William Barr’s Asymmetric Confusion about Shitty Mueller Reporting

It turns out that once and future Attorney General William Barr has been better able to wade past shitty reporting on the outcome of the Mueller investigation than he has shitty reporting on the public evidence about what Mueller has found.

In two of my posts on Barr’s memo about the Mueller investigation (one, two), I note that Barr’s project consists of writing up 19 pages on a subject that start with an admission he knows nothing about the subject.

Barr also adopts the logically and ethically problematic stance of assuming, in a memo that states, “I realize I am in the dark about many facts” in the second sentence, that he knows what Mueller is up to, repeating over and over claims about what theory of obstruction he knows Mueller is pursuing.

Both in his prepared statement yesterday and in his testimony, he excused his memo by blaming his badly mistaken understanding of what Mueller was doing on media reports.

[M]y memo was narrow in scope, explaining my thinking on a specific obstruction-of-justice theory under a single statute that I thought, based on media reports, the Special Counsel might be considering.

He’s not wrong! I have long bitched about shitty Mueller reporting that suggested Mueller was primarily investigating whether Trump obstructed justice. Such problems persist even in recent reports that the counterintelligence focus on Trump was any different from the obstruction inquiry.

The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.

That has, in turn, led to claims that the counterintelligence concerns stemmed exclusively from the firing of Jim Comey and not a slew of other behaviors going back some time before that.

So Barr might be excused for totally misunderstanding what the public evidence from the Mueller investigation actually showed (though not his willingness to comment without first learning what the evidence actually was), because most mainstream media reports badly misreported the public record.

Curiously, Barr didn’t get snookered by the other topic that is consistently badly reported (and badly reportedly, most likely, for the same reason — because Trump’s team has seeded that shitty reporting): whether and how Mueller will issue a report. A great deal of yesterday’s testimony pertained to whether Barr will release “the Mueller report.” Barr promised, in his his prepared testimony and later, to release as much of the results of the investigation as he could.

I also believe it is very important that the public and Congress be informed of the results of the Special Counsel’s work. For that reason, my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law.

But both Democratic and Republican Senators were concerned by that (which is itself a testament to wildly divergent understandings of what Mueller is looking at), with John Kennedy going so far as suggesting Barr should release all the grand jury materials and Dianne Feinstein conditioning her vote on whether Barr commits to make Mueller’s report public.

In fact, Barr did two things. First, he said he’d speak to Rod Rosenstein and Mueller to understand what their current plans for a report were. But he also repeatedly cited the regulations to argue that Mueller’s report is — by regulation — confidential.

For shits and giggles and because I knew what response I’d get, I asked Mueller’s spokesperson Peter Carr what form their report will take today. I wasn’t disappointed. His response was to attach their governing regulations and call attention to the language that describes the mandated Special Counsel Report.

Thanks for reaching out. All I can point you to is the regulations that govern our office, which are attached. Section 600.8 states the following:

(c) Closing documentation. At the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel. [my emphasis]

That is, if you ask Mueller — or the closest thing we get, his spokesperson — he will answer precisely what Barr did: that his mandated report is simply a confidential prosecutions and declinations report.

That shouldn’t be surprising, either. Mueller continues to use pseudonyms for identities of people in his filings — like Donald Trump himself — that are readily identifiable, based on the principle that DOJ doesn’t refer to uncharged individuals. It’s a principle that explains part of why Mueller submitted yesterday’s Manafort filing in heavily redacted form.

[T]he redactions relate to ongoing law enforcement investigations or uncharged individuals, and public disclosure of certain information in the submission could unduly risk harming those efforts.

In other words, virtually all of the coverage of the “Mueller report” has promised it will be something other than we had reason to believe — short of an indictment request overridden by the Attorney General — that it would be.

By the same token, there’s abundant reason to believe that that’s not what the “Mueller report” will be.

Yesterday, the same day questions about a Mueller report were central to Barr’s confirmation hearing, the WSJ reported this entirely unsurprising detail about Michael Cohen’s testimony before the Oversight Committee on February 7.

Mr. Cohen, who is scheduled to speak in an open hearing on Capitol Hill for the first time Feb. 7, won’t be able to talk about topics that he has discussed with special counsel Robert Mueller, according to a person close to Mr. Cohen.

The indication that Cohen’s testimony will be sharply limited (presumably based on the intercession of Mueller’s congressional liaison, Stephen Kelly, about whom we’re likely to hear more in coming days) suggests several things: First, Mueller doesn’t expect to be done with Michael Cohen by February 7. That, in turn, suggests that all the claims — which I’ve heard too — that Mueller will soon issue a “report” likely misunderstand what form that report will take, because a one-time report covering the importance of Trump Tower deals to entice Trump’s family would present little reason to silence Cohen next month, particularly because he’d be free to talk about it anyway. But if something more public — such as an indictment, even if it’s just of Trump Organization — or if a non-public report that can be conveyed to the House Judiciary Committee is in the works, then you’d want to silence Cohen. Indeed, contrary to a lot of other bad reporting, Cohen remains on the hook in his cooperation with Mueller; he won’t get a reduction in sentence until they decide he has done enough to get a year lopped off his existing sentence.

