How ABC Broke a Story about Mueller LIMITING Questions on Obstruction and Claimed It Showed a Focus on Obstruction

As I disclosed last month, 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. 

On Monday, Rudy Giuliani revealed that Robert Mueller had gone ten days without responding to the White House’s latest set of conditions under which President Trump would be willing to sit for an interview.

We have an offer to [Mueller] — by now, like, the fifth offer back and forth, so you’d have to call it a counter-counter-counteroffer. And, where it stands is, they haven’t replied to it and it’s been there about 10 days,” he said. “Despite the fact that we’re getting more and more convinced that maybe he shouldn’t do it, we still have that offer outstanding, and in good faith, if they came back and accepted it, or if they came back and modified it in a way that we can accept, we would consider it.

By yesterday afternoon, ABC, showing unbelievable credulity, reported that Mueller wanted to ask Trump questions about obstruction.

Special counsel Mueller wants to ask Trump about obstruction of justice: Sources

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office wants to ask President Donald Trump about obstruction of justice, among other topics, sources close to the White House tell ABC News. According to sources, the president learned within the last day that the special counsel will limit the scope of questioning and would like to ask questions both orally and written for the President to respond to.

This left the impression — not just among readers who aren’t paid to know better, but among journalists who are — that the focus of any interview would be obstruction, not the President’s role in a conspiracy with the Russians.

By the end of the day, more responsible reporting revealed that pretty much the opposite of what ABC reported had occurred. In his latest proposal, Mueller offered to drop half the obstruction questions.

In a letter sent Monday, Mueller’s team suggested that investigators would reduce by nearly half the number of questions they would ask about potential obstruction of justice, the two people said.

That would, of course, mean that a greater proportion of the questions would be on that conspiracy with Russia, not on obstruction. That’s not surprising. Between January and March, after all, the focus of Mueller’s questions (as interpreted by Jay Sekulow) shifted more towards that conspiracy than obstruction.

Meanwhile, the President’s favorite scribes pushed another bullshit line he has been pushing for over six months: in spite of what you might conclude given his increasing attacks on Mueller on Twitter, the NYT would have you believe, Trump wants to do an interview, against his lawyers’ better judgment, and isn’t just stalling while trying to claim he’s not obsessed with and afraid of this investigation.

President Trump pushed his lawyers in recent days to try once again to reach an agreement with the special counsel’s office about his sitting for an interview, flouting their advice that he should not answer investigators’ questions, three people briefed on the matter said on Wednesday.

Mr. Trump has told advisers he is eager to meet with investigators to clear himself of wrongdoing, the people said. In effect, he believes he can convince the investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, of his belief that their own inquiry is a “witch hunt.”


Mr. Trump has put his lawyers in the vexing position of trying to follow the desires of their client while seeking to protect him from legal jeopardy at the same time.

Here’s CNN showing Rudy planting the bullshit line, as well as another bullshit line the press continues to repeat uncritically, that this inquiry is leading towards a report to Congress and not another set of indictments.

He added that Trump has “always been interested in testifying. It’s us, meaning the team of lawyers, including me, that have the most reservations about that.”

Giuliani also sent a message to Mueller: It’s time for the special counsel to “put up or shut up.”

“They should render their report. Put up — I mean I guess if we were playing poker (you would say) ‘Put up or shut up.’ What do you got?” Giuliani said. “We have every reason to believe they don’t have anything of the President doing anything wrong. I don’t think they have any evidence he did anything wrong.”

Why is it that the press can easily identify outright bullshit when it comes directly from Trump or Rudy’s mouth, but when they tell you equally obvious bullshit on terms that they’re telling you a secret, it somehow gets reported as if it’s true, all the evidence notwithstanding?

Ferfecksake, people. Trump and his legal team have spent weeks claiming that “collusion” is not a crime. He stood next to Vladimir Putin as the latter replayed the June 9 script, looking like a whipped puppy, and denied he got elected thanks to Putin’s assistance, siding with a hostile foreign leader over the United States’ intelligence community. The last indictment Mueller released included a paragraph nodding vigorously towards GRU’s hackers responding to requests from Trump, as if responding to a signal (a practice for which Mueller has already shown evidence).

For example, on or about July 27, 2016, the Conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office. At or around the same time, they also targeted seventy-six email addresses at the domain for the Clinton Campaign.

Do you really think Mueller would put Donald Trump right there on page 8 of the GRU indictment and be focused primarily on obstruction? Do you really think Mueller doesn’t have the conspiracy to defraud the US (and conspiracy to commit CFAA) indictment that has been clear since February planned out, where even without an interview he could include Trump as “Male 1” to indicate how he communicated acceptance of a Russian deal over and over? Do you really think people with a significant role in the conspiracy would know that Trump was moving within 14 hours of the polls closing to pay off his debts to Russia if there weren’t more evidence that Donald J Trump willingly joined a conspiracy with Russia?

