Tuesday Reads: The Continuing Fallout From The Mueller ReportPosted: April 23, 2019
On cable news and on Twitter, the main argument over the past few days is about whether Democrats will or should open impeachment hearings. Quite a few Democrats have attacked Nancy Pelosi, claiming she is refusing to allow impeachment of the fake “president” to go forward. Actually, that’s not true. She has argued for public oversight hearing that may well lead to impeachment. That is essentially what happened in the Watergate scandal.
The Watergate investigative hearings began in May, 1973, but articles of impeachment hearings did not begin until February, 1974, when Congress voted to empower the House Judiciary Committee to “investigate whether sufficient grounds existed to impeach Richard Nixon.” One year after Congressional investigation began, articles of impeachment were approved.
The only differences are that the Watergate investigation began with a select committee, before the appointment of a Special Counsel. Now we have the (redacted) Muller report, which lays out a clear road map for Congressional action. We also know that there is a counterintelligence investigation which was not included in the Mueller report. So I think it makes sense for the House Intelligence Committee to focus on counterintelligence issues while the Judiciary Committee examines the case for removing the “president.”
USA Today: Pelosi to Democrats: If facts support impeaching Trump, ‘that’s the place we have to go.’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi left open the possibility Monday of impeachment of Donald Trump during a conference call with Democrats, saying “if that’s the place the facts take us, that’s the place we have to go.”
“We have to save our democracy. This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. It’s about saving our democracy,” Pelosi said in a call with her colleagues, according to a source on the call. But Pelosi also urged Democrats to first focus on following the facts.
“Whether it’s articles of impeachment or investigations, it’s the same obtaining of facts. We don’t have to go to articles of impeachment to obtain the facts, the presentation of facts,” she said.
The nearly hour-and-a-half call was the first time Democrats had all spoken following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the investigation into Russian election interference.
“There’s real consensus that we need to take this responsibility seriously and people are very sober about the implications about the work that lies ahead and committed to making sure that we hold the president accountable,” said Rep. David Cicilline, a member of the Judiciary Committee and the chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, which helps the party with messaging. [….]
“The speaker has been very clear that Congress will not shirk on its responsibility to hold the president accountable, but that we must proceed in a judicious responsible manner,” he said.
I think that makes sense. Pelosi has been very effective in dealing with Trump since she took over as House Speaker, but the press and many Democrats continue to attack her just because she doesn’t want to rush headlong into an official impeachment process. I have said many times that public hearings are needed in order to education Americans who haven’t followed the investigation minute by minute. I think that’s what Pelosi is hoping to do. If she didn’t want hearings, they wouldn’t happen; and they are going to happen.
In the meantime, the media and Democrats should be focusing on why Republicans don’t care if our democracy dies.
Paul Krugman at The New York Times: The Great Republican Abdication. A party that no longer believes in American values.
So all the “fake news” was true. A hostile foreign power intervened in the presidential election, hoping to install Donald Trump in the White House. The Trump campaign was aware of this intervention and welcomed it. And once in power, Trump tried to block any inquiry into what happened.
Never mind attempts to spin this story as somehow not meeting some definitions of collusion or obstruction of justice. The fact is that the occupant of the White House betrayed his country. And the question everyone is asking is, what will Democrats do about it?
But notice that the question is only about Democrats. Everyone (correctly) takes it as a given that Republicans will do nothing. Why?
Because the modern G.O.P. is perfectly willing to sell out America if that’s what it takes to get tax cuts for the wealthy. Republicans may not think of it in those terms, but that’s what their behavior amounts to.
The truth is that the G.O.P. faced its decisive test in 2016, when almost everyone in the Republican establishment lined up behind a man fully known to be a would-be authoritarian who was unfit morally, temperamentally and intellectually for high office.
Click on the link to read the rest.
The White House continues to obstruct Congress’s investigation. CNN on the latest attempt: White House tells official not to comply with Democratic subpoena over security clearances.
The White House has instructed a former official who was in charge of the security clearance process to not comply with a House subpoena demanding his appearance for an interview, the latest move by the Trump administration to thwart Democratic-led investigations into all aspects of the presidency.
After a day of tense negotiations, the White House late Monday told the former official, Carl Kline, who now works at the Defense Department, to not appear at Tuesday’s deposition, contending that Democrats were seeking access to confidential information that should be off limits.
The move raises the prospect that the House Oversight Committee could seek to hold Kline in contempt, a step that Chairman Elijah Cummings warned Monday he would take. And it’s the latest White House effort to stonewall Democratic investigations, coming the same day the Trump Organization filed a lawsuit to prevent an accounting firm from complying with Cummings’ subpoena for President Donald Trump’s past financial records.
Michael Purpura, deputy counsel to Trump, argued that Cummings’ subpoena of Kline “unconstitutionally encroaches on fundamental executive branch interests,” according to a letter obtained by CNN.
Kline’s attorney, Robert Driscoll, said his client would listen to his employer.
Lock him up!
We were repeatedly told that the White House had prepared a response to the Mueller report, but Rudy Giuliani now says it won’t be released. Bloomberg: Giuliani Puts Off Formal Rebuttal to Mueller as He Defends Trump.
Donald Trump’s legal team has decided to shelve a plan to issue a formal rebuttal to Robert Mueller’s report, said Rudy Giuliani, even as the president unleashes his own attempts on Twitter to discredit the special counsel and his findings.
