The Carr Correction and the Barr Pseudo Exoneration

Last week, Buzzfeed released part of a package of materials that Michael Cohen’s lawyers provided to Congress in what appears a last minute bid to stay out of prison. While it still represents just Cohen’s self-interested view (and not any of the corroborating information that Mueller’s team surely has), it makes it clear why Buzzfeed felt justified in claiming that Trump “directed” Cohen to lie. The most shocking new detail is that after Cohen testified, Trump’s lawyer (this package doesn’t reveal whether it was Jay Sekulow or someone else) called Cohen to congratulate him.

Trump knew with certainty that Cohen continued to discuss the Moscow Trump Tower project well beyond January 31, 2016. Yet after the testimony, Cohen received a call from Trump’s attorney, who congratulated him on the testimony – and said his “client” was happy with Cohen’s testimony.

Still, a call from one lawyer in a joint defense agreement to someone else in the JDA — a call that by description Cohen didn’t record — is not sufficient evidence to charge someone with suborning perjury.

Nevertheless, this new evidence may explain why Buzzfeed remains confident in its characterization that Trump directed Cohen to lie.

More importantly, it raises even more questions about why Peter Carr corrected the Buzzfeed characterization. As I noted at the time, someone from Rod Rosenstein’s office called Mueller’s office before they did make a correction. And the next day, Rudy Giuliani claimed credit for getting Mueller to correct the story.

And here we are, not three months later, learning new details of how closely involved Trump’s lawyers were in orchestrating Cohen’s testimony while Attorney General Bill Barr (who had been appointed but not confirmed at the time of the story) withholds Mueller’s own view of those documents, and just weeks after Barr and Rosenstein usurped the role of Congress to declare that the President’s behavior — including efforts, however inadequately supported by admissible evidence, to suborn perjury — does not amount to criminal obstruction of justice.

The details behind Rosenstein’s call and Rudy’s victory lap are not yet public; they’re certainly something the House Judiciary Committee should pursue.

But we can see how important that correction, unique in the history of the Mueller investigation, was to what has come since. The Buzzfeed story elicited the kinds of response that the long trajectory of seeing Trump direct lies should have, the recognition that that such actions might amount to impeachable offenses (which is different than Barr’s judgment about obstruction of justice, even assuming many things didn’t make that judgment suspect). By “correcting” a statement that seems utterly reasonable now, DOJ preserved the opportunity for Rosenstein and Barr to weigh in, however inappropriately.

Even at the time, it appeared that Rosenstein’s (office’s) intervention and Rudy’s victory lap (to say nothing of the campaign rolled out against Buzzfeed, including CNN doing a hit piece against Jason Leopold) should have gotten more attention than the hyperparsing of a word that was readily explainable on its face. That’s all the more clear now.

Had Buzzfeed not been corrected for what now seems an even more defensible word choice, Barr would not have had the opportunity to put his thumb on the scale of injustice.

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

201 replies
  1. Michael says:

    I think the issue is that Trump saying “Michael, lie about Trump Tower Moscow” would definitely be impeachable, while Trump hinting it obliquely might not be.

    • bmaz says:

      Trump did not “hint obliquely”. Cohen said it was crystal clear. And if you think that such coded orders conveyed cannot suffice for prosecution and conviction, I suggest you go research the long history of mob and drug conspiracy cases where exactly that occurred.

      • Maestro says:

        Perhaps a better way of framing it would be to say that while coded orders are sufficient to convict mobsters and drug traffickers, they provide just enough plausible deniability for Republican politicians to cling to and avoid having to do anything to hold him accountable.

        • bmaz says:

          Maybe, but there are real courts where that junk does not necessarily hold. This is why, in considering both the Mueller and Barr reports, it should always be kept in mind that they think (correctly under DOJ policy) that they could not indict Trump under any circumstance. That in no way invitiates that, but for that policy, he would be indicted.

          • dwfreeman says:

            Yes, the Trump family has a lot of buffers. Michael Cohen used to be one of them. And then he started taping his boss and then squealing on him after Trump failed to treat his former fixer with executive privilege. Especially not too long after the feds raided his home and office.

            It is interesting to note that Rudy Giuliani disappeared from the TV scene as primary legal spokesman for Trump after the Buzzfeed story broke. This was supposedly because of a major error in judgment in acknowledging that Trump had, in fact, pursued the Trump Tower Moscow project through the close of the 2016 presidential election. Why such a confirmation, which at the time seemed huge and the best evidence of a certain conspiracy?

            Many accused Giuliani of loose legal lips, but changing the facts as needed has been a trademark of Trump. And his legal team and their supporters have simply followed suit whenever the situation has warranted.

            And as we’ve seen with Barr manipulating the storyline of the Mueller Report, Trump keeps getting the public benefit of the legal doubt.

            So, much of what he did is on the public record, done in plain view and highly visible, and because of that Barr claimed there was less criminal viability to proving a case of conspiracy or obstruction of justice because of that; which in the case of the Kremlin project had all kinds of Trump Organization documentation supporting it. So, when Giuliani acknowledged that Buzzfeed’s report of project talks with a second-rate Russian developer (who was never going to get the greenlight to build unless Putin okayed it) went on through Election Day, it makes the story’s sting far less politically painful.

            Meantime, as the non-indictable message continues to sink in, and the Democrats in Congress go all-in seeking an unredacted Mueller Report, the changing facts and evidence have lesser value when finally revealed.

            By playing a limited hangout defense, acknowledging certain details as they broke in press reports, Trump’s no collusion buffer campaign has thus far paid off. I mean if you doubt that Cohen was operating as Trump’s fixer based on coded messaging, and his legal team congratulated his false testimony to Congress when he lied about business dealings in Russia, the duration of them, the significance of them and depth of them, how is that not a unspoken conspiracy everyone understood but now can’t be charged because it can’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt?

          • Maestro says:

            Let me explain what I mean because I’m not sure we disagree. What I mean is that if there were ironclad evidence of Trump using coded language such as that described by Cohen, I do not believe it would not be enough to convince the minimum required 20 GOP senators to vote in favor of conviction and removal. They would conclude that in the absence of the president explicitly, openly saying “Michael I want you to lie to congress”, it’s not enough to prove that’s what the president meant.

            In a fair, just world, should it? Of course. But I don’t think it actually *will*.

            • P J Evans says:

              They’re afraid of Tr*mp and his minions/handlers/enablers (because I think they’re all three), and whatever kompromat they might have on Congress.

              • timbo says:

                Meh. They’re afraid of facing the hypocrisy of the modern GOP’s supposed toughness on crime. If only the DP was so reticent to just making those GOP Senators reveal their true spots.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Or the manner with which corporate titans, like medieval kings, express themselves when they wish that one of their courtiers would rid them of an itch they themselves cannot be seen to scratch.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      It is wrongly eliciting the behavior that counts, not whether Trump shouted, as he usually does, or spoke in an unusual discreet whisper through an intermediary. Either would merit a charge in an impeachment. It would probably not itself justify an impeachment inquiry, but it should not be left out of the list of charges owing to the loudness with which the president spoke.