I even got asked the other day, by a self-described expert on this case, why so many witnesses are talking about being asked questions about obstruction. I noted that the only witnesses we’ve heard from recently — close associates of Roger Stone — were instead describing questions about meetings attended and Russian deals floated and social media campaigns launched. That is, they were asked about conspiracy, not obstruction. We don’t even know what Jared Kushner was asked in his lengthy April questioning, but I assure you it wasn’t focused primarily on obstruction.

I get it. Mueller isn’t leaking and readers want more Russia stories so any time the White House seeds one, all secret like except that CNN films it, you gotta tell it in such a way that you’ll get those cable-televised secrets the next time. But please please please treat those claims with the same skepticism you treat Trump and Rudy bullshit when it is delivered where the public can see it. If Trump and Rudy are lying in public, there is zero reason to believe they’re telling you the truth when they claim to be feeding you secrets.

Robert Mueller is investigating the President of the United States for willfully entering a conspiracy with Russians offering to help him get elected, I believe in exchange for certain policy considerations, including changes to US Syria policy. Yes, Mueller obtained evidence demonstrating that conspiracy in large part because, in an effort to thwart any investigation into how he got elected, Trump fired the last guy who was investigating it (and investigating it less aggressively). Yes, that means obstruction is one of the crimes that Mueller believes Trump may have committed (if you’re going to harp on obstruction, then please focus on Trump’s pre-emptive offers of pardons to Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort, because it’s one of the most grave examples of obstruction and it’s critical to understanding what is going on now in EDVA).

I can’t predict how this will end — whether Mueller will decide he has enough evidence to implicate a sitting president, if so, how Mueller might lay out Trump’s involvement along with that of his family and aides, what Congress will do in response, what the long term impact on the country will be.

But that doesn’t mean the press is doing its readers any favors by playing dumb about what Mueller is really pursuing.

79 replies
  1. Trip says:

    The sitting down with Mueller BS was old months ago and no more believable then. This is an old worn out, beating a dead horse diversionary tactic, STOP IT already media. How many times are you gonna take the same bait?

    A guy who outright says Sessions “SHOULD” stop the investigation is just chomping at the bit to talk to the investigator. In what universe?

    The other trend is glowing profiles attempting to rehabilitate Plastic Aryan Barbie. Plastic Aryan Barbie only talks when she tries to rebrand herself into someone who is decent and not a selfish narcissist.  She stays silent when speaking would make a difference. Stop giving her unpaid PR releases already. No one gives a shit what she has to say.


    • Desider says:

      Trump first talked about sitting down with Mueller in June – *a year ago*. 14 months. How Trump gets away with this still baffles me – they’re not good lies, they’re not believable, there’s no obvious plausible NLP skill in it that Dilbert’s author would have you believe. It’s just filling the media rumor machine, and it’s like Access Hollywood pimping  a Justin Bieber story when you wonder why anyine should care.

  2. Ollie says:

    Confession: I come here several times a day. There is NO WHERE ELSE I feel I am learning about facts vs. fiction. Jeremy Scahill is the one that highly recommended you all as being one of the few sites that has excellent reporting. I’ve never looked back.

    I always look for the comments by bmas and trip along w/many others. Well I barely can keep my head clear on this political crisis we’re in. I don’t write very many comments because I feel that in this company of you all, it’s best to just ‘listen’. I follow you Marcy and bmas on twitter.

    Well I just wanted to say thank you. I’m an elderly woman who knows how much our country is in danger and I even get stomach aches over the stupidity of our fellow countrymen. I listen to cspan/Washington Journal and I hear each day the misinformed, idolizing morons that worship that evilness called trump and it gets overwhelming. I call each month to give a thought or two and although I might stumble w/my words on air, I sure as hell am fricking grateful I am not spewing more lies and hatred. So thank you.

    I very gently share what I learn from you all at the senior center. Most are ill informed but I try. You can take this down if it isn’t appropriate here. I just really am grateful for you all and the close knit feel I get checking in each day.

    • Tracy says:

      Wow, Ollie, thanks for your comment! I agree with bmaz, jump on here more often, we need to “hear” your voice & your words! Thank you for representing!!

      Like your stomach aches, I lose sleep and peace over all of this! You are not alone! I think a lot of Americans, esp since Helsinki, are in this boat w/ us. I, too, come here b/c I feel that this cuts through the mainstream media smokescreen. While I cannot just tear myself away from MSM, I like to compare/ contrast/ supplement what I see here/ there. I heard Marcy on Pod Save America around time of Helsinki – what a blessing!

