Curmudgeon Me 2.

Nancy Pelosi rules out impeachment as “not worth the trouble” unless Robert Mueller’s investigation found evidence of actual high crimes and misdemeanors.[1]  Mueller has not yet filed his report or possible final indictments.  He might report evidence of impeachable offensives by President Donald Trump, although Department of Justice opinion seems to hold that a sitting president cannot be indicted.  Attorney General William Barr might release the report or a summary of it, or he might not.  Not releasing it would make me suspect that Mueller reported impeachable offenses and Barr sought to cover for him.

On the other hand, Attorney General Barr is a long-time mainstream Republican, as are most of the Republican Senators.  What would damage the long-term interests of the Republican Party more, impeaching Trump and replacing him with Mike Pence or covering-up impeachable offenses and then having them revealed as soon as a Democrat becomes Attorney General?

What Speaker Pelosi may have been doing is trying to warn fellow Democrats that she doubts that Mueller will report either “collusion” between the Trump campaign and the Russkies or “obstruction of justice.”[2]  What Mueller has achieved so far has been to get the National Security Agency to tell him who were the Russian hackers, then to indict them; to convict George Papadopoulos for lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Russians; to convict Paul Manafort for financial crimes committed before he became Trump’s campaign manager and for tampering with witnesses to avoid subsequent prosecution; to indict Rick Gates, Manafort’s assistant in the financial crimes, and Roger Stone, and Michael Cohen; and to get Michael Flynn to co-operate.  So, it looks like we are waiting on what has been learned from Flynn and anything that Cohen said in secret that he did not say in public testimony.  I don’t know what that will be.

 

Brenton Tarrant, the accused New Zealand gun-man, was a fat boy child of divorced parents who lived with his father, didn’t like school, and acted out in non-violent ways.[3]  Apparently, he was bullied in school.  Also, “he was a heavy-metal fan.”[4]  In short, pretty run of the mill kind of victim-kid in any high school.  They rarely turn into mass murderers.  If they did, most of us would already be dead.  Then, he changed.  After escaping high-school, he remade himself physically.  He lost a lot of weight through changes in diet and exercise, and became a personal trainer at a local gym.  Again, nothing extraordinary here.  Men’s Health is full of stories of similar constructive transformations.[5]  No one recalls him as violent or white nationalist.  Then he went off to travel the world.  Yet again, nothing extraordinary.  British and European youth hostels are full of young Australians and New Zealanders come from the far side of the world.  Same is probably true of Asia.

It looks like he was “radicalized” during his travels.  This will take more digging than ordinary journalists can do.  Wait a year for the story in the New Yorker.

[1] Peter Baker and Emily Cochrane, “Ruling Out Impeachment May Set Far-Reaching Precedent,” NYT, 13 March 2019.

[2] JMO, but it would be hard to call defending yourself against James Comey “obstruction of justice” if there is no underlying crime.  I’m sure that I’m wrong, but there it is.

[3] Isabella Kwai, “Shock and Disgust in Christchurch Suspect’s Hometown,” NYT, 17 March 2019.

[4] Aha!

[5] Look at the “Belly Off” series for numerous examples.

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Manafort Destiny 2.

A curious article appeared in the New York Times today.[1]  It seems a little disorganized as would be the case with important, but late-breaking news.  Still, it contains interesting points that whet the appetite for more information.

Robert Mueller has been investigating Russian interference in the American presidential election of November 2016.  Mueller’s team of prosecutors charged Paul Manafort, President Trump’s transient campaign manager, with various forms of fraud related to his work as a consultant to pro-Russian candidates in Ukraine through 2014.  Manafort worked out a plea deal with Mueller.  That deal required his full co-operation with the prosecutors.  Now, prosecutors want to break the deal.  They argue that Manafort has lied on multiple occasions.   They want to dump a ton of bricks on him.

To justify throwing the book at Manafort, the prosecutors could have to provide some evidence of exactly how and in what regard he did lie to them.  Failing that, the defense could claim that Manafort did provide truthful information.  Normally, the burden of proof rests on the prosecution.  Hence, the sentencing memorandum may reveal important information from Mueller’s investigation.  This might run beyond Paul Manafort’s actions as far as the president.

First, although he had a plea deal with the prosecutors, Manafort’s lawyers secretly consulted with President Trump’s lawyers about the lines of investigation being pursued by Mueller.  Although such discussions “violated no laws,” Mueller and his team are exercised nonetheless.   Did they have an agreement with Mr. Manafort that he would not consult with the President’s lawyers?  If they did, and if Manafort repeatedly stated that he had held no such talks even as his lawyers met with White House lawyers, then this would be grounds for breaking the plea deal.

Second, Mr. Mueller’s team “accused Mr. Manafort of holding out on them” despite his pledge to assist them in any matter they deemed relevant.  “Holding out” usually means withholding facts.  So far, the statements in the NYT are ambiguous.  According to Rudolph Giuliani, himself a former Federal prosecutor and now a special counsel to President Trump, “He [Robert Mueller] wants Manafort to incriminate Trump.”  Did Manafort deny any collusion?

Third, in one paragraph, the NYT states that President Trump’s “tweets” tried to imply that “he had some inside information.”  As evidence, the NYT story quotes Trump as saying that “the Mueller investigation are a total mess.  They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts.  They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want.”   Does the president have evidence to this effect?  If he does, then what does that say about the state of the Mueller investigation?

Finally, dumping Manafort back in the glue suggests that the federal prosecutors have no use for the testimony he has provided so far with regard to President Trump.  That is, Manafort may have denied any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russkies.  If this is the area in which he lied, then Mueller must have a bunch of solid evidence from other sources with which to prove that Manafort lied.  What is that source?  What is that evidence?

In any event, when will Robert Mueller report?

[1] Michael S. Schmidt, Sharon Lafraniere, and Maggie Haberman, “Manafort Lawyer Briefs Trump Team on Inquiry,” NYT, 28 November 2018.