How William Barr Did Old Man Back-Flips to Avoid Arresting Donald Trump

Attorney General William Barr just engaged in utterly cowardly dereliction of duty.

During his confirmation hearing, Barr confirmed that things Trump has done are obstruction

When we were awaiting the Mueller report yesterday, I wondered whether William Barr was thinking about two things he had said as part of his confirmation process. First, in his column that has always been interpreted to say that a President can’t obstruct justice, at the bottom of the first page, he instead acknowledged that a President actually could obstruct justice.

Obviously, the President and any other official can commit obstruction in this classic sense of sabotaging a proceeding’s truth-finding function. Thus, for example, if a President knowingly destroys or alters evidence, suborns perjury, or induces a witness to change testimony, or commits any act deliberately impairing the integrity or availability of evidence, then he, like anyone else, commits the crime of obstruction.

Barr — who at the time had no understanding of the evidence — made three comments in his confirmation hearing about obstruction. Among others, he point blank said that a person could not lawfully issue a pardon in exchange for someone’s promise not to incriminate him.

“Do you believe a president could lawfully issue a pardon in exchange for the recipient’s promise not incriminate him?” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Barr during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“No, that would be a crime,” Barr said.

We know Trump has repeatedly floated pardons to witnesses who have, in hopes of obtaining a pardon, not incriminated him.

That’s true of Paul Manafort most of all.

So on the basis of what he said to get this job, Barr is already on the record saying that Trump obstructed justice.

Barr ignores the crimes in front of him to avoid considering whether Trump obstructed those crimes

Now consider how Barr — having been given the job by Mueller of deciding whether Trump obstructed justice — avoided holding himself to sworn views he expressed during confirmation.

In the letter sent to Jerry Nadler (who surely just kicked off an impeachment inquiry in earnest) and others, his analysis consists of the following.

The guts of the letter describe the two parts of Mueller’s report. The first part reviews the results of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. It describes the conclusions this way:

  • [T]he Special Counsel did not find that any U.S. person or Trump campaign official or associate conspired or knowingly coordinated with the IRA in its efforts
  • [T]he Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in [its] efforts … to gather and disseminate information to influence the election

Note that the second bullet does not even exonerate Roger Stone, as it pertains only to the Russian government, not Russians generally or WikiLeaks or anyone else. This is important given that we know the Trump campaign knew of and encouraged Roger Stone’s coordination with WikiLeaks.

Then Barr moves along to the second section, in which Mueller considered whether Trump obstructed justice. In it, Barr doesn’t mention the scope of the activities that Mueller considered evidence of obstruction of justice. He notes that, after laying out a case for and against accusing the President of a crime, Mueller’s report,

states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Barr and Rod Rosenstein have spent less than 48 whole hours considering that evidence to come up with this judgment:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.


In making this determination, we noted that the Special Counsel recognized that “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference,” and that, while not determinative, the absence of such evidence bears upon the President’s intent with respect to obstruction. Generally speaking, to obtain and sustain an obstruction conviction, the government would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person, acting with corrupt intent, engaged in obstructive conduct with a sufficient nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding.

Here’s the thing, though: at least given what they lay out here, they only considered whether Trump was covering up his involvement in the hack-and-leak operation. It doesn’t consider whether Trump was covering up a quid pro quo, which is what there is abundant evidence of.

They didn’t consider whether Trump obstructed the crime that he appears to have obstructed. They considered whether he obstructed a different crime. And having considered whether Trump obstructed the crime he didn’t commit, rather than considering whether he obstructed the crime he did commit, they decided not to charge him with a crime.

Update: Corrected that these fuckers didn’t even spend two days reviewing the report.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 


351 replies
  1. Mabel Longhetti says:

    Marcy, why do you say that Nadler “surely kicked off an impeachment inquiry”? Can you clarify what you mean by inquiry here? Are you suggesting that you think the House will now move to impeach?

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so community members get to know you. This is your 2nd username. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • fikshun says:

      Jerry Nadler tweeted as much today: “In light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department following the Special Counsel report, where Mueller did not exonerate the President, we will be calling Attorney General Barr in to testify before @HouseJudiciary in the near future.”

      • bmaz says:

        Seriously, this nonsense is the first comment you decided to weigh in, of all places, here, with?

        As Melania would say, please Do Better. Also, too, it is kind of batshit.

        • Alice says:

          And just why is asking why Barr should not be charged with obstructing justice a batshit idea? What other reason was he appointed to his current position but to obstruct justice,cherry pick comments in the report and make a false conclusion to report? People are quibbling over Trump being charged with obstructing justice. It is as plain as anything that Barr was the Cherry on the sundae of judicial obstruction. And why no one has suggested he be held accountable too is batshit! IMHO

        • bmaz says:

          It is an insane argument. If you don’t realize that, then I am not sure how to explain it to you. We don’t do crackpot here.

    • Yastreblyansky says:

      As I’ve been saying, the impeachment inquiry started in January, when Nadler took the chair and laid out the tentative agenda, and was completely evident when they sent out those 81 letters. It’s not the name of the inquiry that matters, it’s the fact that it’s in House Judiciary and is looking at a wide range of connections between the president and criminal activities of all kinds.

    • RW1970 says:

      Guilty if charge

      [This was entered in the username field and will not work as a name:
      “This only confirm that Barr has covered up the President’s crimes.Now the other investigation fall on SDNY.He’s guilty of several crimes including obstruction of justice.”
      I’ve inserted a name which may work instead. Please advise if you’d prefer a different name but one within a reasonable number of characters. Thank you and welcome to emptywheel./~Rayne

  2. DenaAGoGo says:

    Under the “Barr Ignores” segment, on the second bullet point, the word counsel is missing the “L”

    Thanks for all you do. Your writing has helped keep me sane ever since I came across your site. :)

    • Fran of the North says:

      Silly me, I thought that meant “Read the…” Those of us in the cursed insurance business use almost the same acronym. RTFP. P being policy. But that’s just us insurance geeks!

  3. brewstate says:

    Mueller wouldn’t have left the decision up to Barr, he would have left it up to the House of Representatives who would be the only people who could weigh in on obstruction without an underlying crime but that might amount to an impeachable offense. I had hopes Barr would be even-handed, but it appears that wasn’t the case.

      • brewstate says:

        If Mueller had said categorically there was no obstruction, I would have believed it. He’s about as non-partisan as Washington can hope for. However, for Barr to step in and make a final conclusion in 2 days that a 22-month investigation couldn’t determine is highly suspect. I think all this does is give Congress more fodder to have access to the full report.

        • JustAGuy says:

          The question now is whether, as the White House spikes the football and the right-wing noise machine cranks up the political heat to 11, the Dems in Congress, specifically Nancy Pelosi, will have the stomach for proceeding with a serious investigation or just cower before the onslaught as is their wont.

        • BobCon says:

          I don’t think that’s the right read. I think the question will come down to how well the Democrats are able to make the case to the media that Trump is stonewalling everything, which is what he will do.

          I suspect the media wants this over with so that they can chase random “did you hear what Buttigieg said about Booker’s cousin’s girlfriend’s mother, and what does that say about Buttigieg’s readiness for office?” storylines.

          Meaning, the House will plug along and get nothing but “what are they still doing?” stories in return. Eventually, more about Trump-Russia will come out, and the press will say “well, if we’d known sooner there might be a story but too late now. We have to report on Trump’s tweet about refugees sneaking refined Plutonium over the border for “Soros” funded (wink wink) socialist agents in league with Black Lives Matters.”

        • RWood says:

          Who do they have to do it?

          If they pick another Mueller, another by-the-book boy scout, its not going to get done. They don’t need a German Shepherd, they need a Pit Bull, and I don’t think they have one. Time to take the nice-guy and shove him in a closet. Starr got more done with a dress and a few recorded phone calls, and Adam Schiff is no Arlo Raines.

          And…I’m ranting. Sorry, but I spent the day in the car listening to this play out and trying not to drive off a cliff. Somebody tell me this is not over before I move to Iceland.

        • elk_l says:

          I, too, am sad to say I’m on my way
          Won’t be back for many a day
          My heart is down, my head is turning around
          I have to build a little hut in Kingston town.

    • GusGus says:

      “Mueller wouldn’t have left the decision up to Barr, he would have left it up to the House of Representatives”

      Reading Barr’s letter again, it looks like Mueller did exactly this, it looks like he is trying to put the question of obstruction to Congress.

      Barr describes how Mueller went to great lengths to spell out the obstruction case against Trump in the report. Mueller chose not to make a decision on it, why?

      Mueller would not be afraid of making a difficult decision, it looks like he feels another body should make that decision. And which body would that be? Certainly not the AG which Trump appointed. The only other body would can deliberate that question is Congress, as you wrote.

      As you also wrote, Congress determining that Trump committed obstruction would be ground for impeachment.

      Mueller knows this. So why is he teeing up all the evidence of Trump obstructing waiting for another body to decide? Could Mueller have written a road map for impeachment, and is just waiting for Congress to find it?

      • brewstate says:

        Something very similar to a roadmap was done during Nixon’s presidency. There was never evidence that Nixon was involved in the original Watergate scandal. His crime was the cover-up and the obstruction of justice (which goes against Barr’s assertion that obstruction without an underlying crime isn’t obstruction). While the issues that Mueller found might be serious, they obviously didn’t rise to the high bar of conspiracy. They could, however, be of great interest to Congress. I’m withholding my judgment until I see the actual report, but it raises some interesting questions.

  4. Pat Neomi says:

    Trump was implicated in Cohen’s campaign finance crime and if I recall Cohen attempted to secure a pardon at one point, right? Would Mueller have addressed that in his report or not because it was charged in SDNY?

        • InfiniteLoop says:

          Not according to Cohen’s sworn testimony in his recent public hearing. As he’s since clarified, before he flipped he was open to being pardoned. We know Trump made vague dangles on Twitter. Cohen’s lawyers appear to have looked into a pardon at that time. We don’t know whether those feelers went dead before or after the Special Master process turned up no smoking gun and Trump stopped paying Cohen’s legal bills in a pretty clear signal that Cohen should enjoy the breeze while hung out to dry.

          Now, Cohen says he would refuse a pardon.

          For what it’s worth, I believe Cohen’s most recent testimony — but I take it very literally. He’s shown himself to be perfectly capable of using precise language to mislead without technically lying, and at this point the habit’s probably ingrained. But he’s also not a total moron, and he had little to gain by lying and plenty to lose.

        • Bill Smith says:

          “perfectly capable of using precise language to mislead”

          Cohen is a lawyer. Isn’t that what they do?

  5. Keifus says:

    I am tired & disappointed.

    Our laws need to be changed. The consequences for conducting in elite criminal actions need to be harshened.

    I want to see the full report and review all the data points they used to assess this.

    I will vote for any candidate that promises to release the report in full.

    I tire of “confidentiality.” I would like to see radical transparency laws implemented and practiced.

      • Reader 21 says:

        It’s not about changing the laws—it’s applying the law equally.
        The DOJ released enormous amounts of sensitive information re Clinton. Now that they’ve set that precedent, we need to see not just the report, but the underlying evidence. ALL of it. We have a right to know.

        • regnaD kciN says:

          Not just “released enormous amounts of sensitive information re Clinton,” but released a report that there MIGHT be additional sensitive information, even if they didn’t know for sure, ten days before the election. By the time they put out the correction that, gee, there wasn’t any additional information after all, the damage had already been done.

          Contrast that to the kid-glove treatment 45 is getting.

        • CitizenCrone says:

          Yep. HRC inadvertently jeopardized [a small number of] classified documents. There was no evidence that her server was ever hacked, thankfully. But lesson learned, right? Except for Javanka.

          Trump, on the other hand blabbed classified Intel to Lavrov and Kislyak in the oval office, and everyone said “he has the ABSOLUTE POWER to declassify whatever,” as if it had been a considered decision.

          Although that act wasn’t illegal, had he blabbed our most critical secrets that might have risen to an impeachable offense.

          I just cannot believe no impeachable offense has been committed. Congress must continue their investigations.

    • bobdevo says:

      It’s not so much the laws have to be changed. Nothing in the constitution, the US Code or precedent case law supports the DoJ “guideline” that says you cannot indict a sitting president. It’s not even a DoJ “regulation”… just two opinions from the DoJ saying you can’t indict. The first was drafted by Nixon’s DoJ – whose Attorney General wound up in prison. The second was written by Clinton’s DoJ when Ken Starr was stalking him. In point of fact, Starr had a couple of lawyers from U of Illinois research the issue, and their finding was that you could indict, try and convict a sitting president, but he could only be “removed from office’ through impeachment.

      • RWood says:


        It’s gotten to the point that when I see the words “norm”, “guideline”, “protocol” or “opinion” I fully expect them to apply to one side and be ignored by the other.

        Today did not disappoint.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Bill Barr spent the first twenty years of his career at the CIA, the White House, the DoJ, and a large DC lobbying/law firm. That included being US Attorney General during Poppy Bush’s final two years in office, when the Iran-Contra mess threatened to boil over. In the end, the USG, with Barr as AG, managed to successfully stonewall the I-C special counsel. For good measure, Poppy Bush pardoned a half dozen senior officials involved in the scandal, including former SecDef Caspar Weinberger. Barr spent the balance of his career defending some of the largest corporations in corporate America.

    One is not repeatedly asked to do that sort of work if one hasn’t learned how to side-step a few land mines.

    The House has a big job to do to fill in the gaps left by this investigation.

    • Eureka says:


      In these lights, it’s telling of the Mueller Report contents that it _did_ take Barr the weekend to produce this statement, i.e., the info-wrangling and massage took longer than anticipated.

      The devil in this detail is how _long_ it took to get the job done.

      • CitizenCrone says:

        And the massaging is being attributed to the obstruction question.
        1) Could Mueller ever have determined intent without actually interviewing Trump? WHY didn’t he pursue that?
        2) Regardless, the subject s/h/b the quid pro quo.

        The conspiracy is the part that would have involved counterintelligence, and so would be most redacted if released. Couldn’t there still be active items hidden in there?

        E.g., Gates is still needed so he can’t be sentenced, the Manafort-Gates-Kilimnik meeting is unresolved, Stone’s case is still pending, the Mystery appellant is hanging out there…

        Barr is effective. We must have the report entire.