      Our democracy will only be saved by people like all of us here, by using it and defending it, and one thing is using our voices. I am American now living in the U.S. but I’ve lived in England, Senegal & Thailand, and I know this! Please keep talking and sharing, you inspire me!! :-)))

      • posaune says:

        Thank you for your comment, Ollie.    I was quite inspired two weekends ago when I attended a picnic for my son’s new school mates. Met the other parents for the first time.    Eventually, with kids submerged in videos, the conversation headed toward Frump, the EDVA trial, etc., and I heard from across the room, “Marcy,” joined the group to listen to a number of opinions that “this blog is really the place to learn.”   I was so happy that people want to know the facts!   To actually meet those hungry for real journalism, research, thinking, and the good commenters here.   (note:  shy smile, thinking back to the Next Hurrah days.)   But thank you Marcy, b-maz and all here for rigorous thinking!   Has changed my world.

    • Willis Warren says:

      I got sent here by Nate Silver and I’ve been amazed at the honesty involved in the reporting.  It’s obviously the best site of the web for the Russia investigation.  Wish I’d have followed during the Iraq War.

      • JohnJ says:

        I found these guys during the schrub era.  I thought I was alone. Marcy and bmaz and all the regulars with their varied expertice saved my sanity. I used the blogroll to find my now daily reading as well.

        I think Marcy actually invented live blogging during the Scooter Libby trial.

    • Anne says:

      I was sent here by Jeremy Scahill, too, who I found on DemocracyNow 15 years ago.   Amy Goodman is the only reason I made it through the bush years…and now I count on all the greats…Marcy, all of theIntercept journalists, etc.

      • oldoilfieldhand says:


        You have found a desert oasis (gotcha’ bmaz) in an endless ocean of media cacophony. Rest a few minutes here daily and practice discourse with other patriots while you build your strength. Be ready so that when the blue tsunami arrives you can take your place in the citizenship voting to steer America back to democracy and equality. Thank you Marcy and all of the moderators!

  3. NorskieFlamethrower says:

    Thank you again Marcy for slappin’ us up and gettin’ us refocused on the glimpses of evidence we get while ignoring the spin that passes as “analysis” from our news sources. I’m convinced that any “fatigue” we the public suffer (Mueller fatigue, Trump fatigue, collusion fatigue) while trying desperately to keep our heads from exploding is the result of tryin’ to find the pony in all the horse shit shoveled out by our corporate, access media. I’m just afraid that if we eventually do find the poor horse he will be as dead as Hamlet’s father.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Brave, brave, Sir Donald. I can see Squire Rudy, clapping his half-coconuts as he and Sir Donald lamely gallump up the hillside, wondering how best to tell the forgetful Sir Donald that before lobbing the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards the dreaded Sir Robert, that three shall be the number thou shalt count, and that five is right out.

    Bmaz and EW had this tagged long ago. Trump will never voluntarily sit for a Mueller interview. It is not about entrapment, the false argument put forward by the flailing Dershowitz, desperate to keep himself from disappearing in time. It is not about executive privilege. It is because Trump is self-destructive and an endless braggart, who lies willingly and often, regardless of the audience or the consequences. It is because Sir Donald, despite all evidence to the contrary, insists that he is the smartest guy in every room he enters.

    • Peterr says:

      I tend to agree, earl, except for one thing: Trump seems to believe his lies all too often. I have no doubt that all his lawyers have been telling him “Don’t do this!” for weeks and months, and the combined pressure has kept him from saying he’d do it. But as the Manafort trials proceed, and the import of Gates’ cooperation sinks in, and the Mariia Butina investigations turns up additional information, Trump is going to feel like he has one of two choices: fire Sessions and Rosenstein so he can “stop Mueller” (as if that would do it), or put an end to it all by meeting with Mueller face to face and proving that he (Trump) is such a powerful witness for his own innocence that Mueller would fold up shop.

      Trump is feeling increasingly cornered, and cornered narcissistic braggarts do not make good decisions. We’re coming to the proverbial “hold my beer” moment, when Trump casts all counsel aside and does what he’s been aching to do for a long time.

      Thinks about it: Trump will sit down with Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, and the leaders of Iran with no preconditions, but sitting down for a no-conditions chat with Mueller is ruled out of bounds?

      That hardly fits his vision of himself. Maybe if someone told Trump that Mueller’s information was nuclear, Trump would tell his advisors to take a hike, and then jump at the chance to talk with with Mueller.