  2. Margo Schulter says:

    This puts the whole Buzzfeed episode in a fuller perspective. It also highlights the way that Attorney General Barr usurped the role of Congress in seeking to spin the public’s first impression of the Mueller Report by his own opinion, predictable in view of his 2018 memo, that the evidence did not support a charge of obstruction of justice.

    I agree with many commentators that Mueller very much followed the example of the Watergate roadmap: don’t take any explicit position on the question of what impeachable “high crimes and misdemeanors” are or should be, but simply present the facts for Congress to consider.

    • Burt Berman says:

      The thing that really eats at me is that Barr lifted a footnote re: coordination/conspiracy and described in a few short lines Mueller’s “bottom line” on obstruction. From 400+ pages + testimony, exhibits, et al., you could probably find material that had the opposite meaning/conclusions or, much more nuanced ones that would demonstrate the lunacy of this process thus far, and how the media along with politicians on both sides have, to some degree, been hoodwinked. Wonder where it all goes from here?

  3. Brumel says:

    It is not certain that DOJ called SCO first about the Buzzfeed story. DOJ may have been calling back, perhaps on a confidential Urgent Report sent by SCO. I make no claims, all I want to say is, one shouldn’t entirely discount that Mueller might have had his own motives to issue the Carr statement – maybe others than what you speculated at the time.

    • emptywheel says:

      Thanks for your comment that reveals you haven’t checked the underlying links and also gets the point of an Urgent Memo absolutely wrong.

        • Brumel says:

          Yes, but no more dubious than the assumption that Mueller could be pressured by DOJ into publishing a statement when he didn’t want to.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            You haven’t spent much time inside the Beltway or in corporate America then.

            Mueller could easily be pressured. Whether it would work or not depends on the issue, the other balls in the air, and a host of other factors. I agree that it would take something of considerable importance for a guy with Bob Mueller’s history to back down on a point of principle.

            • Brumel says:

              The “Mueller-gave-in-to-pressure” theory is just too easy. The principled Mueller had to (and IMHO did) come to terms with the presidential immunity issue *on the very first day he accepted the SC appointment*. He clearly went for compliance with DOJ policy/constitutional opinion from the outset. IMHO everything he did afterwards should be interpreted on this premise, including – especially! – the Carr statement.

  4. viget says:

    Excellent piece, Marcy. Are you of the opinion now that RR was there the whole time to lead the cover up, and colluded with Barr to bury the report? What was Whitaker’s role in directing the Carr statement?

    An alternative explanation is that RR was there to provide political cover for Mueller, at least until Barr came in and shut it down. Perhaps that gave Mueller’s team enough time to farm out the “real” investigation to as many USAO as possible in order to decentralize the probe? Could have still been of some service to the investigation and would be more consistent with McCabe’s statements about those 7 days in May 2017, and RR’s purported remarks.

      • 40water says:

        Did Jason FOIA any comms? Rudy does seem drunk enough to send a memo.

        I keep going back to the “Rod is a survivor” quote from Comey.

        The most detailed public indictments were GRU hacks that the Dutch live streamed, the IRA fuckery, and the Concord Management fuckery. For example, did Mueller know about the Aug 3rd polling data meeting with KK after Gates testified to the GJ before Manafort was indicted? If so, why wasn’t it included? Mueller’s speaking indictment didn’t need to list the specific address of where the GRU hackers were hacking from. If Manafort’s charging statement was written like the GRU’s, wouldn’t details of the polling data meeting have been presented as evidence of corrupt intent, potentially in a CONFRAUD or aiding and abetting?

        Any of the really hard questions that came up during the Mueller investigation were punted when there were easy ones that could be answered instead that provided similar scope of punishment as well as risk/reward.

        My guess is that Rod has been placating Trump to procrastinate the eventual meltdown. Getting Trump Jr and Kushner on lies to Congress, while satisfying for the self-respecting piece of the public, unfortunately fuels the BS PR “witch hunt” campaign, and continues to back Trump into a corner. Feral animals are unpredictable when backed into a corner.

        The Barr Book Report gives cover to both Barr and Rod as “we didn’t think you committed hella crimes, just Congress did”

        Does Rod believe in the Unitary Executive Theory though?

        • Burt Berman says:

          I’ve had an uneasy feeling about RR since his confirmation hearings early March ‘17 when he told Franken he wasn’t familiar with the Steele dossier beyond an article he thought he saw in the news, and, that he definitely hadn’t read the dossier itself. This RR testimony was two months after Buzzfeed and CNN broke the story and released the document presented to Trump in early January ‘17 and, immediately post Franken grilling Sessions about Russian contacts & meetings. RR may have been totally candid. I just had trouble buying it.

    • Reader 21 says:

      Whatever one thinks of Comey’s judgment, no one serious has impugned his credibility. And the picture he paints of RR—backed up, albeit more obliquely, by Andrew McCabe—is that Rosenstein is not a brave man. Also, am I wrong that RR worked with Ken Starr on Whitewater? Boy, his theory that no one is above the law—sure changed his tune, huh?

      • viget says:

        Not disagreeing with this take per se, but then why would Rosenstein offer to wear a wire with Trump?

        That’s a pretty bold and brave thing to do. If he got caught, it would have been lights out for the investigation.

        • A. Non says:

          Wearing a wire is a brave act. Offering to wear a wire and not following through? That’s cowardice.

    • Willis Warren says:

      What we do know is that Rod is a survivor. It’s entirely possible he could change whichever way the wind blows. I never thought the scope of the SCO investigation was wide enough, tbh, and I never thought Rod was aggressive enough.

  5. P J Evans says:

    This week’s news has me thinking that all of Cohen’s public mouth-flapping is intended for whoever actually makes decisions at the WH, to reassure *them* that he’s still with them.

    • bmaz says:

      That is almost certainly not the case. He is desperately trying to assist any “investigation” he can within the purview of Rule 35(b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

      • P J Evans says:

        It was the “oh I just found extremely-large-number-of-files” bit that got me thinking this. It seems very improbable that that many files were overlooked by the investigation, or that Cohen forgot that he had them. (How many terabytes of storage was he using?) The legal side – you know that stuff, and IANAL.

        • Hops says:

          If true, probably a backup of a hard drive or an old hard drive, and the file count includes the operating system files, quoted to appear important, rather than the number of interesting files.

        • timmuggs says:

          Is it correct to assume that these files were not seen by the DOJ? Maybe, Cohen is offering a way for congress to see evidence that DOJ already has seen – thereby offering a preview of what Mueller’s report contains, or at least some of it.