That many reporters are being told by reliable sources that Mueller will soon unveil a “report” and that Mueller still officially maintains that their required report won’t be public suggests Mueller is moving towards yet another speaking indictment, which is how he has always reported. That’s consistent with the limits on Cohen’s report, it’s consistent with reports that Mueller is presenting evidence against Jerome Corsi to a grand jury, and it’s consistent with what we saw in yesterday’s Manafort filing (which presented evidence of Trump campaign crimes dating to 2016).

I have my concerns about Barr, especially his willingness to make policy decisions informed only by right wing propaganda (on which point he was worse on his testimony about immigration and criminal justice issues than on Mueller). Those concerns extend to what will happen if Barr gets to decide what parts of a Mueller report gets made public; it’s clear that Barr currently believes that Mueller will issue a report finding that Trump did nothing criminal. Those concerns are heightened by the fact that on virtually every other topic, Barr had not done enough homework to answer basic questions (the most remarkable instance of which was his confession that he hasn’t read the Supreme Court’s decision in Carpenter), but he was prepared to state, correctly, that Mueller’s report will be confidential, addressed solely to him.

I have other concerns. Once CSPAN fixes their transcript, I hope to show how badly hypocritical Barr is about both Matt Whitaker and Donald Trump’s sleazy influence peddling. His comments about recusal from the Mueller investigation were troubling. And he seems to believe — as he explained to Patrick Leahy near the end of the hearing — that in November 2017 there remained, after DOJ had investigated both and after Mueller had rolled out the George Papadopoulos plea deal showing him trying to hide that he was discussing emails and meetings with Putin in the days after he became a foreign policy advisor to Trump, more evidence to support an investigation of the Uranium One and Clinton Foundation allegations than into “collusion.”

But Barr also strongly suggested he would not step in the way of any Mueller indictments. And Senators did get him on the record agreeing that if Trump suborned perjury it would be criminal. And he respects Mueller, so if Mueller shows him evidence that Trump has been gravely compromised, then he should take that evidence seriously.

Barr appears to be an arrogant man who believes right wing propaganda is sufficient evidence to base policy decisions on.

But he also has a better idea of what the regulations say to expect from a Mueller report — as distinct from Mueller indictments — than the Senators questioning him did.

Update: This useful JustSecurity piece lays out the regulations and the Attorney General’s discretion.

As I disclosed 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. 

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76 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    Barr seems to think that the AG’s job is about protecting the government from the consequences of its bad decisions, not defending the Constitution (including the amendments that conservatives would like to lose) or enforcing the existing laws (which generally protect reporters, regardless of whether they please the WH and conservatives).

  2. Rusharuse says:

    Repo’s revenge? They slipped a “Bushy” past Trump. Pence (or his replacement) await the call.

  3. RisingDown says:

    Question for our attorney friends: given that OSC has used speaking indictments so extensively throughout this process, would there be anything stopping Mueller and staff from dropping a rash of indictments (assuming they’re warranted) with non-redacted speaking indictments at the same time they issue a final report to Barr?

    In other words, could potential withholding of info from a final report by Barr be flanked this way?

    And my thanks, again, to Marcy and the full Crew here for all this dedicated work.

    • Yosemite says:

      RisingDown,

      According to Reuters:
      Under the special counsel regulation, [the AG] has the power to block any “investigative or procedural step” Mueller recommends, such as bringing an indictment or subpoena, if he determines it to be “inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices.”
      [The AG] would be required to notify Congress of such a decision.

      • Mona Williams says:

        It seems to me that RisingDown was referring to the use of indictments to get information out. Wouldn’t this purpose be served even if the indictments were blocked?

  4. maestro says:

    My sense of this whole situation is that Barr thinks highly enough of Mueller that if the SCO presents him with ironclad proof of wrongdoing, he won’t stand in their way and will defer to his friend.

    He’s a very ideological, conservative Republican, but he’s not a hatchet-man. He’s inclined by nature to take an expansive view of the powers of the presidency and probably predisposed to assume that this is all a bunch of nonesense drummed up by Democrats and the media.

    But I also think that Barr’s relationship with Mueller is such that when he is read into the true facts, if those facts show unambiguous proof of wrongdoing, he will believe his friend.

    Which is probably the best we can honestly hope for in this regard. Barr’s beliefs, prejudices, and outlook are a reasonable approximation of the average Republican Senator. So if the evidence isn’t overwhelming and incontrovertible enough to convince a man like Barr, it definitely isn’t going to be enough to convince 20 GOP senators and a chunk of the public.

    • BobCon says:

      My take is that Barr may act as you say and not stand in the way of Mueller, but the motivation is more likely self interest.

