The Mueller Report is going to be analyzed, dissected and criticized for years, maybe decades. WC predicts multi-volume treatises will eventually be written. It’s also somewhat talismanic: every side of the Trumpian debates — and there are more than two sides — can find something to seize upon in support of their positions. Although sometimes you have to be very selective in what lines from the Mueller Report you rely upon. WC will discuss selected topics from the Mueller Report from time to time for the next few weeks, trying to look at unanalyzed aspects, or (in WC’s view), mis-analyzed aspects of the sordid business.
How bad is the Mueller Report for President Trump?
Bad enough that the Attorney General of the United States, our Chief Prosecutor, the person in charge of the nation’s law enforcement, felt compelled to spin the Mueller Report in advance of its release.1 Multiple times. But the “press conference” immediately prior to the Report’s release was, by a considerable margin, the most egregious.2
As you will see, the Special Counsel’s report states that his “investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
Mueller’s Report actually said:
Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.
Barr spun the Report’s holdings, distorting them in an effort to minimize the actual findings. Put another way, the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, shilled for the target of the investigation. The last time that happened, to WC’s recollection, was disgraced AG John Mitchell, for Dick Nixon.
You want another example? Barr said:
There was no evidence of Trump campaign ‘collusion’ with the Russian government’s hacking.
First, that’s a straw man argument. Mueller’s Report said there was no crime of “collusion,” and the focus instead was conspiracy. Barr knew there was no such crime. Barr’s boss has issued hundreds of tweets claiming “no collusion,” a legally meaningless statement. Barr is echoing Trump’s tweets, attempting to validate Trump’s claim.
Second, there was ample evidence of attempts to conspire with Russia and its agents. The infamous meeting in Trump Tower with a Russian agent for “dirt” on candidate Hillary Clinton, attended by Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort, Donald, Jr. and son-in-law Jarrod Kushner. Manafort’s leaking polling data to a Russian agent, presumably to validate Trump’s credibility and garner Russian support. Or this famous Trump line, from July 27, 2016:
Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.
Almost immediately, according to the Muller Report, this happened:
Within approximately five hours of Trump’s statement, GRU officers targeted for the first time Clinton’s personal office. After candidate Trump’s remarks, Unit 26165 created and sent malicious links targeting 15 email accounts … including an email account belonging to Clinton aide [name redacted].
This is not an exhaustive list of evidence of conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. Mueller concluded the evidence, while abundant, was insufficient to gain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. Barr is a prosecutor; he knows the difference between lots of evidence and enough evidence to prove something beyond a reasonable doubt. Once again, Barr is shilling for the target of a criminal investigation.
Attorney General Barr’s press conference served no legitimate purpose. It was legally unnecessary. To the extent it purported to explain or interpret the Mueller Report, it was premature. The only purpose for Barr’s press conference was to frame the Mueller Report in such a way as to attempt to minimize its impact on the American public.
That’s bad enough. But readers should also remember that Barr, whose independence and neutrality were hopelessly impaired, also announced his conclusion that the President should not be prosecuted for obstruction of justice with regard to the Mueller investigation.
It stinks, doesn’t it. It stinks as badly as John Mitchell’s defense of Nixon. Remember, Mitchell served 19 months in prison for his conduct.
- It might be that Barr didn’t feel compelled but was in fact ordered by Trump and his defense team to expend the credibility of the AG’s office in an attempt to defuse the impact of the Mueller Report. WC hopes that the House Judiciary or Intelligence Committees will take the opportunity to ask Mr. Barr about that. ↩
- Other instances include Barr’s four page “summation,” Barr’s testimony to Congress, Barr’s leaking of the Report to Trump’s defense team before revealing it to Congress and the American public. None of those displayed the kind of neutrality and even-handedness WC expects from the Attorney General of the United States. ↩