Thursday Reads: Russia Investigation Cover Up Live Blog/Open Thread

Cover-up bunny

Good Morning!!

The Barr cover-up report reportedly will go public sometime today. The schedule is vague. At 9:30, Cover-Up General Barr plans to give a “press conference” about a report that no one except unknown DOJ officials and White House lawyers have read.

Yes, according the NYT, the White House has been briefed and very likely has had the full report for some time. In addition, DOJ attorneys have been helping the White House prepare their counter-report!

The New York Times: White House and Justice Dept. Officials Discussed Mueller Report Before Release.

Not all of Robert S. Mueller III’s findings will be news to President Trump when they are released Thursday.

Justice Department officials have had numerous conversations with White House lawyers about the conclusions made by Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, in recent days, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. The talks have aided the president’s legal team as it prepares a rebuttal to the report and strategizes for the coming public war over its findings.

Cover-up pup

A sense of paranoia was taking hold among some of Mr. Trump’s aides, some of whom fear his backlash more than the findings themselves, the people said. The report might make clear which of Mr. Trump’s current and former advisers spoke to the special counsel, how much they said and how much damage they did to the president — providing a kind of road map for retaliation.

Reporters should use the “press conference” to ask Barr about his past cover-ups, his connections to Russia, his conflicts of interest, and his general corruption. They won’t, of course. They also should not refer to whatever redacted mess the Cover-Up General releases as the Mueller Report, but of course they will do just that.

We have to keep reminding ourselves that it’s not the Mueller report; it’s the Barr report. If Robert Mueller wanted to endorse Barr’s cover-up, he would be appearing at the “press conference.” But his isn’t going to be there. Mueller has been muzzled.

Tom Scocca at Hmm Daily: It’s the Barr Report, Not the Mueller Report.

What could inspire more hope and despair than a whole bunch of people who messed something up being granted a do-over? Tomorrow, all the reporters and publications who gave Donald Trump his “MUELLER FINDS NO COLLUSION” headlines, based on a few sentence fragments in a letter from attorney general William Barr, are supposed to get another document to analyze and quickly write headlines about.

Cover-up kitty

Already, journalists are calling this document “the Mueller report.” It is not the Mueller report; that is, it will not be the report prepared by the special counsel investigating Russian election interference and the Trump campaign. It will be some other document. Its text, like the quotes used in the Barr letter, will be based on the text of the Mueller report, but it will have been edited down for release by William Barr, whose implicit and explicit theory of his job duties is that he is there to protect the president.

This isn’t speculation. It’s a description of what’s publicly known about the process, informed by Barr’s prior work with the Mueller report, his written record of his own thoughts on presidential immunity, and his history as a middleman in previous scandal coverage. Barr is a partisan, not a broker of facts, and it is a basic reporting error to treat material that’s passed through his control as definitive—a basic reporting error that major media outlets eagerly made, last time around.

The Daily Beast: Mueller Report Rollout Won’t Have Mueller.

The Justice Department will hold a press conference Thursday morning about the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report—but Mueller won’t be there and the document may not be released until after Attorney General William Barr speaks about the nearly 400 pages he went through to redact.

The House Judiciary Committee has been told it will not get the Mueller report from DOJ until 11 a.m. or noon—after Barr’s press conference scheduled for 9:30 a.m.

“They are making Al Capone look straight,” one committee member told The Daily Beast.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler ripped Barr’s plan to speak about the report before lawmakers, the media and public have a chance to review it.

“Rather than letting the facts of the report speak for themselves, the attorney general has taken unprecedented steps to spin Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation,” Nadler said at a press conference on Wednesday night.

“The Attorney General appears to be waging a media campaign on behalf of President Trump, the very subject of the investigation at the heart of the Mueller report,” he added.

If the report is heavily redacted, Nadler said, “we will most certainly issue the subpoenas in very short order.” He said they “will probably find it useful” to ask Mueller and members of his team to testify.

Just send out the subpoenas as soon as you get the report. No more fooling around.

Axios insists on calling the Barr Report “the Mueller Report.”

Mueller report: What witnesses expect ahead of its release

Mueller witnesses and their lawyers say that they expect the special counsel’s report to include a mass of detailed scenes in which President Trump lashed out about Mueller, Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein and the FBI.

The big picture: They believe that if Mueller’s report presents the material in the same relentlessly detailed way as his prosecutors asked the questions, the accumulation could lead a casual observer to think that the president tried to obstruct justice.

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  • These sources expect Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, to star in many of the crucial conversations that the Mueller team considered part of their exploration of whether Trump sought to obstruct justice.

The bottom line: These sources don’t know whether the scenes the Mueller team quizzed them about were included in the report. And, of course, they don’t know what Attorney General Bill Barr redacted ahead of today’s release.

The Barr cover-up people are claiming that the part of the report on obstruction of justice will only be “lightly redacted” (according to the WaPo). I can’t imagine why the Barr people think we should trust them on this. More from Axios:

Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Trump, said: “We’re going to respond as quickly as we can to you all during the day, probably multiple times. … We’ll try to get something up very quick.”

