An Imaginary Account of Robert Mueller Before Congress 3 22 July 2019.

Mueller: Although the team did not establish that the President and his campaign had conspired with the Russians, he might have wanted the investigation to end because of things that it might have (and did) reveal about the campaign.  It’s possible that the President would have feared that these were crimes: the public misstatements about Trump Organization’s pursuit of Russian business deals into Summer 2016, and Trump tried to get information about future Wikileaks.

Republicans: And these were crimes under which laws?

Mueller: “More broadly, multiple witnesses described the President’s preoccupation with the press coverage of the Russia investigation and his persistent concern that it raised questions about the legitimacy of his election.” (p. 256.)

Mueller: Finally, he didn’t tell the truth at first about why he had fired Comey. (pp. 256-257.)

Republicans:  And you discovered the real reason how?  He went on national television a few days later and told a journalist.

The Post-Comey Phase.

Mueller: The team immediately added an investigation of President Trump for obstruction of justice to its mandate.  President Trump reacted strongly against the appointment of a special prosecutor.  (p. 257.)

An example.

Mueller: On 9 June 2016, Manafort, Kushner, and Trump, Jr. met with some Russians in hopes of hearing about Russian “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.  That turned out to be false advertising on the part of the Russians.  Receiving such information might have been a violation of campaign finance laws, but they got skint.  When news of this meeting first became public, President Trump repeatedly tried to mischaracterize the intended purpose of the meeting.

Mueller: It would have been obstruction of justice to prevent either Congress or the Special Prosecutor from receiving relevant documents when demanded.  The President did not do that.  (p. 280.)

Mueller: “The evidence does not establish that the President intended to prevent the Special Counsel’s Office or Congress from obtaining the emails setting up the June 9 meeting or other information about that meeting.” (p. 281.)  The only evidence we have is that the President told people to hand over emails and other information to whomever needed to have them. (p. 280.)

Republicans: This phrase you keep using—“did not establish”—what does that mean exactly?  Because in this particular case, what you have is evidence of a media strategy directed against the Democratic media combined with a demonstrated willingness to provide requested information to Congress and the Special Prosecutor.  So, does “did not establish” mean the same thing everywhere else in the Report?  As in, “did not establish” collusion/co-ordination/conspiracy with the Russians.  Does that really mean “we didn’t find any evidence of this at all”?

An Imaginary Account of Robert Mueller Before Congress 2 22 July 2019.

Mueller: The team came to think of the investigation as covering two periods.

There was the period up to the firing of James Comey.  During this period, people repeatedly told the president that he himself was not under investigation.

There was the period after the firing of James Comey, when the President found that firing Comey had put him in danger of an obstruction charge.  Thereafter the President did many things directed against the team’s investigation.

Republicans: So, you could not establish an underlying crime by the President; officials told him that he wasn’t personally under investigation, but Democrats and their share of the media kept up making accusations, and Comey would not make a public statement that the President wasn’t under investigation.  Did that lead you to inquire into Comey’s behavior during this period?

The Comey Phase.

Mueller: The team decided that none of the statutory or constitutional objections by the President’s lawyers justified NOT investigating the facts. (p. 202.)

Mueller: During the campaign, candidate Trump said a bunch of pro-Russian things; denied to the media all sorts of reports; after election, he doubted reports that the Russians had tried to help him win the election; and expressed concern that the reports would de-legitimize his victory. (p. 212.)

Republicans: So what?  He’s got a right to his own opinion on Russia, even if it differs from President Obama’s opinion; lying to the media isn’t a crime; and the Democrats have been using the Russia investigation to de-legitimize the Trump administration for better than two years now.

Mueller: Michael Flynn, the National Security Adviser, lied to the FBI about a couple of phone calls to the Russian ambassador.  Trump fired him, but asked Comey to “let Flynn go.”  (pp. 217-218.)

Mueller: President Trump fired Comey after Comey refused to discuss the scope of the Russia investigation in testimony before Congress and did not state that President Trump himself was not being investigated.  Three times previously, Comey had told Trump in private that he was not being investigated.  (p. 244.)

Republicans: Did you try to evaluate the state of mind and intent of James Comey?  The IG Report on his handling of the Clinton investigation indicated some curious behaviors.  Comey’s press appearances on his book tour and afterward also might cast some light backward on his time at the FBI.

Mueller: The President believed that the Russia investigation was hurting his ability to govern.  (pp. 245, 256 and fn. 500.)

Mueller: Firing Comey could have a chilling effect on the investigation.  On the other hand, it wouldn’t stop the investigation.  (p. 253.)

An Imaginary Account of Robert Mueller Before Congress 1 22 July 2019.

Robert Mueller has said that the report is his testimony.   The following imagines what Republicans might ask or say during Mr. Mueller’s testimony.   They probably wont.

Mueller: One, the Special Prosecutor’s team chose not to make a traditional charge/decline-to-charge decision.  The DoJ’s Office of Legal Council has ruled that a sitting president cannot be charged and the team accepted the reasoning behind this ruling. (p. 194.)