      * * *


      • marksb says:

        I briefly worked for someone who was almost exactly like Trump in terms of malignant narcissism and pathological lying, only my guy was actually pretty brilliant. The thing is, he not only believed whatever lie he told, when he told it, as the Truth; he could believe several lies/realities at once, even if contradictory. Whatever was going on in his head became his reality, and anyone outside of that perceived reality was an enemy and subject to his aggressive abuse. It’s some wild shit to live with. Of course, my boss eventually blew up himself and his company. I was pleased to report him to authorities and provide them with documentation, and enjoyed his hateful stare as they took him away. Best unemployment form I ever filed.

        By the way, I haven’t posted here in years but read every day. It’s just that most of you say what needs saying and I am humbled by your insight and intelligence–and your grasp of evidence-based reality. Thanks!

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Proverbially, the world’s worst date.  Absolutely, positively believes everything said or promised, just not for very long.

        • Tracy says:

          Wow, that is interesting, marksb! Thanks for sharing that. I’ve recently taken some psychology courses myself and the pic that you paint of your old boss reminds me of narcissistic personality disorder. Trump is pretty well armchair-diagnosed with malignant narcissism, as you mention. I’m sure you can recognize these characteristics far more easily now, having seen them so up close and personal. These characteristics could in the end contribute to Trump’s undoing, and as you indicate, he’s NOT brilliant so harder to get away with all of it.

      • Valley girl says:

        Peterr- the thought recently crossed my mind that Trump is so far over the edge, or will be soon, that Trump might actually start to think that he can sit down with Mueller face to face and convince Mueller of his innocence. Just musing.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          I don’t doubt that he thinks he can snow anybody, about anything, any time.

          When that doesn’t pan out, his traditional defenses are to deny, to attack the opponent’s credibility and person, and to sue and/or threaten them into submission.  We see that in his approach to Stormy Daniels’ claims, we see that in his attacks on Mueller.

          But so far, the Don has not abandoned his lawyers and continues to hide behind them and their false claims that they’re negotiating in good faith for the Don to interview Mueller.

          As the pressure mounts, he might imagine the only route he has left is to rely on his own ability to negotiate his way out.  Mr. Mueller is probably looking forward to that.

        • Trip says:

          Trump hates confrontational situations, outside of twitter and his pep rallies (unless it is with someone weaker and subservient, like wives, kids and underlings). And Mueller isn’t going to be manipulated by cheesy flattery and smoke blown up his ass. Trump knows. It’s not because his lawyers are stopping him. It’s because he is scared shitless.

        • Greenhouse says:

          I hate to fearmonger, but it is quite possible, the more this guy feels caged, what with his real estate empire. spawn, et al going down, I think it quite possible this man could angle for war (Iran), martial law, and ignore legal precedent. Wouldn’t be the first time done by a sitting president either (ie. Andrew Jackson, George Bush (the lesser), FDR’s martial law in Hawaii.

        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          This is one very real reason that Mueller does not want to talk to Trump.

          Not that he needs to anyway, but not pushing too hard is important.

          It is Rudy, Trump and others that want to know what is really happening.

          Mueller talking to any of them would provide reveals.

          It just is not going to happen.

        • posaune says:

          There is a type of syndrome seen in children with fetal alchohol spectrum disorder (FASD) that concerns “confabulation,” overt, repeated lying, most commonly witnessed in the face of being caught in the act of a rule-breaking, yet responding with vehement denials.  (Sometimes referred to as “crazy lying.”   This is actually a developmental issue;  successful lying requires certain cognitive developmental milestones to be met, i.e., understanding what the adult wants to hear, imagining an alternative to the truth, judging or testing the imagined alternative, and then performing the lie.   This is known as Theory of Mind.  The child with FASD is typically unable to reach such a developed cognitive level.   However, it isn’t a matter of operating at a less mature level;  memory storage is impaired as well as left-brain-right-brain neural transfer between concept and speech, formulation of language;   in the situation of being “caught,” many FASD children are simply unable to recall what happened, and “lose” the reality of what happened via the damaged synapses;  unable to ascertain what the adult is seeking, the nature of infraction, etc.  the child “confabulates,” as the only remaining recourse.   This syndrome carries huge, huge consequences as the child ages into teen years and young adulthood wrt to juvenile justice system, etc.   They are an easy mark for criminal set ups, etc.

          At any rate, I’m always struck by Trump’s lies, as they strike me as somewhat in the confabulation or “crazy lying” category, no sense of reality, or a very weak relationship to reality.   I would not be surprised if Trump presented with developmental delays as a child, particularly speech and language (with developmental trauma of an abusive parent).  What’s amazing is that Trump has never fallen off the cliff   — he’s always been rescued by parents or his mob.