          • P J Evans says:

            I’d assume that if SDNY had them, they made copies of them. Mueller’s people may or may not have seen those – we don’t know.

  6. foggycoast says:

    applying potter stewart’s “I know it when I see it” there leaves little doubt about trump’s pattern of directing subordinates while trying to maintain plausible deniability. there’s really no other explanation for cohen’s lie in the first testimony since it really had no benefit to him other than to keep in trump’s good graces. question to the more knowledgable, does a pattern of this type of direction from trump need to be established by others corroborating what cohen claims before the courts take it into serious consideration?

    • Stacey says:

      I don’t know the legal answer to that, of course, but I’ve read Comey’s and McCabe’s books and they both give very compelling accounts of exactly this type of conversation. Most everyone has heard Comey’s account related to dropping the Flynn case, but McCabe’s experience resonated with that strongly. He described Trump trying to get HIM to invite Trump to come to the FBI headquarters to talk to the troops the day after firing Comey. McCabe did not want him to or think it a good idea and tried to tell him he was ‘welcome anytime’ by indicating he had plenty of time to do that, so he wouldn’t feel compelled to come right away. McCabe was clearly uninitiated in ‘the code’ and they went back and forth on this. Then Trump turned to, I think, McGahn, and asked him if he thought McCabe was inviting him to go to the FBI. And you can see the lights come on for McCabe who’s like “Son of a Bitch! He’s trying to pen this on me to give himself cover for going to the FBI and saying whatever he’s gonna say to them the day after firing their boss! And he’s got Don McGahn totally in on it!”

      The conversation was VERY creepy as you put yourself in McCabe’s shoes hearing this in the oval office. But honestly, we do not need to depend on Cohen’s description of Trump’s Mafia code talk as I’m sure they could line up people who’ve worked with Trump for miles who’d give their own accounts of exactly how this functioned.

  7. safari says:

    I’m an admitted legal novice, but I’m increasingly curious to know how many “Mueller Report” copies could exist? In light of Barr’s insistence that he scrub away information regarding at least four ambiguous criteria (what’s the legal working definition of “‘peripheral’ third parties”?), I’ve yet to see anyone answer this question. I haven’t seen Neal Ketyal opine on this issue either despite him literally writing the rules. Surely there’s more than one copy, but are they all sitting in a safe somewhere at DOJ? Did Mueller get one for himself? That seems outrageous (and open invitation for skullduggery) if the only final copies would rest in the hands of political appointees (ie Rosenstein, Barr).

    For what it’s worth, my tinfoil hat says the late inclusion of scrubbing “peripheral third parties” is a product of Javanka’s legal team leaning on the DOJ to ensure they come out of this in the best possible light. I understand it’s DOJ policy to not besmirch the reputations of unindicted targets (*cough cough* Hillary Clinton), but Barr’s already proven himself as a political protector of Trump and we all know Javanka are absolutely obsessed with their media appearance. Both of them are looking to swamp it up in Washington for the foreseeable future and a damaging Mueller description could make them even more toxic than they are now.

    • Mooser says:

      The inverse of my “waking dream” of there being no Muller Report at all, in a finished state.
      Does anybody (Inspector General, or the Bureau of Standards? Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration? Fisheries? Dept of Anterior?) have the official copy of “the” Mueller Report?

    • George says:

      There is no way Mueller or any of his people could keep a copy of the Report because once they closed their offices, they also lost the ability to store classified info, whether hardcopy or electronic.

      • Rayne says:

        This is speculation on your part. There is nothing in the SCO’s authorization about this. Unless you can cite a specific DOJ rule defining access to DOJ work product by DOJ personnel, leave off.

        • George says:

          Well, those from the team that left the USG certainly don’t have a way to keep a copy legally. Those that returned to DOJ, May have the necessary clearances, but there is also the “need to know” rule that applies, and I’m sure that DOJ has severely compartmented the Mueller report. So those from Mueller’s team that returned to DOJ most likely can no longer access the report.

            • George says:

              Warning ? Who do you think you are ?. I’m retired senior federal law enforcement and I’ve forgotten more about DOJ procedures than you probably ever knew about. If you were familiar with this subject, you would know that I am referring not specifically to a specific DOJ rule, but to the overall ruling principles for all classified info in the entire USG. Namely, that one must not only have the appropriate clearance, but also the “need to know”. Classified info, especially the more sensitive type, is compartmented, and is not available just because one has a clearance. Your ignorance of this simple, well-known USG procedure, speaks volumes about your uppity, know-nothing attitude.

              Marcy: Do you encourage this type of impertinent, rude behavior ?.

                • George says:

                  Even if they are making statements about things they obviously know nothing about ?. We’re supposed to keep our mouths shut when misinformation is spread ? Let him/her boot me if they want, but I’m going to speak up.

                  • P J Evans says:

                    (What makes you think you’re the only one who knows anything about clearances and classified material?)

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                Curious assertion of authority as a defense to a perceived slight. On this and any other blog, you and we are commentators with the same First Amendment rights as anyone else. As on most sites, the blog owner and her moderators have the last say on whose comments are added or deleted.

                BTW, your description of the treatment of classified information is generic, the sort one could find in wikipedia. It adds no new information beyond that already known to many commentators here.

                By all means, join the party, but the hierarchy here is flatter and less formal than a submarine crew’s.

              • bmaz says:

                Hi there “George”. Who does Rayne think she is? She thinks she is one of the three people that run this site, that is who. I am one as well, and I have been around since day one, arguably before.

                Don’t get all cocky and screw with us. That is not going to work here. And, trust me, Rayne, Marcy and I have been around so long together that trying to plaintively whine to Marcy just makes you look like an even bigger jackass.

                Do not do that. Back off. And, by the way, Rayne was not wrong that some of your claimed brilliance, both in the instant comments and earlier, is generic as hell, and not necessarily correct.

              • Rayne says:

                You jumped on a community member who prefaced their questions saying they were a legal neophyte by saying this:

                There is no way Mueller or any of his people could keep a copy of the Report because once they closed their offices, they also lost the ability to store classified info, whether hardcopy or electronic.

                This is speculation unless you can point to DOJ rules or regs by which DOJ personnel including SCO staff.

                I don’t give a rat’s butt what you claim your background is. If you can’t offer a citation then you’re the potential misinfo/disinfo risk particularly since you have a whopping (9) comments here under two different versions of your username. You have not established credibility with us and we are under no obligation to simply take you, a complete stranger, at your word.

                As for who I am: I’m one of the contributors and moderators here. But you’d know that if you made any effort to look. The lack of effort to investigate says something else about you.

                • George says:

                  In spite of all the false outrage and pettiness on the part of a couple of people here, the fact and bottom line remain: There is no citation because it is a general, encompassing rule throughout the USG. As someone correctly stated, it is indeed generic and can be found on Wikipedia. Which makes the request for a DOJ citation all the more indicative of cluelessness . If someone wants to dispute my description of how security clearance and classification work, please use facts and not rude and non-specific retorts.