  7. Close Reader says:

    Thank you for pointing out what a lot of journalists are glossing over—the first half of the letter is not “no collusion at all” but instead “no collusion between the Trump campaign [never defined] and the Russian government [also never defined].” The footnote on page 2 notes that they are defining “coordinated” by limiting it to the same two groups. At no point does the letter specify what individuals or entities fall inside or outside of the Trump campaign or the Russian government.

    As for obstruction, if anyone would intentionally obstruct justice to cover up for something that wasn’t a crime or for reasons that seem illogical, it would be the current Oval Office occupant.

    • Kirobaito says:

      “As for obstruction, if anyone would intentionally obstruct justice to cover up for something that wasn’t a crime or for reasons that seem illogical, it would be the current Oval Office occupant.”

      Seems, looking back, even if one takes the view that there was no coordination/conspiracy, there was a whole lot of politically, if not legally, damaging stuff Trump was doing in 2016. Trump was negotiating a Trump Tower Moscow project while going out on the campaign trail every day lying that he “has nothing to do with Russia,” “no deals,” etc. He surely knew about the Trump Tower meeting – Nunberg and Bannon both have insisted as much, and the aborted press conference to discuss Clinton’s corruption is too big of a coincidence.

      Any investigation into the links between the Trump campaign and Russian interference would likely bring these things to light – and of course, we now know of the Trump tower meeting and the SDNY investigation spinoff has brought up Trump Tower Moscow (along with Buzzfeed). Trump had no real idea what sort of damage they would do to him politically – none, as it turned out, but he didn’t know that in Spring 2017 when he fired Comey to end the investigation.

      If the Trump Tower meeting and negotiation around Trump Tower Moscow weren’t crimes (the latter probably isn’t, and we aren’t sure about the former), it is still entirely within a “corrupt intent” to obstruct an investigation that you reasonably believed would bring that damaging facts into public knowledge. You don’t need an underlying crime. This doesn’t feel that hard to put together.

    • CitizenCrone says:

      “As for obstruction, if anyone would intentionally obstruct justice to cover up for something that wasn’t a crime or for reasons that seem illogical, it would be the current Oval Office occupant.”

      true enough, but why did everyone else lie, and about the same thing (contacts with Russians)? That sure looks awful conspicious!

      • e.a.f. says:

        for some, lying is a way of life. They won’t tell the truth even if its easier. Those people view the rest of society as doing the same as they do.

        As to the others, its not so much that they lie, they simply repeat what Trump said and what Trump says, is whatever pops into his mind. With some one like that, intent is difficult to demonstrate in court.

        All of them remind me of a group of people addicted to fent. with mental health issues. In my opinion, there isn’t much difference. The loudest, sets up the mantra and they all move along from there. Not suggesting Trump and the gang are fent. addicted or mentally ill, but the group dynamic isn’t that different.

        Having seen cases where the defendant was found not guilty because there was no intent because of being so high or so mentally unhealthy at the time, perhaps that is what the concern is. Yes, the U.S.A. elected as President a person who reminds me of some one with really serious mental health issues and has behaviour not so different from some one high on fent. Its just that Trump and his gang are well dressed and rich.

  8. Nehoa says:

    Like many others I am disappointed that we don’t have a quick, clean end to this horror of an administration. That said, it may well turn out for the best.
    I think that Mueller’s team did a very thorough investigation and that there are a lot of facts in their records that will be of use to Congress (i.e. the House). There are additional facts that the investigative committees will ask for from other sources in the government. The fight to get those facts will be a test of our system of government, and will force many in the GOP and the legal system to make a choice regarding the rule of law. This will be a battle worth fighting, and worth fighting in full view of the public before the 2020 elections. If this battle is not fought, and not put in front of people every day, we will continue to be in an environment where 40% of the voting public will believe the propaganda of the Trump/GOP/Fox media machine. More than just getting Trump out of office, we need to win this fight to reaffirm who we are as a country.

    • Kay Simmons says:


      Like some others have said, I had hopes that Barr would be trustworthy here. So much for that. Now I REALLY look forward to the states’ cases against Trump. So…cross your fingers! And your toes!! And your eyes!!!!! And hope for the best.

    • CitizenCrone says:

      Agreed. We also need to resolve all the unanswered questions and hold people accountable so belief in our justice system isn’t further eroded.

    • Tech Support says:


      If anyone was worried that indignant voters were going to lose their energy before 2020, AG Barr just solved that for you.

      If anyone is worried that this is all going to be swept away and forgotten by 2020, SDNY is one of multiple districts working that issue for you.

      I think the HJC needs to eventually move forward on impeachment proceedings. I understand that we are not at the point where there is a narrative to underlie those proceedings that Nancy feels can be communicated convincingly to the broader public, but one needs to be arrived at soon. The GOP in the Senate needs to be put on the record voting to keep a nakedly corrupt grifter in power before the next election.

      • e.a.f. says:

        You may be surprised when you find out that a large number of Americans don’t care if Trump is a “nakedly corrupt grafter”. Many of them donated to him because they thought he was.

        In my opinion, the key to winning in 2020 is to repeatedly not only remind people of what Trump did but to remind them their lives did not get better. Some adhere to the mantra, the economy is good, Trump did that. Ask them, how much has their standard of living risen?

        Watched the American news shows repeatedly play Trump’s walking and saying, no collusion. At the rate they’re playing it, that has been imbedded in half the minds of America. No collusion, no collusion, no collusion. As William Goldman wrote in one of his books, movie scripts repeat things 3 times because that is how frequently you have to say it so the viewers can “get it”. Americans talk about Fox news and the impact and support they have for Trump. Just watch CNN, its not a whole lot different.
        That old line about if you repeat a lie often enough……….that is how trump got elected and will stay elected.

        • P J Evans says:

          Ask them how the did on their taxes this year, compared to last year (and the year before). Point out that the difference is entirely due to the GOP-T and Tr*mp – and their tax giveaway to billionaires. (And remind them that those same people want to make big cuts in Medicare and Social Security, along with all the other social programs, and that they don’t want to pay for disaster funding.)

  9. Arun says:

    I think it is fairly clear that no matter what the President has done, the only viable way forward is to beat him in the 2020 election.

    Barr and Rosenstein can’t depend on theirs being the only eyes on the Mueller Report. So they won’t cover up a damning report. But they will make hay from an inconclusive report. And that seems to be what they’re doing.

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so community members get to know you. This is your 2nd username. Thanks. /~Rayne]

  10. Thomas Paine says:

    Mueller found enough obstructive behavior by the POTUS that he could not exonerate him. Barr stated that the evidence of Obstruction was not sufficient for DoJ to proceed to an indictment, but that is academic, since the OLC states a sitting President cannot be indicted by said office. Mueller’s cited statement about “cannot exonerate” leaves open the potential that a crime was indeed committed. Since it is NOT the DoJ’s perview to indict the President, the finder of fact becomes the Congress. Chairman Nader is well within his rights to demand the full report and proceed on his investigation into Trump’s conduct.

    The House certainly could impeach on two counts: 1) Obstruction in plain sight, and 2) Campaign Finance violations with Cohen. A conviction in the Senate was always a long shot, and this Report summary doesn’t help. However, it may not matter – we are now 19 months from the next election. If the House Impeachs in Sept. 2020 and does not allow the Senate time for a trial, the American People will render the verdict, because it will make the election a referendum on Trump’s integrity and veracity.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Barr’s position and OLC guidelines are the equivalent of saying that no matter what evidence Mueller might have found, the evidence could never be sufficient to proceed to an indictment of a sitting president. Rather a far cry from exoneration.

      • P J Evans says:

        Especially when there are other memos that make it clear that sitting presidents are not above the law and can – should! – be held to account for them. (What else was Watergate about? Did Barr sleep through all of it?)

      • InfiniteLoop says:

        To be fair to Barr (I can’t believe I’m saying that), his summary did state that he and RR looked first at whether there was a crime. Since they decided there wasn’t, the indictment-of-a-sitting-President question was moot.

        The real problem is how their reasoning for not finding a crime is holier than a crowd of saints.

    • e.a.f. says:

      Unfortunately the people many not “render” that verdict. Many don’t care. In the meantime the House of Representatives will have been doing all this work while taking the focus off of other things, which might defeat Trump. Trump will go into the election with the line, they’ve got nothing on me, after all this time, look how good the economy is, I’ve made America safe. The Democrats will have little to nothing to demonstrate they did anything. Pelosi is correct. he isn’t worth it.

      That old line about, I don’t care what you say about me, as long as you spell my name right, applies to elections also.

  11. Bill Smith says:

    The problem is that nobody was found to have colluded with Russia. Particularly Trump himself. Since that was the base finding it made it more difficult to find obstruction. They just found that Trump is an ass.

    The evidence on obstruction had been shopped to the regular DOJ over a much longer than 72 hour time frame.

    “Over the course of the investigation, the Special Counsel’s office engaged in discussions with certain Department officials regarding many of the legal and factual matters at issue in the Special Counsel’s obstruction investigation.”

    • Willis Warren says:

      Dangling pardons so your cronies won’t rat you out is definitely obstruction, and it keeps the matrix charge from moving forward.

      This is a stupid precedent.

    • P J Evans says:

      They didn’t find “collusion” because it doesn’t exist in law. They did find a lot of other stuff, which is why Mueller was able to get so many indictments and convictions – which Fox ignores, and the WH wants everyone to forget.

      • Bill Smith says:

        True, I should have used the word “conspiracies”, not the word “collusion”.

        But my point is the same. Without an underlying crime it is harder to prove Trump was obstructing justice.

        The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

        • Peterr says:

          Or . . . the obstruction successfully prevented investigators from uncovering the evidence of the underlying crime of conspiracy.

          That’s kind of the point with obstruction: it’s undertaken to cover up something.

        • CitizenCrone says:

          “The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

          got it. But what about Wikileaks and Stone? Stone was not connected to campaign. Wikileaks isn’t the Russian government.

    • Reader 21 says:

      Manafort—the campaign manager—was charged with ConFraudUS (conspiracy to defraud the United States). This is flat wrong.

    • Bill Smith says:

      Not in this investigation. But if a state was investigating Trump and he did some similar types of things as he did in this case, then likely yes.

        • Kay Simmons says:

          What I’ve been thinking is that:

          #1) the reason Mueller didn’t question the Trump kids is that the states can take on those issues and, if they’re crimes, Trump can’t pardon them.

          #2) the states can take on just about EVERYTHING now without being faced with double jeopardy, and

          #3) Trump ought to worry about the states FAR more than the Mueller Report because there’s no one to pardon Trump!!

        • regnaD kciN says:

          The states CAN nail the Trump kids, or even Trump himself, with all sorts of corruption charges, but no state can charge any of them with “conspiracy to defraud the United States,” which is really the big-ticket item here. Once the “NO COLLUSION!!!” narrative has well and truly spread, any indictments on such charges are going to look like petty attempts by diehard Trump opponents to trap him on picayune stuff, since they couldn’t get him on the “real crimes.”

        • koolmoe says:

          ouch. why? Certainly not with the intent of ConFraud or any other ‘high crimes’ but certainly with fiduciary crimes, no? The man is a crook, through and through, and it should be easier to prove (paper trails) such fraud, right? And that’s something everyone can wrap their head around. I have higher-hopes for the SDNY/etc investigations. Is there a reason that’s foolish? ugh

  12. P J Evans says:

    I’d be more surprised if Barr hadn’t made already it clear that he thinks that whoever is president (at least if they’re GOP) can’t be indicted (while in office) for any crimes they committed…and the fact that sane and intelligent citizens think that the president shouldn’t be committing crimes in or out of office, without legal consequences either at the time or after leaving office, seems to not cross his mind at all. (But if they’re Democrats, he’d likely be entirely in favor of the wheels of justice grinding a lot faster and more thoroughly.)
    Also, he probably knows damned well that Tr*mp is deserving of impeachment and conviction, but saying so in public would lose him that nice cushy job he thinks he deserved.

  13. barcadad says:

    This was the worst care scenario today. But not in terms of some failures by Mueller, but in terms of how we all hoped Barr might rise to the task. Instead, Barr (NOT Mueller) made the call on obstruction. Instead, Barr (NOT Mueller) cast the lack of proof on collusion by narrowing it to solely collusion with “the Russian government.”

    These were two very damning decisions that will not stand the test of time.

    • Jenny says:

      Excellent points.
      Barr supported 6 pardons for the Iran-Contra scandal. Not surprised by his decisions today.
      Now the House Judiciary Committee can investigate for possible impeachment considering DOJ’s position is a sitting president cannot be indicted for obstruction.

  14. curveball says:

    Barr’s letter is not an aria by the metabolically challenged diva. She will come onto the stage in due time.The expectation/hope now is that Mueller’s report presents a unified field theory that damns Trump with no mitigation or excuses. This punt by Mueller/Barr says these are high political crimes and misdemeanors for the Congress to deal with now. That will include an examination of the deliberate elisions, obfuscations and three-card-monte maneuvers you point to. It may take a while. If so, the action in Congress will will get a boost or a boot from the will of voters in 2020. Let’s go.

    • Leu2500 says:

      It’s not a punt. By saying that he found no obstruction, Barr cuts impeachment proceedings off at the knees.

      • P J Evans says:

        No, he cuts off criminal charges. Impeachment is political and doesn’t require actual crimes. (See: just about every impeachment in US history.)

      • Rayne says:

        LOL Not hardly. There are ample reasons to begin impeachment hearings even if the SCO full report didn’t explicitly point to evidence of criminal behavior on Trump’s part. Not only did Mueller say Trump wasn’t exonerated, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics has a lengthy wash list of criminal, unethical behavior.

        But don’t take my word for it, visit Walt Shaub’s twitter account:

    • Wajim says:

      “an aria by the metabolically challenged diva”

      Your vorpal blade went so snicker-snack there. Nicely done.

      • Fran of the North says:


        ‘And with it’s head,
        He left it dead,
        And went galumphing back.’

        If only we are so lucky.

  15. anaphoristand says:

    IANAL, but via McDonnell or otherwise, could Barr be arguing implicitly that only the actual quid pro quo issuance of the pardon would bring it to a criminal level on behalf of the President, and that merely floating them — while there’s little room for its propriety (or non-impeachability, ftm) — aren’t enough on their own to rise to obstruction?

    • Reader 21 says:

      Maybe—but that’s an idiotic argument, and flies in the face of centuries of American jurisprudence. If you try to rob a bank but fail, it’s still attempt—you’re still on the hook.

  16. Ben says:

    Marcy do we know from Barr’s letter whether any investigations into quid pro quo were farmed out to other investigative bodies? Do we know non were?

