Thursday Reads: Will the Mueller Investigation Go Out “Not With A Bang, But A Whimper”?

Good Morning!!

Trump’s handpicked Attorney General has been in place for just a few days, and suddenly multiple news organizations are reporting that the Mueller investigation is ending soon. Interestingly, The New York Times has not yet reported this story.

What’s going on? There are multiple outstanding cases. Roger Stone was only recently arrested and the Special Counsel’s Office can’t possibly have gone through all the materials they collected in searches at three different locations. The Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the mystery foreign company that is resisting the  SCO’s subpoena. Andrew Miller is still fighting a grand jury subpoena. What about the case of Jerome Corsi, who said he was told he’d be indicted? What about Donald Trump Jr.?

I think we have to ask if in fact the Trump obstruction has finally worked. I’d also like to know why reporters are so gleeful about the purported end of the investigation? Why is there no skepticism about how coincidental this all seems.

There’s also this:

WTF? Note that Matt Schlapp’s wife Mercedes is the White House Director of Strategic Communications.

One more coincidence: the new politics editor at CNN is Sarah Isgur Flores, a right wing conspiracy theorist who most recently worked as Jeff Sessions’ spokesperson at DOJ. Could she be a source for these stories about the end of the Mueller probe?

Vanity Fair: “She Was Pitching her Intimate Knowledge of the Mueller Probe”: Sarah Isgur Flores, Former Trumper, Talked to MSNBC Before Signing with CNN.

CNN’s hiring of Sarah Isgur Flores, a longtime G.O.P. operative who has worked for Carly Fiorina and Ted Cruz, and most recently served as a spokeswoman for Jeff Sessions in the Justice Department (a position that reportedly involved a loyalty pledge to Donald Trump), caused an immediate and fairly predictable media firestorm. Unlike Corey Lewandowski, who was hired to great consternation during the 2016 election cycle (and then terminated), Flores won’t simply be an ideological talking head—she’ll be playing a larger role in the editorial process. Despite a lack of journalism experience, she will be helping to coordinate CNN’s political coverage across platforms, as well as occasionally appearing on-air as a political analyst, which is the more customary role for former politicians and government officials. Within the media world, she is seen as a controversial and unorthodox appointment. Moreover, Isgur apparently has a history of lambasting the mainstream media on Twitter, including CNN, which she once termed the “Clinton News Network.”

Sarah Isgur Flores

All of this has led to a fair amount of bafflement as to why CNN would hire her in a senior editorial role reporting to political director David Chalian.“Why CNN made this move to begin with is the deeper and more troubling question,” Margaret Sullivan wrote Wednesday in The Washington Post.

As far as how the talks came about in the first place, it appears that Isgur, as she was preparing to exit the D.O.J., wasn’t only shopping around for a media gig at CNN. Cable-news sources told me that she also passed through 30 Rock to discuss a potential role at MSNBC, where she met with top newsroom management in recent months. “She had a detailed idea of what she wanted to do,” someone with knowledge of the discussions told me. “She wanted to do something on-air combined with some sort of quasi-management, behind-the-scenes planning kind of work. I think she looked at Dave Chalian and said, I wanna do that.” A second source with direct knowledge of the talks said that such a role “was never under consideration.” This person added, “She was pitching her intimate knowledge of the Mueller probe as a selling point.”

Read the rest at Vanity Fair.

Here’s some speculation from Emptywheel: The Significance of the Rod Rosenstein/William Barr Window.

This is happening in the window of time when Rod Rosenstein is still around and — because William Barr has presumably not been through an ethics review on the investigation — presumably back in charge of sole day-to-day supervision of the investigation. But it is happening after Barr has been confirmed, and so any problems with the investigation that might stem from having an inferior officer (an unconfirmed hack like the Big Dick Toilet Salesman) supervising Mueller are gone.

I’m fairly certain the concerns about Barr coming in and forcing Mueller to finish this are misplaced. I say that, in part, because Mueller seemed to be preparing for this timing. I say it, too, because Barr is too close to Mueller to do that to him.

That says that Mueller is choosing this timing (and choosing not to wait for the appeals to be done). Whatever reason dictates this timing, by doing it in this window, Mueller can ensure the legitimacy of what happens, both legally (because Barr will be in place) and politically (because it will be clear Rosenstein presided over it).

I still don’t get it. It looks to me like we are going to have to count on the Democrats in the House to continue the investigation. Meanwhile Andrew McCabe is just beginning his book tour and he clearly thinks that Trump is a Russian asset.

This afternoon, Roger Stone will learn whether he is going to jail for threatening the judge in his case or if he at least will have to pay some bail instead of continuing to be free on his own recognizance. It’s also still possible there could be indictments tomorrow. And Mueller could file a detailed “report” in the sentencing memo for Paul Manafort on Friday. It’s also possible that Mueller isn’t really wrapping up. We’ll have to wait and see.

Two More Reads on Mueller’s Supposed End

Neal Kaytal at The New York times: The Mueller Report Is Coming. Here’s What to Expect.