                  • bmaz says:

                    And, if YOU want to make a point YOU should use specific facts and citations, and YOU have not. Otherwise you are just a jerk troll. Keep up with this bunk and you will be gone. And, by the way, not to be “petty”, but you can get the fuck out. And, again, those “couple of people” you whine about are the actual proprietors of this site. You are barking, very much, up the wrong tree.

                    • George says:

                      So BMAZ, are you saying that if one is new to this site, that makes one not knowledgeable on issues of federal law enforcement and other criminal justice procedures directly pertinent to the subject at hand ?. Why don’t you tell us, even if it’s just in general terms, what your own background is ?. And frankly, even before you reacted to me, I saw your rude attitude as you responded to a couple of other posters.

                    • Rayne says:

                      LOL you are so intent on exposing yourself. I wish I could let you continue to do this but you’re still pissing in the living room.

                    • bmaz says:

                      Again, hi George! You, as walk ins often do, think you are the cat’s meow and sage of this blog. You are not. You have been here for 11 comments, under two different names, and it appears you have been blowing holier than thou bunk from the start. Do I have “clearance”? Nope, it was too much of a pain in the ass. But I have litigated cases that touch on that for a long time by simply associating co-counsel and paying expert witnesses that have it. I’ve done it for decades. My internet work is on display here for well over a decade. You first appeared with your bullshit on March 24, 2019 and have appeared under two different names, for, again, 11 fun comments, mostly belligerent. And you are still full of shit.

                  • Rayne says:

                    If it’s on Wikipedia, cite it — put a URL to the wiki page in your comment.

                    No ticket, no taco. It’s just not that difficult a concept to grasp. We have a higher set of standards here and your lack of receipts doesn’t make the grade.

                    • JAFive says:

                      For what it’s worth, I think he’s referring to EO 12968 as amended, which establishes the basic scheme for access to classified information and the standard SF312 nondisclosure agreement.

                      Section 2.1(b)(4) of EO 12968 as amended: “Access to classified information shall be terminated when an employee no longer has a need for access.”

                      And the SF312 nondisclosure agreement:

                      Item 7: “I agree that I shall return all classified materials … (b) upon the conclusion of my employment or other relationship with the Department or Agency that last granted me a security clearance… or (c) upon the conclusion of my employment or other relationship that requires access to classified information”

                    • Rayne says:

                      Thank you. That’s informative and specific and sourced — exactly what community members need, especially neophytes eager to learn.

                    • George says:

                      Precisely Jafive. One thing Rayne is correct about, there indeed are neophytes here, and as customary, those that don’t know yell and curse the loudest.

                    • bmaz says:

                      George thinks we are “neophytes”. What a johnny come lately assclown. George, you have evidenced nothing other than that you are a fresh in the boat bloviator. A fresh in the boat bloviator that neither cited 12968, much less the related 13526 as to authorities. Run along now.

              • timbo says:

                With regard to grand jury testimony it appears that authorization to learn of its contents retains to those DoJ attorneys who were involved in an investigation, not just with those currently assigned. At least that’s implied and there’s not much explicit to prohibit that explicitly. Implicitly, the AG and IG might be able to have their own rules regarding that in place—that two appears to be covered in the regulations. So, it’s hard to say what might or might not be in the possession of people who are still employed at DoJ and still have their clearances.

        • Kai-Lee says:

          What I have been wondering is not so much how many copies and in what format there may be of “The Mueller Report”, rather, who/what OWNS the data. I think it likely that the DOJ owns the data that Mueller’s team collected and collated, and that this may be a means by which Barr can control (read: severely limit) any kind of communications from Mueller and his team members. Of course they know and can recall many of these details, but there must have been some kind of non-disclosure agreement referring to data ownership and disclosure, and it likely states something to the effect that communications of data must first be cleared by the DOJ. There’s likely also a restriction about speaking about any of the findings after the OSC closes.

          I am most interested to see what Mueller will be permitted to say in any venue going forward, without Barr leaning on him from the wings.

        • Stacey says:

          And not for nothin’, but I’ve heard Nick Ackerman, former Watergate prosecutor, describing all of them leaving the office the weekend of the Saturday Night Massacre with documents stuffed in their clothes because they suspected all of their evidence and docs were not safe in the office over night! You have to know that almost 50 years of political skullduggery hasn’t made the Mueller team think, ‘yeah, I’m sure, it’s fine, what are they gonna do? Burn the place down?’ No! I’m sure they took as many precautions as possible under the situation they found themselves in. Obama’s outgoing team buried pieces and bread crumbs all over government to preserve evidence and investigation material as they left office knowing Trump’s team would come in and go looking for it. McCabe describes a very heightened sense in those 7 or 9 days after Comey was fired of make this thing bullet proof before I’m gone too!

          • timbo says:

            This. It really depends on the discipline and (possibly conflicting) idealism of the folks working on the SCO’s investigation and summary report, doesn’t it?

    • BobCon says:

      Federal record retention laws will have been followed all along, meaning not just the final report was archived, but all kinds of preliminary materials. Even if some super ninja hackers managed to erase every copy, Mueller and his team know every major point, and the evidence is all archived.

      I think Barr and Trump are worse off if the report disappeared and it led to the report being reconstructed. They want fewer variables in play at this point, not more.

        • Vicks says:

          Mueller is still around so I would assume he can still access the report? Or not, that could be part of the deal when he turned it over.
          On a related not, no one is seriously questioning Trump’s ability to disappear this report and not face any consequences?
          No REALLY! This one is the tipping point, for sure. No way congress is going to look the other way….
          Fool me once? It got too embarrassing to admit I was so naive; so I stopped counting a long time ago.

        • JamesJoyce says:

          Pentagon papers were leaked.

          Mueller report will be leaked?

          Discussion not?

          Then Americans can witness how “power” reacts to real discussions brought on by the dissemination of information in a democracy looking more fascist everyday, given the realities of our current fearless leader and his compliant ilk?

          Call it “Burning Mueller” for placing Trump at the center of Trump’s solar system?


          Myself &
          While I lie
          and others cry?

          Self interest dictates just like a Sun’s gravity…

          Loyalty oaths and Miestenguizen are for losers Mr. Barr…

          Open up ur history book and read it.

          Despots and historical dustbins?


      • Anne says:

        I’ve been wondering about MuelIer’s security protocols since day 1, when he must have devised a plan against disappearance as well as leaks and hacks.

        If you’re talking about paper copies, forget it, those days are gone.