  17. MissieB31 says:

    Can the DOJ or AG office issue a ruling or other to effectively gag Mueller and his team from publicly testifying to Congress about aspects of the report and underlying materials they elect to redact? Claim EP? Claim national security? Essentially draw Nadler’s teeth? What’s to prevent them from trying and have it drag through the Courts through and beyond 2020? Eviscerating the “report” to the point of nonsense and use it to bludgeon congressional HJ transparency hearings. Isn’t this what Barr is good at—finding a path through difficult political waters? Possibly also to “reason” as a prosecutor with Mueller—if SCO cannot meet the standard (90+%} then need to wrap it up, etc.

  18. Jenny says:

    Many thanks Marcy. Last paragraph – spot on.
    This is just the beginning of exposing multi layers of corruption buried for years.
    Follow the money. More to be revealed …

  19. RR says:

    Regarding the second bullet point, I wonder how faithful it is to the language of the report—specifically, whether Barr’s conception of Russian government here has been tailored conveniently to allow for this conclusion, and whether it differs somewhat from, say, Amy Berman Jackson’s and any reasonable person’s.

  20. Rick Ryan says:

    Wow, I just finished writing a comment noting the wording change between the two elements that seems to apply to Stone, and then I click over to read this. You’ve trained us well. Although I missed that it also allowed for “other” entities on the other end of the coordination too – I still have much to learn.

    Like I say there, this letter seems designed to make sure the takeaway was “no collusion or coordination”, hiding the actual malfeasance behind arbitrary definitions and wording choices (like squirreling the whole Roger Stone-Wikileaks thing behind a tiny wording choice – one that seems to violate his own definition, since Stone *was* associated with the campaign, although early and temporarily).

    And on cue, every newsrag in the world is blasting out “NO COLLUSION” headlines that will make further investigation by the HJC look like desperate partisan hackery. Weirdly Fox News has one of the most measured and accurate, “Probe finds no proof of Trump campaign collusion with Russia, no conclusion on obstruction: Barr letter,” while MSNBC has the rather inflammatory “Mueller: No collusion, no conspiracy”. A number of reporters have now turned this into “Mueller found no evidence” in the body text (Politico’s even got “Mueller finds no evidence of Trump-Russia conspiracy” in the headline).

    And having been so enabled, even the relatively non-frothy GOP Reps like McCarthy are saying “No collusion, case closed, no more investigations are needed,” casting further HJC/HPSCI attempts to find the truth behind the weaselese as desperate partisanship against an innocent victim of a railroading. Impeachment might well be off the table now, and even basic attempts to find the truth are now facing an uphill battle. And it seems like Barr might be sitting on top of the hill, kicking rocks down.

  21. RK says:

    “It doesn’t consider whether Trump was covering up a quid pro quo, which is what there is abundant evidence of.”

    You’re referring to the Trump Tower deal? And covering up isn’t necessarily obstruction is it?

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so community members get to know you. This is your 3rd username. Thanks. /~Rayne]

  22. John K says:

    I think we need a Constitutional amendment that clearly defines the powers and boundaries of the executive office. (At least one that makes an attempt to do so.)

    • Reader 21 says:

      No. Opening up the Constitution is the Koch brothers fantasy come to life. What we need are the laws to apply equally, no matter whether the President has a D or R next to their name.

      • int19h says:

        There’s no such thing as “opening up the Constitution”. Even with a constitutional convention, which can come up with arbitrary amendments once it’s going, they still need to be ratified by 3/4 of all state legislatures. Nobody is going to sneak anything by the backdoor with the bar this high.

  23. MattyG says:

    Barr wrote this and only quotes Mueller once. Is there anything in Barr’s language to suggest CI considerations limited what he considers evidence enough to prosecute? That is if they hold back sensitive evidence to protect sources and methods, can he rightly claim that such evidence ‘wasn’t found’?

    • Silence Hand says:

      I’m interested in this question as well. Mueller’s investigation was both criminal and CI; we obviously won’t see the conclusions of the second. Is it possible to determine the effect of the CI component on the criminal part? And, which one is weighed as more important by the FBI in the end?

      • Bri2k says:

        It strikes me that protecting the CI part of all this is the only legitimate motive behind the Barr letter but I still lean heavily to partisan hackery until something comes out that proves otherwise.

  24. Adam says:

    I guess we’ll need to read the full (partially redacted, I suppose) report to tease all this out. However, Marcy, do you not think a quid pro quo – you release the emails you’ve already obtained at an opportune time and we will revisit sanctions – would be covered by coordination with Russia in its efforts to gather “and disseminate” the emails? Like I said, we need to review the report, but it doesn’t seem like this description is all that narrowly tailored.

    • Bri2k says:

      It was the “old man” part that got me.

      I’m an old and my back hurts just thinking about flips. Time for my Doan’s now…

  25. GusGus says:

    Barr concluded that the President did not obstruct justice because the evidence did not support that an underlying crime related to Russian election interference existed. This infers that the President *did* interfere in the investigation, but that Barr decided to drop the matter on the technicality of not having evidence to prove an election related crime.

    But Trump’s interference in the investigation may have prevented Mueller from establishing an election related crime occurred? So by obstructing justice, Trump avoided the underlying crime being charged, and without this underlying crime, Barr decides not to charge obstruction? Is that the game?

    Isn’t that the whole purpose of the obstruction of justice statute to ensure justice is served when people interfere with the investigation to prevent the underlying crime being identified?

    • Bill Smith says:

      “on the technicality of not having evidence”

      Not having enough evidence to prove a crime is a technicality?

      • GusGus says:

        Bill, you took that quote out of context, that’s not cool.

        the full quote is

        “on the technicality of not having evidence to prove an election related crime”

        The issue is that Barr argues obstruction can not be proven because Mueller could not prove an underlying crime. That’s false. Obstruction of justice can be proven even if there is not an underlying crime. Take, for example, Scooter Libby. He was convicted of obstruction in the Plame investigation even though that investigation concluded that no underlying crime had occurred.

        • Bill Smith says:

          I got the impression from what he said that it’s harder to prove obstruction of justice if there is not an underlying crime. Not that it is impossible.

          Barr also said this: “Over the course of the investigation, the Special Counsel’s office engaged in discussions with certain Department officials regarding many of the legal and factual matters at issue in the Special Counsel’s obstruction investigation.”

          From that I get the impression there was doubt from a number of places, Mueller’s group, various career DOJ people and Office of Legal Counsel that obstruction could be proven.

          Trump, being president has certain authorities. For example, when he fired Comey that was within his authority as president. He was conveniently backed up by Rosenstein’s memo which the DOJ IG later agreed with. Trump didn’t do it because he was trying to cover up his crime of colluding (or whatever) with the Russians – because as Mueller found there was no collusion. It was more that Trump was being an ass.

        • P J Evans says:

          He’s trying to ignore the underlying crime. Pretending there wasn’t one doesn’t make it so.

  26. dwfreeman says:

    Once again, Marcy has nailed this. Barr whose history of backing wrongdoing with a pass is a fact of life. He is a Republican apologist for abject behavior. The worst part is it gives Trump invitation to make unabashed claims of exoneration and false investigation and will only embolden his deplorable supporters.

    In Barr, Trump found what Roy Cohn, his mentor and legal solicitor of choice, always knew in dealing with these situations, fuck the law, all I need to know is the judge. I can deal with him. Barr was Trump’s judge and he gets the last word on this report.

  27. Bay State Librul says:

    I am so fucking bullshit!

    Please someone explain this to me because this is so wrong!

    • Rayne says:

      Easy, boo, you’re so hot under the collar you dropped a word and put yourself in moderation because of a typo in your address. Don’t make yourself sick, we need you.

      • e.a.f. says:

        There is no point in being angry. Its a waste of emotion and energy. You can have half the country angry about something, but what will it solve. The right action, in my opinion, is to organize and ensure Trump and his supporters are not re elected. That takes an enormous amount of time and energy and sometimes its just easier to complain and be angry. As I read from time to time, the largest American political party are those who do not vote.

        • Jesse says:

          Yes, 95 Million eligible voters didn’t vote. Clinton received 65.8 Million and Trump received 62.9 Million. The solution is to speak truths and inspire with liberal ideals and clear policy and civic, political, social agenda via the 2020 process. I’m considering going all in and working for a campaign this cycle. 40 seats in the House in 2018 and I regret sitting on the sidelines and doing my nominal civic duty. But our systems and remaining legal structures are rotting fast. Time to get to work inspiring the 94 Million eligible non-voters.

          Voting-Age Population (VAP)

          Voting-Eligible Population (VEP) – non-citizen, ineligible felon, prison, probation, parole

          Total 2016 votes




          **ELIGIBLE NON-VOTERS**:

          https: //docs .google .com/spreadsheets/d/ 133Eb4qQmOxNvtesw2hdVns073R68EZx4SfCnP4IGQf8/htmlview
          https: //docs .google .com/spreadsheets/d/ 1VAcF0eJ06y_8T4o2gvIL4YcyQy8pxb1zYkgXF76Uu1s/htmlview

          [FYI: Google Docs links ‘broken’ with blank spaces to prevent accidental click through by community members. Readily identifiable 3rd party sources like federal, state, local election authorities or nonprofits are preferable citations. Thanks. /~Rayne]

        • John K says:

          Yes, yes, and yes. Everything depends on getting new, eligible voters out of their shells, while schooling them on how to overcome GOP obstacles to voting.

  28. J Barker says:

    I also want to know more about Barr’s claim in his Friday letter that no indictment requests were declined.

    He’s very careful to say no such requests were declined on the grounds outlined in the SC regs, i.e. that the requested indictment is “extremely inappropriate” by DOJ standards (or something to that effect).

    Suppose Trump ordered Whitaker/Barr to block a requested indictment, and Whitaker/Barr declined the indictment on the grounds that POTUS had ordered the indictment be declined.

    Or suppose Barr declined an indictment because he thought it didn’t quite meet the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, although it would not be grossly inappropriate for a prosecutor to bring charges.

    Would Barr have included a report of declinations for *those* reasons in his Friday letter, if they existed?

  29. Bay State Librul says:

    This is so wrong.

    I’m shitfaced out of mind right now.

    I need help.

    What a fucking whitewash.

    Someone please explain this to me.

    Makes no sense!

      • Bay State Librul says:

        I live northwest of Boston, and I’m so outraged that these fucking lawyers have hijacked America, that I could literally die !

        • e.a.f. says:

          to die is a waste of time and money. its much better to to get even. Getting even always feels better, trust me! As to dinner, I’d drop by, but I live on the west coast of Canada and its still a couple of hours until 6 p.m. but if I ever head to Boston, I’ll let you know. O.K. the invitation wasn’t for me, but just the same, it might be fun.

    • Jenny says:

      Bay State Librul – you are valued. I totally understand your frustration and anger. Remember this is 4 pages of a 2 year investigation. The entire report has yet to be reviewed by others.

      Like hester, I too would welcome you to my home for dinner; however out of state. You might consider calling a friend or a family member to vent your feelings. I believe it is vital to feel your feelings to nurture your needs. As a yoga instructor I teach my students to breathe. Deep breaths help (slow and deep), music or just screaming into the pillow helps.

      Good for you reaching out. Better to move the energy out than to keep it in. Sending good vibrations from the south. Namaste!

      • Bay State Librul says:

        Thanks for your help.
        I really flipped out because I believe that our nation and America has been sold out to money, influence, and lying, and sorry, because I believe the lawyers should come to my rescue.
        I believe in Kurt Vonnegut and Thomas Merton. “So it goes”
        But I really appreciate your concern. Something is really wrong with America

        • Eureka says:

          hester’s and Jenny’s comments here and bmaz’ below are great for all to take to heart.

          I’m not happy with any of this, either, but I’m looking at it like a bad ref call when we knew the referee was not at all neutral. So not surprised. We’re barely out of the first quarter, if that, so I am taking it in stride.

        • Jenny says:

          My pleasure. Yes, our country/world is in a major transformation. I agree, greed is a big issue, entitlement, and the lack of value and respect for one another.
          We the People need to rescue ourselves. It is up to us, the citizens of this country to create change. It starts with the self.
          Humor has helped me these past 2 years: Stephen Colbert, SNL, Tracy Ullman. Plus hanging out with children and animals. They provide unconditional love.

        • CitizenCrone says:

          FYI–Merton wasn’t so great dealing with the real world, which is why he never drove a car and accidentally electrocuted himself. Still, it’s comforting to know he put his pants on one leg at a time. Gives the rest of us perspective.

      • Tom says:

        It’s late in the day, but I find getting outside and going for a brisk walk or bike ride is a good way to burn off stress-generated energy and calm my thoughts. Except at this time of year you have to watch out for all the dog poop that’s accumulated over the winter.

        • Pajaro says:

          Yes, get outside in the natural world. No relation to the news of the day, but I went out and scooped up (after breaking with pick) compacted goat manure in a long idle pen, piled it up and covered with a bit of turkey and chicken dung (abundant). Watered, covered with plastic and now waiting for the microbes to do their work. Spinach has sprouted in the garden…I am pushing last hard freeze (29 degrees F.) date here by 3 weeks, but hey…climate change! Turkeys laying eggs, chickens have me inundated with over 6 dozen cartons. So…life goes on.

        • P J Evans says:

          I had to go out to pay a bill, and stopped to get a shelf unit I can put around the AC to hold potted plants. Also a couple of potted orchids (half-price) for the pots – I got both of them into a single larger pot. (I don’t have a local source for the plastic nursery-type pots, since OSH was shut down – no one else seems to carry them.) I need the pots for the cactus….

    • pizza says:

      Mueller, Rosenstein, and Barr are now unindicted co-conspirators. What other conclusion can we make? They did everything they could to minimize every piece of evidence so they could proclaim Trumps innocence. How does he keep getting away with this shit?

      “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” What the fuck is that supposed to mean? That’s some real bullshit there. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, Mueller. But even that really doesn’t matter now, does it? What matters is what we do from this point forward. Will we just continue the same, ineffective strategy of dialogue and peaceful discourse all while the right continually escalates the hate and the fear and consolidates more power and wealth? There can be no doubt what they’re up to so are we just going to set here and keep taking it? “Don’t tread on me” is not exclusive domain of the right.

      I’ve heard from more than one source of a possible sign of hope. Supposedly there’s a brand new underground movement forming. It’s going to be anonymous but clearly recognizable. This may turn out to be nothing but please keep your eyes open and, if it’s real, support any way you can, safely. I’m going to find a way to be a part of this movement.