The special counsel Robert Mueller will apparently soon turn in a report to the new attorney general, William Barr. Sure, there is still a lot of activity, including subpoenas, flying around, but that shouldn’t stop Mr. Mueller.

The report is unlikely to be a dictionary-thick tome, which will disappoint some observers. But such brevity is not necessarily good news for the president. In fact, quite the opposite.

For months, the president’s lawyers have tried to discredit Mr. Mueller and this report, but their efforts may have backfired. A concise Mueller report might act as a “road map” to investigation for the Democratic House of Representatives — and it might also lead to further criminal investigation by other prosecutors. A short Mueller report would mark the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end.

The report is unlikely to be lengthy by design: The special counsel regulations, which I had the privilege of drafting in 1999, envision a report that is concise, “a summary” of what he found. And Mr. Mueller’s mandate is limited: to look into criminal activity and counterintelligence matters surrounding Russia and the 2016 election, as well as any obstruction of justice relating to those investigations.

The regulations require the attorney general to give Congress a report, too. The regulations speak of the need for public confidence in the administration of justice and even have a provision for public release of the attorney general’s report. In a world where Mr. Mueller was the only investigator, the pressure for a comprehensive report to the public would be overwhelming.

This is where the “witch hunt” attacks on Mr. Mueller may have backfired. For 19 months, Mr. Trump and his team have had one target to shoot at, and that target has had limited jurisdiction. But now the investigation resembles the architecture of the internet, with many different nodes, and some of those nodes possess potentially unlimited jurisdiction. Their powers and scope go well beyond Mr. Mueller’s circumscribed mandate; they go to Mr. Trump’s judgment and whether he lied to the American people. They also include law enforcement investigations having nothing to do with Russia, such as whether the president directed the commission of serious campaign finance crimes, as federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have already stated in filings. These are all critical matters, each with serious factual predicates already uncovered by prosecutors.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Garrett Graff at Wired: 7 Scenarios for how the Mueller Probe Might “Wrap Up.”

THE BREAKING NEWS hit a snowy Washington on Wednesday: Newly installed attorney general William Barrappears to be preparing to announce the end of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

But what would “Mueller wrapping up” actually mean?

And does the rapid movement, soon after Barr was installed at the Justice Department, indicate that he shut down the Mueller probe prematurely? A recent New York Times article documenting Trump’s two-year-long campaign to obstruct and muddy the investigation exacerbated those fears, as did an ominous tweet by conservative commentator—and White House spouse—Matt Schlapp pronouncing that “Mueller will be gone soon.”

The tea leaves around Mueller in recent weeks seem especially hard to read—and they’re conflicting at best. CNN’s special counsel stakeout has spotted prosecutors working long hours, through snow days and holidays—just as they were in the days before Michael Cohen’s surprise guilty plea last fall for lying to Congress—yet there’s also been no apparent grand jury movement since Roger Stone’s indictment. So even as CNN’s stakeout spotted DC prosecutors entering Mueller’s offices—the type of people who Mueller might hand off cases to as he winds down—and the special counsel’s staff carting out boxes, there’s also recent evidence that Mueller still has a longer game in mind. The Roger Stone prosecution is just getting underway. Mueller is still litigating over a mystery foreign company. And he’s pushing forward trying to gain testimony from a Stone associate, Andrew Miller.

In fact, the list of loose threads at this point is, in some ways, longer than the list of what Mueller has done publicly. There’s conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi’s aborted plea deal; would-be Middle East power broker George Nader’s lengthy cooperation with Mueller, which has resulted in no public charges; the mysterious Seychelles meeting between Blackwater mercenary founder Erik Prince and a Russian businessman; and then—of course—the big question of obstruction of justice. Add to that the host of recent witness testimony from the House Intelligence Committee that representative Adam Schiff has turned over to Mueller’s office, in which other witnesses, Schiff says, appear to have lied to Congress. And besides, there are a host of breadcrumbs that Mueller left in the more than 500 pages of his court filings that would all prove superfluous if further action didn’t lie ahead.

Head over to Wired to read the rest.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread below.

 

 

 

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37 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Will the Mueller Investigation Go Out “Not With A Bang, But A Whimper”?”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Roger Stone will be in court at 2:30. I’m hoping he goes to jail, but not holding my breath.

  2. bostonboomer says:

  3. bostonboomer says:

  4. dakinikat says:

  5. bostonboomer says:

  6. bostonboomer says:

    Thread to check out.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    Interesting paragraph from the Neal Kaytal article (see post)

    The House of Representatives has already begun its investigation. To understand the dangers Mr. Trump may face in the aftermath of a limited Mueller report, consider the request Congress made in 1974 to the special prosecutor Leon Jaworski as it opened an impeachment inquiry. Mr. Jaworski is analogous to Mr. Mueller — indeed, his appointment was a model for the special counsel regulations. In March 1974, Peter Rodino, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, wrote to Mr. Jaworksi, requesting all information he had uncovered in his investigation. Mr. Rodino understood that Mr. Jaworksi’s mandate was far more limited than the House’s, and his letter stated that “it would be unthinkable if this material were kept from the House of Representatives in the course of the discharge of its most awesome constitutional responsibility.”