      I think he’s more savvy than typical Trumpies in recognizing that blocking legitimate Mueller indictments runs the risk of Congress finding out anyway. He also may need to shut down the work of other prosecutors (who are not necessarily as leak resistant as Mueller). There is also the danger of  a future administration picking up the trail and fingering him, and the risk that the intelligence community or people within DOJ will leak damning information about a bald power play.

      If this happens during much later than now, he risks becoming a scapegoat during a lame duck administration with little interest in protecting him.

      He’s seen the heartburn Trump has caused people like Kelly and Sessions. I’m not so sure Barr would want to join them.

  5. NorskieFlamethrower says:

    Thank you Marcy, after reading this I am several steps back from the ledge I’ve been on all day. I do have one question that I hope someone here can answer: what happens if the new Attorney General decides to summarily fire Mueller, given that the courts are now packed from top to bottom where it matters?

    • maestro says:

      The courts aren’t quite packed the way you’re thinking. In the DC District Court, which would have jurisdiction over SCO-related disputes, there are 22 active judges. A majority of them (13) were appointed by Democratic presidents, and just three were appointed by Trump. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals has 16 active judges, half of which were appointed by Democratic presidents and just one was appointed by Trump.

      When you get to the Supreme Court, then, what matters is whether you can convince John Roberts.

  6. Trip says:

    Laurence Tribe mentioned (in re to DOJ regs) that Barr would follow them, and they are: 1). you can’t indict a sitting president and 2). you don’t release dirt on an un-indicted person, then what could/would be released under Barr’s conditions of strictly following guidelines? It sounds like he’d bury anything related to Trump. Did anyone else listen to this, in case I misstated it?

    • P J Evans says:

      As I understand it, there isn’t any rule that says that a sitting president can’t be indicted for actual crimes. I will defer to actual lawyers on this, though.

      • Trip says:

        Here’s the clip (in the tweet link). Tribe said Barr believes that a president can not be indicted. (I don’t think that has been tested).

        Here’s the clip:

        TheBeat w/Ari Melber‏Verified account @TheBeatWithAri

        “If you can’t indict him” and can’t include “negative information” in report to Congress, “You are essentially foreclosing anything that will hold [Trump] accountable” – @tribelaw
        https://twitter.com/TheBeatWithAri/status/1085686898700496896

        • P J Evans says:

          I seem to recall there’s another one that says that presidents can be indicted. Neither has been run past a court – yet.

          • Trip says:

            That would require Mueller pushing the envelope up to indictment (which he’s not likely to pursue) and then Barr’s approval (if appointed), right? I think the AG can kill indictments.

            • Geoff says:

              Gee, makes you long for the days of Sessions! Who’d a thunk!? (Sigh.) I kid, but at least Sessions didn’t block any indictments. Or at least none that I know of. Or did he and we just don’t know? This is probably the only good thing I can think about him. But with competition like Whitaker and Barr, heck, stable genius!

            • timbo says:

              Does or doesn’t the AG need to report to Congress if he disagrees with the Special Counsel’s recommendation to charge or report in general and thus quashes indictments and recommendations, etc?  I’m thinking he does, particularly if the Congress directly asks AG for his direct actions in the matter.  Same would go for AAG too I should imagine…

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Barr may be an ideological conservative whom the FedSoc persuaded to return to the DoJ to save what’s left of the GOP from itself. But he’s proven equally capable of being a hatchet man.

    Barr was George H.W. Bush’s AG for the second half of his administration, which included the part where Poppa pardoned half a dozen of his closest friends for their work for him and Reagan during the Iran-Contra campaign.

    Barr, a former CIA man, like Poppa, worked extensively with him over those pardons, apparently arguing strenuously for the pardon of former SecDef Caspar Weinberger, who knew where a lot of the bodies were buried. Indirectly, those pardons helped shield Poppa for his own actions during that period.

    Barr is no stranger when it comes to protecting a president – and his party – from his own worst actions. That part of Barr’s bio would have especially interested the FedSoc and Trump.

  8. Semanticleo says:

    I’m not so sure Mueller wont pull the chicken switch similar to the self-serving Comey gut-punch to the 2016 election .

    Just like Ford’s default to the ‘Good of the Nation’ he might give another, fatal head-wound to democracy.

    • Trip says:

      I think he’s a by-the-book guy, which is not what is needed when the book has been stomped on, torn, thrown across the room and then set on fire by the GOP.

  9. Andy says:

    “Barr appears to be an arrogant man who believes right wing propaganda is sufficient evidence to base policy decisions on.” 

    Marcy pointed to the most important observation about Barr’s testimony, his arrogance. He obviously would test off the scale for intelligence as well which few senators were able to compete with.

    Simple question to Barr. If current DOJ guidance is that a sitting president cannot be indicted and declination of indictment requires that information about an un-indicted person remain confidential, doesn’t that suggest the special counsel’s regulations covering closing document reporting guidelines did not properly account for a President being the subject of an investigation? Should not an exception be required to accommodate this condition or allow for indictments that toll till the President leaves office?

