Initial Thoughts on the Mueller Report

Special Note

This post was written on March 27th based solely on Attorney General Barr’s 4-page summation of the Mueller Report. A lot has happened since then. The Hill and other publications report that Barr didn’t examine the underlying evidence and documentation, nor did Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, nor did other staffers. Later Mueller wrote to Barr expressing concern at the way his report had been characterized.

Then on May 29th Mueller spoke publicly. He stated that “if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.” 

A full video of Mueller’s complete statement appears below in a new Addendum. He explains the rules the Special Council’s Office operated under and why they did not pursue a determination on Trump. Trump’s status, therefore, remains an open question.

So… Back on March 27th I was giving Barr’s summation benefit of the doubt and accepting it on face value. Now I don’t think that’s possible any longer. I think we can disregard the “facts” reported below which I now show crossed out. They are dubious at best.

The primary thrust of my post still stands, however, which concerns the reactions to Barr’s letter at the time by Trump, CNN and Fox News. My discussion about the conduct of the two mainstream parties stands as well.

– May 31, 2019


 

The air was thick with anticipation this past weekend. It was a grand hall with bright chandeliers and a glittering stage. Tables were filled with men in tuxedos and women in elegant gowns. There was a giddy buzz of conversation and laugher, glasses clinking. Finally all attention turned to the stage.

“And now, in the category of ‘Most Corrupt in a U. S. President.’ May I have the envelope please.” The room was silent except for the sound of tearing paper, amplified by the sound system. A paper was unfolded, read, and a pause. “In the category of ‘Most Corrupt in a U.S. President’… The winner is…”

“…Richard Milhous Nixon!” Cheers and gasps filled the room.

1. Collusion

William Barr’s letter to Congress on Sunday says that Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no collusion with the Russian government in the 2016 election by President Trump or his campaign. Quoting Mueller’s report, “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities […] despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”

2. Reactions

TrumpCrop

Wow. That’s a shocker. I confess I am truly surprised. With so much smoke I thought surely there was fire. All the indictments. That peculiar secret meeting alone between Trump and Putin. The Trump Tower meeting. And reams more.

Clearly there was a lot going on with so many people getting into trouble, but apparently Trump himself was not involved. Amazing. My skepticism notwithstanding, I accept the conclusion. Mueller spent way too much time to have missed it.

The Democrats are predictably disappointed (not to mention CNN). They’re calling for additional hearings and disclosure of the full report with supporting documentation. I concur. We’ve only seen Barr’s 4-page summation. I think the public has a right to see everything — except I would support withholding information that might interfere with someone yet to be prosecuted from getting a fair trial.

Trump, his supporters and Fox News are certainly happy. They’ve said there was no collusion and are now pointing to the Mueller Report as proof.

Which is interesting. I’m curious if they would have given this same credence to Mueller had he said otherwise. I have my doubts. If news favors Trump it’s true and valid. If it’s critical, it’s fake. That’s the essence of the scientific method in this modern age.

3. Obstruction of Justice

The Mueller Report is less definitive on the issue of obstruction. Mueller wrote that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him [emphasis aded].”

Mmmm. This part isn’t quite as good. No matter. Forget Mueller and go with an Alternative Fact instead. Trump tweeted “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!”

Tweet

Reality is whatever Trump says it is.

4. Presidential Harassment

Trump loves to whine about Presidential Harassment. I’m sure he claims he’s been treated worse than any of his predecessors. Everything with Trump is the Best Ever, Worst Ever, Smartest Ever, Whatever Ever.

But the knife actually cuts both ways.

Back in the day there was this thing called Whitewater. The Clintons were target of an investigation that went on for 6 years and cost $60 million. Like Mueller there were some convictions — 14 altogether — but nothing substantive was found on the Clintons themselves.

Independent Counsel Robert Ray finally called it quits saying his “office determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that either [the] president or Mrs. Clinton knowingly participated in any criminal conduct.”

My only point here is that Trump has not been subjected to anything particularly unique. But he plays the victim because it’s good theater. It riles up the base.