  8. dakinikat says:

  9. dakinikat says:

    Stone in Court live tweet thread

  10. bostonboomer says:

    Trump is ignoring the arrest of the white supremacist who wanted to kill Democrats and media personalities. FBI holding a press conference, but no on is covering it, so the media is helping Trump.

  11. bostonboomer says:

    Jackson gagged Stone. He can’t talk about the case or the investigation or anyone involved in it. He can still fund-raise and claim his innocence. If he messes up again, he’ll likely go to jail.

    • quixote says:

      I saw on the electric twitter machine that a couple of hours after that order, Stone had already broken it.

      I guess he’d be a different person if he knew how to respect anybody or anything, including the law.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Yeah, he posted a message about being gagged and then deleted it. I doubt if he can keep his mouth shut very long.

  12. bostonboomer says:

    Helpful thread on what may be happening with Mueller.

  13. bostonboomer says:

  14. Sweet Sue says:

    Good morning. WordPress sites no longer know me. I have to enter my email address and user name every time I comment. Is anybody else experiencing this? Do you know what I can do to fix this? Thanks, Sue.

    • quixote says:

      Does that happen at any other site where you normally stay logged in? If so, it could be that a setting somehow changed on your browser. If you tell it to “clear history” or clear cache” every time you close it, it’ll dump all those credentials and you have to re-enter them.

      For what it’s worth, it’s not happening to me, but I have such an out-in-left-field operating system and browser that it doesn’t necessarily apply to anyone else.

      • Sweet Sue says:

        All wordpress sites but, other than Facebook, those are the only places where I comment.

        • quixote says:

          That sounds like WordPress altered some default setting. If it was something in your browser, it would affect Facebook too. Might be worth checking the settings on your WordPress account (on my system, you can get at that through the icon of my avatar in the top right corner) just in case they did some blanket change on everybody’s default settings. Look for any option that is about remembering settings, clearing cache, or keeping connections alive.

    • Enheduanna says:

      Yes! WordPress has given me fits for days. I actually opened an aol email account (LOL) to post here again.

      And thanks quixote – I did clear my cache/cookies recently. I don’t think I changed settings but it could have happened. Off to check….

      • bostonboomer says:

        I wonder what’s happening? Maybe Dakinikat can find out. I’m not knowledgeable about tech stuff to know what to do. I’m so sorry this is happening!

      • Joanelle says:

        i’ve struggled with wordpress for a long time. I followed Kat and BB here from the former blog so I’m not new to this site. Yet I have to re-sign in every time I come here.

    • NW Luna says:

      Sometimes it half-way recognizes me. I can comment and it shows my avatar, but when I click “like” up above it doesn’t show my avatar. Most of the time it does recognize me.

      If I close my browser my settings aren’t kept (I turned that off myself) so have to re-sign in. That part I understand.

  15. Joanelle says:

    After hearing what Rachel told us on Thursday night about what Obama & colleagues knew between the election and Donny being sworn in I wonder what on earth possessed them to allow him to be seated as president. It was clear that he was (is) not the valid president, yet they said and did nothing. Why? Because it wouldn’t look right, make them look like sore losers?
    They had enough solid information that he stole the election and that Hillary was/is the actual President. They need to take some blame for the way donny’s trashed us.
    And what’s with the DNC allowing Sanders to run as a Democrat?

    • Sweet Sue says:

      I will never understand (or forgive) any of it, Joanelle. Does the GOP allow a non Party member to run for the Republican nomination?

    • NW Luna says:

      I’ll never forgive Obama for letting cowardly “bipartisanship” prevent him from telling the country about a traitor.

      • quixote says:

        Exactly. He’d been told about the Russian hacks of the election. Successful or not, doesn’t even matter, that’s an act of war!

        So he boots out some diplomats, shuts down two listening posts, and goes windsurfing. Or maybe it was kitesurfing. I don’t remember.

        Plus, he’s a politician. Of course he knew about all the vote suppression going on. If I knew about the indications of Russian money to key Congresscritters (McConnell among them) then he knew. But all it took was McConnell threatening to call him nasty names to get him to give up?

        Even if you accept the excuse that he didn’t want to appear partisan before the election, *after* it had been stolen he had a duty, as President, to protect the country until Jan 21st, 2017.

  16. NW Luna says:

    The Trump administration took aim at Planned Parenthood Friday, issuing a rule barring groups that provide abortions [why did the journalist write this? It’s already prohibited] or abortion referrals from participating in the $286 million federal family planning program — a move that is expected to direct millions toward faith-based providers.

    Recipients of grants under the Title X program, which serves mostly low-income women, were already prohibited from performing abortions with those funds.

    Planned Parenthood, which stands to lose $60 million a year, called on courts, Congress to block the rule.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2019/02/22/trump-administration-bars-family-planning-clinics-that-provide-abortion-referrals-million-program/?utm_term=.f91f666b5fab