    Finally, if ever there was a reason for recusal, William Barr is the poster child for that. In effect, the President is choosing his supervising prosecutor. This after his first two choices did not cooperate or were prevented from cooperating with him.

  10. Trip says:

    POLITICO‏Verified account @politico

    Lawyers for the General Services Administration chose to “ignore” the U.S. Constitution and other legal precedents when they allowed the Trump International Hotel to maintain its lease on the Old Post Office building even after Trump became president
    https://twitter.com/politico/status/1085669304136286210

    So what happens now? NOTHING, right?

    • Kokuanani says:

      A Congresswoman from NV, who will be chair of House Government Oversight Committee [sorry, I was listening to tv in other room while typing, so may not have this straight] was just on Rachel Maddow and said that her committee would be having hearings to inquire into this Trump Hotel/GSA question.

        • Rayne says:

          LOL I’d be good with seizing all the earnings made by any person or entity who had business before the White House or Congress.

          I’d also like to know why the tower remains staffed by federal personnel in the Trump Hotel-DC. Is the tower being used for other purposes, say as a Stingray antenna?

      • harpie says:

        The Chairman of that committee is Elijah Cummings. He made this statement, yesterday:
        Statement on Scathing Inspector General Report on Trump Hotel 1/16/19

        […] This devastating new report from the Inspector General is proof that President Trump should have divested his business interests rather than ignoring the advice of ethics experts.[…] I have been trying for years to get documents from GSA related to this issue, but they have refused to provide them, preferring instead to litigate the matter. The Trump Hotel is a glaring physical symbol of the Trump Administration’s refusal to play by the same rules as everyone else.” [More info there.]

  11. Alan says:

    @ P J Evans

    I think you recall incorrectly.

    @ Trip

    The Special Counsel can certainly recommend that the President be indicted, and most likely the Attorney General would overrule that recommendation on the grounds of the OLC opinion, and then the Congress would have to be notified of the SC recommendation and the AG’s overrule.

    • Trip says:

      But do you really think Mueller would take that step? I seem to recall that he was of the same mind at some point (that you can’t indict a president), or that he wouldn’t overstep guidelines and whatnot.

      If nothing comes out officially, and yet there is evidence, you can almost guarantee that angry people will leak if it doesn’t see the light of day. And that will create an enormous amount of chaos with the GOP unwilling to accept it or do anything about it, that would wrest away their power. The loons will just call it deep state machinations.

      • Alan says:

        I think it’s possible–AFAIK there’s no rule or policy that would forbid a member of the DOJ from recommending that the policy be changed.

  12. Trip says:

    Cohen agreeing with Tribe v. Barr:
    Stanley Cohen‏ @StanleyCohenLaw 29m29 minutes ago

    Some suggest a sitting president cannot be indicted while in office with impeachment & trial by Congress as the sole vehicle 4 his or her accountability for alleged high crimes & misdemeanors. If so how can the executive constitutionally withhold 2 years of investigation into
    him or her from consideration as evidence against them by a coequal branch of government. Putting aside the not insurmountable issue of acesss to grand jury testimony suppression of the uncovered evidence all but guarantees that a president cannot be held accountable at all.
    https://twitter.com/StanleyCohenLaw/status/1085704994714640386

    I guess that is IF Mueller’s report would otherwise include a detailed accounting on Trump.

    • Avattoir says:

      “I guess that is IF Mueller’s report would otherwise include a detailed accounting on Trump.”

      Trip (I hope) will forgive me for enlisting his struggle to understand, in the cause of trying to bring some sense of … I don’t even know what to call it:

      context? framework: order? organization? – to the TENSION among a number of factors.

      I start with a partial list that IMO contains some not all the biggest factors:

      – Things Mueller Can Do

      – Things Mueller Will Do

      – Things Barr Might Do

      – Things Trump Might Do.

      Annnnnd immediately we see problems inherent in this approach, including:

      a ) there are material (to put it mildly) limits on what we know of the OSC work product;

      b ) if Barr is an agenda-ridden type whose arrogance empowers him to fly if anything faster and with greater risk on instruments failure (which, as the case is with many folks whose appearances and presentations are largely outward projections designed chiefly to hide their underlying agendas, he is), then we have to allow for what all was implied in dialog between Jake Gittes and Noah Cross in Chinatown:

      Cross: “Exactly what do you know about me? Sit down.”

      Gittes: “Mainly that you’re rich, and too respectable to want your name in the newspapers.”

      Cross: “Course I’m respectable: I’m OLD! Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.”

      Gittes : “How much are you worth?”

      Cross : “I have no idea. How much do you want?”

      Gittes : “I just wanna know what you’re worth. More than 10 million?”

      Cross : “Oh my yes!”

      Gittes : “Then why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What could you buy that you can’t already afford?”

      Cross : “The FUTURE, Mr. Gits! The FUTURE! …” 

      Cross : “… You see, Mr. Gits: most people never have to face the fact that, at the right time and the right place, they’re capable of — ANY thing.”

      c ) And that’s just Barr.