5. Tweedledum and Tweedledee

The two parties go after each other constantly tooth and nail — then feign shock and indignation when their own tactics are used against them. They go ’round and ’round and ’round. Their rules and ethics aren’t objective and grounded in any moral foundation. It’s all fluid and opportunistic. It’s all a game.

I’ll take a recent example. Republicans, and Lindsey Graham in particular, were practically frothing in rage when the Brett Kavanaugh nomination was threatened by sexual harassment charges. Not long before, however, the Republicans wouldn’t convene any hearings at all for Merrick Garland. They claimed it wouldn’t be fair for Obama to appoint a Supreme Court Justice during his last year in office. Somehow that wasn’t a problem in 1988, though, when the outgoing President was a Republican. Anthony Kennedy was confirmed in Reagan’s last year. In fact Supreme Court confirmations during an election year have happened under 13 presidents — starting with George Washington!

That’s an example of Republican duplicity. Now let’s look at the Democrats.

The Democrats have denounced Trump’s wall proposal from the beginning. Pelosi has called the wall immoral. Little is said about the fact the Bill Clinton supported and funded a border wall when he was President. At his State of the Union address in 1995 he sounded an awful lot like Trump.

Fast forward a few years and we saw 26 Democrats vote for the Secure Fence Act of 2006 — including Barack Obama, Chuck Schumer and Diane Feinstein.

6. Working People are the Losers in this Game

I could fill dozens of blog entries cataloging the insanity and duplicity of the two parties. Through all of this nonsense it’s working people that suffer the consequences, out leading real lives and struggling.

In the years since 1960, Democrats and Republicans have split time in the White House roughly 50/50. Through these years the fortunes of working people have steadily eroded, including job security and distribution of wealth. No one talks anymore about how each generation does better than the last.

Trump came to office promising a better, safer life for working people. He proceeded to pass a tax bill that accelerates the accumulation of wealth at the top. His budget proposal cuts $595 billion from Medicare. It cuts $17 billion from SNAP (food stamps). It proposes converting Medicaid, which provides health care to the poor and disabled, from a guaranteed entitlement to a program subject to the whims and budgets of the states. And just this week he’s calling on the courts to throw out Obamacare entirely, which among other things would eliminate coverage for pre-existing conditions. I don’t call this a better, safer life for working people.

Democrats, on the other hand, are truly the champions of the working class. That’s what they say, anyway. But think about this one thing: When was the last time — any time! — that the Democratic Party has thrown its whole and substantial weight behind workers striking for better wages and working conditions? A mining strike? A steel strike? A railroad strike? One of the current teachers’ strikes?

Instead of supporting workers in big critical battles, Democrats have done the reverse. In 1978 President Carter invoked the Taft-Hartley Act against the United Mine Workers. In 1997, President Clinton used emergency power at his disposal to halt a strike by pilots at American Airlines. And on…

7. Coming Attractions

It doesn’t appear that the Mueller Report has settled matters. Things are cranking up for a post-Mueller drama to equal or exceed the pre-Mueller drama. It’s exhausting — and a distraction. None of this is dealing with the real needs of working people.

Enough.


Addendum

This is Mueller’s May 29th statement in full, unedited and without editorial comment.


A Request to my Facebook Friends: If you have a comment I encourage you to enter it below instead of on Facebook. This way everyone can participate in the conversation!

 

3 Comments

  1. Great column. All the smoke and mirrors to simply cover up the transfer of wealth to the wealthy and to suck it out of the poor and working class. This is what makes revolutions!

  2. Wendy Gaylord says:

    Good column. I never took part in the speculation about the Mueller investigation and I think both sides of the media have political blood on their hands for the constant trolling about it. Who knows what will happen at the state level but either way, I remain very concerned about violations of the Emoluments clause.

    As for the larger issue of politics, the quest for power is ugly and I don’t know what it will ever take to change that.

    • Bob Laycock says:

      Thanks, Wendy. I was captivated by the Watergate scandal sitting up half the night watching PBS’ replay of the day’s hearings. If I was older — really old! — I’d probably be telling you I followed Teapot Dome. So I’ve followed all this Trump stuff closely. More than I should. Well, I gotta run. All the President’s Men is starting!

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