        I was once involved in a case of theft of intellectual property from my employer. The evidence I was collecting, consisting of hard drives and CDs, had to stay on site — so said the lawyers — so I got a shoebox and hid it in the women’s bathroom, out of sight but accessible. Until I delivered it to the police. Mueller, being much cleverer than I, will have devised a much more devious plan that followed all the rules. So, no off-site copies, no DVDs in briefcases, nothing in the cloud. But something that could be delivered to Congress after Barr’s ninja hackers went to work.

        • Vicks says:

          One can hope that the rules include the orange-i-nal data and a copy of the report being kept in a secure place that the trump team can’t get his hands on, however if there truly is a loophole that makes the AG god and the president king, Barr will again come back with “you will get what we decide you get.”

      • timbo says:

        Hmm. It might also depend on how sensitive any methods and resources were in gathering information used. “I know we could charge an indictment based on the solid evidence we’ve got but… we can’t disclose the evidence in court without compromising major intelligence assets so… so how do I put that in my report so it makes sense? Oh, I know, just leave out that we could have charged and likely got a conviction on z, y3, and t7 if we could acknowledge that these intelligence assets exist. I bet my bosses will be pleased that officially nothing was ever found in this area since nothing every officially could be!”

  8. the game's afoot says:

    I am confused about RR’s role too, at first appearing to protect the process of the Mueller investigation and now, appearing to go along with Barr and his misleading summary letter.
    I’m also confused about how a final report could have been written when cases and discovery are ongoing?

    • bmaz says:

      It is hard to tell right now, there is much to be learned (hopefully). But those concepts may not be mutually exclusive. I do not see it a problem for Mueller to write whatever report he can if he is shutting his office down.

      • Jonf says:

        Let me ask a follow up. Why would Mueller shut it down if there were any significant open items?

        • bmaz says:

          Because he was stymied by the OLC policy that a President could not be indicted while in office, and spun off the remaining cases to USAO’s.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          I don’t think Bob Mueller is given to the head bashing against walls that came to be Lawrence Walsh’s lot when confronted by the stonewalling of two successive administrations (Reagan and Bush). It stymied and, in the end, decapitated his nearly seven-year investigation into the Iran-Contra scandal.

          Mueller is more like an experienced field officer who understands the lives for which he is responsible. He will use the energy, resources and tactics he has available to achieve his objective. If he concludes he’s done all he can, he is not going to throw more men and women into barbed wire, mud, and massed machine gun fire just to prove he has sufficient audacity for his next promotion.

          • NorskieFlamethrower says:

            I like the “field officer” simile especially since there is no higher rank or office he aspires. But the longer it takes to get the entire report, grand jury testimony and all supporting documentation the more positions in the courts and all the security services including the FBI the fascists can purge and replace. I believe we have a ticking clock and that at least one person is going to hafta throw him or herself “into barbed wire, mud and massed machine gun fire” in order to force the information directly into public hands. I am remembering the disclosure of the Pentagon Papers on the floor of the House of Representatives.

          • timbo says:

            Walsh also had to contend with a Congress that didn’t really want to solve the systemic problems that he was uncovering. Mueller is in the same boat at the moment IMO—when IS impeachment going to be openly on the table in the House, right? Wrong boat, wrong paddle. Also, the regulations are clear—his report is to go to the AG, not the Congress. It’s up to the AG to decide what to do from there…up to a point. What that point is for Mueller is hard to say—I’m guessing if Barr starts throwing any of Mueller’s team under the bus, that might be a wobbly proposition? But, again, hard to say what’s going on without being the major players involved. Already, today, Barr started impugning the initial FBI investigation into Russian contacts between Trump operatives during the 2016 election as “spying”… so we might be getting there?

    • Marinela says:

      Replying to all under this comment, just aligned to the left for easy justification.

      Believe the timing of the SC report is relevant. It had to be done after the midterm elections. With democrats winning the house in 2018, it allows for the SC report to become a road map to the congress, as in the Watergate investigation, which would not be possible if the republicans were still controlling the house.
      However, the “release” of the report itself by AG Barr is questionable.
      Mueller was prepared to close shop in short notice while farming out everything else unresolved to USAO.

      1. What event triggered Mueller to submit the report?
      2. Since we see how the report was “rolled” out, the existence of which is public knowledge, how much confidence the public should have to the integrity of the unresolved investigations that came out of Mueller team and given to USAO? Barr is overseeing them now.
      3. DOJ and FBI were purged of people critical of Trump.Seems like not voting for Trump is enough now days to get you fired.

      • timbo says:

        answer to 1: He was pretty much finished with the counterintelligence side of the investigation; it had reached the limit as to what was easily learnable/disclosable? I mean, you can start wasting a lot of time and resources needlessly if all you’re left with is spinning your wheels on something like this. And the purpose of counterintelligence investigations sometimes end when leads dry up and witnesses are pretty much wrung dry/aren’t likely to cooperate further. And Mueller’s main task was to complete a counterintelligence investigation, right, so… maybe he’s pretty much done and the number of loose ends under his direct charter is now small to nil.

  9. John D says:

    It seems to me that Mueller’s overriding priority was to be allowed to finish. That meant both preventing Congress from jumping the gun (so they deny the BuzzFeed story bc it raises that risk) and avoiding a firing (so no Trump interview etc).

    Personally, I think that Mueller’s real goal was to rule out the catastrophically bad scenarios (a la Manchurian candidate) that he justifiably felt this was of overriding national importance.

    There was an inherent investigative tension between ruling that out with absolute confidence and aggressively pursuing other bad acts.

    Mueller’s big accomplishment as FBI Director was reorienting the FBI from prioritizing prosecution to prioritizing intelligence. Sometimes letting the small fish go or failing to bring charges against marginal figures in order to dig deeper into possible major terrorism conspiracies. I think it’s logical he would head the same direction on this.

  10. harpie says:

    ew: “The most shocking new detail is that after Cohen testified, Trump’s lawyer (this package doesn’t reveal whether it was Jay Sekulow or someone else) called Cohen to congratulate him.”
    Jay Sekulow was interviewed on ABC this morning. See:
    7:48 AM – 7 Apr 2019
    [quote] SEKULOW dodges whether he was the attorney who allegedly called COHEN to congratulate him on false testimony to Congress: // “I’m not going to discuss communications that may or may not have happened with any of us within the context of a joint defense.” [ABC News VIDEO] / [end quote]

  11. Badger Robert says:

    Some dates would help. Mike was stilling collecting his grossed up fee well into 2017. Direct financial stake?

  12. Savage Librarian says:

    I am so grateful to EW for speaking truth to power. This is exactly the kind of behavior I experienced on a local level. So, this is the macro of what happens on the micro level globally and too often.

    I have seen people commit and suborn perjury, and then be financially rewarded for it. There were major smear campaigns and lots of battle scars. People’s jobs were threatened and they were intimidated at their homes and by phone. But, eventually, justice prevailed, both literally and poetically.

    And it was all because of a few journalists and a few politicians and some citizens who cared. The First Amendment is #1 for a reason!