Republicans: However, you didn’t have to charge President Trump.  You could just have found that he did commit obstruction of justice, then leave it to Congress to follow through.  Impeachment is a constitutional process.  Why didn’t you find this conclusion?

Mueller: Two, the team investigated the facts in order to document occasions where other people had committed obstruction of justice[1] and to document cases where the President may have obstructed justice in order for him to be prosecuted after he leaves office.  (pp. 194-195.)

Mueller: Three, the team chose NOT to apply the common legal standard to the evidence that might have led to a decision that the President had committed a crime.  (p. 195.)

Republicans:

1) Why not?  Such a finding would lead to impeachment by the House.  See above.

2.) Or was that because he had not committed a crime?

Mueller: The Federal Government is a sieve, so news of a secret finding would leak.  This would cast a shadow over the President’s ability to lead.  (p. 195.)

Republicans: So has the Mueller Report cast a shadow over the President’s ability to lead?

Mueller: Four, the team can’t tell if President Trump obstructed justice or did not obstruct justice. (p. 195.)

Republicans (incautiously): Why is that?

 

Overarching factual issues.  (pp. 201-202.)

Mueller: It could not be a typical obstruction case because it concerned the President.

Mueller: First, some of his actions were “facially lawful,” but he also had official powers that could influence other people’s conduct. (p. 201.)

Mueller: Second, obstruction usually is intended to cover-up another crime, but the team did not establish that the President had committed any crime.  So the team had consider whether other motives inspired his actions.

Republicans: like punching back against what he believed to be an un-fair investigation?

Mueller: Third, the President often acted in full public view, rather than in secret.  Still, this might have been meant to influence witnesses.

[1] Such people can be prosecuted immediately.

The Latest News.

I’m a never-Trump Republican.  I didn’t vote for him the last time and I’m not going to vote for him the next time.  I think, to steal a line from P.J. O’Rourke, that when the Donald Trump Monument is unveiled in Washington, DC, it will consist of a large pit with a donkey at the bottom.  That said, here are my thoughts on “The Latest News.”(Name of an anti-Bolshevik Russian refugee newspaper published in Paris).

  1. Paul Manafort is convicted of stuff from 2014 and before in Ukraine and Trump is supposed to be worried about what he may say about Russian collusion in 2016?  What if there was no collusion, as Trump has insisted?  So far, but we’re waiting for Robert Mueller’s final report or charges before we know.  We’re also waiting for the Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on the origins of the Russia investigation.  The last one excoriated James Comey in exactly the terms used by Rod Rosenstein to fire him back before Trump admitted that it was about Russia.  The IG also came down hard on Andrew McCabe.  So, he doesn’t look too marshmallow-like to me.  Let’ wait on the reports.  In the meantime, the suspicion might arise that Manafort would fabricate stuff to please Mueller.  Or, if Manafort says “I don’t know anything about what you want to know,” does he get the book thrown at him?
  2. Michael Cohen pleaded to a bunch of stuff he did independently of Trump + he helped pay hush money to a couple of women with whom Trump had had sex.    Similarly, HRC refused to release the text of her secret speech to Wall Street bankers for exactly the same reason as Trump tried to hide the revelations of “Stormy Daniels” and that other one.  People might think less of them during the run-up to an elections.  Did the lawyers and political operatives–if any–for HRC who counseled her on refusing to release the text of the secret speech also violate campaign finance laws?  After all, they got paid money to keep the truth hidden.   For that matter, how many of the Democrats who want to get Trump also said “OK” when Bill Clinton said “Well, we’ll just have to win it”?
  3. Turning to matters of substance, rather than froth and scum (see: Andie Tucher https://www.amazon.com/Froth-Scum-Beauty-Goodness-Americas/dp/0807844721 ),  Mexico is willing to make concessions on NAFTA and Canada will soon join in.  China has resumed talks with the US on tariffs and may yet open its markets to American goods.  The NATO allies are finally starting to meet their long-standing commitments.  North Korea has begun talks with South Korea and the US on nuclear disarmament.  It seems that the North Koreans suddenly figured out how to make (or buy) ICBM rocket engines and the computer technology to prevent US cyber-attacks on missile tests.  Could the CIA offer some insight on how this happened?  Then, huge numbers of ordinary Iranians, according to the New York Times, want their government to talk to the US, given the collapse of the Iranian economy.  The corporate tax is down to international norms.  OK, spending is wayup above international norms.  The unpredictable regulatory environment of the Obama administration has been reined-in.
  4. Yes, Trump identifies with “strong leaders.”  What do people want?  A continuation of the “Empire” as it operated under Clinton, Bush, and Obama?  Bunch of weak elites of both parties are nostalgic for the era of the USA telling everyone else what they had otta do, while getting bent-over on trade and other stuff.  Times up.
  5. Minor social stuff.  A.) Wait, Asia Argento had sex with  a 17 year-old boy and he was “traumatized”?  As opposed to grateful?  You ever see her in “La Reine Margot”?  Was he fighting to keep his virginity?  You know any 17 year old boys who are/were saving it for marriage?  Me neither.  America never was “Up With People.”  Then, how did the stuff come to the NYT?  And why were they in such a hurry to publish it?  To bust on an immigrant woman who may or may not be a little kinky?  Think about that one.  B.)  One little picture in the paper of the activists who pulled down the statue of “Silent Sam” at Chapel Hill.  (S’OK by me.  My great-great grandfather was killed at Nashville commanding the 35th Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  Picture of him getting knocked backward off his horse by a minie-ball to the head appeared on the front page of Harpers.  Burn the whole place down.)  In that picture, all but one of the people is white.  In the story accompanying the picture, the black people who are interviewed are described as being at the back of the crowd.  Was the crowd truly multi-racial, diverse, and inclusive, or was it a bunch of white activists who appropriated the justifiable anger of African-Americans for their own purposes? I would really appreciate it if people could give me some information or advice here.

