April 19, 2019

Mueller Time

Editor’s note: Happy Easter and Pesach (Passover)! We're taking a brief hiatus to celebrate - be back in full swing next Wednesday!

On Thursday, “Attorney General William Barr… released a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election to Congress and the public. The special counsel spent nearly two years investigating attacks on the 2016 presidential election and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russians behind [them].” NPR

Read the full report here. AP News

See past issues

From the Left

The left thinks the report is devastating for President Trump, and that Mueller offered compelling evidence that Trump committed obstruction of justice.

“We learned that two Trump campaign officials, campaign manager Paul Manafort and Manafort’s deputy Rick Gates, were regularly providing polling information to a Russian national whom Gates believed to be a ‘spy.’ We learned that, after Trump publicly called on Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s emails, he privately ordered future National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to find them. Flynn reached out to a man named Peter Smith who (apparently falsely) told a number of people that he was in contact with Russian agents. We learned that Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos attempted to arrange meetings between Trump and Putin, and that Trump personally approved Papadopoulos’s work on this front…

“What the report finds is not clear-cut evidence of a quid-pro-quo. Instead, what we see is a series of bungled and abortive attempts to create ties between the two sides, a situation in which the Trump team and Russia worked to reach out to each other (and vice versa) without ever developing a formal arrangement to coordinate.”
Zack Beauchamp, Vox

“No evidence of direct conspiracy between Trump officials and the Russians, but plenty of evidence of desired conspiracy. And: Limited ways to prosecute Trump for obstruction of justice while he is president, but strong evidence that obstruction was intended and occurred. Already, Republicans are urging the country to move on. In this case, moving on would ignore and reward corruption on a grand scale.”
Michael Gerson, Washington Post

“The report points out that, although Trump’s attempts to limit and shut down the investigation didn’t ultimately work, that was not because of a lack of effort or intent on his part. Instead, some of the people around him refused to do what he wanted them to do.”
John Cassidy, The New Yorker

Trump’s own handpicked aides and close associates, viewing his orders as illegal, counterproductive, dishonest, or just plain stupid, simply don’t carry them out… As Mueller’s decision about charging on obstruction of justice implies, Trump’s fate must be decided by politics, not courts. The behavior detailed in Mueller’s report ought to make it easier for both politicians and the public to render their verdict.”
David A. Graham, The Atlantic

Some argue that “even under intense stress, the American system hasn’t buckled. A prosecutor appointed and overseen by Trump’s Justice Department is still capable of discovering the facts about this president. The FBI and intelligence agencies weathered a Mueller-documented campaign of presidential intimidation. The fact that a coolheaded Mueller didn’t call for legal prosecution, when half the country was calling for Trump’s scalp, in some ways affirms the integrity of the system…

“Congress may shy from impeachment; the public may even, inexplicably, decide that Trump deserves a second term. But the facts will be there for future historians — and for the millions around the world who have worried (or celebrated) that our system is cracking… Mueller’s report is a win for the slow tortoise of the truth.”
David Ignatius, Washington Post

Minority View: “The sweeping Mueller investigation ended with zero indictments of zero Americans for conspiring with Russia over the 2016 election. Both Donald Trump, Jr. and Jared Kushner – the key participants in the Trump Tower meeting – testified for hours and hours yet were never charged for perjury, lying or obstruction, even though Mueller proved how easily he would indict anyone who lied as part of the investigation…

“As Mueller himself concluded, a reasonable debate can be conducted on whether Trump tried to obstruct his investigation with corrupt intent. But even on the case of obstruction, the central point looms large over all of it: there was no underlying crime established for Trump to cover-up.”
Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

From the Right

The right sees the report as vindication of President Trump’s claims of innocence, and criticizes Mueller’s analysis of obstruction of justice.

From the Right

The right sees the report as vindication of President Trump’s claims of innocence, and criticizes Mueller’s analysis of obstruction of justice.

“The investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationships with various foreign actors and into the president’s possible obstruction of justice has come to a conclusion, and that conclusion is that there was no criminal collusion and insufficient evidence to support an obstruction prosecution. In a reasonable world, this would be the obvious time to move on… the reasonable conclusion here is to concede that there was smoke (maybe just the smell of smoke) but no fire, that some of Trump’s actions may have been unseemly but that there’s no law against unseemliness.”
Kevin Williamson, National Review

“Leading Democrats still insist that further investigation is required. Mueller’s investigation involved his own team of 19 lawyers, as well as 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts and forensic accountants. It racked up 2,800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants, 230 orders for communication records, 50 orders for pen registers, 13 requests for evidence from foreign governments, and interviews with 500 witnesses. Are we to believe that this wasn’t enough?”
Hans von Spakovsky, Fox News

“The report exposes some Trumpian excesses and lies, but it also shows that, on the most important issue and the charge that started it all, Mr. Trump has been telling the truth. He and his campaign did not conspire or coordinate with Russians to steal the 2016 election. Try as he did to find a crime regarding Russia or obstruction of justice, Mr. Mueller found nothing to prosecute… Mr. Mueller essentially reveals a President behaving in predictable Trumpian fashion at being investigated for a crime he didn’t believe he committed—and which even Mr. Mueller now concedes he didn’t commit. There was no underlying crime, and the investigation continued with full White House cooperation.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Regarding obstruction, “Barr laid out the facts that the president could have shut down the investigation but did not; that he could have asserted executive privilege to withhold information from the investigation, but instead made numerous witnesses and well over a million documents available to the special counsel… these facts so cut against the idea of corruptly impeding an investigation that it is inconceivable the prosecutor could prove an obstruction case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Andrew McCarthy, National Review

“In our system, when the fact finder lacks confidence that a crime has been committed, the party under investigation is deemed not guilty. Mueller has effectively deemed Trump not guilty of obstruction of justice.”
Paul Mirengoff, Power Line Blog

Part 2 of the special counsel’s report served solely to indict President Trump in the court of public opinion… [It was a] non-indictment indictment of Trump… But Trump has no process now to clear his name from the taint of obstruction of justice created by Mueller’s report. So, after two years of battling unjust and untrue charges of collusion with Russia, Mueller has destined President Trump to spend the second half of his first term combating claims of obstruction of justice.”
Margot Cleveland, The Federalist

“The tone and the spirit of the narrative accounts suggest the writer was typing the story in a mood of enraged disbelief. Why is this good? Because it suggests the Mueller team really, really, really wanted to nail Trump with this report. They hate him and they want him gone. And yet… they just couldn’t get to obstruction…

“Anti-Trumpers and Democrats can rage all they like from now until 2025 about how the report reveals Trump should be impeached because he’s so rotten, but he’s not going to be because the report does not reveal he committed any crime. Behaving recklessly and irresponsibly and deceitfully is bad, but as is true of so much else about Donald Trump, there isn’t a voter in America who didn’t know he was all of those things on Election Day.”
John Podhoretz, Commentary Magazine

A libertarian's take

“The scoop reflects poorly on Trump, who willfully misled the public for a decade in hopes of fraudulently representing himself as a man with a Midas touch. But he could not have succeeded without the assistance of many Americans, some mercenary, others over-credulous, who helped to spread the deceit and deception, generating countless newspaper articles, magazine stories, and TV segments that misinformed the public about the publicity hound’s record in business. New evidence of his staggering losses in that decade therefore provides an apt occasion to reflect on the media’s complicity in Trump’s brazen deceit and deception… Let [this] be a lesson for today’s tabloids, gossip columnists, over-credulous or mercenary journalists, and reality-television producers.”
Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

On the bright side...

Snot otter emerges victorious in vote for Pennsylvania's official amphibian.
NPR

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