      It’s that time,. good people. I can’t believe I’m saying this but it’s that time now.

      This is probably the last you’ll hear from me (not that I was an integral contributor to this forum or anything). I respect the hell out of EW and every one of you. Don’t ever sell out, don’t ever give up.

      • John K says:

        The optimist in me wants to believe that Mueller, Barr and Rosenstein recognized the evidence was there for obstruction but, fearing that the MAGA hats would go ballistic and do real damage to our society if they declared Trump to be a criminal, decided things would go better if that evidence were dragged by Congress into the public square and the public could decide for themselves.
        As it stands now, the FBI and DOJ have cleared themselves of any kind of Deep State accusations and the MAGA hats have knee jerked their way back to recognizing those institutions as standard bearers of the rule of law. In an ass-backwards world, it may be an attempt to reign in a significant and unmoored portion of society.
        Far fetched, I know, but I am also at a complete loss and find myself grasping at straws.
        The pessimist in me sees that the vast right wing conspiracy has won the day and our country has taken a significant step farther toward an outright oligarchy.

        • Marinela says:

          Believe the simple explanation is the one that applies and stares us in the face.

          I would not give Barr, Rosentein, Mueller too much understanding.

          They should enforce the law, as republicans suppose to be big on law and order.
          They knew of crimes and didn’t do absolutely anything about them.
          The simple explanation is this is a cover up plain and simple.

  30. viget says:

    Here’s a related question, @emptywheel. Whatever became of Andy McCabe’s CI investigation into Trump? That has nothing to do with the narrowly scoped investigation RR authorized (which was presumably a continuation of the investigation announced by Comey in March 2017)?

    Was that ever closed or do we even know?

  31. Elena says:

    Below the two bullet points about conspiring or coordinating with the IRA and/or the Russian government, there’s a comment about Roger Stone that isn’t clear to me:

    “Note that the second bullet does not even exonerate Roger Stone, as it pertains only to the Russian government, not Russians generally or WikiLeaks or anyone else.”

    The sentence makes more sense to me if the word “exonerate” is replaced by “inculpate.” Or, am I missing something?

    • Rick Ryan says:

      Her point is that those one-sentence summaries are narrowly worded, such that the second one does not apply to [Trump advisor and one-time campaign member] Roger Stone and his coordination with Russian leaking via Wikileaks, which of course has actually been indicted. I.e. it “does not even exonerate Roger Stone”.

      • Elena says:

        Five of Stone’s charges are “making false statements” about his communications with Wikileaks. Stone’s criminal conduct wouldn’t, therefore, fall within the narrow definition of conspiring/coordinating with the IRA and/or the RU government. So Stone wouldn’t be incriminated or inculpated. Exonerated (~cleared) is, to me, the wrong word.

        Thanks for your reply. Explaining myself helped me figure out what I interpreted from that section.

      • viget says:

        I think you could even argue that Stone was not part of the campaign nor associated with them, maybe. If he were, wouldn’t that make his Super PAC and 527 illegal?

        So it’s possible these statements do not apply to Stone as Marcy seems to imply. Perhaps it is in the Stone trial that we will see the best hope for more damning info…

  32. Bay State Librul says:

    Emptywheel and Bmaz

    Please help me — No rule of law.
    Fuck this, I’m moving to Canada

      • Elena says:

        Democrats Abroad operates in many countries, including Canada, and can assist in registering for absentee and mail-in ballots.

    • e.a.f. says:

      Don’t know how I managed to get this under your name [Dunno either, but fixed /bmaz], but its not Bay State Lubrul writing this, its e.a.f. Don’t know how I managed that, so I apologize. Perhaps whom ever is monitoring this, can correct this.

      As long as you leave the guns at the border, you might be O.K. However, Canada currently has its own “crisis” because………well every one has a theory but the blog which most closely follows it, is Montreal Simon who is a blogger out of Toronto. Once you’ve gone over that, you might want to think about it again. Then Ontario just elected Ford, the corrupt, as premier. We refer to him as Trump lite.

      We do have a decent medical system. We do have a shortage of teacher and teacher’s assistants in British Columbia along with doctors and nurses. We do have a better climate than the east coast and we currently have a “socialist” government in office (N.D.P.) Yes, the godless hordes occupy the legislature. they’re cleaning up the mess of the previous 16 year government which resulted in a billion a year being laundered through the casinos and another billion a year via real estate and more money in luxury goods. No country is perfect. they all have problems. Some of these problems are created when populations become to great and society doesn’t keep up with the changes.

      Cost of housing in Toronto and Vancouver is over the top. Actually values in Vancouver have dropped. You can once again purchase a dump in a not great area for $980K. We call them bull doze specials. NFLD might be a better bet but their health care isn’t as good as other parts of the country. Very cold winters but some great ice berg watching.

      We our a happier nation though than the U.S.A. I believe Norway has amongst the happiest people in the world, but they are a small country.

      Relocating is always expensive, better to turn off the t.v. and radio, not look at the computer, and sit on the beach for a few months. You’ll feel better after that. Watching old Carol Burnett re runs also helps.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        I’ve read Bay State Librul for years and never seen her/him so distraught.

        Barr just won another Pyrhhric victory for the GOP, for the Russians, for the Saudi’s, the Israeli/Likud factions, family Trump, and for anyone who wants to keep the lid on this mess.

        Don’t despair, BSL: at the very least, Barr revealed the GOP’s banality and cowardice. That’s a short term, Pyrhhic victory that is not sustainable over time.

        The Dems now have nothing but opportunity to restore integrity to public life; the GOP has completely abdicated and Barr’s ‘report’ is the garish bow on a sh!tpile of evidence. They had one last chance to act like adults, but instead, they hired Barr to f*ck it up for them. If this were fiction, no one would believe it.

        Meanwhile, YouTube re-runs of Carol Burnett as Missus Wiggins got me through part of the past winter, and she’ll get me through spring. Her daft, self-centered obsessions are an antidote to the news, and nourishment for the soul.

    • int19h says:

      Canada still has to prove its worth in that regard with Trudeau and SNC-Lavalin.

      And then there’s the “notwithstanding clause” in their Bill of Rights.

  33. FB1848 says:

    Regarding the interference and conspiracy aspect, the only direct quote from the report he provides is:

    “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

    Did not establish. Okay, but by what standards, and what else did it find? Barr then repeats twice, in his own language, that “….the investigation did not find….” conspiracy or coordination. Note the slippage in language from “did not establish” to “did not find.”

    It is clear that Barr employed the old tactic of putting out the most favorable top-line version of the report, rephrased in his own language. Eventually, we’ll see more of the report, but his obvious hope is that he will have shaped the public’s interpretation of the investigation’s findings, and by the time we see a more complete and nuanced version of it, the world will have moved on.

    • P J Evans says:

      The media reports are certainly buying his line of bull. They don’t read closely, and they don’t read here.

  34. Vern says:

    1. It is important to remember that everyone who had any say in this, from Mueller on, is a FUCKING REPUBLICAN!

    2. I hope Nadler is provided this post and comments.

    3. Old White Guy here: I observe that not a single one of the “kids” was even interviewed! Seems like a maybe little disparate legal treatment if you were a POC, I’d imagine.

    • e.a.f. says:

      it might have been “fun” to interview the kids, but if there is nothing there for them to be interviewed about, what would have been the point.

    • P J Evans says:

      You don’t generally interview targets of the investigation, even if you expect them to not be indicted.

  35. Dan Porter says:


    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so community members get to know you. This is your 2nd username. Thanks. /~Rayne]

  36. orionATL says:

    why would anyone be surprised at attorney general barr’s conclusions about the mueller report. the man has, mas o menos, a 40-year history as an intensely loyal republican political operative.

    in any event, it has never been up to barr, or rosenstein, or mueller to do our work for us. we citizens have to make clear that we do not approve of a president of ours behaving in the many, many inappropriate ways this president has behaved.

    in particular, we need to make it clear as we vote that we furiously disapprove of president trump selling out this nation and its economic and security interests to the russian federation in return for money and power.

      • Bri2k says:

        I’m seeing a lot of these “lazy American” posts and not only do they have my dander up but I’m getting suspicious to boot.

        Look, the “election” of Trump wasn’t legitimate by any rational metric and Hillary garnered almost 3 million more votes. Now there was the huge mid-term results giving the House to the Democratic party.

        I’ve voted reliably blue for over thirty years and have never supported any of this Republican screwing nor has anyone else I am close to. I feel like I’ve been robbed for three decades now.

        So what more “work” do us “lazy Americans” need to do? We are using the legal mechanisms provided and much of this has yet to play out.

        Reaching any conclusions on an obviously spun “summary” without having access to the source material seems short-sighted to me.

  37. ChrisS says:

    … or there was “no there, there.” The Mueller investigation is starting to look a whole lot like the Whitewater investigation. That is, a lot of people got whipped into a fury about something that didn’t happen.

    It’s over, guys. At this point the only thing getting impeached over “Russiagate” is the credibility of anyone still trying to keep it going.

    • orionATL says:

      what an ignorant blowhard you are.

      you clearly do not have a clue what this matter of what the president and his men did was about.

    • Rayne says:

      For someone who wrote in their first comment at this site last month, “…I mostly practice law in state courts,” you have a remarkable lack of respect for the body of information compiled in speaking indictments, pleas, and sentencing memos. Highly suspect.

      I think you’re done here. And fuck Matt Taibbi, who blew any credibility he had with his treatment of women.

      EDIT: I find it additionally suspect you had no problem with Marcy’s careful work in the case of Malwaretech but now on this topic after years of effort you, who has claimed to practice law, suddenly have a problem with her work. Fishy, fishy. Have a nice life.

      • Bri2k says:

        One of the few joys in my dotage is how you shut this kind of stuff down. Many thanks for your eagle-eye!

  38. Sans-Serf says:

    I don’t know why I ever expected anything different. No rich white person will ever be held accountable in this country. Russia if you’re listening, I’m willing to $ell out this country too.

  39. ChrisS says:

    “Ignorant blowhard,” eh? LOL. Barr and Mueller seem to know what the president and his men were up to and find no cause for indictment. How’s it feel to have three years of your hopes dashed? Or are Mueller and Barr “in on it.”

    Check out this Matt Taibbi piece and despair: https: //taibbi. substack. com/p/ russiagate-is-wmd-times-a-million

    [FYI, link ‘broken’ with blank spaces to prevent accidental click through by community members. Content at that site and domain have not been vetted; use at your own risk. /~Rayne]

    • orionATL says:

      yes, an ignorant blowhard – a dumbassed rooster crowing at dawn without understanding what the sun is and why that light is showing up over the trees.

      barr is a republican political operative. only a dumbassed rooster would expect barr to do anything other than what he has done – give a republican prez a pass.

      you do understand partisan loyalty, don’t you?

    • Bri2k says:

      @ ChrisS: So you’ve read the Mueller report and can attest to the veracity of Barr’s letter? If so, please share. We’d like to know.

  40. bmaz says:

    To Bay State Liberal…and everybody else…take a moment of chill. The sun will come up tomorrow, and you still will have no real idea of what the “Mueller Report” says or means long term. This was not the report. This was the described by the applicable code summary by the AG.

    Did I hope for better? Yes. Did I expect better? Eh, maybe, but not by a lot. Barr is the same Bill Barr we always expected. And, despite the “back flips” at minimization (funny, we spent years talking about a different kind of “minimization” here with mixed results on that too), this AG summary was never going to be, at best, what many hoped for.

    But it will be okay. Only the most deranged skeptics will see this as a complete win for Trump. In fact, there is a lot, even in Barr’s barf, that establishes the validity of the inquiry, draws serious question about the ethics, leadership and loyalty of the Trump inner circle, and their ability to lead this country. That is a positive. And, given the tone and structure, it seems almost a given that there is so much more out there in the details that were not there today.

    The idea all along was to get at the truth, not to get Trump. The country is at least a partial step further in that regard. As always, there is still a long way to go. Sorry about the platitudes and pablum, but, yes, I do believe it.

    • Bay State Librul says:

      Thanks Bmaz.

      I appreciate your concern. But, fuck how much can I take?
      You are a good man, and I need to simmer down.
      Btw, Gronk has retired and good for him. Fucking Kraft is on an apology train, but how could he support Trump — that fucking weasel.
      Man, the world is upside down.

    • P J Evans says:

      I’d be much happier if the media was reading past the surface – or the first sentences – of Barr’s statement.

    • Pollard Kincaid says:

      Only the most deranged/mal-informed would vote for him in the first place though, no? And yet here we are.

      But I hope with all my heart that you are right.

    • Rowboat says:

      Thank you, bmaz, for this in particular: “The idea all along was to get at the truth, not to get Trump.”

    • Silence Hand says:

      Sherman: “Well, Grant, we’ve had the Devil’s own day, haven’t we”

      Grant: “Yep. Lick ’em tomorrow, though.”

      Shiloh, evening of day 1

      • Bri2k says:

        “Grant is a man of a good deal of rough dignity; rather taciturn; quick an decided in speech. He habitually wears an expression as if he had determined to drive his head through a brick wall, and was about to do it. I have much confidence in him.” — Letters from Lyman to his wife, March and April, 1864.

        I feel the same when I see Mr Cummings and Ms Waters so admirably carrying out their duties. We are far from out on this one and have some amazingly dedicated people working to uncover the truth.

  41. pizza says:

    Why am I not seeing masses marching down Pennsylvania Ave right now? Where are the good old fashioned riots after an atrocity like this?

    This country doesn’t give a fuck anymore.

    • P J Evans says:

      (a) 98% of the people in the country are too far away from Washington to get there.
      (b) way too many of us can’t afford to travel or can’t easily travel to where there might be a very-hastily-arranged demonstration.
      (c) most of the media reports aren’t getting into the memo past the first paragraph, and they don’t have Barr’s past statements about presidents and investigations in their minds to read more closely – assuming that they can read that closely.

    • OldTulsaDude says:

      The really sick part, the part that makes me want to vomit, is that the only march there will be is a victory lap by the right wing trolls.

  42. Jenny says:

    Many unanswered questions.
    What about Kushner back channel with the Russians and his connection with the Russian bank?
    What about the Trump Tower signed letter of intent by Trump with his lie detector test signature on Oct 28, 2015? (Actual copy of letter exists)

    Remember Barr wrote a 19 page unsolicited memo on June 8, 2018, stating a president can’t obstruct justice plus calling the Mueller investigation “fatally misconceived” and “grossly irresponsible.” Now his letter determines Trump didn’t obstruct justice. The memo a manifestation of today. No surprise.

