Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Part 2, Mostly Commentary on The Mueller Report - The Washington Post edition

This is Part 2 with limited quotes from The Mueller Report (with added commentary by moi).  The first quote is the last one from Volume I, the part on Russian interference, then I jump to the obstruction part. I started out quoting and realized there was so much more to comment upon that I ended up hardly using any direct quotes, this time, but I plan to go back to further quoting the report, tomorrow.

I'm skipping most of the quotes I considered posting about the Trump Tower meeting with Junior, Kushner, et al. because it has been endlessly reported on, but I think a single point is worth quoting because it clarifies how what appeared (at least from the news reports I've seen) to be a fairly harmless meeting that went nowhere could potentially have legal implications:

This series of events could implicate the federal election-law ban on contributions and donations by foreign nationals, 52 U.S.C. § 30121(a)(1)(A). Specifically, Goldstone passed along an offer purportedly from a Russian government official to provide "official documents and information" to the Trump Campaign for the purposes of influencing the presidential election. Trump Jr. appears to have accepted that offer and to have arranged a meeting to receive those materials. Documentary evidence in the form of email chains supports the inference that Kushner and Manafort were aware of that purpose and attended the June 9 meeting anticipating the receipt of helpful information to the Campaign from Russian sources. [...]

A threshold legal question is whether providing to a campaign "documents and information" of the type involved here would constitute a prohibited campaign contribution. The foreign contribution ban is not limited to contributions of money. 

~pp. 243-244

Volume II "addresses the President's actions towards the FBI's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election and related matters, and his actions towards the Special Counsel's investigation." It comprises the majority of the 700-something pages of the report. One of my friends recently said Mueller had "no right" to investigate the president. While I'm not going to hunt down the explanation, the report actually defines what Mueller was charged with investigating and occasionally describes why something was not investigated (because it was outside their purview and/or there was some other governmental agency or office charged with that particular investigation, for example). But, when the Special Counsel was hired, his job specifically included any kind of outcome caused by the investigation itself. That includes such things as lying to the Special Counsel's office or other methods of obstruction. So, even before any obstruction happened, he had "the right" to investigate it, if and when it did occur. That was part of the Special Counsel's job description.

The "key issues and events" examined in the obstruction-of-justice inquiry were, as follows (the following are all followed by descriptions of generally 2-3 paragraphs on pp. 265-269 of The Washington Post version of The Mueller Report:

  • The Campaign's response to reports about Russian support for Trump. 
  • Conduct involving FBI Director Comey and Michael Flynn. 
  • The President's reaction to the continuing Russia investigation. 
  • The President's termination of Comey. 
  • The appointment of a Special Counsel and efforts to remove him. 
  • Efforts to curtail the Special Counsel's Investigation. 
  • Efforts to prevent public disclosure of evidence. 
  • Further efforts to have the Attorney General take control of the investigation. 
  • Efforts to have McGahn deny that the President had ordered him to have the Special Counsel removed. 
  • Conduct towards Flynn, Manafort, [redacted].
  • Conduct involving Michael Cohen. 
  • Overarching factual issues. 

So, almost all of those are about what the president and his campaign did to stop people (the press; investigators) from finding out the truth. Much of it, of course, was done in full view of the public. This is the thing that I'm sure most people who don't support Trump find baffling. It's recorded! Remember when he went on NBC news and said he thought "this Russia thing with Trump and Russia" would go away if he fired Comey? Remember when Trump wrote nice tweets about Michael Cohen until Cohen decided to tell the truth about what happened and then wrote threatening tweets about Cohen's family and called him a rat? I have friends who have no idea those things happened. They simply believe everything Trump says, regardless of how insane it is and how publicly it's been displayed.

What you really get out of Volume II is a serious case of exhaustion. It's like reading about a toddler who stole a dozen cookies, got chocolate all over his face, panicked about it and lied (but didn't bother washing his face), got mad when he was caught, then blamed everyone around him and had a screaming, kicking tantrum (or, series of tantrums). Then he kept pushing people around him out of the house, one by one, because they refused to say, "It's true. Johnny never touched the cookies. I saw him innocently sitting on the couch while it happened."

Volume II describes Trump's lies and waffling and tells the story of his attempts to stop the Special Counsel's investigation, via evidence obtained through interviews with those around the president and his own tweets and interviews. It describes his screaming rages, refusal to listen to advice on laws and norms, and requests for others (in and out of the government) to do things that were either inappropriate, illegal, or outside their job description. I was shocked to find that so many people simply ignore the president's instructions or put him off repeatedly, knowing what they're being asked to do is wrong. Instead of telling the American people how dangerous he is, they ignore him.

I'll post more from Volume II, tomorrow, and try to focus on the quotes rather than the commentary.

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

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