        • Tracy says:

          That’s interesting, posaune – sounds like you know about psychology/ developmental issues. If you’re interested, look up Trump’s past – he’s always been a bully (in school, etc); his dad was really tough, and his mom quite in the background. He’s always looked up to other bullies and “winners,” and always fights back at all costs – Roy Cohn was his mentor, for instance. I’m just citing what I read from his biographers for a personality psych class I was taking – sounds like you know a lot about this area, for me I appreciated learning about his “development” and past b/c it helped give context to the man.

    • Tracy says:

      Lawrence O’Donnell last night: [In spite of today’s reporting,] it is the position of this show, and always has been, that Donald Trump will NEVER, EVER sit down for an interview with Bob Mueller. (true story)

  5. Bob Conyers says:

    I’ve said it before, but this is ultimately a failure of producers and editors, the people higher on the food chain than reporters. They’re not staffing this story right – they need to treat his story as a single beat, instead of something that can be reported by splitting duties among reporters covering multiple beats.

    It’s fine to have Haberman and Schmidt dialing up the White House and working their sources. But there is no way they should be filing stories on their own. There needs to be a dedicated (and publicly identified) editor and a dedicated reporter or three who are immersed in the case, and who process everything other reporters turn in. It’s one thing to have this kind of confusion last summer, but a year later is inexcusable.

    What happens next year if, fates and voters willing, we start getting Congressional investigations into the broader legal issues of Trump land? Do the media think this kind of fragmented approach is going to work? The instant Trump’s taxes go public (again, fates willing), the obvious question will be how to circle back to the Russia investigations. As things stand, the media will fall flat in trying to understand.

    • bmaz says:

      There are actually posts at major newspapers for that, they are called researchers. The Washington Post has a fantastic one that works on exactly these kind of stories. Her name is Julie Tate, and she really backstops the lead reporters. Frankly, I think many stories are more her work than the leads, but you mostly just see her name as a “Also contributed to this report” at the end of stories. She is absolutely fantastic.

      • Bob Conyers says:

        I think the Post tends to have higher standards than the Times and most other news orgs, and I suspect it’s because they work more closely with research than most.

        The issue is that at most outlets they’re not at the level of the editors and producers. They’re a resource, but when deadlines are coming up and an editor wants to submit a story, it’s awfully tough for a researcher to argue a story really should be put on hold to clear up the emphasis on obstruction. The editors will always argue to run it and they’ll try harder next time. They won’t say no to Haberman.

        On a typical big story, it’s OK if there isn’t a ton of prep work and coordination. When a blizzards hits, you can trust that your news and business and sports reporters can coordinate pretty well. But this isn’t a typical big story. Upper level managers had to have known this by the middle of 2017, but they’re woefully unprepared.

        • bmaz says:

          That is what is so great about Julie. She has been there at a high level for a long time, and she has the input and ear of all involved. There are front line reporters and editors at the Post that absolutely swear by her, and well they should. I have talked to them, they know. The Times could do with a LOT more of that.

        • posaune says:

          Thank you, b-maz.  And you are right about the Times.    Where was the Times all through the 1980s when Trump was ascending as a NY developer?   Hiring Polish construction workers who lived in Trump Tower as it was being constructed?   Fighting the city over sprinkler requirements for a residential tower?  How many building violations?   The real estate section of the Times took a “hands off” approach to Trump from the get-go.    Even during the recession of 1991.    They have NEVER published any significant research into any Trump developments.    Last month’s NYT article on the Kushner’s constructive evictions was the first article in my memory.    There could be an enormously significant series assembled on Trump’s real estate deals, simply by combing through the NYC Buildings Dept files and NYC Planning Dept approvals.

        • Tracy says:

          Posaune, re: my other comment to you, sounds like you already have dived into Trump’s past! Wondering if you’ve read Tim O’Brien’s “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald”? I like O’Brien, was thinking it might be worth a read… In my mind, past is prologue!

        • Trip says:

          Although tabloidy, I think the Daily News and Post were more on top of the dirt.

          A quick search on NYT:

          A veritable blowjob of a profile by Bill Geist:


          There are some document cloud images of original reporting on the discrimination. I don’t know that I can post without being moderated. In one of the articles he brags about wanting to go to the Soviet Union for arms deals.

          “Trump promises to end Race Bias” (well we know that NEVER happened)


        • Trip says:

          Part 2, if part 1 ever shows up.

          Atlantic City: Trump was the same douchebag back then that he is now. When he had professionals and his wife Ivana running his casino it did well (also the casino industry was in a growth spurt with no other options regionally). The managers died in a freak helicopter crash, and Trump initially praised them. When his business began to falter (when he started running it directly), he blamed THEM.