      Consider what Trump might be capable of doing.

      Okay, chastened by that, what are the factors in this interaction? IMO these are The Big Ones:

      1. What fearless leader has posted here (which I agree with).

      2. The Catch 22-ish legacy of OLC opinions that for the most part reflect devices created by devotees of the Unitary Executive Project hammering away at structural safeguards and norms during post-Nixon R admins, whether as stated in the constitution and various amendments, or beating the piss out of judicial opinions over the time since the Founding.

      3. The Special Counsel regs, devised chiefly under Neal Katyal serving during the late stages of Bill Clinton’s second term, aimed at succeeding expiry in 1999 of the independent counsel provisions of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978.

      and

      4. The bubbling stew implied from Barr’s associations, including:

      – his past history in government, particularly in the DoJ (which is notable, AOT, for including a stint in OLC, the very office which produced the policy against indicting sitting POTUSes), and in his conduct while serving as acting AG then confirmed AG under GHWB;

      – Barr’s post-DoJ work & associations, the part of his post-GHWB career expressed in pieces found in law school, lawyerlyish association, political and business publications, as well as his paid speechifying on the various conservative, political power establishment, business and borderline wingnut paid-talk circuits (all of which show a dizzying myriad of confluences and tributaries in common), most of which, including even some law journal pieces would not look out of place in reading thru an out-dated edition of Wing Nut Daily while in the waiting room of your dentist;

      – the 2018 “memo” Barr concocted – at least primarily, because there’s no way he didn’t have help in learning what buttons to push with Trump – then somehow caused to be passed around certain Beltway power centers last summer; and

      – his testimony in this confirmation process, particularly in how he’s responded to unfriendly questioning.

      On to cases.

      I start with what you posted, the quote I’ve used as a point of departure:

      I. Will Mueller’s report otherwise include a detailed accounting on Trump?

      “Will this wind be so mighty as lay low the mountains of the Earth?”

      No.

      Such does not flow from the regs.

      If Mueller were to try that or anything remotely like –

      I believe he will not try, &, going further, that Barr is pretty confident Mueller will not try, &, still further, that Barr’s expectations in this vein explain Barr’s (correct) assertion on the nature of an SC closing report (to the supervisory authority: Rosenstein, possibly Whitaker but I doubt he did anything, soon Barr), as well as Barr’s hedge as to what if anything He, Barr might report to Congress (should He, Barr determine to use the wording of the applicable regulation to forestall Mueller from communicating any such thing to Congress).

      II. Can Barr fire Mueller?

      Yes.

      There’s the matter of that working in the regs: “cause”. But that’s just technical wet work: Barr will do what Barr figures he can plus get away with.

      III. Will Barr fire Mueller?

      Maybe.

      There’s a post up-thread here in which is raised the supposed “friendship” of Barr & Mueller – presumably as providing some comfort in this regard.

      Uh, no. They had cordial work relations back in the day; I had lots of those over my years prosecuting. We’ve all had such relationships – indeed, part of growing up is learning how to deal with the fact that you just can’t rely on that back in the day you played on the same team. And those who advertise such ephemeral things, as Barr has, do so on the default setting: an obvious intent to create an image.

      Such are among the LEAST bankable of feelings, often worse than dealing with enemies.

      There’s also the matter of dealing with agenda-ridden power players who hide behind outward appearances of establishmentarian sobriety and institutional fanboyism: it’s an act. They offer both cover and a convenient, marketable platforms from which to work at a safe remove from events as they unfold, ultimately & always serving the agenda or themselves or both.

      Anyone who thinks Mueller now expects his role to BENEFIT from some “friendship” with Barr should shake out the sillies. The ‘real’ benefit in their going back lies in Mueller having a better understanding about what all of which Barr is capable.

      Rather, I think part of Barr’s message in this  was not just to senators or the public, but to Mueller: Barr’s arrogance MAY be such that he imagines he can succeed in influencing Mueller’s work in certain directions, I don’t know (Who TF knows anyone else’s actual thoughts?). Regardless, the message is: Bob, we’ll get along or [see II. above].

      [FWIW: Recall that Rosenstein actually INTERNED in Mueller’s office while still at Harvard Law. I’d imagine that’d leave a mark, one distinguishable from whatever impression, if any, might be left on an already-established CIA legal counsel shuffled into and then around the DoJ as ‘needed’ by a POTUS who’d been a CIA asset then DNI over 4 decades before being elected VPOTUS under a POTUS happy with Being There functionally oblivious of the CIA.).

      IV. Is Trump serving the agenda of the Unitary Executive Project?

      It’s not possible to give one definite answer.

      The answers:

      – No, or at least not entirely, in the sense of outward appearances

      – Yes, in the sense that the Prime Directive is to control society’s key institutions, something Trump brings to the GOP to such an extent as can appear irreplaceable

      (“Not many people know it, but the Fuhrer was a TERRIFIC dancer”

      “… Churchill … does ROTTEN painting, ROTTEN … Hitler, now THERE was a painter: he could paint an entire apartment in one afternoon, TWO COATS!”

