By Robert A. Vella
The brief summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian collusion during the 2016 election submitted yesterday by Attorney General William Barr is nothing more than a political statement in support of President Trump. It is wholly his own personal conclusions, ostensibly agreed to by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which reveals no evidence, no facts, no prosecutorial decisions, and most importantly no public disclosure of Mueller’s report. Before detailing the rationale for my opinion, let’s examine Barr’s summary.
Special counsel Robert Mueller did not find that the Trump campaign “conspired or coordinated” with the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 elections, according to Attorney General William Barr’s summary to Congress delivered Sunday.
Barr’s four-page letter outlines the “principal conclusions” of the nearly two-year special counsel probe, reiterating that the Russian government sought to interfere in US politics but that the investigation did not establish that Trump associates aided them in their efforts.
His summary also took up the other major element of Mueller’s investigation: whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice. Here, Barr cites language from Mueller’s report, noting that the special counsel’s office did not draw a definite conclusion as to whether the president committed a crime, but also that the report “did not exonerate him.”
Barr adds that since Mueller did not make a determination, both he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein have, concluding that the evidence is not “sufficient to establish the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
Barr notes that Mueller examined possible obstruction of justice offenses, much “of which has been the subject of public reporting.”
So it’s not clear if Mueller uncovered anything beyond of what was already known — from firing FBI Director James Comey to harassing then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the investigation.
But on the obstruction matter, Mueller didn’t draw a definite conclusion “one way or the other — as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction,” Barr says in his summary.
Barr continues, in a critical paragraph:
Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. The Special Counsel’s report states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
The “difficult issues” quote can only mean one thing – that politics, not the law, was the decisive factor. While legally proving a criminal conspiracy between Russia and Trump’s inner circle was always problematic since it would require an evidentiary smoking gun, the issues of collusion (which is not technically a crime) and obstruction of justice (which is a federal crime) were plainly evident by Trump’s own public behavior. For example, his firing of FBI Director James Comey, his public admission that he did so because Comey was investigating collusion with Russia, and his celebratory meeting with Russians in the White House shortly after he fired Comey, are all irrefutable evidence in plain sight. If that couldn’t prove obstruction of justice, then the crime which brought down Richard Nixon in 1974 no longer exists according to the current Department of Justice.
Barr’s stance on obstruction is readily apparent which also conveniently aligns with the so-called “unitary executive theory” asserting that the President of the United States is constitutionally above the law. I say “conveniently” because I suspect Barr’s opinion would be drastically different if Trump was not a far-right conservative Republican like himself.
On June 8, attorney general-nominee William P. Barr sent the Justice Department an unsolicited memo attacking special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s obstruction-of-justice investigation as “fatally misconceived.” It is Barr’s legal theory that is misconceived. From all appearances, Mueller’s investigation rests on exactly the same foundation as the case against President Richard M. Nixon. If Nixon was a crook, there is a real possibility that President Trump is, too.
The crux of Barr’s argument, spelled out in a 19-page memo first reported by the Wall Street Journal, is that a president cannot obstruct justice when carrying out his normal constitutional responsibilities, such as hiring and firing officials and directing federal law enforcement operations. But that is just what Nixon was doing when he attempted to shut down the FBI investigation of Watergate in 1972. When this came to light two years later, no one seriously argued that Nixon had acted lawfully. Rather, he earned himself a one-way ticket out of town.
Regarding Rosenstein, my first doubts about his professional integrity surfaced when he scrambled to spin the news story (later corroborated by former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe) about discussions with DOJ officials to wear a wire to secretly record his private meetings with President Trump as well as about discussions to invoke the 25th Amendment to possibly remove Trump from office. More recently, his visits to the White House and his curious decision to delay his resignation from the DOJ (which MSNBC talking heads completely misinterpreted) only strengthened my doubts.
NEW DETAILS: Rosenstein intends to stay at DOJ until the Mueller report drops. Why? A source familiar with the matter tells @PamelaBrownCNN that Rosenstein wants to stay around so he can be the “heat shield,” or absorb the punches, if there is fallout from the Mueller report.
— Marshall Cohen (@MarshallCohen) March 19, 2019
And, Mueller isn’t above such scrutiny either. Political considerations are always weighty matters and there are indications which suggest that it affected the Special Counsel too.
The special counsel’s office deliberated at length with Justice Department officials about issuing a subpoena for President Donald Trump to be interviewed, but ultimately the decision was made not to move forward with such a significant investigative step, according to a source familiar with the matter.
For months, Robert Mueller’s team had requested a sit-down interview with Trump, but the President’s lawyers refused to commit and negotiations continued. Eventually, the special counsel submitted written questions to the President last fall concerning the time frame before the 2016 election, which Trump answered in late November 2018.
The source said the sensitive discussions between Justice Department officials and the special counsel team, and the determination that a subpoena would not be pursued, were based on the perception of the evidence and merits of the issues — separate and apart from the fact that current department policy dictates that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
So, the bottom line is this. The Department of Justice failed to uphold the rule of law in the case of Donald Trump whereas it succeeded in the case against Nixon. This sets a dangerous precedent going forward which will be very difficult to redress. America lost something precious yesterday. The country and the nation will likely never be the same again.
However, the fight must not be given up. Jumping off the cliff of despair will only hasten our end. There are still criminal and civil cases pending at the federal and state level. Even though Attorney General Barr won’t allow the DOJ to prosecute Trump while he is in office, and probably not his family members either, any sealed indictments could be prosecuted afterwards.
Unless Democrats in Congress can get their hands on the entirety of Mueller’s report, or if they discover convincing evidence from their own investigations, impeachment is now off the table as far as collusion and obstruction are concerned. It’s obvious now that winning in 2020 will be their top priority.
The American people deserve to see the full Mueller report immediately so that they can draw their only conclusions. RELEASE THE REPORT NOW!
In other news:
An unnamed foreign government-owned corporation will have to turn over information that was related to the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation to federal prosecutors or continue to accrue escalating fines after the Supreme Court denied the company’s request to hear its appeal on Monday.
The Supreme Court’s order marks the last stop for the company that has been fighting the subpoena under the shroud of secrecy. It was issued without comment or any noted dissents.
The special counsel’s office declined to say if the mystery grand jury case has been referred to another part of the Justice Department. However, attorneys from other parts of the department have worked on the case.
WASHINGTON, March 25 (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a bid by online shoe retailer Zappos to throw out a class-action lawsuit by customers who said their personal information was stolen by hackers in 2012.
The justices denied an appeal by Zappos, a subsidiary of Amazon.com Inc, of a ruling by a California-based federal appeals court that revived the lawsuit, dealing a setback to the company and business groups seeking to limit their liability in data breaches, an increasingly common problem in the internet age. (Reporting by Andrew Chung Editing by Bill Trott)