The president’s lawyers will focus instead on knocking down specific accounts in Mueller’s report as they surface in news media, Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, said Monday in an interview.
Giuliani said Mueller misrepresented the facts multiple times in his 448-page report. He declined to cite specifics, other than to say former White House Counsel Don McGahn — who gave a damaging account of Trump’s efforts to influence the investigation into Russian election interference — was “confused.” [….]
“There are numerous areas that were mischaracterized and some where it is flat-out false,” Giuliani said of Mueller’s report. “But I can only take one or two at a time. It is hard to digest all at once. You have to wait for certain ones to come up and then show if they are false or inaccurate.”
Trump’s legal team had spent months putting together a lengthy counter-report that they planned to release challenging Mueller’s findings, which they assumed would be unfavorable to Trump. But lawyer Jay Sekulow said on Friday that nothing more would be coming.
I’ll end with two articles by close followers of the Russia investigation, who have been poring over the report pulling out interesting nuggets that others may have missed. Here are their latest revelations:
Darren Samuelson, Kyle Cheney, and Natasha Bertrand at Politico: What you missed in the Mueller report. An excerpt:
Who didn’t get prosecuted
The special counsel made some of his biggest headlines when he brought charges against the likes of Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. But Mueller’s report also showcases his under-the-radar decisions on potential indictments that were never brought.
Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions avoided a perjury prosecution over his Senate confirmation testimony when he memorably told lawmakers that he had no communications with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign. It later came out that he had met with the Russian ambassador to the United States on multiple occasions during the campaign.
Mueller’s team looked at that January 2017 exchange and a pair of follow-up written responses before determining that the election-year meetings that Sessions did have weren’t “sufficient to prove” he gave knowingly false answers to lawmakers. Most notably, Mueller informed Sessions’ lawyers in March 2018 that he was in the clear — eight months before Trump pushed Sessions out of his job.
Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort all escaped prosecution for their role in the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer promising dirt about Hillary Clinton. Mueller’s report said the office looked into whether the senior campaign leaders should face charges for violating laws banning foreign campaign contributions. But ultimately they opted against pushing for indictments out of concern a conviction wasn’t a sure thing. The special counsel acknowledged lacking evidence to prove any of the three men acted with general knowledge of the crime they’d be committing and said that the promised opposition research wouldn’t necessarily qualify as an illegal donation since it was unclear the information was “a thing of value.”
On the hacking front, Mueller’s team also considered charging Russians with trafficking in stolen property, a reveal buried in a footnote. Prosecutors were contemplating bringing the additional charges — they did indict the Russians on conspiracy and identity theft charges — under the Depression-era National Stolen Property Act. Ultimately, however, the special counsel’s office found that hacked emails in electronic form wouldn’t qualify under the law’s almost century-old definition of “goods, wares or merchandise.”
Read the rest at Politico.
Garrett M. Graff at Wired: 14 Mueller Report Takeaways You Might Have Missed.
Robert Mueller’s final 448-page report on Russian interference in the 2016 election—and Donald Trump’s apparent attempts to obstruct justice along the way—takes some time to read fully. On close examination, it turns out to be a deeply compelling document, full of tantalizing revelations and details.
Washington Post book critic Carlos Lozada called the Mueller Report “the best book by far on the workings of the Trump presidency.” New York Times columnist Ross Douthat said the report is “a more rigorous, capacious version” of Michael Wolff’s bestseller Fire and Fury. Its two volumes paint a picture of Donald Trump as deeply narcissistic and incompetent, alternately conned and ignored by everyone around him.
Nearly every page of the report contains fresh insights, even to those who have closely followed the ins and outs of this complex, multifaceted investigation. But assuming you didn’t spend your Easter and Passover holiday weekend plowing through it, here are some key tidbits that recent headlines have overlooked.
Two of Graff’s takeaways:
1. This was as much a counterintelligence investigation as a criminal one. One of the new details in the report is that the FBI “embedded” approximately 40 personnel in the Special Counsel’s Office. Their role was not to contribute to the criminal probe, but instead to pore over the collected materials and pass written summaries of key counterintelligence findings to FBI headquarters and other agencies across the country.
3. Anyone demanding the unredacted version of the report is stalling. Democrats have spent the last four days hemming and hawing about impeachment, saying they need to read the unredacted report before they make a decision. That’s baloney. For the most part, the redactions aren’t that material to the underlying narrative. Mueller establishes all the damning evidence he needs to point to a pattern of obstruction in unredacted portions of Volume II of the report. (The clear exception where redactions could shed substantial new light: the six-page Appendix D, where Mueller lists the 12 still-secret ongoing cases referred to other prosecutors.) Throughout the remainder of the document, many redactions clearly deal with either Roger Stone or Jerome Corsi. The bulk of the rest appear to focus on operational details of the GRU and the Internet Research Agency.
Two of the most intriguing redactions come on page 12, where the report outlines five (or maybe six) individuals Mueller was specifically authorized to investigate. Two (or maybe three) of those are redacted. Because of the alphabetical list and way the lines fall—there’s a tiny two-letter redaction that spills over to the next line—the final redacted name is almost certainly “Donald Trump Jr.” The other is still unknown, falling somewhere in the alphabet between “Gates” and “Stone.”
Read more at Wired.
What stories are you following today?