      – Yes, very much so, in a number of practical ways, most obviously by facilitating Leonard Leo’s packing of the federal courts with parallel universe / Bizarro World types: anti-women’s & -LGBTQ rights activists, bad actors, bullies, “conservatives”, con artists, corruptibles, grifters, misogynists, morons, nativists, nitwits, racists, religiots, and white supremacists (“and METHODISTS!”), nurtured in & by the most radical activist wing of the Federalist Society, in ways that can be only be reasonably expected to severely retard the Rule of Law for decades to come at least.

      • Trip says:

        This reply was a masterful work of art, a thing of beauty. I laughed, I (felt like I should) cry…

        Thanks for every bit of knowledge and wisdom you’ve shared here.

      • Greenhouse says:

        Holy sh#t Avattoir, your chinatown references, among just about everything else, are pure gold, genius even! Puts the “P” back in perspective, hoo haw!!!

  13. Peacerme says:

    👏👏👏👏

    Tonight catching up on the news of the day, that familiar knot in my stomach builds as I read through these posts. Occasionally I feel better. This blog is to my tummy as hot spicy food is to my tongue. I love the burn. Carry on and thank you!

  14. punaise says:

    Oh, “collUsion”… silly me, all this tine I’ve been saying “no collision”, which remains true! Glad we got that sorted out.

  15. new-radical says:

    Big strategic question – what do we want from the Mueller probe? Answer – probably depends on who asks the question.

    If its justice, well what’s your theory of justice?…

    But if its bring down Trump and the concomitant Trumpism (worldwide), then operational/tactical questions like “can the President be indicted?” are irrelevant. We don’t need to go there.

    When people tell you ‘who they are’, you should at least listen to (ok believe) them. Mueller has told us who he is throughout his entire career. He is a staid old-fashioned Conservative, with all that goes with that, including the ethics. He is epistemically, not necessarily politically, conservative.

    He will indict up the food-chain. … Whoever, I don’t know. Perhaps: Corsi, Stone, Jared and Jr. He will not need to indict a sitting President because when (if) he gets to Ivanka, the President’s brain will implode (this will be a very small but significant implosion).

    So the strategic question seems to me to be: can Barr stop Mueller from indicting people for whom Mueller believes he has a strong case? Can he stop all the other cases that could be brought by all and everyone who might have the capacity? Will he fight his “good friend ‘Bob'”?

    Are Barr’s conservative principals as strong as Mueller’s epistemic ones?

    It is for these reasons that I believe that there is no off-ramp for Trump.
    And all this depends on whether the Trumps are all really nice people dedicated to the service of the Nation… Because of course if Bob finds nothing…

    • Rayne says:

      I don’t know what you’re smoking but you should share.

      It’s not about what “we want from the Mueller probe.” It’s about this authorization, the August 2, 2017 memorandum confirming certain portions of the investigation as within the authorization’s scope, and whether the SCO’s work follows it and whether Barr tries to limit or otherwise interfere with it.

      Trulli

      Now we know that some of the redacted items in the August 2nd memo may pertain to matters arising from counterintelligence investigation.

      None of this has anything to do at all with the niceness of people who may be subjects or targets or investigators or prosecutors. This isn’t a high school popularity contest; this is a nation of laws executing its laws.

  16. Trip says:

    More fuckery:

    Chris Vickery‏Verified account @VickerySec

    Was checking on something earlier within the AggregateIQ repo files and this caught my eye- Hmmm. What an odd language choice for a Canadian “web marketing” company with “no ties to Russia” to use in a walk-the-neighborhood canvassing software project. I wonder how that happened.
    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Dw7LP_PUwAAMAGX.jpg:large

  17. Trip says:

    This is a real emergency:

    Climate Change-Driven Heat Wave Killed a Third of a Bat Population in Two Days
    Almost one third of a bat species population in Australia perished during a heat wave in November 2018.
    https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/59vn8k/climate-change-driven-heat-wave-killed-a-third-of-a-bat-population-in-two-days
    Compare and contrast:
    Not the greatest crisis’: Trump’s EPA pick Andrew Wheeler downplays climate threat
    https://www.rawstory.com/2019/01/not-greatest-crisis-trumps-epa-pick-andrew-wheeler-downplays-climate-threat/

  18. harpie says:

    Trump parrots Putin:

    Peter Baker, NYT, 5:39 AM – 16 Jan 2019:

    In Hamburg, Trump said Putin denied election hack but told him that “if we did, we wouldn’t have gotten caught because we’re professionals.” Trump said: “I thought that was a good point because they are some of the best in the world.” @SangerNYT

    Laura Rozen, 5:50 AM – 16 Jan 2019:

    so, Trump called David Sanger from plane in Hamburg to say off record Putin said didn’t attack USelex, Russian hackers too good 2get caught?/ the journalist who wrote several books on cyber attacks? 