    Favorite line in letter by Barr: The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

  43. getouttahere says:

    I posted this on the last thread when I didn’t know so many of you were over here, and in light of @Bay State Librul’s agitation (totally understandable) I’ll repost this here and I apologize for the use of extra bandwidth.

    Disappointing though some of this is (we have not seen Mueller’s report yet, only Barr and Rosenstein’s spin) better to have come out now than later.
    There still remains the question of t’s beholden to Putin.
    “And this and so much more.”
    “Don’t waste any time mourning — organize! .” Joe Hill

  44. Bay State Librul says:

    Here is my final question.

    Barr is now in charge of the SDNY investigations.
    He will derail them.
    Tell me I’m wrong

  45. Bay State Librul says:

    One more,

    Never trust a Republican. Fucking Barr is a traitor.
    I sincerely believe that!

    • Bri2k says:

      I don’t get why Barr would come out of retirement and soil his (undeserved) reputation for this unless the Russians or Trump have something on him too.

      • P J Evans says:

        He wanted something – maybe just that spot as AG, maybe more – and Tr*mp apparently is good at getting people to hear his mumbles as promises.

  46. klynn says:

    My questions for Mueller:

    Is our nation safe? Does a foreign country have threatening influence over our president?

    • Sapience says:

      Hello all, and this is my first time posting. Considering that this outcome was probably no surprise to Mueller and his team, is it possible that they farmed out the really juicy evidence beyond the reach of both Barr’s interference and potential pardons, to state AGs or the NY District Attorney? Jail is jail…

  47. LeeNLP says:

    Not sure why, but the events of this weekend remind me of the anticlimactic words of Star Lord in the last Avengers movie who, after his huge screw up (essentially allowing the arch enemy to kill half the life in the Universe) asks “Did we just lose?” just before evaporating.

    It seems we are surrounded by enemies, within and without. It’s not hard to believe that our state is more desperate than we have any idea. We are engaged with enemies who are very good at their craft, traitors foreign and domestic. There are several ways we can fail, personally and nationally, including falling to cynicism, rage (the enemies know how to use that against us), complaisance, false hope, and apathy.

    But here are still people of skill and honor laboring away to do the right thing. I am not quite ready to give up on Mueller right now. I would like to believe of him, as he reportedly said to AG John Ashcroft on the night Card and Gonzales visited his hospital room to pressure him to sign off on the torture program, and rebuked their efforts, “In every man’s life there comes a time when the good Lord tests him. Your passed your test tonight.” I hope Mueller’s work passes the test of time. (It will take a lot, however, to make me think well or hopefully about W. Barr.)

    It behooves myself, and I think all of us, to seriously consider what small amount I might have to contribute to the good fight, and how in the meantime to personally fight off soul-destroying despair, cynicism and apathy. I am not a religious person, but come from religious roots and still have that tradition in my language and imagery. So given that caveat, may I just say “God bless us all in these dark times.”

    • elk_l says:

      If Barr and Rosenstein in their summary made significant distortions of the Mueller Report, can we trust Mueller if he does not aggressively deal with what they did?

  48. Sandwichman says:

    Let me get this straight. If Individual_1 commits crime “B” and obstructs justice, he can’t be convicted for obstructing justice unless intent can be proven with regard to crime “A”? Is this the Barr code?

  49. Vern says:

    Sarah Kendzior, January 24, 2019:

    “I’m being pretty restrained in what I say publicly because people are already freaked out.

    I’m trying to figure out why those with power haven’t done anything to at least slow autocratic consolidation. I don’t mean obviously complicit GOP actors. I mean Mueller, the FBI or anyone with the capacity to indict. A forceful legal solution was always the only one that would work. It’s a transnational crime syndicate acting as a government. There’s no shame or norms or checks or balances involved here. There never was. And they refused to do it. I keep looking at all these leaders and resourceful people an wondering what they’re thinking, because this is heading to a familiar and VERY bad ending.

    Also the problem with the Mueller probe is that the Russian mafia dealt with Trump, and gained power, largely under Mueller’s watch. He did nothing. Why, I don’t know. It could be incompetence. But they do not want that examined at all. It’s a massive institutional failure. (By Mueller’s watch, I mean 2001-2013, when Mueller headed the FBI.)

    I also think the “Mueller’s got this” bot brigade has been effective, as well as MSM sanctifying him. It made people think it would be OK.

    I never thought Mueller would fix structural problems, but I did initially think he and others would understand that when you have a transnational crime syndicate that includes a Russian asset POTUS in the White House, you need to act fast. Because of course they’re going to rewrite the law, pack the courts, and purge you, and censor evidence. This is so basic that I can’t believe they don’t grasp it.

    Because it’s so basic, I now think the Mueller probe is essentially fake. It’s designed to get rid of a few inconvenient people and prosecute those who the US can’t really touch (i.e. Russians). It’s not a real investigation and I’m not sure ever was. Barr is there to suppress it. The tactic was to run out the clock and consolidate power as Mueller plods along. That way the public has the illusion of a probe and possible justice, but there was never going to be any. He was never going to do anything that mattered for national security, like indict Kushner much less Trump.”

  50. Bay State Librul says:

    The Fix was in and we have to acknowledge that.
    Once acknowledged, we can move on.
    No more bullshit or trying to figure out what happened.
    I said I never trusted Barr,but I trusted Mueller.
    As usual, this Irishman was dead wrong.
    Too idealistic.
    I’m living in the past.
    I’ve taken Alan Watts advice and said “whatever”
    More to life than politics,and this mixed up America.
    I’m ready for Trash Talk!

    • dwfreeman says:

      Whether the fix was in, Democrats in Congress must seek some accountability for what just happened.

      They now must decide to impeach Trump or make sure he doesn’t win re-election. Which battle would you rather fight? I’m thinking they’ll cave and hope to defeat Trump at the ballot box.

      If they give up on making an impeachment case against Trump on his guilt on both collusion and obstruction, which we’ve just seen ripped from our collective understanding by a four-page letter from a hand-picked attorney general hell-bent on repressing the truth, then we have no American leadership worth preserving. We will be a lost cause.

    • Bri2k says:

      Hang in there Bay State and don’t allow yourself to be played by an obvious bit of partisan hackery. This game’s still in the 1st half, plenty more to go. Expect the 2nd half to be full of explosive action!

  51. Anon says:

    Marcy, given that the House committee will be holding hearings on this matter it would seem that your post lines up some very specific lines of inquiry for them. If I may to engage in a hypothetical if you were on the committee what questions should be asked? And with what sourcing? And can we pass those on to them so that they do get asked?

  52. AitchD says:

    Barr read “treason” in several places, right? Serious stuff. He seems to have accomplished three things: he sedated the POTUS temporarily, he seems to have been able to not get fired for his actions, and he gave the House the leading edge for the next breaking news, right?

  53. Pablo in the Gazebo says:

    Maybe now would be a good time to go back and reread Barr’s 19 page “memo” that he wrote late last year. It’s all there; no one should be surprised. He did was he said he would, now it’s our turn.

  54. J Barker says:

    Here’s the one direct quote on conspiracy we get from Mueller:

    “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities”

    Question for lawyer-types: Is the locution “did not establish x” equivalent to “found there was insufficient evidence to establish x”?

    Intuitively, “did not establish” seems much weaker than “found there was insufficient evidence.” For example, an investigation might “not establish” something because it was shut down prematurely rather than because it ran its natural course and uncovered insufficient evidence to establish something beyond a reasonable doubt… So, in this case, if Barr shut Mueller down prematurely, I can imagine a sentence like this one showing up in a report stating, in effect, “we uncovered substantial evidence for conspiracy, but had not yet uncovered sufficient evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the conspiracy took place.”

    • Reader 21 says:

      Good catch. For Mueller and other good federal prosecutors, “establish” has a very specific meaning—ie, provable beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard for a criminal conviction. To say the least, a very High standard—the highest in our system of law, actually. And as Marcy has pointed out previously, unlike with say Ken Starr and Kavanaugh, Mueller is renknowned for only even trying cases where there’s an 85% chance or greater he’ll prevail in a court of law, on that underlying super High standard. So, it appears Barr is playing fast and loose with language, here again.

  55. Drew says:

    Neal Katyal’s Op-ed in the New York Times says pretty much the same thing as Marcy says here.

    It occurred to me while reading it, that if Barr resists providing the full report to Congress, the House Judiciary committee might consider going to direct impeachment of Barr, subpoenaing the Mueller Report as evidence into the inquiry of whether Barr obstructed justice.

    That, at least, would take him by surprise.

    • Bri2k says:

      I’d heartily support this and given recent votes and statements by Congress there’s no political cover for not releasing the full report at this point.

      From what I’ve seen, I think Democratic leadership will be savvy enough to consider this route.

    • Bill Smith says:

      Doesn’t the part of the law that Mueller operated under say that some of the items in the report can’t be disclosed? 600.9 (c).

      And how meaningful would impeachment be if the Senate didn’t convict?

      • Drew says:

        In this case, I’m talking about the impeachment of BARR, not Trump and the thing about impeachment is that it starts with investigative hearings–IANAL, so any legal niceties are beyond me, but the reason for going after Barr here, is that it is necessary to evaluate whether he committed misconduct in carrying out his mandate to evaluate and convey the document in question–thus the necessity to examine it-regardless of any presidential claims about it. The claims of what could and couldn’t be conveyed are contested, taking any single person’s statement about that at face value doesn’t resolve the issue.

        BTW, my suggestion is more wry musing than policy proposal.

  56. JD12 says:

    “Update: Corrected that these fuckers didn’t even spend two days reviewing the report.”

    Barr tipped his hand in Friday’s letter when he said he could brief Congress as soon as this weekend. Sure sounds like these actions were predetermined.

    • Bri2k says:

      And the fact it took Barr almost two days to weave this terrible fig-leaf is also very telling. If the Mueller report was a clear nothingburger Barr’s letter and the report would’ve come out a lot faster I think.

  57. Gawko says:

    Unless Mr. Barr and ex hero Rod are found to be plagerists or corrupt scumbags, game over. We lose. My Trump friends on social media that I grew up with seem more empowered and are doing endzone merengue in the endzone, home plate, basketball standard and euchre score cards (a six and a four). Suck it up and tighten the chinstrap. Trump approval to 50% by mid April. I hate it.

    [Welcome back to emptywheel, long time no see. Please use the same username each time you comment so community members get to know you. This is your 2nd username. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • Bri2k says:

      I’ve said this before upthread but I think it bears repeating: don’t allow yourself to be played by an obvious partisan tactic. Unless you’ve seen the Mueller report and know Barr is being honest I think it’s better to wait until more comes out to form a judgement. And it looks like Democratic leadership will work to have the Mueller report released, so hang in there.

  58. Roberto says:

    “How has your public profile changed in the recent past?

    There is an endless audience for these Russia story cases, and I know that. I’ve been through that—my finances have improved because I’m covering the Russia story. It’s a lot sexier than covering [changes to FISA section] 702.” Marcy Wheeler

    I liked your work better when you were covering FISA stuff.

    [Welcome back to emptywheel, it’s been quite a while since we saw you last. Please use the same username each time you comment so community members get to know you. This is your 2nd username. Thanks. /~Rayne]

  59. steven gray says:

    Barr can say and write as he likes, and even though I’m not an American, I’ll mutate into a zombie before I concede that Trusha didn’t collude or obstruct. I am furious – beside myself – as regards this utterly biased, flim-flam white-wash; even the dog, at 05h08, is giving me sideways, distrustful glances. Maybe I might send Trump the dog so that he may copy the looks for the next time he meets with Putin, but why? Even though the dog travels well – although I’ve never put him on the roof of the car – is loyal to a fault and hits the right looks, TRusha already has an adoring FOX! #oksonocollusionorobstructionsowhyallthelies???

  60. viget says:

    I think we will know if the fix is in if the DDC USAO’s office decides to dismiss the Mueller GJ. Doing so essentially moots the Andrew Miller in STL (not the pitcher) case and the Mystery Appellant case.

    Course, I suspect that we are going to find out that SC granted cert anyway tomorrow, which basically kills Mystery Appellant, since the GJ would expire long before the issue of the case was to be litigated, essentially mooting the challenge anyway. Part of me thinks that’s why Friday was the day, if SC denied cert, Mueller could have tried one last Hail Mary to get the evidence for conspiracy, and thus have continued the investigation.

    What’s even more concerning if the GJ is disbanded, is that if DDC wanted to push it, they probably could get Miller to testify now, or face contempt charges, since Miller’s appeal was over the legitimacy of Mueller’s appointment. No SCO, no reason to challenge the subpoena.

  61. x174 says:

    thanks for the incisive analysis of the quaint parsing that Barr has chosen to engage in.

    it is a deeply curious situation that has evolved.

    the part that i most like is trump-hole’s tweet that there was “total and complete exoneration”

    what i like about trump’s blatantly contradictory assessment from even the sublimely misleading and diluted Barr-version (“not exonerated) is that it appears to me that trump-slime has taken the bait.

    by claiming “total exoneration,” trump-slime et al have absolutely no justification not to release the report.

    should be quite interesting what happens over the next few days, weeks, and months!

    and will also greatly look forward to your analyses and those who post and comment at emptywheel.

  62. stryx says:

    Bob Barr secured his place in the pantheon of recycled hacks, alongside Cheney and Rumsfeld. Absolving two presidents of obvious crimes by appeals to patent bullshit is a career few can claim.

    Thank you all for work and commitment.

  63. steven gray says:

    I guess it’s too much to hope that one of Barr, Mueller and/ or Rosenstein experiences a Cohen-esque conversion and tells one and all the real truth, not the ‘ truth’ as they would have one and all see it. As it stands, I don’t believe a word that comes out of their mouths, not even if I’m the MVP running back in the 2023 SuperBowl. And in 2023 I’ll be 64 – old enough to know better, young enough to do it anyway!!! Ouch, a Bengal! What are you doing here?

  64. Colonel Alexsay Potemkin says:

    I think that Emptywheel and other Russiagate true believers are feeling the yawning gulf of cognitive dissonance that Bush supporters experienced when no WMDs turned up in Iraq and all ties between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden evaporated.

    We can argue whether Bush, Cheney et al. believed these claims, but we don’t need to doubt most of their loyal foot-soldiers genuinely did.

