May 31, 2019

More on Mueller

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“Special counsel Robert Mueller said Wednesday that charging President Donald Trump with a crime was ‘not an option’ because of federal rules, but he used his first public remarks on the Russia investigation to emphasize that he did not exonerate the president.” AP News

On Thursday, “Attorney General William Barr said he believes special counsel Robert Mueller could have reached a decision on whether President Trump committed obstruction of justice, regardless of long-standing Justice Department policy that prohibits the indictment of a sitting president.” CBS News

In case you missed it, you can catch up on yesterday’s edition here, where we covered the first set of analyses of Mueller’s statement. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left agrees with Barr that Mueller should’ve reached a decision, and is divided on whether Congress should begin impeachment proceedings.

“Legal experts and law professors have been popping up ever since Mueller spoke, pointing out that the Department of Justice’s settled ‘opinion’ that a president cannot be prosecuted while in office has never been tested in court. There is no legal bar to Trump’s indictment… [Moreover] Mueller’s secondary argument that to indict Trump would contravene the ‘principles of fairness’ assumes the president would be unable to clear his name in a court hearing – when in fact, it might be fairer, to him and the American public, to afford him that opportunity by bringing charges. As Mueller has unsatisfactorily left it, Trump is above the law, yet not above suspicion.”
Simon Tisdall, The Guardian

“He has declined to clear Trump of wrongdoing. He has also declined to accuse Trump of wrongdoing. Either choice was within his power as special counsel. Instead, Mueller has left the country with a tortured non-conclusion… His statement marginally increases the pressure on the House of Representatives to open impeachment hearings. But it mostly leaves the country exactly where it was, with Trump’s defenders believing he’s innocent and his critics believing he’s guilty.”
David Leonhardt, New York Times

That may be why Pelosi’s “taking a middle of the road approach on impeachment… Most voters put the Russian investigation very low on the list of most important issues. In a March CNN poll, 0 respondents listed the Russia investigation or the Mueller report as their most important issue in determining their vote for the 2020 election. Pelosi is a politician who is practicing politics… Launching an impeachment inquiry not supported by the public is probably seen by her as a risky maneuver that puts at risk the Democratic majority.”
Harry Enten, CNN

“Impeachment at this point is all but certain to end in Trump’s acquittal in the Senate, which is controlled by a Republican majority… A Trump facing impeachment will rally reluctant Republicans to him, with the argument, so effective for Bill Clinton in the 1990s, Even if he did something wrong, it does not merit removal from office…

“Trump accountability is not an all-or-nothing choice. It’s not now or never. The House can investigate every Trump misdeed, exposing to the light of day everything from allegations of money laundering and bank fraud to the abuse of undocumented-immigrant laborers at Trump-owned properties. It can investigate the Trump-Russia file, not as a case of criminal conspiracy, but as a national-security threat. It can fight the battle for proper Trump financial disclosure in the courts—and summon the national-security professionals who were overruled by Trump when they denied Jared Kushner a security clearance to testify before committees…  wise action is better than urgent action, and the best decision is one that leads to success.”
David Frum, The Atlantic

Counterpoint: “It is no surprise that few Americans are talking about the report over the water cooler… It’s time for Democratic leaders to repackage Mueller’s findings in a form that will be more readily digested by the American people. Unfortunately, the current approach of investigations in no fewer than six committees, multiple subpoenas, innumerable court proceedings and White House delay tactics just creates more confusion. How can the United States focus on the findings if a Democratic House will not singularly focus its investigations? From the cheap seats, it appears that there may be too many balls in the air…

“Democrats should… use the impeachment process to make the case and move public opinion against the incumbent president rather than wait for public opinion to catch up to the evidence. The country needs to hear from Mueller and witnesses within the serious framework of an impeachment proceeding — no fried chicken buckets and no one-liners, please.”
Donna F. Edwards, Washington Post

“Trump’s defenders will say this evidence is all circumstantial. But circumstantial evidence is not weak evidence: it’s simply evidence based on the circumstances in which an act of wrongdoing is committed — such as the license plate of a car that speeds away from a bank just after that bank is robbed. Criminals are convicted on such evidence all the time. They will also say that there’s no explicit quid pro quo proposal here. But… ‘even when a corrupt deal is struck implicitly, the government can still prosecute extortion on a quid pro quo basis. Circumstantial evidence can be enough to prove a criminal exchange.’…