Memoirs of the Addams Administration 24.

Republicans struggled forward with the effort to make the Obama administration go away.  In 2010, the Democrats passed the so-called Dodd-Frank Act.  That legislation led to the imposition of about 28,000 new regulations on banks and credit unions, greatly increasing compliance costs.  As a result, many small institutions have been absorbed into larger institutions with deeper pockets.  The Dodd-Frank Bill created an Orderly Liquidation Authority for banks that do fail.  It created a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.[1]  All of these were wildly unpopular with Republicans.  House Republicans passed the Financial Choice Act.   It exempts banks from many of the Dodd-Frank restriction in return for a requirement that they maintain large cash reserves.  The bill now goes to the Senate.  There it is likely to be subjected to a substantial re-write.[2]  Meanwhile, Republican senators have been trying to create a less-horrible version of the American Health Care Act (ACHA) previously passed by Republican representatives.[3]  The Senate plan postpones cuts to Medicaid for seven years[4] and maintains—at a lower level—the subsidies to low-income earners.[5]

Elsewhere, the World Economic Forum[6] (the folks who bring you Davos) reported that many Western countries—but the United States most of all—are suffering from a huge gap between the savings needed for retirement and actual savings for retirement.[7]  The American gap amounted to $28 trillion in 2015 and is projected to reach $137 trillion in 2050.  Cat food-salad sandwiches and living in an ElderCommune being unlikely to appeal as the “golden years,” one might anticipate a fight among Baby Boomers as the lower 80 percent seek to draw on the savings of the upper 20 percent.[8]

All of these were important developments for good or ill.  However, Americans seem to have focused more tightly on the controversies surrounding President Donald Trump.  To begin with, former FBI director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee (which has been investigating possible collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign) that the president made him uncomfortable in several private conversations, that he had made detailed notes of these conversations, and that he had arranged for these notes to be leaked to the press after his dismissal in hopes to triggering the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the man who had fired him.  Next came Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his porous memory.  Sessions told generally hostile former colleagues that he fired Comey for reasons unrelated to the FBI’s investigation of the “collusion” investigation.[9]   To round-out the week in suitable fashion, New York City’s “Shakespeare in the Park” series ran a version of “Julius Caesar” with a Trump look-alike in the title role.  Back in 2013 a square-state theater company used “Caesar” to imagine Barack Obama slain by right-wingers.  Now a right-winger is portrayed as meeting his death at the hands of women and minorities.[10]

[1] Just for fun, let’s imagine a Consumer Information Protection Bureau with its own “fiduciary  rule” requiring newspapers and other print media and television networks to “act in the best interests of their clients.”

[2] “Issue of the week: Dodd-Frank under fire,” The Week, 23 June 2017, p. 34.

[3] “Trumpcare: The GOPs secret plan,” The Week, 23 June 2017, p. 17.

[4] Actually, this is pretty clever.  Seven years from 2017 would be 2024.  Given the way that the parties alternate in the White House, a Democrat would be walking in the front door just as the Medicaid cuts took effect.

[5] One federal court has held that those subsidies are illegal because the original Affordable Care Act (ACA) made no provision for appropriating the money to pay for the subsidies.  The Obama administration appealed this decision.  The case has not yet reached the Supreme Court.  When/if it does, that will be the end of all subsidies and the whole system of “mandated” insurance for poor people who don’t have employer-supplied medical insurance will collapse in a heart-beat.   Republicans hope to use this as leverage.  Democrats have been blaming the “uncertainty” caused by the Republican repeal-and-replace effort among insurers for the collapse of the health-care market-places.

[6] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Economic_Forum

[7] “Retirement: Will Boomers work forever?” The Week, 23 June 2017, p. 32.

[8] See Richard Reeves “America’s hidden class system,” The Week, 23 June 2017, p. 12.

[9] “Comey: did he damage Trump?” The Week, 23 June 2017, p. 6; “Sessions denies collusion as Trump eyes Mueller,” The Week, 23 June 2017, p. 4.

[10] “Julius Caesar: Assassinating Trump on stage,” The Week, 23 June 2017, p. 17.