          Here’s a slice:


          In the seven months since a freak helicopter accident robbed him of his top casino executives, Mr. Trump has for the first time become directly involved in running these complex operations with thousands of employees, where management risk is as ever-present as chance at the gaming tables.
          Since then, his casinos have been undermined by an exodus of senior managers, some of whom were dismissed and others who left complaining of Mr. Trump’s overbearing and idiosyncratic style. Surviving staff members complain of low morale. Bills are not being paid on time, vendors say. And state regulators, growing more concerned, have stepped up a broad inquiry into all his holdings.
          Asked about the recent shaky performance of his casino holdings, Mr. Trump unexpectedly blamed a number of current and past aides, including the three highly respected casino executives who were killed in a helicopter crash last fall. In recent months, he said, he has personally taken hold of the situation in Atlantic City and has appointed people he calls ”warriors” to start restoring his casinos to the cash-generating health they once possessed.

          Always a horrible person, still a horrible person. And to your question, the NYT appears to have treated him mostly well, especially in the beginning.

    • Peterr says:

      For far too many reporters and outlets who are used to running with breathless “he said/she said” stories, they are stuck when one side won’t say anything. “What the hell are we supposed to do if all we get from Mueller’s side is ‘Mueller’s office declined to comment for this story’ every damn time we call?”

      Here’s a suggestion: maybe sorting out the truth and lies in what’s being claimed by the folks who are speaking would be a fruitful path to take. Sure, it’d be an unfamiliar approach to take, but it *has* been done before.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Indeed.  Reporters might try verifying what’s said, rather than just who said it.

  6. Buford says:

    I have a question…Why can’t the 25th Amendment be used as a way to indict a sitting president? Isn’t that what it is for? When a president cannot perform the duties of his office, the VP temporarily takes over…Or is this only for medical reasons, and not criminal indictment reasons…?
    I am grateful for EW and friends for keeping level headed and calm discussions of what we are seeing in the public domain…

    • Peterr says:

      If Pence and the cabinet became convinced that Trump could not perform his duties, that might be an option for THEM to take. No one else can use the 25th amendment, though.

      • Erin McJ says:

        And ultimately it requires congressional buy-in, if the removed president contests the reason for his removal.

      • Kevin Finnerty says:

        Congress can appoint a body other than the cabinet to invoke the 25th amendment. Of course, Congress is even less likely to act than the cabinet itself.


        But I think Buford makes a good point. The legal argument for why a sitting president cannot be indicted rests on the premise that it is simply too disruptive to our system of government to have the president face criminal charges while leading the country. But the obvious flaw in this analysis is that we have a procedure in place for when a president is so burdened by disability that he cannot effectively govern—the 25th amendment. A criminal indictment is an obvious disability that would warrant temporarily suspending the president’s authority. The alternative is  this, frankly embarrassing, argument that presidents are functionally above the law.

        • Tracy says:

          As a non-lawyer, looks to me like we are in uncharted waters re: indicting a sitting president. TV pundits/ lawyers always say it’s the DOJ precedent (or actual policy?) not to indict a sitting president. Where this precedent/ policy comes from, and whether it was tested w/ Bill Clinton or Andrew Johnson (the only pres’s I know of who faced impeachment), I don’t know how it fared, maybe others do?

          In 2017, psychiatrists and psychologists petitioned, raising the issue of mental fitness that would have utilized the 25th Amendment; but there are a lot of things against that particular used of the 25th A.

          Here’s an interesting article from the Atlantic about how the 25th A., while created for serious incapacity, is also vague and could be used politically if VP, Cabinet, Congress were aligned about it:

          From about the 25th Amendment:
          Section 4 stipulates that when the vice president and a majority of a body of Congress declare in writing to the president pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House that the president is unable to perform the duties of the office, the vice president immediately becomes acting president.
          The president can then submit a written declaration to the contrary and resume presidential powers and duties—unless the vice president and a majority body of Congress declare in writing within four days that the president cannot perform his duties, in which case Congress will vote on the issue.
          Section 4 of the 25th Amendment has never been used, although the Reagan administration came close. 

          Also, Kavanaugh will be (I hope not, but is supposed to be) on the bench, and he’s written that indicting a sitting pres is too much burden for the pres and he’s against it. Surely this is an issue that’d reach the Supreme Court?…

        • Bob Conyers says:

          The 25th Amendment route takes a 2/3 majority in each house of Congress, which is an even higher bar in the House of Reps than impeachment. There is no way the 25th will be used short of a complete mental or physical breakdown. Partial won’t count.The GOP simply won’t get there, even if most begin to secretly yearn for Pence.