    Don’t worry, the collusion has been buried in the desert….or perhaps it has been smuggled over the border into China?

    • Rayne says:

      I’ve wondered when you’d drop your mask and voila, there it is.

      A pity about all the indictments, pleas, and sentencing memos collected on the way which Individual_1 would like us all to forget about along with Trump Tower-Moscow.

      A pity you think this is done when it’s only half-time.

      p.s. Don’t you find internet traffic through Austalia is rather slow?

      • Colonel Alexsay Potemkin says:

        You Have to be very careful with intertexuality as it can lead one astray.

        Was Shakespeare referencing Marlowe in Troilus and Cressida when he wrote:

        Why keep we her? the Grecians keep our aunt:
        Is she worth keeping? why, she is a pearl,
        Whose price hath launch’d above a thousand ships,
        And turn’d crown’d kings to merchants.

        Or was Marlowe referencing Shakespeare when he wrote:

        Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
        And burnt the topless 2 towers of Ilium?

        Scholarship says Marlowe came first, but it certainly doesn’t read that way, does it?

        • Rayne says:

          Shakepeare was likely bisexual having written more than 100 sonnets to a/some youth. Was he writing about or with reference to Marlowe at all? Or vice versa?

          We won’t know for certain unless concrete evidence tells us with certainty. But that’s a wholly different topic with far more benign characters who weren’t attempting to deceive a nation or several.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      An obvious fan of Matt Taibbi, who makes the same, heavily-weighted analogy.

      “It’s Official – Russiagate is this Generation’s WMD.” [https: //taibbi .substack .com/p/russiagate-is-wmd-times-a-million]

      [Earl, I’ve ‘broken’ this same URL when shared by others, inserting blank spaces. I don’t know anything about that site and I don’t want community members here accidentally clicking through to a page that will likely track traffic from here or worse. Please think before sharing. /~Rayne]

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Thanks. It might be simpler for readers to visit nakedcapitalism, which includes all or most of that article. The eye opener is as much the comments that follow it as the fatuous article itself.

        The handstands that Taibbi and Greenwald are doing following Barr’s letter seem divorced from reality; their views today rehash the attitude they struck from the beginning, ignoring what we have learned in between.

  65. Jan says:

    It’s a disconcerting thing that even after having read Barr’s report on a report – I still see the very same elephant sitting in the room. If I rub my eyes, clean my ears – yep, it’s still sitting there, nothing of what we knew up until now has changed since yesterday – apart from an opinion from Mr. Barr. Congress has it’s work cut out for them, and I wish them all the best and godspeed. You too EW, and thank you.

  66. James says:

    Is it safe to say that all of this on the Internet surrounding AG Barr has surpassed Kim Kardashian “blowing up the Internet” with her Paper Magazine photographs? /s

    (I noted on a previous thread there is a different person who goes by “James” – I don’t know if that person has been around longer than I have or not . . . could that be confusing? Should I use a different name since I haven’t been here very long?)

    The GOP has pretty much dried up their well turning out voters using things such as same-sex marriage to drive them to the polls. They don’t have many more voters they can motivate.

    That big pile of voters who didn’t turn out are the ones the Democrats should be trying to appeal to. The 2018 election had no mention from the candidates of Donald Trump, just our policies. That should be the way forward for future candidates.

    In the House, every last Representative voted to release the report. Had that report “exonerated” Donald Trump the way the breathless right-wing media machine is telling it, that whole report would have been released immediately. The fact it wasn’t by itself says a lot.

    I would pay good money to see a Democratic congressman/woman or Senator read the entire report into the Congressional Record a la “The Pentagon Papers.”

    [Yes, please do make your username more distinctive, thank you. We’ll have to ask other Jim/James/Jamie to do the same. /~Rayne]

    • Bri2k says:

      The ironic thing to me is that by not being forthright, Barr has all but assured the Mueller report will come out and in a manner that’s out of his control.

      • BobCon says:

        I think you’re right, and I’m wondering if that’s by design.

        I think in part it’s a plan to drain the resources of the House Democrats to force them to fight for everything.

        I think there’s also an element of muddying the waters for non-Mueller revelations — it lets Barr control the narrative to an extent by letting him release things at the time he chooses, so if a Flynn hearing, for example, looks damaging, he can preemptively release some cryptic nothing as a distraction.

        And finally, I think there’s a concern on the Trump side that ending Mueller frees Democratic challengers to talk about things like health care and education. So keeping the discussion alive with procedural wrangling helps him keep his opponents off balance.

        Dave Weigel makes this point:

    • James P says:

      I am the other James, but I will switch to James P to avoid confusion.

      [Thanks much, James P. :-) /~Rayne]

  67. Stacey Lyn says:

    So if according to Barr’s bizarre analysis of obstruction, you can only obstruct the investigation of an actual crime, not something you were pretty sure was something you shouldn’t have done but aren’t sure if it was a crime, then Martha Stewart should sue for a few years of her life back! She lied to investigators to cover up what was actually found to not have been a crime, but she was prosecuted for lying to investigators, which is leading them–as she tried to do–to believe she didn’t do anything illegal. Since that was actually true because it turns out what she did was not actually illegal, then she didn’t mislead investigators. She just told them a different truth, as it were.

    And how did all of these Russiagate Trump people get prosecuted for lying about what was evidently not illegal???? I mean we sort of already know that Flynn was prosecuted for lying to the FBI about his contacts and conversations with the Russian ambassador and since the case has been made, I think well, that he was probably well within his rights and position as incoming National Security Advisor to have those conversations, what’s the problem? How are all of these people getting prosecuted for lying about what was not a crime, and then none of the big fish that did all manner of things to cover up that same business just going to be allowed to skate away with absolutely nothing? Talk about why we need a RICO statue when looking at organized crime families!!!

    The only thing that makes any sense at this point, is if all of mueller’s stuff has been folded into on-going counterintelligence investigations that have a different set of rules of engagement. Like the CIA tries to thwart and prevent bad stuff from happening to the country from foreign actors, but the FBI has to haul everyone into court and get a conviction, which are two very different standards!!!! I mean we all know Trump is at least a ‘fellow traveler’ level of Russian asset, even if he started out as ‘unwitting’ he sure figured out at some point that they were both rowing the boat in the same direction and he kept doing it! But proving that in court is a whole different matter!!!

  68. Kev Vecc says:

    My thoughts on the Barr report are this; if the Justice Department’s policy is not to indict a sitting president, and Barr has concluded Trump didn’t commit Obstruction, then would it even have mattered if he had concluded otherwise? How would his response been any different had Mueller concluded without a doubt that Trump had in facy obstructed justice? Wouldn’t Barr’s summary and response been exactly the same? That despite not being exonerated he concludes that charges will not be filed?
    I feel like we’re all just hamsters on a wheel (no pun intended) spinning around in circles but going nowhere. From the start of the Special Council’s investigation, I assumed this is how it would end regardless of Mueller’s findings; with Trump’s Attourney General, whomever that would be, declining to bring charges and using vague statements to avoid incriminating the President while attempting to bury the investigation.
    We all might have been better off had this investigation never been assigned to a Special Council to begin with. Instead being pursued by various Federal, State and Local prosecutors, as well as Congress, to avoid this confusing grand spectacle, while giving Trump 2 years of opportunity to divide public opinion by spouting non-stop disinformation.
    I think as a country we’re now in a worse place than where we started.

  69. safari says:

    What does this process set as new legal precedent?
    -Indirectly dangling pardons, publicly decrying truth-telling “rats”, indirectly threatening potential witnesses and constantly berating investigators is a winning strategy. Don’t except powerful officials to keep clear and respect investigations going forward. Especially conservatives, who can engage the Fox News/right wing radio media bubble to indoctrinate the messaging.
    -Obstruction works if you call if “fighting back”.
    -The DOJ is overtly political: Notably the fact that Barr got hired by explicitly trashing the investigation he was to oversee, then steadfastly refused to recuse, and now seemingly white-washes the conclusions. Since the GOP approved him knowing his tainted baggage and no one could make him recuse, recusal now moves to the purely political realm, whereas it used to be an established norm. No longer. The new precedent: get a Senate majority, install your stooge, steer investigation away from danger.

    This is banana republic territory.

  70. Brumel says:

    A core mandatory element of Mueller’s report hasn’t been disclosed by Barr to Congress despite an obligation under the regulations. He seems to be dancing around it.

    Barr cites from Mueller’s report “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

    But the report must – per regulations – somewhere contain Mueller’s *explanation* of his declination decision, and Barr’s letter doesn’t show it – the above quote is anything but an explanation.

    Barr also writes that Mueller “considered whether to evaluate the conduct under Department standards governing prosecution and declination decisions but ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment.”

    But again, what the regulations require Mueller to explain is *why* he made such a determination, and Barr’s letter doesn’t show it. (Why abandon “traditional judgment”, whatever that is, and why only “ultimately”?)

    Barr also asserts “Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president.”

    That is surely a lie, but anyway, Barr is talking here only about his own determination, not Mueller’s.

    Given all the above, it seems possible to me that Mueller’s own explanation for not prosecuting Trump, not disclosed in Barr’s letter, *is* actually based on those constitutional considerations (the OLC 2000 memo). And if that’s the case, it’s pretty damning, because invoking the memo would be necessary only in the face of established indictable evidence.

    • anaphoristand says:

      Exactly. If you concede a determination on presidential obstruction is properly an Article I power, it becomes a lot harder to effectively argue Executive privilege as justification for not turning over any and all relevant investigative materials. So basically Barr let Mueller operate under the auspices of the OLC memo(s) all the way until his report’s submission, then tore up (or merely defied) those memos to claim the indictment power as his own.

  71. Willis Warren says:

    The whole point of obstructing justice is to preclude the charges against you being effectively investigated, for fuck’s sake.

    This is gonna be a slam dunk for (checks notes) Pelosi

    Oh dear

    • GusGus says:

      “The whole point of obstructing justice is to preclude the charges against you being effectively investigated, for f###’s sake.”

      Yep. Mueller knows this too. It looks like Mueller even tee’d up the investigation into this very issue. Mueller spelled out the obstruction case against Trump, it is in the report. He chose not to make a decision on it — he is kicking it over to Congress. Rightfully so, as a finding of obstruction is grounds for impeachment.

      Mueller’s report might have a road map for impeachment waiting for Congress to find it.

  72. klynn says:

    Well, if Barr takes his protection path then in the light of full transparency, release the whole report and Trumps taxes.

  73. dave the welder says:

    certainly a disappointing outcome, but it is good time to remember that roses love manure, both metaphorically and figuratively.

  74. JamesJoyce says:

    “…does not exonerate….”

    Is “Probable cause” the standard?

    Doesn’t Special counsel obtain indictments or charge based on probable cause a crime may have been committed? It is for a tier of fact or jury to determine that reasonable doubt standard?

    This would actually be a route to insure due process for the American People and an Administration.

    History shows, these “shows” are about usurping due process and the rule of law.

    Mr. Barr was effective in negating the application of law against
    indicted Americans concerning Iran Guns and Contras; and a Boland Amendment. It took a long time.

    I wonder if Boland is a relative of Magnitsky?

    This is why Mr. Barr is there. It serves both parties and corporate; not average Americans akin to Scott.

    Iran/Contra Independent Counsel Report…;view=1up;seq=6;skin=mobile

    “It demonstrates that powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office, deliberately abusing the public trust without consequences,” said Lawrence Walsh, the independent prosecutor in the case, at the time of the pardons.”

    “Barr said later that he believed Bush had made the right decision and that he felt people in the case had been treated unfairly.”

    “…does not exonerate….”

    Where is the beef?

    Deja Vu…

  75. Stanley Chepaitis says:

    I have read this blog and comments for over a year. This is my first time commenting.
    Whether or not the investigation got “fixed”, I would like to know a lot more about Mueller’s conclusions concerning the actual Russian interference. I am hoping the full report comes out because it must (or at least should) contain rich detail on the who, what when, how of what the various non U.S. players did to our election. This was supposed to be the focus of it.
    It still boggles my mind that an elected president would go to such ridiculous lengths to deny the existence of this interference. Perhaps an expose of all the details will bring the domestic response (such as lifting sanctions on Deripaska’s companies) into sharper focus and help suggest a good path forward. We need one right now.

  76. Bobestes says:

    Maybe I’m naive, but I see Barr’s move as being more about buck-passing.

    Be real, was the Trump-appointed AG ever going to rubber-stamp something that said the president should be charged with felonies?

    It was always going to come down to Barr making Dems work for it – this is going to go all the way to the Supreme Court just like Nixon’s tapes did, which is when that gig was up.

    Either they’ll protect some flimsy concept of executive privilege or they won’t. In the meantime, I suggest you get your 2020 canvassing shoes laced up nice and tight. We did it in 2018 and we can do it again.

  77. Jenny says:

    “The Trump admin is full of the same people who’ve been committing crimes without punishment for decades: Watergate and Stone; Iran-Contra and Abrams; Iraq and Bolton; Wall St bankers from the 2008 crash. THIS is the swamp, and we are drowning in it.”
    Sarah Kendzior

  78. Badger Robert says:

    So when people argue about policy disputes and fail to remember fundamental values, like the 1st Amendment, religious tolerance, 1 person 1 vote, then they weaken each other and help a secret cabal take control of the government.

  79. J Barker says:

    Re-reading Barr’s June 8, 2018 memo. It’s pretty striking how closely the reasoning he lays out in that memo, which was written *9 months* before Barr had been read into the details of Mueller’s probe, matches what he says about obstruction in yesterday’s summary of the Mueller report.

    Consider the following, from pp. 12-13 of the 2018 memo:

    “[H]ere, the only basis for ascribing “wrongfulness” (i.e., an improper motive) to the President’s actions is the claim that he was attempting to block the uncovering of wrongdoing by himself or his campaign. Until Mueller can show that there was unlawful collusion, he cannot show that the President had an improper “cover up” motive…. Mueller should get on with the task at hand and reach a conclusion on collusion. In the meantime, pursuing a novel obstruction theory… against the President is not only premature but– because it forces resolution of numerous constitutional issues — grossly irresponsible.”

    So here is Barr, 9 months ago, saying pretty much exactly what he says in the summary. Also notice that the memo says the finding of collusion could be the “only” basis upon which one might ascribe a wrongful motive to the President’s obstruction-ish behaviors. This makes me wonder whether yesterday’s summary, which framed the lack of collusion as just one consideration among others, actually understated the role Mueller’s failure to establish collusion played in Barr’s obstruction judgment. If Barr viewed the lack of collusion as *determinative* of the obstruction question in 2018, did he change his mind after he saw the evidence Mueller had marshaled for obstruction?