    Then, as Jim Sciutto, 5:12 AM – 17 Jan 2019 notes:

    We now know that Trump then repeatedly shared Putin’s talking point, telling Reuters on July 12, 2017 for instance, “Somebody did say if he did do it, you wouldn’t have found out about it. Which is a very interesting point.”  // That “somebody” was apparently the Russian president.

    …and that’s why David Sanger could talk about this part of an otherwise “off the record” conversation, as he explains in this interview with New Day, this morning

  19. harpie says:

    FACEBOOK, today:

    1] https://twitter.com/DFRLab/status/1085828515273105408 1:17 AM – 17 Jan 2019 
    BREAKING: Facebook just took down a major network of fake pages run y Sputnik employees in the former USSR. // Read our analysis here:
    2] https://twitter.com/moira/status/1085891671345094658 5:28 AM – 17 Jan 2019

    Wow. This is big. Facebook took down accounts backed by Russia posting anti-NATO content throughout Europe. / Incredible. This is a coordinated network across multiple countries backed directly by a state-run entity. This is a bold move by Facebook to directly take on a state-run “media” outlet like this. We haven’t seen that before.

  20. Trip says:

    In light of the revelations about Falwell’s IT guy rigging polls with Cohen, remember this, Liberty University is TAX EXEMPT as a religious institute.

    My Weekend at the Falwells’ South Beach Flophouse

    Liberty University presents itself as a temple of virtue. But its founding family’s secret Miami hostel is a cesspool of vice.To keep its tax exemption, Liberty is prohibited from taking a political position or endorsing a particular candidate….Falwell himself, who in 2016 endorsed Trump during the Republican primary, just ahead of the Iowa caucuses. Falwell has maintained that his endorsement was as a private citizen and is no reflection of his relationship with the school.
    https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/08/25/jerry-falwell-miami-hostel-liberty-university-trey-falwell-215528

    Also of note, for a buttoned-up institution of enforced repression in Liberty (ironic use of name), the hostel Falwell financed, for an attractive pool boy (he met at a hotel) to make income, is “gay friendly”. It doesn’t get any more cliche than that. Supposedly Cohen offered guidance on that purchase.

    • Trip says:

      Remember that Barr asserted that self-control comes through religion? He never heard about the hostel, I guess. Nor the systematic sexual abuse of children by clergy in another religious institution.

  21. Rayne says:

    For ‘jill01’ who attempted to leave a comment:
    — Share original sources. A trigger warning “conservative” on a right-wing website which simply regurgitates yet another right-wing website’s material isn’t going to cut it. We aren’t going to allow traffic from this site to be driven there for harvesting for any use.
    — Sharing another attempt to attack a member of law enforcement with spin also isn’t going to cut it.

  22. Trip says:

    Insanely long thread, a long trail and a lot of connections (Christian right, Trump), some loose, others more definitively. Includes muckraking by Vickery, others, ends with a Hungarian connection. I’m not sure what to make of all of it:
    ArsonCrafts‏ @visionsurreal

    THREAD: The Christian Right had their own “Cambridge Analytica” in the 2016 election, aided by 20,000 pastors. The tech guy behind this has ties to Hungary, a known hub for RU intel activity. Do parishioners know they were, and still are, targets of big data campaigns?
    https://twitter.com/visionsurreal/status/1071957402604449797

    Earlier:
    Are Christian conservatives behind breach of 18 million voter records?

    As best Vickery could tell, the data stemmed from evangelical Christian activists who had compiled it for political outreach…If regulators and law enforcers were inclined to do anything about it, where would they even begin?…Vickery also quickly uncovered a second, potentially more sinister online breach affecting about 18 million people. That data included dozens of additional details, from hunting interests and religious views to income levels and even whether the person is a fan of NASCAR.Other categories included cellphone numbers, occupations and religious identities, as well as notations for whether individuals made campaign contributions, gave to religious organizations, had a “Bible lifestyle” or owned a gun.
    https://www.revealnews.org/article/are-christian-conservatives-behind-breach-of-18-million-voter-records/

    Right-Wing Company Of Convicted Embezzler Turned Christian Linked To Huge Leaks Of US Voter Records
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbrewster/2016/01/04/191-million-leak-bill-dallas-christian-anti-abortion/

  23. new-radical says:

    @Rayne 10.20
    What a surprise, straight to an ad hominem attack. I haven’t smoked anything in 45 years.
    But you appear to live in the adversarial world of the lawyer.
    If you understood a little of the philosophical construct of Critical Realism you might not be so certain of your own position and that I am a fool who smokes.
    The suggestion of CR is that ontology (what it is that we can know) is real – but that epistemology (how it is that we can know it ) is relative. This is quite a different concept to the post-modernist view of relative truth.
    A way to understand this is that we are all exposed to the same set of facts (ontology) but we view them differently (epistemology) because our understanding is constrained by the lenses of all the knowledge and experiences that are unique to our individual selfs.
    So my lens is that of an organisational strategist, set in a Complexity paradigm and yours would appear to be that of a lawyer, informed by your own personal life experiences.
    I have attached a couple of links to info on Critical Realism:

    https://centreforcriticalrealism.com/about-critical-realism/

    http://www.asatheory.org/current-newsletter-online/what-is-critical-realism

    You might think that you are way smarter than a fool who smokes, perhaps you might kindly use those smarts to answer the question of whether Barr can stop the Mueller indictments.
    The comment about people being kind was, to use the language of this site, “A FUCKING IRONIC JOKE!
    This is your site and so if you do not want my perspective here, that’s fine, tell me and I will go away. There are many lawyers here, steeped in the tradition of the adversarial system. I had thought that a different perspective might have been of value to the discussion.
    The country is indeed one of laws, I am not such a simpleton that I need to have a copy of the Special Counsel’s rules to inform me.

    • Rayne says:

      Hardly an ad hominem when one genuinely believes the other person is using — and again, selfishly. You’re getting quite hot under the collar when my point was this: you’ve spent more than 600 meandering words to ask whether Barr can stop the Mueller indictments.

      As for a response to the question of whether Barr can stop the Mueller indictments: this hasn’t been fully tested ; depending on which specific Mueller indictments you mean, there’s no precedent. Barr’s appointment could itself be obstruction if there was a belief on the part of the White House that Barr would interfere with the Special Counsel’s Office including “stop the Mueller indictments.”

      • new-radical says:

        Well done to EW – Keep up the good work.

        If this site can’t allow me 600 words, or whatever to set the scene for my arguments then I have nothing more to say. I don’t comprehend the English of your first sentence. Are you suggesting that I am in some way selfish in using 600 words?

        I have invested many hours in posts over the last several weeks to explore the implications of Complexity within the confines of EW’s posts and the excellent comments from the responders. I have been asked several questions and have tried to respond to every one. These posts and responses are my own, and the errors are mine. I have acknowledged my errors and made a public apology to you.

        I’ve really enjoyed Marcy, I’ve tried to engage but I have no use for the blinding bias of an adversarial lawyer just looking for another fight. I can get that from Trumpers. You control the bully pullpit, so give me another ad hominem… or whatever, you are the judge, jury and hangman…

        But don’t bother, I’m out of here.

        • Rayne says:

          Buh-bye. I should point out I’m not a lawyer. You might try being a little less reflexive and more concise in comment systems read by a large percentage of this community on mobile devices.

        • Rayne says:

          Likely. And if he doesn’t take ethics officials’ recommendation into consideration and recuse himself — assuming ethics recommends he does so — and suppresses the indictments anyhow?

          You don’t have to answer that. I think we know at some point it all goes pear shaped.

  24. Richard G says:

    I found this from Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald really interesting on the question of whether or not Mueller will issue a “comprehensive” report as so many assume, including people in high places with inside understanding.  In the press conference where he unsealed the indictment of Scooter Libby (10/28/05),

    Fitzgerald said:

    QUESTION: I think you, kind of, answered this but I assume that you have no plans and don’t even think you’d be allowed to issue a final report of any sort.

    FITZGERALD: You’re correct. But let me explain that.

    I think what people may be confused about is that reports used to be issued by independent counsels. And one of the complaints about the independent counsel statute was that an ordinary citizen, when investigated, they’re charged with a crime or they’re not; they’re not charged with a crime, people don’t talk about it.

    Because of the interest in making sure that — well, there’s an interest in independent counsels to making sure those investigations were done thoroughly but then people ended up issuing reports for people not charged. And one of the criticisms leveled was that you should not issue reports about people who are not charged with a crime.

    That statute lapsed. I’m not an independent counsel, and I do not have the authority to write a report, and, frankly, I don’t think I should have that authority. I think we should conduct this like any other criminal investigation: charge someone or be quiet.

    QUESTION: Isn’t it kind of true that Mr. Comey’s letter to you makes you in essence almost a de facto attorney general and you can abide or not abide by the CFRs or the regulations as to whether or not to write — to write a report or not to write a report?

    And the follow-up is, every special counsel prior to you has in fact written a report and turned it over to Congress, and they’ve gotten around the grand jury issue as well.

    FITZGERALD: Let me say this. I think any prior special counsel may have been special counsel appointed to — certain regulations for people outside the Department of Justice, which I do not fit into. I’m not an independent counsel. I may be unique in this sense. I can tell you, I’m very comfortable, very clear that I do not have that authority.

    And the extent that I was given sort of the acting attorney general hat for this case, it’s the acting attorney general, but the attorney general can’t violate the law. And the law on grand jury secrecy is the law.

    So I may have a lot of power for this one case in the acting attorney general hat, but I followed the Code of Federal Regulations in this case, and I certainly would follow the law.”  end of quote

    A week or two earlier, NYT had run a story speculating about an upcoming “report” in much the same vein as what we keep hearing.

    I believe Marcy covered that investigation intensively, so no wonder she’s educated us not to count on a Starr-like encyclopedic report.

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