        • bmaz says:

          Well, the DOJ “policy” comes by way of two OLC memos that are pretty much cumulative. But there they still sit. Ken Starr, and his ethics advisor, Ron Rotunda, thought the memos wrong and were prepared to so argue. Never got to that, but they were loaded for bear on the issue. Frankly, I think they were right and the Rotunda memo is far more compelling than the standing OLC memos.

          That said, I think there is close to zero chance Mueller will go this route. A conspiracy indictment where Trump is an unindicted co-conspirator is best scenario possible.

        • AndTheSlithyToves says:

          First time poster here: Does the U.S. Constitution speak to any kind of remedy if an election subsequently turns out to have been illegitimate, i.e., results due to tampering, vote suppression, vote theft? What if Putin’s Kompromat is simply proof that Trump’s victory was a stolen one? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for all the hard work and analysis!

        • bmaz says:

          Not really, no, not per se. Impeachment is the provided for remedy. Which, for obvious reasons as to relative Congressional proportionment, is not going to happen.

        • Tracy says:

          bmaz: “I think there is close to zero chance Mueller will go this route. A conspiracy indictment where Trump is an unindicted co-conspirator is best scenario possible.”

          Tracy: “Too bad!”

  7. Terry Mroczek says:

    I believe Trump wants to sit down with Mueller for the following reasons:
    1. He sees himself as a “stable genius”, the master communicator and thinks he can talk his way out of anything. He will likely behave like he did at the Republican primaries and shout down whoever interviews him. He know feels empowered to say what he wants to say.
    2. He’s been in multiple depositions, so he believes he is good at them.
    3. Whether he does well or not, if he talks to Mueller, he will then be able to characterize the meeting as anything he wants and will likely portray himself as the victor, the amazing stable genius that out-smarted Mueller. Mueller likely won’t be able to respond as quickly and Trump’s supporters will only believe him.
    4. He can then claim innocence to the public, his willingness to talk shows that there was no collusion and now the investigation should end.
    That said, the interview will likely go very differently from what he expects, but in his mind, reality doesn’t matter – only how he characterizes it and defines it for his supporters.

    • Bob Conyers says:

      That may have been true a year ago, but now he knows he’s way over his head and it will never fly. He’s out of easy options and even he knows it.

    • Tracy says:

      Hi, Terry – Tim O’Brien, Trump biographer (“TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald”), and one of the few biographers actually sued by Trump (so he’s seen Trump on the stand – not pretty!!), countered Lawrence O’Donnell’s claim that Trump would never sit down with the special counsel. O’Brien said he could actually see it b/c of Trump’s complete disconnect from reality versus what a nightmarish witness he truly is. I can see how Trump is SO egotistical, and has said many times that only he can fix everything, that even knowing he’s guilty, he might think that he could just smoke the special counsel and lie to get himself out of anything (which is just delusional).

  8. Avattoir says:

    Old man goes out each morning with feed for pigeons. Feeds some pigeons. Others show up: Say, isn’t that the same old dude who pal’d around with Big Orange, the con artist with weird hair who used & abused & lied to us & now yells about how horrible we are & should be culled? Be better wary!

    So the old man goes out with New! Improved! Bigger Tasting! pigeon feed. The pigeons love his new product line – they eat it up! So very approximately filling! All free!

    Soon the old man is out every day with more of the new product line, sugar’d up to attract more pigeons, water’d down to provide to more pigeons, all so delicious, almost like filling, and easy. Pigeons don’t bother looking to anyone or anywhere else for feed, and just get fatter, and more trusting, and more vulnerable.

    Now it’s all just like when Big Orange used to work the real estate tabloid pigeon circuit: he took care of all cooking & delivery, so all those pigeons had to do was show up and be pigeons.

      • Tracy says:

        LOL! And the analogy is great: this is operant conditioning! A more sophisticated operant conditioning is “shaping,” when you “reward successive approximations of a target behavior” – by rewarding one small step at a time, you can train animals to do very complex things.

        It reminds me of how the mainstream press has slowly, in incremental steps, been rewarded for and trained to be OK with divorcing itself further and further from reality (i.e. the sheer insanity/ criminal activity at the source). If you look at the gap between where the presses’ reporting was yesterday and what’s really happening, the original position has been totally obscured.

        • Peacerme says:

          Yes. I fear the truth won’t be strong enough medicine for the fervor he foments. I fear the problems that have been created will take years to heal. It’s a race. He’s working his fascist magic as fast as he can. He will do whatever it takes. He’s already sold his country, he’s already sacrificed his most beloved, he’s already tortured children.

