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#361

Interesting interview with former US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul about his views on the Mueller Report.

Foreign Policy: What’s your overall response to what you’ve read and heard about the Mueller report?

Michael McFaul: I have a couple of reactions. I’ve been skimming, so I haven’t read every word closely yet. One, on the part I’m most interested in, Volume I [which deals with Russia and collusion], I’m impressed by the level of detail and comprehensiveness that Mueller and his team have provided us on what the Russians did.

On the principal two operations—the IRA [Russia’s Internet Research Agency] and the GRU operation against the DNC [Democratic National Committee] and [Hillary Clinton campaign chairman] John Podesta—I think that should be celebrated by everyone both for what he [Mueller] did but also what our intelligence community is capable of doing.

My second reaction is this is only a partial investigation of what happened in 2016. The full investigation of everything that the Russians did, and more importantly what we as a government did or did not do, was not part of Mueller’s mandates. So I have questions about many other things that he didn’t cover. And the biggest piece Mueller left out, of course, is now what do we do as a country to prevent this in the future? Two or three years ago, some of us were arguing that we needed a bipartisan commission, not unlike what we had after 9/11, to look at everything that happened—including the Obama administration, by the way, and the social media companies, and the media itself—and this not that.

FP: Can you be more specific about what you think the special counsel didn’t cover?

MM: One is when they look at IRA, they’re looking at a very specific operation by one entity in Russia, but they’re not looking at general behavior by Russian actors on social media platforms that also have an impact. How do you somehow discern that one entity was important in meddling and the other one was not. … The other piece was Russia media itself. RT, Sputnik … what impact did they have? We don’t have any assessment of that. I’d like to know more about that. Third, they do this in an indirect way in talking about the meetings but I was hoping we would learn more about the Russian strategy for engagement with all these people, and was it an attempt to influence the outcome of the elections? … To me that’s one more piece of Putin’s playbook, and it’s not just about conspiracy with the Russians.

And then the money part feels incomplete. There were all kinds of hypotheses about Russian money [laundering] floated about last couple of years, and I don’t feel that somebody’s tied a bow under that. … I expected there would be more discussion of that. The money trail is the most important part of the unanswered questions. Were these just innocent transactions, or were these done by Russian proxies to gain influence?

FP: Referring to Russian investment in Trump Organization businesses and buildings?

MM: Yeah. But not only. And then one other thing—and this is not Mueller’s fault—it’s just the policy part. What were the Russians doing in those 21 states—and why did they choose not to be disruptive on election day, even though they had capacity to do so?


#362

After reading the report and taking some time to reflect, I believe the national security implications revealed by the report indicate that in order to remove the threat we have a national duty to begin impeachment proceedings. I’ve been thinking a lot about the theory of obstruction being part of collusion and the attempted cover-up by Barr and the only thing I can conclude is that we’re still witnessing Obstruction of Justice.

At no time has the AG or the President offered statements or actions that would indicate that the Russian threat has been nullified or that preventive measures will be enacted. As far as I can tell the President shows no interest in protecting our election process and campaigns from interference or attacks by foreign actors.

The Mueller report isn’t actually close to a full account of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller. That’s not just because of the redactions. When he was hired, Mr. Mueller inherited supervision of an F.B.I. counterintelligence investigation. That is the missing piece of the Mueller report.

President Trump may claim “exoneration” on a narrowly defined criminal coordination charge. But a counterintelligence investigation can yield something even more important: an intelligence assessment of how likely it is that someone — in this case, the president — is acting, wittingly or unwittingly, under the influence of or in collaboration with a foreign power. Was Donald Trump a knowing or unknowing Russian asset, used in some capacity to undermine our democracy and national security?

The public Mueller report alone provides enough evidence to worry that America’s own national security interests may not be guiding American foreign policy.

The counterintelligence investigation is not necessarily complete, but from the glimpses we see in the Mueller report, it should set off very serious national security alarm bells.

Update:
It seems foolish that we keep these people in office because we didn’t have enough evidence to charge them with a federal felony for coordinating with Russian spies. The Mueller report shows they are already compromised and have been trying to cover it up in public for over two years.


#363

Here is, as Bill Barr might call it, “the bottom line”: The Mueller Report describes, in excruciating detail and with relatively few redactions, a candidate and a campaign aware of the existence of a plot by a hostile foreign government to criminally interfere in the U.S. election for the purpose of supporting that candidate’s side. It describes a candidate and a campaign who welcomed the efforts and delighted in the assistance. It describes a candidate and a campaign who brazenly and serially lied to the American people about the existence of the foreign conspiracy and their contacts with it. And yet, it does not find evidence to support a charge of criminal conspiracy, which requires not just a shared purpose but a meeting of the minds.

Here is the other bottom line: The Mueller Report describes a president who, on numerous occasions, engaged in conduct calculated to hinder a federal investigation. It finds ample evidence that at least a portion of that conduct met all of the statutory elements of criminal obstruction of justice. In some of the instances in which all of the statutory elements of obstruction are met, the report finds no persuasive constitutional or factual defenses. And yet, it declines to render a judgment on whether the president has committed a crime.

Now, the House must decide what to do with these facts. If it wants to actually confront the substance of the report, it will introduce a resolution to begin an impeachment inquiry.


#364

Thx for posting…want to read Benjamin Wittes’ takes…just noticed now how much he has written on this. Morning read.


#365

Me too. I’m running catch up on my other feeds and pods. I blocked out all Op-Ed from Tuesday’s night until last night. I really wanted to inform my own opinion and get some distance from the groupthink. I feel very relieved to read these stories today.