Lazy Caturday Reads: The Mueller Report So FarPosted: March 23, 2019
I don’t know what to think this morning. I’m still suspicious that AG Bill Barr may have ended the Mueller investigation prematurely. I guess we’ll learn more over the weekend. Reportedly, Barr is in his office today and CNN says we could get an update sometime today.
I’m reserving judgment for now, but I can help but be disappointed that Mueller didn’t charge anyone in Trump’s inner circle. Of course there are still multiple other investigations going on, but it looks like the Russia probe will now have be pursued in the House committees.
Some media reactions to check out:
Natasha Bertrand: What Mueller Leaves Behind.
After one year, 10 months, and six days, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has submitted his final report to the attorney general, signaling the end of his investigation into a potential conspiracy between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.
Mueller’s pace has been breakneck, legal experts tell me—especially for a complicated criminal investigation that involves foreign nationals and the Kremlin, an adversarial government. The next-shortest special-counsel inquiry was the three-and-a-half-year investigation of the Plame affair, under President George W. Bush; the longest looked into the Iran-Contra scandal, under President Ronald Reagan, which lasted nearly seven years. Still, former FBI agents have expressed surprise that Mueller ended his probe without ever personally interviewing its central target: Donald Trump.
The content of the special counsel’s report is still unknown—Mueller delivered it to Attorney General William Barr on Friday, and now it’s up to Barr to write his own summary of the findings, which will then go to Congress.
While aspects of the central pieces of Mueller’s investigation—conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and kompromat, the Russians’ practice of collecting damaging information about public figures to blackmail them with—have been revealed publicly through indictments and press-friendly witnesses, the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency, and Mueller’s own legacy, still hang in the balance. Did Trump’s campaign knowingly work with Russia to undermine Hillary Clinton and win the election? And how much was Mueller actually able to uncover?
Bertrand breaks down the knowns and unknowns in each of the three categories above. Read it all at The Atlantic.
Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel: After Mueller: An Off-Ramp on Russia for the Venal Fucks.
We don’t know what the Mueller report says, though given William Barr’s promise to brief the Judiciary Committee leaders this weekend and follow it with a public summary, it’s not likely to be that damning to Trump. But I can think of five mutually non-exclusive possibilities for the report:
- Mueller ultimately found there was little fire behind the considerable amounts of smoke generated by Trump’s paranoia
- The report will be very damning — showing a great deal of corruption — which nevertheless doesn’t amount to criminal behavior
- Evidence that Manafort and Stone conspired with Russia to affect the election, but Mueller decided not to prosecute conspiracy itself because they’re both on the hook for the same prison sentence a conspiracy would net anyway, with far less evidentiary exposure
- There’s evidence that others entered into a conspiracy with Russia to affect the election, but that couldn’t be charged because of evidentiary reasons that include classification concerns and presidential prerogatives over foreign policy, pardons, and firing employees
- Mueller found strong evidence of a conspiracy with Russia, but Corsi, Manafort, and Stone’s lies (and Trump’s limited cooperation) prevented charging it
As many people have pointed out, this doesn’t mean Trump and his kin are out of jeopardy. This NYT piecesummarizes a breathtaking number of known investigations, spanning at least four US Attorneys offices plus New York state, but I believe even it is not comprehensive.
Read the rest at the link.
The New York Times: As Mueller Report Lands, Prosecutorial Focus Moves to New York.
Even as the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, submitted his confidential report to the Justice Department on Friday, federal and state prosecutors are pursuing about a dozen other investigations that largely grew out of his work, all but ensuring that a legal threat will continue to loom over the Trump presidency.
Most of the investigations focus on President Trump or his family business or a cadre of his advisers and associates, according to court records and interviews with people briefed on the investigations. They are being conducted by officials from Los Angeles to Brooklyn, with about half of them being run by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan.
Unlike Mr. Mueller, whose mandate was largely focused on any links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, the federal prosecutors in Manhattan take an expansive view of their jurisdiction. That authority has enabled them, along with F.B.I. agents, to scrutinize a broader orbit around the president, including his family business….