    Also interesting that Barr says Mueller “should get on with the task at hand and reach a conclusion on collusion.” What the hell does he mean “get on with the task”?? Like, just hurry up and finish, I don’t care whether there’s more investigating to be done? He also implies that, until Mueller has established collusion, he’s not even justified in *investigating* the obstruction question! Again, I won’t be surprised if it turns out that Barr was read into the Mueller investigation, learned that Mueller had not *yet* established collusion, told Mueller to wrap it up prematurely, and wrote up a four-page misleading summary claiming that Mueller had not “established” collusion and that he therefore had not established obstruction either.

    • Jenny says:

      Yes, the 19 page memo written in 2018 by Barr was like previews to coming attractions. Thanks for pointing out the similarities.

  80. harpie says:

    As Adam Klasfeld notes:
    5:28 AM – 25 Mar 2019
    [quote] “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
    Sure would like to know how one of the most consequential sentences ever written by a U.S. prosecutor began. [end quote]
    So, how do people imagine SCO actually began this sentence?

    • harpie says:

      Here’s another PARTIAL sentence from SCO which Barr [mis]used in his letter:
      [quote] “[W]hile this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” [end quote]
      What did SCO actually write, before this phrase?

      • Eureka says:


        ETA: the ‘Thus’ would follow paras.-worth of inculpatory stuff, obvi. Unless it’s just from the intro, in which case it w/b briefer and the paras.-worth of inculpatory stuff would come later. Maybe ‘Thus’ would also be preceded by a statement re it’s up to congress to decide…

        • Eureka says:

          *eff the paragraphs, more like pages.

          Plus I bet an important explanation _followed_ that fragment as well (~For example,…(see pp. xx-xx)).

          Now I’m betting it must be lifted from intro or possibly conclusion. Where’s the beef?!?

          One should play this game with a full deck. Perhaps better takers will come along…;)

  81. viget says:


    Well, some unexpected good news for me. The Supreme Court DENIED cert in the Mystery Appellant case.

    I hope Dreeben et al. are pushing for the documents now. Guess it depends on how aggressive DDC prosecutors are going to be here.

  82. Tom says:

    So maddening to hear radio and TV commentators speaking in terms of “no evidence” and “no proof” of conspiracy/obstruction instead of “insufficient evidence to lay charges with a probable chance of conviction.” (Although we won’t really know what the evidence is until we read the report.) Heard Marcy on “The Takeaway” this morning do a great job in the limited time she was given to hammer home the points that Barr’s letter omitted; e.g., the quid pro quo re: the Trump Tower, help with the election, and sanctions relief, as well as Barr’s blinkered focus whether or not Trump’s people had contact with members of the Russian government as opposed to those representing it.

  83. Omali says:

    I guess RR stayed on to help Barr weather the storm. Human shield? I keep remembering this from Politico,

    “Lawfare blog editor-in-chief Ben Wittes wrote that he’d had a series of conversations with Comey in recent months, sometimes discussing the FBI director’s concerns that Trump was ignoring longstanding procedures limiting contacts between the White House and FBI about ongoing investigations.

    In a blog post Thursday night, Wittes said that at a March 27 lunch meeting Comey expressed concerns about Rosenstein, who served as U.S. attorney for Maryland under both the George W. Bush and Obama administration and was then awaiting confirmation as deputy attorney general.

    “His reservations were palpable. ‘Rod is a survivor,’ he said. And you don’t get to survive that long across administrations without making compromises. ‘So I have concerns,'” Wittes wrote, describing his conversation with Comey.

  84. MattyG says:

    … not to mention what was called for of Barr was a preliminary summary of Mueller, not Barr’s own determination.

    The hope here is that Barr’s statement actually only represents the uniftary executive camp’s “opening shot” and a cheap one at that – a cynical ploy to frame the “issue” before any facts of the invenstigation are known.

    • MattyG says:

      But on an optimistic note – this momement may well be DTs high water mark in all this. And what Mueller says to the House committee and how he says it will be of historical significance.

    • bmaz says:

      There is not one shred of evidence for that statement. If you have it, post it. Thing is, you don’t, you are just blowing poo.

  85. Observiter says:

    Barr shut down the Mueller investigation before Mueller was finished. To me, it explains everything. Barr releasing his “summary” so quickly. Barr’s strange conclusions. Mueller’s seemingly active investigations that have surprisingly disappeared. Mueller’s voice seemingly absent from conclusions. This investigation has been shut down prematurely.

  86. Charles says:

    Marcy, the TNR piece you wrote is the first substantive piece of analysis that I have seen over the course of the last 24 hours, and I have seen a lot of analysis, most of which can only be described otherwise.

    I don’t normally write compliments because I know that for accomplished authors, after a while they cloy. But the TNR piece was in my opinion a step above almost all of the rest of your writing–and miles above everyone I have seen with the exception of Ken White. But even he missed the crucial point that Barr’s letter, by focusing on the Russian government, excluded actors who may have been acting as agents of the Russian government.

    Back at the beginning of this scandal, I doubted that the Russian government actually conducted the election interference because Russia–as result of getting devastated in WW II– has traditionally been a cautious, rational actor. Obviously, Mueller’s Russian indictments prove me wrong. But what I thought *was* likely was the involvement of Russian organized crime, either with or without the knowledge of the government. The line between governments and crime is often a little blurry. That would give the government plausible deniability. But what you are suggesting–that the plausible deniability came on the *quo* side of the quid pro quo now fits well with what we know from Barr’s contortions.

    We’ll see if those contortions reflect in any way Mueller’s thinking or whether they’re just part of an effort to protect Trump. But for now, the TNR article is the gold standard for understanding this moment. Again, congratulations.

  87. Tony Cincy says:

    I thought the hagiography of good ol’ Bob Mueller was overblown, and by George, I’m afraid I was right. Much remains to be learned but I don’t think Mueller deserves a new chapter in an updated Profiles in Courage for:

    1) not fighting for an interview of Trump;
    2) shutting down before dealing with Roger Stone;
    3) handling the Trump children with kid gloves; and
    4) most crucial, punting the decision on prosecution of Trump to a man he KNEW would refuse to indict.

    Now to indulge in rampant paranoia. Mueller fans, forgive me. I cannot forgive him. I am most intrigued at the pictures I saw yesterday of the saintly Mueller strolling into and out of St. James Episcopal, very close to the White House. He had to know someone would spot him and pictures would be taken. Was he sending us some sort of signal? Like:

    1) “Hey, forgive me, folks, I’m actually a decent guy, just old and tired and not cut out for this kind of work any more.”
    2) “Dear Lord, forgive me. I just didn’t have it in me”
    3) “Lord, please take care of the country–I sure as hell just let it down.”

    Who knows what else he might have been thinking. To me the change in pattern from invisibility to that of top drawer visible worshipper at a church no one could disapprove of is the act of a man who was trying to tell us–and himself–something. As with so much else about this scandal, will we ever know just what?

    • bmaz says:

      1) There was NEVER going to be a voluntary interview of Trump. NEVER. You would have had to subpoena him and that fight would have take easily a year and likely far more to get through the courts. And, after all that, Trump would take the 5th. The fact that they even got a set of written questions is kind of amazing. Mueller handled this correctly.

      2) Stone handed off and will proceed on. So, that is not an issue either.

      3) What do you mean handled the Trump children with kid gloves? Do you even know what was or was not done vis a vis them? No, you don’t. And, to the extent they were considered targets, which they likely were, you don’t subpoena targets. That is really not problematic either.

      4) WTF you talking about?? DOJ policy says he could NOT prosecute Trump. So, that is a misplaced factor too.

      And you make all these statements before even seeing the “Mueller Report”.

      • Tony Cincy says:

        Hi bmaz–I confessed to “rampant paranoia.” You didn’t catch that. I was trying to introduce a little speculative humor into a very sad situation. Just another way of asking what are all the things we still don’t know. Mr. Mueller’s decision to appear in public on Sunday, even for just a photo op intrigues me. Change in behavior means something–and no, I don’t have a clue yet as to what.

        • bmaz says:

          Fair enough! And despite all the talk of it all being over, it is not whatsoever. There is so much we still do not know.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          You obviously don’t read your Matt Taibbi: “It’s Official – Russiagate is this Generation’s WMD.” []

          The commentators at Yves Smith’s place roundly support his view. []

          I find their viewpoint impossible to fathom. It resembles nothing so much as intentional ignorance and is as destructive in its way as Hannity is in his. They conflate the angst of the meritocracy – left adrift under a nepotistic president with no merit – and a vapid, error-prone MSM and conclude that the investigations produced as little evidence of Trump’s crimes as earlier investigations produced for Saddam Hussein’s fictitious WMDs. A weighty analogy worthy of Vladimir Putin.

          The description given here, from musicismath at 6.04 am, would normally describe Trump supporting media and viewers who cannot take their eyes from it. It is used, however, to describe those who still believe Trump has committed serial crimes and unprecedented wrongdoing:

          Ever since 2016, the professional-managerial class has been flailing around psychologically. A sense of complacency and meritocratic entitlement was rudely disrupted…. Suddenly, a class of people raised to believe they were on the right side of history…based on their credentials and education had the rug pulled out from underneath them….

          Meanwhile, they hang out on Twitter and participate in an extreme, cultish, and psychologically damaging culture of competitive victimhood, guilt, and anxiety…. They socialise only with the like-minded, and can’t see how odd they appear to anyone outside their narrow circles….

          The Russia-savvy Taibbi’s greatest trick may lie in persuading the questioning that Trump’s crimes do not exist.

        • Vern says:

          I told you so. I started reading NC during and after the GFC. About 2015, the blog line became “Trump is the lesser effective evil”. Then it deteriorated from there. Lambert is a piece of shit with legs. The commentariat are especially loathsome, clearly overrun with Trump trolls and bots.

          I’m thinking there should be a regular feature: “S#/t Naked Capitalists Say”, because it deserves to be mercilessly mocked.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Glenn Greenwald concludes that Matt Taibbi has written “the definitive article on the debacle,” his word for the Mueller investigation. It’s so good, he needn’t write his own, but he writes a small one anyway. It is useful if only to hear David Cay Johnston, who debated GG on Democracy Now today.


          I’ll just click my stopwatch to see how long it takes Glenn to conclude that investigations into Jair Bolsonaro are meritless, Brazilgate fare.

  88. James P says:

    My take: Trump obviously won. His refusal to testify and Mueller’s inability to get Manafort to crack, were sufficient to block the progress of the investigation. That was their intent all along and their strategy worked. I am surprised though, based on Mueller’s published documents, that there weren’t some additional indictments on a conspiracy to interfere with the election. I know that amassing sufficient evidence to prove that case beyond a reasonable doubt would be a high bar to clear, but I thought the document trail was trending toward Mueller having that evidence on some of the players, like Don Jr. Apparently I was wrong about that. If Mueller says he didn’t have conclusive evidence, then I guess he didn’t. I’m not surprised at all that Mueller decided to not indict Trump himself on obstruction charges. It has seemed pretty clear all along that the DoJ believes there is a guideline prohibiting the indictment of a sitting President. Whether such a guideline is proper is debatable, but I figured all along that Mueller would abide by the perceived guideline. I think that’s what he did. So now the issue of the President’s involvement in “high crimes and misdemeanors” is dumped on Congress. I suspect there is sufficient evidence in the House to get a vote to impeach, but I am certain that the Senate would not come close to having enough votes to convict. While I understand that an argument can be made for the House to take up impeachment even though the outcome in the Senate is known, I tend to agree with Pelosi that doing so would be counterproductive. The ultimate objective is to get Trump out of office as soon as possible. To my thinking, that means he has to be defeated at the ballot box in November, 2020. I don’t think that going through an impeachment trial in the Senate would be helpful toward that end. So it’s time for the energies of us never-Trumpers to be directed toward a massive repudiation of Trump in the 2020 election. I can only hope that the Democrats can manage to nominate an electable candidate this time. It would be a shame if they fail again and open the door for a Trump re-election.

    • klynn says:

      Thank you. Great comment. I will add that I don’t care about the Senate votes. Get the evidence out there. Let Senate GOP own their vote in the light of day.

  89. klynn says:

    So, we know the SC determined the Russians interfered to help T win. They committed information warfare. Any legislation, any additional actions to be enacted to protect the Constitution and citizens now and going forward? Shouldn’t our national leadership be addressing this? And the oil grab in Ven is a threatening power play.

  90. Bay State Librul says:

    Marcy’s New Republic Article– Title
    Yes, Trump Obstructed Justice. And William Barr Is Helping Him Cover It Up

    After, climbing off the ledge….
    Ergo, if William Barr is covering it up, he is obstructing justice too?
    Ergo, we do not have a rule of law.

    • safari says:

      If there is any consistency in the Drumpf era, it is that everyone who works for him comes out with reputations tattered. If Barr actually did everything lawfully and by the books, that would actually be a positive outlier rather than a continuation of today’s corrupted norms.

      While we’ve no evidence yet Barr is twisting facts and building contorted legal narratives for his mafioso boss, it would only be surprising if he wasn’t.

      One thing is sure, though. His high-minded conclusion of “no obstruction” gave House Republicans all the defensive shield they need to hold the party line for any debate going forward. Barr knew damn well what he was doing.

      • Mooser says:

        Barr could have at least included several paragraphs, if not a page or two, from the report in his “summation”.

  91. Burqueley says:

    Thank you, Dr. EW. Just sent you the paltry contents of my PayPal account after reading your analysis just posted on The New Republic. Wow.

  92. MattyG says:

    Mueller handed off money laundering, campaign finance and Trump Org to SDNY right? So, the “Barr Letter” redirects the conversation for a while and delays public revelations on the Russian side for a few weeks, and maybe DT skates on a formal DOJ indictment… but then things segue to prosecution of ‘conventional’ criminal activity in and renewed Congressional scrutiny as the content of report filters out. And whatever Flynn and the Mystery Appellant hold in store. I think we are just in a lull in the storm.

  93. ThingWithFeathers says:

    I have questions. What personal accomplishments are you proud of? Are you a kind person? Have you ever been afraid? What beauty will you find in today?

  94. Tom Poe says:

    I find it offensive, when anyone, especially the attorney general, asks those of us who saw and witnessed acts toward a conspiracy, or saw and witnessed acts toward obstruction to dismiss what we saw and witnessed.

