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Mueller’s Epic Fail

March 28, 2019

Barr Summary

I always feared that far too much faith was being placed in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Liberal commentators on television, former Justice Department officials and prosecutors, and Democratic politicians praised Mueller to the skies, citing his fearless integrity, bulldog determination, and by-the-book ethics, assuring us that he knew way more about the Trump campaign’s dealings with Russia than what the press had managed to reveal. The Mueller probe became the reason no one else did anything. As NYTimes columnist Charles Blow observed, all the eggs went in the Mueller basket.

So what did two years of Mueller’s investigation reveal to the country about the core issues of TrumpWorld contacts with Russia and obstruction of justice? So far, exactly nothing.

The indictments and convictions obtained as a result of the investigation, while damning in certain ways, are all peripheral to the core questions. And now we know that that’s all there is. No more indictments. Finito. And quite possibly no more actual information about the contents of Mueller’s report.

The central question of the investigation was this: Did the President of the United States or his subordinates act in concert with agents of a hostile foreign power (Russia) to obtain its help in the 2016 election and did he attempt to interfere with a duly constituted investigation in order to cover up such actions? And the corollary: Is the President of the United States subject to manipulation and influence by Russia?

Almost everything we know about this–and there is actually quite a lot–was uncovered by investigative press reporting. The Barr letter purportedly summarizing the Mueller report gives us absolutely nothing about collusion (except to state flatly that there wasn’t any) and tantalizingly adds that the Special Counsel did not make any recommendation on obstruction, which Barr summarily and unilaterally then decided not to pursue. Nor is there any indication in Barr’s letter that Mueller ever looked seriously into Trump’s financial dealings involving Russia.

Consider the utter strangeness of this whole affair, starting with the mind-boggling question that was the basis of the investigation itself.

The investigation was under the control of the Attorney General, who is appointed by and subject to being fired at any time by the President being investigated. Likewise, the Special Counsel himself could have been summarily fired, leading to efforts in Congress to protect him from that eventuality, which in turn were quashed by the Republican Senate majority leader. Trump’s first Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, had to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation, because he himself was potentially implicated–in part by repeatedly lying about his own contacts with the Russian Ambassador and others. This meant that the Special Counsel reported to the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, who had drafted the memo to justify the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, which event caused Congress to authorize the Special Counsel in the first place.

The president at the center of the investigation then proceeded to attack his premier law enforcement agency, the FBI, at every opportunity, resulting in the dismissal of several senior FBI officials, who had been so concerned by what they knew about Trump’s associations and behavior that they had launched an inquiry on their own even before the Comey firing and appointment of the Special Counsel. Reportedly, they (including Rosenstein) were so unnerved by Trump’s mendacity that they seriously contemplated wearing a wire to record conversations with him. Mueller himself then became the target of incessant rhetorical attacks by Trump and his enablers who alleged that the investigation was being carried out by embittered Democrats embedded in a radically liberal FBI, a charge which anyone at all familiar with that agency would know to be ludicrous. All of this meant that the Mueller investigation was on shaky ground throughout its course, with Trump openly hostile and defaming its objectivity.

What are we to make of the fact that Trump was never put under oath and was allowed to escape a direct interview and merely supply written answers (almost certainly drafted by his lawyers) to pre-agreed questions?

Why did Trump conceal the fact that he was still negotiating for Trump Tower Moscow well into his campaign for president, and why did he lie about it? Why did he meet privately with Putin on at least three occasions with no one else present to attest to what was said? Why did he publicly call for Russia to publish Hillary Clinton’s emails? Why did he publicly endorse Putin’s denials of meddling in US elections–in direct opposition to the conclusions of the US Intelligence Community? Why did he invite the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador into the Oval Office with no other US person present–a meeting that was revealed to the US public only by Russian media, because no US journalists were permitted? And those are only a few highlights. Nothing to work with there? Nothing to see? Seriously?

And what about Donald Junior and Jared Kushner who participated in the infamous Trump Tower meeting? Neither has been indicted and it’s not even clear that they were ever interviewed under oath, although both of them repeatedly lied about other contacts they had had with Russian officials, including Jared’s reported efforts to set up a back channel to Moscow using Russian embassy communications. Moreover, Jared’s activities were disturbing enough that Trump had to order that he be granted a security clearance over the objections of the intelligence community. And yet, nothing from Mueller on that.

And what was Mike Flynn cooperating about during the year and a half since he pled guilty? His sentencing has been repeatedly delayed ostensibly because he was providing valuable additional information to the Special Counsel, but what ever came of that? Similarly with Rick Gates and Michael Cohen and others. If they were singing to prosecutors enough to get their sentencing reduced and delayed, what were they singing about? Yet, there will be no additional indictments, we are told.
Granted, we don’t yet know what was in the full report that Mueller submitted, which according to New York Times is more than 300 pages long. But it is entirely possible that its contents allowed Barr to plausibly spin it as he has done. This would mean that Mueller essentially dismissed all of the above as irrelevant or that he was unwilling or unable to develop further evidence.

There are just too many loose ends for this to just go POOF and vanish. Yet we may never see a complete version of the Mueller report, and we have no reason to trust Barr on whatever spun version he opts to make public. Remember, Barr was picked for AG precisely because he is on record as maintaining that is virtually impossible for a president to commit obstruction of justice. Mueller certainly knew that in failing to make a recommendation on obstruction, he was actually making a decision in Trump’s favor.

Was Mueller so protective of his own reputation for objectivity and so afraid of showing any hint of bias, that he ultimately decided to pull his punches and err on the side of cowardice? Like Comey, was he so enamored of his own squeaky-clean Eagle Scout self-image that he committed an egregious strategic blunder that delivered the country to a man who is totally amoral and motivated solely by self-agrandizement?

There are no profiles in courage here. Just a whitewash veiled in a coverup.

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