek the material out. He did this knowing himself—clear from his public statements and very clear from the actions of those who acted on his request—that Russia would or might be the source.

The reason there’s no foul here is only that the whole thing was a wild conspiracy theory. The idea that the missing 30,000 emails had been retrieved was never more than conjecture, after all. The idea that they would be easily retrievable from the “dark web” was a kind of fantasy. In other words, even as a real hacking operation was going on, Trump personally, his campaign, and his campaign followers were actively attempting to collude with a fake hacking operation that wasn’t going on.

It is not illegal to imagine stolen emails and try to retrieve them from imagined hackers. But it’s morally little different from being spoon-fed information by Russian intelligence. The Trump campaign was seeking exactly the spoon feeding it was accused of taken; it just couldn’t manage to find the right spoon, and it missing when it tried to put spoons in its mouth.