          “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Maya Angelou

          There is no line he won’t cross. He has demonstrated this.

        • Tracy says:

          Peacerme, I agree, I worry about long-and-hard-to-unwind consequences! :-(  On top of what you mention, also: the environment, the deficit, fair elections, faith in our institutions and democracy! I think that the actual institutions may have an easier time of bouncing back than will public perception.

  9. pseudonymous in nc says:

    It’s probably true that King Idiot spends his days imagining a face-to-face with Mueller where he leaves in triumph. But that should be reported as evidence of the marbles rattling inside his head, not of what Mueller is investigating.

  10. Trip says:

    CNN said Sarah Sanders should be choked (according to SS)? I somehow missed that.

    What I find insane is how everyone pretends that this administration, especially the president, is normal. Like there is this heavy suspension of disbelief that cloaks the entire room. Like Trump is aligned with INTEL. It’s so bizarre.

    • Trip says:

      Couldn’t fit this in before edit timed out, but holy shit: Sarah Huckster-b Sanders is a sour, bitter witch. Seriously, she is a mini-me of Trump. And Bolton looks like the walking corpse of some confederate soldier.

      • Tracy says:

        I think Bolton is also owned by Russia, remember that pro-gun-rights-in-Russia video he did? It stretches credulity that his position on Russia has changed 180 degrees since joining Trump admin.

        • Trip says:

          Bolton is a Zionist. And if Bibi was able to craft a deal with Putin, then Bolton would be all in. The hard right anti-Muslim, religious tyranny is wider than Trump/Putin. The Mercers, Kochs, and other shadow government figures are puppeteering this fascist charade. A larger scale of conspiracy exists beyond the goods the Russian mob holds over Trump. Or maybe we can euphemistically call it ‘diplomacy’.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The White House Press Corps would do us all a favor if its members boycotted Sanders.  Showing up every time she calls a meeting is giving a source protection when you know she’s lying to you with every breath.  That’s not journalism, it’s conspiracy.

      • Peterr says:

        The journalists at DOJ, State, DOD, DHS, and elsewhere around the cabinet departments should ask the departmental spokespeople the same question Acosta asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders: do you personally view the press as the enemy of the people?

        Put every department on record.

        Up on the Hill, Paul Ryan should be asked this question. Mitch McConnell should be asked this question. The chairs of relevant committees should be asked this question.

        And then go back to Sarah and ask “if you believe we are enemies of the people, under what charges will you have us arrested, and could you give us a hint as to when that will take place, so we can put our affairs in order?”

        I get that the media do not like making themselves the story, but this is nuts. Sarah said she was the first press secretary to require secret service protection. OK, but when the US Secret Service has to escort reporters out of a Trump rally (Hi, Katy Tur!), that speaks volumes about the dangers reporters face in simply trying to attend a Trump rally.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          One might say it is Trump who is making the press the story.  The press would be correcting the record.

          As for Trump’s rally performances, there are precedents that he invites himself. The Nuremberg Rallies, for example. Pity the Don hasn’t someone as talented as Leni Riefenstahl to document them. I’m afraid Sarah S. doesn’t hold a candle to her, but not for lack of trying.

        • Peterr says:

          When was Trump’s last full-blown press conference? Not “two questions for each world leader” thing after a visit with someone, but 30-90 minutes of back and forth with the full press corps?

          If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Sarah Huckabee Sanders is braver than Trump – but that would be unpossible.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          I think you could count the number of full-blown press conferences – not counting the fake ones he has while limping toward and shouting over the rotors of Marine One – that Trump has held since his inauguration on the fingers of one hand.  Another norm Mr. Trump has pissed on.

  11. Tracy says:

    Jill Wine-Banks (Watergate prosecutor) with Ali Velshi says: We need to stop calling this collusion; it’s conspiracy. We need to stop calling this the Mueller investigation; it’s the Russia investigation. (true story)

  12. holdingsteady says:

    Ollie mentioned Jeremy Scahill above, and I was reminded – and wanted to share – that Masha Gessen was on his Intercepted podcast last week, July 25. I really appreciate MG’s inside knowledge of how Putin operates.

  13. Chest Westerson says:

    Long time listener, first time caller.

    You touch on this a bit at the end, but I think we’re all curious as to Muller’s end game. What do you mean by implicating Trump? Is that indictment or naming him an unindicted co-conspirator? Are you in the “can’t indict a sitting president” camp?

  14. Rusharuse says:

    “Robert Mueller is investigating the President of the United States for willfully entering a conspiracy with Russians offering to help him get elected, I believe in exchange for certain policy considerations, including changes to US Syria policy.”

    Can I ask what the charge sheet for the above would look like?

Comments are closed.