    • timbo says:

      “An antiseptic to the corrupting influence of power.” And it’s always in jeopardy too it seems. Fortunately, for the time being anyways, we seem to be a country of loudmouths that are loath to end the mouthry… oh, whew, what a stew!

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The call to Cohen from Trump’s lawyer also suggests the manner in which the JDA was used from the start: It was to protect one potential defendant. The mutuality was always suspect owing to Trump’s rarely following through on a promise to return a favor.

  14. cfost says:

    It would seem that the Trump/GOP strategy here is to viciously attack anyone who gets near the truth. And it was an ostensibly liberal media outlet that put out the hit piece on Leopold, because, shockingly, he likes to go to Bad Religion concerts, and he has the gall to post his enthusiasm on Twitter. And et cetera: but the point of the attack is to divert attention from the only real issue : is/was the Buzzfeed reporting true and accurate? This is straight out of the Black, Manafort & Stone playbook, which they copied from Stalin, Hitler & Franco.
    It honestly feels to me as if Trump is stalling for time, until he can arrange a proper diversion, like a war or a (foreign) terrorist attack.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      “This is straight out of the Black, Manafort & Stone playbook…”

      Yes, and as a reminder, the following people have all been friends for decades:
      Paul Manafort
      Roger Stone
      Susie & Lanny Wiles
      Dana Rohrabacher
      Erik Prince

      Susie Wiles saved a seat for Natalia Veselnitskaya at the Magnitsky hearing on 6/14/16. Lanny Wiles had some sort of business arrangement with Rinat Akhmetshin.

      Here is an interesting article about Susie Wiles’ and the DT campaign:

      “Donald Trump needed Florida and Susie Wiles delivered it”

      Somewhere in a mountain of documents, I have an email I sent to the mayor in 1997. It was produced during discovery. On it is a brief written comment from Susie Wiles to another official. There are also two words that pop out in this brief comment. Those two words are, “Well done.”

      • Savage Librarian says:

        This article explains how the Deripaska sanctions were able to be lifted, at least on a technical basis. I might have shared this article before. I know I read it a while back. This time, though, I noticed something that struck me as curious, primarily due to the brevity of what was mentioned. And that has to do with Susie Wiles. It may be nothing. But I thought I would point it out. It is in the 5th paragraph down from the beginning of the article.

        “Former Trump campaign aide is helping Russian firm shed sanctions”

        “Bryan Lanza and Mercury Public Affairs LLC, the firm where he works as a managing director in its Washington office, are helping to lift sanctions on, EN+ Group, an energy and aluminum firm associated with Deripaska.”
        (5th para.)
        “Brian Ballard, Trump’s longtime lobbyist in Florida and a GOP fundraiser, opened up a Washington office and brought on Susie Wiles, who led Trump’s campaign in Florida.”

  15. oldgold says:

    Federal Rule of Criminal Procedue 6(e)(3)(D) seems to be the key to thwarting Barr from hiding the key grand jury information from Congress; and, most particularly, from the intelligence committees.

    “(3) Exceptions.

    (A) Disclosure of a grand-jury matter—other than the grand jury’s deliberations or any grand juror’s vote—may be made to:

    (D) ….. An attorney for the government may also disclose any grand-jury matter involving, within the United States or elsewhere, a threat of attack or other grave hostile acts of a foreign power or its agent, a threat of domestic or international sabotage or terrorism, or clandestine intelligence gathering activities by an intelligence service or network of a foreign power or by its agent, to any appropriate federal, state, state subdivision, Indian tribal, or foreign government official, for the purpose of preventing or responding to such threat or activities.”

    • bmaz says:

      I have been noting that on Twitter for a week. But do note that that does not mean that it could or would be released to the public, in fact those provisions make clear it is still protected material.

      • P J Evans says:

        I’m fine with not releasing the stuff that, like GJ testimony, should be secret. But the summaries intended for the public ought to be released now. (I’m sure that Mueller’s report has all of the stuff intended for the public labeled as such, no matter what Barr claims.)

        OT: Go, Red Raiders!

        • Vicks says:

          It seems to me that the save the trump team is deliberately confusing Nadlers battle to see the whole report unredacted and the battle for what the public gets to see and how soon they get to see it.
          The are doing something similar with Trumps taxes.
          As long as democrats continue to allow Trump to get out there first and define the terms or get walked over by allowing them to reframe the argument once is it out there they will always be giving away their edge and tricked into playing defense.

      • NorskieFlamethrower says:

        Upstream a bit I commented that I believe the clock is ticking in getting the report and all the grand jury stuff out directly to the public before the neo-Nazis purge and stuff the courts and the security departments including the FBI. I remember the release of the Pentagon Papers by a member of congress. I don’t know if the bastards back filled the hole that that congressman used but I believe that’s what it’s gunna take and soon or we won’t see diddly.

  16. orionATL says:

    one could say that there really are two reports on the relationship between the now President Trump, his presidential campaign organization and attendant personnel, and the Russian government and some of its non-governmental accomplices.

    the first of these, the Mueller report, is the report of the office of special counsel headed by Robert Muellef whose history is summarized here:

    the second, which I would call the wheeler report consists of a collection of posts over the last 16-18 months on the emptywheel website by investigative journalist marcy wheeler.

    there is an important difference between these two sets of facts and interpretations about the actions and interaction of trump himself, the trump campaign, trump friends, and the Russian government and private individuals seconded to the assistance of the Russian government in intervening in the American federal elections of 2016 that makes each a valuable read as well as a complement to the other.

    the office of special was a very formal legal investigation which was expected to stay strictly within the bounds of rules set by the u.s. department of justice and by federal rules of procedure. the osc’s had the force of law to authorize investigation, seize records, compel testimony, arrest and try. individuals had the right thru their attorneys to challenge osc actions. judges weighed in on the actions of both sides.

    the journalist wheeler on the other hand, had none of these powers or formal legal constraints, but rather had the flexibility to use not only information available from the special counsel, but also a wide range of media reporting and written opinion in reaching her conclusions about various aspects of the Russia-trump interactions. as an independent journalist wheeler was also unusually free to draw her own conclusions from the facts available to her without the restraints a media corporate hierarchy can impose on a reporter. the result of these freedoms is, I suspect, a more complete and nuanced understanding of the interaction between the trump forces and the Russian forces.

  17. Bay State Librul says:

    Nadler’s Dilemma

    Said an AG caught mis-selling a conviction
    “There’s hope in protecting a felon
    And so at the start,
    I’m going to be “smart”
    Many pages I’ll choose to redact

    With a little help from Paul Waterman

  18. Hops says:

    If Nadler issues the subpoena and the WH refuses, what happens? I understand that the House Sergeant at Arms can issue warrants and arrest people, but that has been left up to the Administrative branch for ages. Hard to imagine Pelosi having Barr arrested. So it goes to the SCOTUS, and maybe the WH still refuses…

    • bmaz says:

      That will not be happening. The path would be to try to enforce contempt through DC District, then DC Circuit, then SCOTUS. It could take well over a year. Which is exactly what the Trumpalos are counting on.