    • Rayne says:

      “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” — George Orwell, 1984

      Gaslighting at scale.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      If I understand Barr’s contorted logic, Trump had to have committed an underlying crime in order to obstruct it. Scooter Libby might beg to differ.

      Libby was convicted of obstruction, among other crimes. But inquiry into what crimes and who committed them is what he obstructed. His actions made identifying those things hard to impossible. The crimes might have been his or those of Addington, Cheney or Bush, or all of the above. We can’t know because of Libby’s obstruction.

      An otherwise innocent bystander can commit obstruction of an investigation into someone else’s crimes. That’s why statutes prohibit both obstruction and other crimes.

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      “And if all others accepted the lie which the party imposed–if all records told the same tale–then the lie passed into history and became the truth” George Orwell, 1984

  95. ken melvin says:

    If the report had exonerated Trump, they would have released it. Instead, they will fight tooth and nail to prevent its release. Barr, a quid pro quo kind of guy, is another republican political hack.

  96. viget says:

    My, my the DOJ response machine is in full overdrive. Marcy’s article comes out questioning how well thought out this denial of obstruction prosecution was, and they say, “Oh no, we’ve known about it for weeks!” “And we were SHOCKED!”

    Hmmmm…. so does that make it better or worse? If they’ve known about it for weeks, that means they’ve had all this time to game this out, which implies a bunch of foreknowledge about how best to spin this.

    And I’m not buying the SCO wanted more time to finish things up. What exactly have they done the last several weeks other than get Manafort sentenced? Was that it? It’s more like the DOJ needed the time to figure out how best to spin the report, especially since Mueller threw them for a loop with the “You Decide” on obstruction prosecution.

  97. earlofhuntingdon says:

    And now the America loving Trump tells us that those who investigated him are quite possibly traitors. He’s looking into it and them. His ordeal was such an ordeal that “very few people could have handled it.” Happily, he makes his claims with Bibi looking and cheering him on. Two peas in a pod.

    Trump is a vindictive prick. Perceived wrongs against him are the only things he can remember. The press are forewarned, there will be more wrongdoing to cover.

  98. Amy Anderson says:

    I thank my lucky stars to have found this site. Sane commentary is so hard to find these days.
    I was hoping against hope that Mueller would be our saviour, but alas, he caved just like the rest of them. But then, he IS a Republican, so……….
    Today I feel just like I did when I woke up the morning after the presidential election and found we had just screwed ourselves out of any hope the country had changed for the better in the last eight years. So, so sad.

  99. punaise says:

    Well, this recent turn of events should cure my internet over-indulgence for a while. Blerghh. I know technically “it’s not over”, we have to see the full report, etc… but still.

    apologies to Leiber and Stoller:

    I remember when I was very liturgical, our country caught on fire
    I’ll never forget the look on Mueller’s face as he gathered it up
    in his arms and paced through the burning building out to the pavement
    We stood there shivering in our certitude and watched the whole world go up in flames
    And when it was all over I said to myself, is that all there is to conspire

    Is that all there is, is that all there is
    If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep grimacing
    Let’s break off the news and have a bawl
    If that’s all there is

  100. William Herschel says:

    In your New Republic piece today, you write “This language doesn’t even bother to exonerate Trump’s associate Roger Stone, who during the campaign was in cahoots with WikiLeaks as it dumped Russian-hacked emails that damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”

    I’m still trying to piece together the timeline of events for Stone/Wikileaks. According to the Cohen written testimony, Roger Stone called Trump in July 2016 to inform him that Wikileaks was planning to imminently release the DNC emails. The written testimony doesn’t specify the date in which this call occurred just “before the DNC convention.”

    What I find troubling is that all of that would have been public knowledge days before the convention. Assange was on TV July 12 publicly talking about the dump, and Wikileaks had a tweet on July 22nd also announcing the release of the emails.

    I guess my point is that, based on what we know so far, it seems just as plausible that Stone is just a partisan village idiot with access to the internet. It seems way less nefarious if all Stone did was call Trump to report information that Wikileaks themselves had already publicized.

    Anyway, I appreciate your reporting on the Mueller investigation. It’s a tangled web, and I often have a hard time keeping track of where we’re at, but if you could weigh in on this it’d be greatly appreciated.

  101. tacocat says:

    Maybe it’s been said already, but a plausible strategy for Mueller (whose job has been constantly under threat throughout this investigation) would be to focus on an extremely narrow scope for his piece and farm out the rest? This appears to be what has happened, given the multiple references to ongoing investigations. Also, the language matters. He didn’t conclude that the president didn’t commit a crime. He failed to conclude that he did, which isn’t really a surprise, what with all the dangling of pardons, joint defense agreements with ‘cooperating witnesses’ and other shenanigans (read: obstruction) going on. I don’t think this is over. Not by a long shot. It just really sucks at this moment from a politics/pr perspective.

    • The Old Redneck says:

      I think you’re right. From what we can tell, the real action from now on will be in the SDNY. That’s especially true when cert was denied by the Supremes on the mystery appellant. If they can show Trump or others engaged in a quid pro quo (sanctions relief for Trump Tower Moscow, etc.), or even something dirtier like money laundering, then the stuff in the news today will all be forgotten.

      • James P says:

        The SDNY works for Barr. They’re not going to be allowed to indict a sitting President. The SDNY might pick up some small change like Don Jr. If so, Trump will just pardon them. I don’t expect much from the SDNY as long as Trump is President. Maybe after he leaves office some of these financial fraud cases can be pursued.

  102. jaango says:

    The Latino “perspective” is both short and sweet:

    1. Trump is a Republican.
    2. Barr is a Republican.
    3. Rosenstein is a Republican.
    4. Muellar is a Republican.

    Need more be said?

    • P J Evans says:

      It leads to the conclusion that too many of the people who are saying that are either stupid or seriously uninformed.

        • P J Evans says:

          Dang, I thought I fixed that typo. “UnINFORMED”. As in, all their news gets filtered through Fox and their associates in political crime.

        • jaango says:

          The Muellar Report needs to be compared to the ever-evolving mindset that was the Iran/Contra, and yet, with one exception, that being thousands died. In contrast, our nation is adrift in white collar crime.

    • e.a.f. says:

      Just because they’re a Republican doesn’t mean they’re a crook. good chance they are, but there are always people within a party who still work and hope for the right thing to be done. Rather than jumping ship to another party, they stay and work for a return to principles. Its not like the Democrats are without sin. Its what I like about other country’s politics, they have more than one party to vote for. A country can not be a democracy with only one political party.

      • Fahrender says:

        There are those who say that the U.S. has, actually, only one party, that the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are two sides of the same coin, that it really is the Neoliberal Party with two complicated wings, especially since 1992.

        • Rayne says:

          Just own it. Quit hiding behind “some say.” And then tell me how much shoe leather you’ve worn out to create a legitimate third party to the left of the Democratic Party.

        • P J Evans says:

          There are also people who think that the earth is flat and that NASA faked the moon landings and fakes satellite photos of Earth.

  103. Tech Support says:

    In reading the Barr memo, it struck me immediately how “narrowly constructed” it was, and while it is now abundantly clear that any fingers-crossed-hope that Barr would stick an establishment knife into Trump’s back was misplaced, it hardly feels like the door has been shut on this whole business.

    Barr implies in his letter that he will disclose everything in the report that is not barred by either Rule 6 or through relevancy to an ongoing investigation. Given the number of investigations that are currently in flight, that could result in a lot of redaction, leaving behind a mere fig leaf of inconsequential trivia for the WH to hide behind. Or he could just as easily provide a raft of material to the HJC that would make impeachment proceedings a foregone conclusion.

    Likewise he could shield the investigating USAOs from the president’s meddling, or vice versa. I think the scariest outcome in my mind is using the investigations as a pretext to heavily redact the report, and then bureaucratically pick off the investigations one by one after their obfuscating purpose has been served.

    I think it’s critical at this point to neither relax nor give up. If you live in a district where you have a rep or a senator who sits on a relevant committee, it’s not only important to keep on them about continuing to move forward, but to keep them focused on the right course of action. The Cohen testimony was a grossly missed opportunity for coordinated and meaningful questions. Whether it’s via town hall, or retweeting MW, or letter, or what-have-you, we need to coach our elected officials to do better. If there is any community of citizens who can use the weight of numbers to push clear and meaningful objectives it is this one.

  104. Stacey Lyn says:

    See if this analogy makes sense:

    Let’s say that Drumph is the Sheriff in a small town. Someone brings some evidence to him that makes it look like something was sort of fishy about the elections in general that just happened and he literally knew nothing about it. I mean he really didn’t, let’s say, in this analogy.

    His deputies begin investigating an election fraud case into his own election and find out that his best friend from college 20 years ago, Russel, did a bunch of stuff to hurt his opponent because she was Russel’s ex-girlfriend and Russel really hated her. But the net effect was that that helped Sheriff Drumph win his election to the Sheriff’s office. He didn’t know it at the time, but Russel had done him a solid, EVEN THOUGH RUSSEL ONLY WANTED TO HURT HIS EX, and wasn’t primarily trying to help Drumph win, just to help her loose! But now the Sheriff doesn’t want to throw Russel under the bus, so he starts doing everything he can both in his official capacity behind the scenes to throw the investigators off the scent and in public to deny that there was anything untoward about the election, because convincing everyone that the election was kosher is the best way to get them to all stop investigating what Russel, by extension, did FOR HIM, right? I mean, now that he’s aware he was the beneficiary of it, let’s say, and that’s news to him since he had no idea the assistance happened in the election until recently.

    Let’s further say, that’s actually the entirety of the fact pattern and nothing else that we all know in our reality happened in this one beyond what I’ve stated above. At the end of the day, when it all comes out, the feds have some choices here regarding Sheriff Drumph and what to charge him with. They may look at the candidate’s behavior during the election and how he really glommed onto those anonymous attacks against his opponent because it seemed helpful to him. Then once he was the Sheriff, and people were investigating the election irregularities and Russel’s assistance was discovered, and then he tried to cover it up, for WHATEVER reason, it doesn’t matter. How is he NOT charged with Obstruction of Justice for abusing his office to help his friend, even if his friend wasn’t originally conspiring WITH him to help him win the election, he just didn’t want that stupid ex-girlfriend, Hillary, to win it?

    Essentially, Wm Barr is saying that this Sheriff would not be charged with obstruction because he was not trying to cover up a crime in the sense that politics ain’t bean bags and whatever Russel did was on him, no conspiracy, therefore no cover up/obstruction charge. That’s insane! In no real world would this set of facts not end up in a) a post-facto conspiracy charge and/or b) an obstruction of justice charge on the Sheriff. But never would the absence of a provable conspiracy charge result in exoneration on an obstruction charge! Him being the Sheriff and therefore empowered to start and stop investigations is the VEHICLE by which he obstructed justice! How could it also be the cloak of innocence under which he is exonerated from that act. Barr really is trying to get us to choke down Nixon’s argument here “If the President does it, then it is not illegal.” That really is the essence of Barr’s employment application letter! And now we see why Nixon liked that argument so much, it’s almost like pardoning yourself before charges are even brought. Smooth!

    How the hell do you fail to charge him with obstruction of justice because he only began obstructing justice after he was elected and had any real power to use to that end? Leaving aside whether or not he also benefitted from the election interference and aided and abetted it when it was happening simply because it was useful to him? There’s no way you can use the absence of a known or provable conspiracy between the Sheriff and Russel ahead of time to rig the elections for him as a threshold past which you have to get in order to charge the Sheriff with obstructing the investigation once he’d won office and had the power to stop investigations and bribe witnesses with ‘get out of jail free’ cards and fire investigators and lie repeatedly to everyone with ear holes!

    Well, it took Nixon and his aides what, 47 years to launder Nixon’s argument from a shockingly ludicrous joke to a scholarly legal argument on a once and further Attorney General’s job application. Tricky Dick, meet Mafia Don.

    Just wow!

    • bmaz says:

      Who the fuck is the “Drumph”? This is not a comic book. Use the real name. Seriously, I do not understand this petty shit. This is a proper forum, not your personal Facebook account. STOP with that idiotic shit.

      Seriously, do you think this stupid shit is cute or smart? And, yes, I know who “Drumph” is, I just hate asininity here at this blog.

      This is not a place for that kind of petty stupid ass bullshit.

    • bmaz says:

      Seriously, this is not some late 90’s AOL “message board”, this is a modern forum. While he may be, and is, the most horrible President ever, he is the current POTUS. Unnecessary and childish bullshit crap descriptions are….unnecessary and childish.

      Serious people read this blog and comment section. Do you really want to look like an idiot, and make us look like idiots in the process? If you do, I will start bouncing you, because that is just asinine. This is not grade school. Stop.

  105. Bobster33 says:

    One series of questions that no one seems to be asking is what happens after tRump is charged? I mean can you find a jury in america that is impartial wrt tRump? And even if the prosecutor could find said jury, tRump has created so much disinformation, that few will be able to follow the facts of the cases. I mean since tRump has appointed so many of the federal judges, all Rump needs to do is introduce bullshit lies (permitted by a tRump appointed judge). Everything related to Fake News/tRump is about creating reasonable doubt.

    At which point it becomes a popularity contest. tRump is very good a fooling rubes with his constantly leading statements. I detest tRump as much as the next progressive. However, I do not see how any case against him plays out with a conviction. Maybe my opinion of the prosecutor, judge and jury is too harsh. Please correct me if I am wrong.

  106. J Barker says:

    Barr’s views about the President’s inability to obstruct justice are so sweeping that even if a President used his pardon powers, hiring & firing powers, and other executive powers to frustrate the investigation’s fact-finding ability, Barr would *still* say that he hadn’t obstructed justice. Here, for example, is a strikingly, um, familiar, “analogy” Barr poses on p. 12 of his 2018 memo:

    “In today’s world, Presidents are frequently accused of wrongdoing. Let us say that an outgoing administration– say, an incumbent US Attorney– launches an “investigation” of an incoming President. The new President knows it is bogus, is being conducted by political opponents, and is damaging his ability to establish his new Administration and to address urgent matters on behalf of the Nation. It would neither be “corrupt” nor a crime for the new President to terminate the matter…. There is no legal principle that would insulate the matter from the President’s supervisory authority and mandate that he passively submit while a bogus investigation runs its course.”

    Question: If Mueller’s inability to establish conspiracy was largely due to Trump’s interference, would we expect that information to be stated explicitly in Mueller’s report?

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