At this point, it is unclear whether anyone will be charged with a crime. Some of the investigations involve allegations that may be too old to be prosecuted. Yet taken together, the investigations show that the prosecutorial center of gravity has shifted from Mr. Mueller’s office in Washington to New York.
“The important thing to remember is that almost everything Donald Trump did was in the Southern District of New York,” said John S. Martin Jr., a retired federal judge who was the United States attorney in the Southern District during the Carter and Reagan administrations.
“He ran his business in the Southern District. He ran his campaign from the Southern District,” Judge Martin said. “He came home to New York every night.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller has finally completed his nearly two-year investigation into Russian election interference, handing off his highly anticipated report to the attorney general on Friday. But legal experts warn that even though Mueller’s probe has stopped, there are still plenty more legal woes facing President Donald Trump.
“The Mueller investigation is but a fraction of the president’s troubles. If anything, it’s just the beginning,” Bradley Moss, a national security lawyer and former federal prosecutor, told Newsweek….
“I think that [the Mueller report] certainly is not the end-all, be-all for legal problems and ethics problems for the president,” Noah Bookbinder, executive director at the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told Newsweek.
“There’s just a lot of really problematic conduct that is being investigated, and that’s not to say that what special counsel Mueller found is not going to be incredibly important…but there’s some danger to looking at whatever he produces as the definitive statement on whether or not this president did anything wrong,” he said.
Bookbinder added that Mueller has a “very narrow mandate” as the special counsel, but “there’s a whole lot more out there.”
Read more at Newsweek.
The Washington Post: At the center of Mueller’s inquiry, a campaign that appeared to welcome Russia’s help.
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his investigation without charging any Americans with conspiring with Russia to interfere in the 2016 campaign and help elect Donald Trump.
But hundreds of pages of legal filings and independent reporting since Mueller was appointed nearly two years ago have painted a striking portrayal of a presidential campaign that appeared untroubled by a foreign adversary’s attack on the U.S. political system — and eager to accept the help.
When longtime Trump friend Roger Stone was told a Russian national wanted to sell damaging information about Clinton, he took the meeting.
When the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks published documents that the Democratic National Committee said had been stolen by Russian operatives, Trump’s campaign quickly used the information to its advantage. Rather than condemn the Kremlin, Trump famously asked Russia to steal more.
Even after taking office, Trump has been hesitant to condemn Russia’s actions, instead calling the investigation a “witch hunt” and denouncing the work of federal investigators seeking to understand a Russian attack on the country he leads.
The public has every right to see Robert S. Mueller III’s conclusions. Absolutely nothing in the law or the regulations prevents the report from becoming public. Indeed, the relevant sources of law give Attorney General P. William Barr all the latitude in the world to make it public.
Those regulations, which I had the privilege of drafting in 1998 and 1999 as a young Justice Department lawyer, require three types of reports. First, the special counsel must give the attorney general “Urgent Reports” during the course of an investigation regarding things such as proposed indictments. Second, the special counsel must provide a report to the attorney general at the end of the investigation, which Mueller delivered on Friday. And third, the attorney general must furnish Congress with a report containing “an explanation for each action … upon conclusion of the Special Counsel’s investigation.”
The regulations anticipated there would be differences among these three. Generally speaking, the final report the special counsel gives to the attorney general would be “confidential,” and the report the attorney general gives to Congress would be “brief.” We wanted to avoid another Starr report — a lurid document going unnecessarily into detail about someone’s intimate conduct and the like. A subject of such a report would have no mechanism to rebut those allegations or get his or her privacy back.
But the mentions of “brief” and “confidential” in the regulations and accompanying commentary were just general guidelines for each type of report. The text of the regulations never required the attorney general’s report to Congress to be short or nonpublic. Rather, that text expressly included a key provision saying the “Attorney General may determine that public release of these reports would be in the public interest,” even if the public release may deviate from ordinary Justice Department protocols.
Read the rest at The Washington Post.
That’s all I’ve got. I just hope we learn more soon, because I’m not feeling good about this sudden end to the investigation. I’ve heard that the report is extensive, so that may be a good sign. We’ll just have to wait for more information.
Have a nice weekend Sky Dancers! Hang in there. This is an open thread.