      • Marinela says:

        Well, that timing may not work that well for Trump and GOP as it gets close to the 2020 elections.

        But the key is for the dems to win the WH, and the Senate, and the House in 2020. Then Trump gets indicted immediately after he looses in Nov. 2020.
        So instead of getting impeached and getting indicted, he gets to finish the first term, then gets indicted.

        However, if Trump wins re-election, it will the ugliest four years for US, and perhaps the world.

      • BobCon says:

        It’s worth adding that not all subpoenas are going to be resisted — one of Trump’s accounting firms, Cohen, etc.

        The problem for Trump is that stonewalling can hurt as much as it helps. Partial releases of information may be damning by themselves, while stonewalling may block useful lines of defense. Stonewalling also means theories will drag out — public trust in his assertions to the contrary is weak.

        Stonewalling won’t hurt him with his base, but he is also in the position where full disclosure won’t hurt. Which means that he is keeping a story in play which potentially sucks out oxygen from other fires he wants to set. I’m not sure this is a path Barr really wants to be on.

        • bmaz says:

          Agree. While anything within the purview of the Exec Branch may be resisted, other paths likely will not be. Even Deutsche Bank has started complying.

        • Marinela says:

          regarding: but he is also in the position where full disclosure won’t hurt.

          Can you clarify why you think full disclosure won’t hurt Trump? Are you just referring to his base?

          Full disclosure I believe would hurt Trump and GOP, outside of Trump base of course.

      • Jockobadger says:

        Bmaz, isn’t there a way to expedite the process when it’s of extraordinary importance to the security of the country (or something like that)? Or do we even want that? JHFC I’m pissed off and confused and nal – obviously. Thanks for running a tight ship.

        Another excellent piece Dr. Wheeler. Thanks

        • bmaz says:

          The answer is….yes, maybe. It depends on time frames that are hard to judge until an action is filed. Too early to gauge that.

          • John Forde says:

            BMAZ, I have been assuming that the pace to resolve a Nadler subpoena may take a year, but that to resolve the legal directive from Rich E Lee to IRS director would be vastly faster due to the plain statutory language. ….a month?

  19. Bay State Librul says:

    Since my melt down weeks ago, I have no hope in the rule of law. Don’t count on the DOJ…. .
    None, nada, nil.
    Next up, they will try to fix the SDNY investigations
    I’ve become deranged, disappointed, and devoid of any thoughts that the system works. It doesn’t. It is broken. Start listening to Leonard Cohen’s music.
    We are headed straight for a constitutional crises, maybe six months from now.
    Until then, we need a fucking whistleblower.
    There is too much power vested in the Executive Branch….

    • bmaz says:

      BSL, hang in there. Governance is sloppy and dispiriting sometimes, but it will all be okay.

      • Bruce Olsen says:

        We all must remain grateful for Trump’s monumental incompetence and turgid ego. Exposing the fragility of our governmental norms will be the only positive benefit he will bring. But don’t tell him or he’ll start recycling his old Nobel Prize tweets.

        • Stacey says:

          I think of Trump as a chelating agent for our body politic. When you are treating for heavy metal poisoning you can sit in a chair and have an IV solution pumped into your veins that draws the heavy metal out of its deep tissue hiding places and escorts it out of the body via the bloodstream. It’s a long process, not a one shot deal, and you want to be careful once you’ve stirred that shit out of its deep burial sights all over your body (and brain in particular) and is now running around in your open body/blood system.

          Trump is chelating a BUNCH of shit which one could easily analogize as ‘heavy metal poisoning’ in our body politic, beyond just the racist, etc. stuff he’s not invented but attracted into the light of day–so we can reject it more clearly and decisively than pretending it was gone already–but the norms and gentleman’s agreements that we sort of thought were laws in our system of government. He’s like a bow to stern audit of our little Titanic government that if we survive we’ll have a really good sense of where to improve things–if we’ve the political will to do so. If we don’t, then we deserve whatever we get!

    • Tom says:

      There is the recent example of Tricia Newbold who came forward with her concerns about the dodgy fashion the WH was authorizing security clearances, and “The Atlantic” ran a story on April 4th stating that there are “dozens” of people inside and outside of the administration who are relaying info on government “malfeasance” to the House Oversight Committee. In the last week or so, Trump has come forward with big. blustery announcements about ending Obamacare and closing the southern border, only to be forced to take it all back within days. I see Trump as being on the defensive; it’s not a good sign when you’re willing to fight it out to the Supreme Court just to avoid disclosing something as mundane as your tax returns. There are no Ukrainians or Russians to keep track of in this scenario, no GRU officers, no secret meetings in cigar bars, no complicated timelines, no multitude of Trump associates, no network of foreign operators: it’s simply the President obviously having something to hide in his tax returns.

      • koolmoe says:

        My concern is, there may well be little-to-nothing significant in the tax returns (likely, but who knows) and Trump is just playing 1) because damned if anyone tells him what to do and 2) he’ll get to play the child and scream ‘told ya so! crazy democrats!’.
        I just worry that despite his plain corruption and complete lack of ethics, he’ll somehow get away with everything.

        • Tom says:

          Could be … but I keep thinking of what Lincoln once said: “You can fool some of the people …”

  20. Ty Barto says:

    The word to focus on is manipulate. It looks like, according to very trusted newspapers, Mueller’s team felt comfortable saying the campaign was manipulated by the Russians. I would suspect that Mueller and co would say something like Trump manipulated Cohen into lying generally. The problem for buzzfeed and their defenders is there’s a quite a difference between manipulating and directing if you have fine diction or like the same perspective on the SCO as did Judge Ellis. In simple terms, Cohen was a crook but also trusted by Trump, so they likely manipulated each other. Cohen came up with the majority of the lie to congress and all he got for a reward was a phone call from Trump’s lawyer; a far cry from the scene in Goodfellas after Henry lies in court for the first time.

    • bmaz says:

      Again, this is nonsense. Nobody needs to “defend” Buzzfeed and Jason at this point, they have been shown to have been right. So, please , don’t give me that uninformed bunk about “quite a difference”. Criminal defendants get prosecuted and convicted regularly on such coded directions. If you are still trying to harsh on Buzzfeed, you are promoting bunk.

      • NorskieFlamethrower says:

        Buzzfeed’s not in any danger, their bonafides on this are secure and the confidence of their readership is not in any way threatened by anyone in their operation, unlike the intercept.

  21. Bill Smith says:

    Didn’t the Buzzfeed story say there where “emails” and “texts” that showed Trump directed Cohen to lie? It appears those do not exist? At least not in an unequivocal fashion? Thus the comment from Mueller’s office?