– I asked Sekulow whether there could be a surprise. “This is a situation where we know what the conclusion is,” the lawyer replied.

– “The aircraft landed safely, there was no damage to the equipment or injury to the passengers, and now two weeks later the NTSB issues a video of the landing.”

– “I’m not concerned,” Sekulow added. “The inquiry is concluded.”

Fuck off Seculow. I hope you end up in prison.

Democrats are furious. Politico: ‘Keep your mouth shut’: Dems erupt over Barr’s Mueller report rollout.

House Democrats exploded in anger Wednesday over Attorney General William Barr’s plans to roll out special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, accusing the Justice Department of trying to spin the report’s contents and protect President Donald Trump.

Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will hold a news conference at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning to review the report, which will include redactions. Reports that DOJ officials have already discussed Mueller’s findings with the White House only further inflamed tensions.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Barr had “thrown out his credibility & the DOJ’s independence with his single-minded effort to protect @realDonaldTrump above all else.“

“The American people deserve the truth, not a sanitized version of the Mueller Report approved by the Trump Admin,“ Pelosi wrote on Twitter while on an official trip in Ireland.

The House speaker joined with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to call for Mueller to testify publicly once the report is out, saying Barr’s “regrettably partisan handling of the Mueller report … and his indefensible plan to spin the report in a press conference” had created “a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality.”

“We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the Special Counsel’s investigation is for Special Counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible,” they said.

Barr is going to release the report to Congress as hard copies and on CD’s! Barr is still stuck in the 1990s, apparently.

NBC News: Democrats blast timing of Mueller report release: ‘What are they trying to hide?’

A hard-copy of special counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report will be made available to members of Congress after 11 a.m. Thursday, but only after a news conference by the attorney general — timing that has infuriated Democratic lawmakers.

That means the document will be handed over to lawmakers on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees 90 minutes after the press conference by Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about the contents of the 300-plus page report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign.

The report will be delivered on CDs. Sometime after that, it will be posted on the special counsel’s website and available to the public, a Department of Justice official said.

The Washington Post Editorial Board: Barr’s redactions on the Mueller report don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.

As Washington prepared for the release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s final report, a fight was brewing between House Democrats and the Justice Department about how much would be redacted. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) has prepared a subpoena demanding disclosure of the whole document to Congress. Attorney General William P. Barr has steadfastly insisted that information that is classified, stemming from secret grand jury proceedings or otherwise sensitive would not be revealed publicly.

Mr. Barr is essentially asking Congress and the public to take him at his word that his redactions will be proper. There is already cause for wariness about Mr. Barr’s judgment, following reports that those who worked on the Mueller investigation felt that the summary the attorney general released last month inadequately represented their findings. The fact that Mr. Barr rejected the notion that Mr. Trump obstructed justice, even though Mr. Mueller made no determination on the matter, is another concerning sign about what the attorney general is thinking.

More importantly, Mr. Barr works for an administration preparingfor all-out war with Congress over all sorts of disclosure, which would be only the latest in a string of bad-faith rejections of federal rules and traditional norms. Regardless of the attorney general’s reputation, he still works for an administration that long ago lost any benefit of the doubt on transparency and fair play.

There may be no satisfying end to this national saga until an independent referee steps in to sort out the controversy. Reggie Walton, a U.S. district judge, raised on Tuesday one possibility for further review. Accusing Mr. Barr of creating “an environment that has caused a significant part of the public . . . to be concerned about whether or not there is full transparency,” the judge raised the possibility that he would demand an unredacted copy to review whether the Justice Department’s omissions were warranted. We hope he follows through. Mr. Walton could ensure that the redactions followed Freedom of Information Act procedures and were not influenced by political considerations.

More at the link.

Funny face of cute Jack Russell dog wrapped up in red warm blanket, focus on nose

One more from Natasha Bertrand at Politico: Post-Mueller report likely to target Russia dossier author Steele.

The frenzied anticipation around special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report has overshadowed another Justice Department report on the Russia probe that could land as soon as next month, and which will likely take direct aim at the former British spy behind an infamous “dossier” on President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

For the past year, the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, has been examining the FBI’s efforts to surveil a one-time Trump campaign adviser based in part on information from Christopher Steele, a former British MI6 agent who had worked with the bureau as a confidential source since 2010.

Several people interviewed by the Inspector General’s office over the past year tell POLITICO that Horowitz’s team has been intensely focused on gauging Steele’s credibility as a source for the bureau. One former U.S. official left the interview with the impression that the Inspector General’s final report “is going to try and deeply undermine” Steele, who spent over two decades working Russia for MI6 before leaving to launch his own corporate intelligence firm.

Read the rest at Politico.

I’m putting this post up early so we can discuss what’s happening in real time. It should be in interesting day.