“In the absence of an explicit quid pro quo over restarting aid, the context and circumstances are what will become the focus of the investigation. There is enough here to support impeachment. Whether it is also enough to convince Republicans and lead to removal is another matter.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Some suggest that Congress “remove Trump from office, so that he cannot abuse incumbency to subvert the electoral process, but let the American people make the judgment on whether or not he gets a second term… Removing Trump from office for the remainder of his term would disable him from abusing presidential power again and protect the integrity of the electoral process from inappropriate interference. At the same time, letting him run for a second term would permit the American electorate to decide whether Trump, despite his attempt to subvert the system, should have another chance… Decoupling removal from disqualification lowers the stakes and changes the constitutional calculus. As long as Trump can run again, Republicans cannot hide behind a claim that they are [the] ones protecting voter choice by opposing impeachment.”
Edward B. Foley, Politico

From the Right

The right is critical of Mueller’s decision to issue a statement, and argues that impeachment is unwarranted.

From the Right

The right is critical of Mueller’s decision to issue a statement, and argues that impeachment is unwarranted.

“Mueller ditched the presumption of innocence, a bedrock of the American legal system… in surely one of the more gobsmacking utterances ever made by someone from a Justice Department podium, [he stated] ‘If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.’ If this standard had been applied to any person other than Donald Trump, it would have been widely denounced and the American Civil Liberties Union would be crusading to keep it from ever emerging again in any context in America…

“[Mueller] invented an extraconstitutional legal standard for his obstruction investigation and acted, at the very least, in violation of the spirit of the special counsel regulations. His departing act was a public statement meant to influence the public debate in a manner inappropriate for a prosecutor, in part because the public report he wrote that was inappropriate for a prosecutor failed to achieve clarity despite its hundreds of pages.”
Rich Lowry, Politico

“President Trump’s critics are now picking apart [Mueller’s] statement, looking for discrepancies with the carefully chosen words in his report, and searching for hidden meaning and secret messages urging them to impeach the president. Like with a verbal Rorschach test, they are reading between the lines to hear what they want to hear… All Mueller’s news conference did is muddy the waters. Any congressional testimony would do so 10 times over. He should have heeded his own advice, left the building quietly, and, as he put it in his statement, let ‘the office’s written work speak for itself.’”
Mark Thiessen, Washington Post

“Quite a few Democrats believe the subtext of Mueller’s remarks was, ‘Yes, you should impeach the president.’ A matter as important as this shouldn’t be left to subtext. If Mueller really believes that what he laid out in the report warrants impeachment, he could have and should have said, ‘The actions described in the report meet the legal definition of obstruction of justice. If Donald Trump were not president of the United States, he would be charged with the crime of obstruction of justice. Under our Constitution, it is up to Congress to determine the appropriate steps from here’...

“A desire to obstruct justice, and only being hindered by reluctant underlings, is a really bad quality in a president. But it’s also a really thin reed for the first removal of a sitting president in American history. Back in 1998, I thought suborning perjury was sufficient reason to remove a president, but the country disagreed. We are now approaching some sort of emerging consensus that suborning perjury isn’t enough to remove a president from office, but an unfulfilled desire to obstruct justice is… My suspicion is a lot of people apply the legal standard that ‘presidents I don’t like should be impeached, but presidents I do like should not be impeached.’”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“Impeachment may satisfy Mueller and it may satisfy the Democratic base but there’s already a constitutional mechanism for removing Trump from office coming up in 18 months. It’s called an election. Democrats may think impeachment will help them do that but I don’t see a huge appetite for that among the public. I’m sure there will be some new polls out in the next few days to tell us if Mueller’s statement had any impact on the numbers. My guess is they won’t budge very much.”
John Sexton, Hot Air

The longer Democrats drag this out, the less serious they look. They keep saying they need to consider impeachment without doing it. That makes them look like they’re interested in the politics of it, not the reality of it. The American public is largely ready to move on and voters think this issue can be dealt with at the ballot box… So either the Democrats must rush to do impeachment now or they must abandon it to avoid looking political and getting thrown off message… Bob Mueller may have done the President no favors, but he did not do the Democrats any favors either.”
Erick Erickson, The Resurgent

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“Why did Modi pick this moment to do something so radical? Violence in Kashmir had been trending downwards for the last year, after all. The main reason, besides President Donald Trump's alarming offer to mediate a settlement, is that he wanted a distraction from India's mounting economic woes. India's GDP growth dropped from over 8 percent to 5.8 percent over the last year, and it is widely expected to dip further. Just as ominous has been the crash in consumer demand. India's usual problem has been an insufficient supply to meet its voracious appetite for vehicles, cell phones, and other similar goods. But sales figures for all consumer goods have posted a precipitous decline, slamming businesses that are dramatically scaling back investments.”
Shikha Dalmia, Reason

On the bright side...

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