    I am not sure exactly what this adds but John Dowd, one of Trump’s former lawyers claimed he had a back channel to Mueller via his deputy James Quarles.

    [FYI, you signed in as ‘Bill’ this time; it’s been changed to ‘Bill Smith’, the username you’ve used the previous 40 comments. Please stick to the same username each time you comment. /~Rayne]

    • bmaz says:

      The article said “The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails”.

      If you have some evidence that is false, do tell. Don’t worry, I know you do not.

      • Bill Smith says:

        The story I read here:


        “The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”

        My point is if one part of the sentence is missing that might be enough for Mueller to deny the story? They have emails but no texts? Or if the emails or texts are not unequivocal would that be enough for Mueller to deny the story?

        How many times did Mueller’s office come out with a public statement on a story like they did on this? My opinion is there is something wrong with the story. How major the issue is, is the question.

        • bmaz says:

          Well, my point is that Jason and Anthony had texts, emails, other hard documentation and statements from two federal witnesses. They and Buzzfeed (who, by the way, has a brilliant managing editor and general counsel) have stood up for their story from the start, and have been proven correct to have done so. Their story was solid from day one.

          The only thing at this point that looks bad is the Carr/Mueller “pushback statement”, and Jason, Anthony and Buzzfeed are owed an apology for that, both from the SCO and several other journalists who acted like idiots. No the SCO did NOT do that either before or after this one occasion. And you can continue to claim that your “opinion is there is something wrong with the story”, the problem is you have no factual basis whatsoever for that “opinion”, and it is complete vapor.

          • timbo says:

            Clearly there may be hairsplitting going on in the SCO office’s statement on this. Since someone used the term “spitballin” recently, I’m going to throw out the word “privileged” and then just let it hang there for a bit… “Oh, we can’t know that because…”

    • Bill Smith says:

      Yes, the drop down with the previous entry didn’t take and when I went back to edit it the name can’t be changed.

  22. Areader2019 says:

    I’m really struggling with the logic here…

    Barr takes the position DOJ can not indict a president. But then, the decision to NOT indict is NOT an exoneration either. So Trump and Rudy run around celebrating…what are they celebrating exactly?

    The flip side is if the DOJ can not follow through on evidence, then it must be within the oversight role of Congress. So under what logic can Barr then obstruct all the evidence going to congress? ‘We can’t make the call, but we won’t let you do it either’. What?

    To make the hall of mirrors effect worse, none of these principles apply to a Democratic POTUS.

    • Vicks says:

      What would it look like if Trump obstructed justice to the extent that a complete investigation into conspiracy could not be conducted?
      Say, for example Mannafort was the key, he agreed to flip, Trump intervened with a promise of a pardon and Manafort changed his mind?
      What if Papadopoulos was promised a pony for sticking to his story?
      It would certainly make it difficult to find evidence to convict.
      If, as Barr started on his resume obstruction of justice wasn’t really a thing for the president, could Barr be using an epic catch 22 as his strategy?
      I always thought it odd that Rudy on one of his pimping tours started testing out “trump won’t answer any questions regarding obstruction” for reactions (or grooming trumps followers) and no one bothered to grill him. I guess that included Mueller too?

      • Areader2019 says:

        Epic Catch 22 is the best description I’ve heard of how they are arguing.

        Is this really our legal system?

    • Yohei72 says:

      I’ve seen a few other Mueller critics/Trump defenders trying a similar sleight of hand, such as Ken Starr in an op-ed at The Hill. Of course, “You can’t indict a sitting POTUS, and you can’t impugn an unindicted person by releasing a bunch of possibly damaging evidence about them” leads directly to the conclusion, “If you find evidence of illegal acts by POTUS, you must keep it quiet.” Which can’t possibly be true.

      If the law allows for a massive exemption for the president such as “can’t indict, no matter what the evidence” then I see no reason why there isn’t a corollary exemption stating, “… but you can release said evidence.”

      • phazed says:

        The same applies to the whole unitary executive woo woo.

        If the President can’t obstruct justice by performing acts which are granted to him under Article II, and the DOJ declines to ascribe criminality to those actions, they are ensuring that any wrongdoing be regarded as an abuse of his Article II powers. The more the DOJ considers an action non-applicable to criminal statute, the more it strengthens the argument for Congress to compel its disclosure.

        In that sense, the narrow restrictiveness of the obstruction statutes no longer applies.

      • Vicks says:

        Again we are allowing the “save the trump” team to frame the argument.
        IMHO things need to be reeled back in and looked at in context of our constitution.
        In order to buy into their argument you have to believe Trump’s team discovered a loophole (it seems it should have been obvious at least to people that study and argue this stuff) that allows a president to build the power to become a king or dictator.
        Obviously I am totally biased and my knowledge is minimal but I just can’t believe they are that “smart” and rather than this layered picking of nits the defense for from something fundamental like “no one is above the law” or “separate but equal” checks and balances that is the foundation of our constitution.

        • Stacey says:

          It’s just not said often enough: we are looking at Nixon’s verbal nakedness being covered by a quickly assimilated flimsy bath robe–“If the President does it, then it is not illegal.” People spend a lot of time talking about the linguistic, legalistic bath robe Trump’s unitary executive theorists have stitched together to cover the really plain and basic argument that is being made here: “If the President does it, then it is not illegal.” I’ve yet to hear a single commentator on any media outlet remind us simply that all of this Barr Bullshit is just Nixon dressed up to go out!

          Go watch “Frost Nixon” again. It was such a powerfully bare and fundamental moment to hear Nixon make that statement to Frost in the interview. You got the sense the dude really believed that and when you see the reality of what that belief means, both then and now, when we see it every day in Trump’s getting more and more Fascist and more and more King-like in his language and demeanor–it would really help people to have the position plainly stated, in its naked, bare essential form. However someone dresses this up, at the end of the day “If the President does it, it’s not illegal” is NOT an acceptable place to land. Full stop.

      • Vicks says:

        The answer to not being able to indict a sitting president is impeachment.
        In anywhere but Trumpland it would be Barr obstructing justice by withholding the full results of the investigation from the committee with the responsibility of oversight?
        Did I mention dems have to stop allowing the trump team to define and frame the argument?

    • jdmckay says:

      @ Areader2019 April 7, 2019 at 3:36 pm

      I’m really struggling with the logic here…
      So under what logic can Barr then obstruct all the evidence going to congress?

      It is not straightforward “logic”, or adherence to established law guiding appropriate actions.

      Rather, it is their desire the Mueller report does not see the light of day… then taking whatever stone-cold actions necessary to ensure this. It is what these guys do, they are ruthless and good at it.

      Just like 2k election recounts/SCOTUS “fixing” outcome (Gore won)

      Just like Enron.

      Just like Cheney demanding CIA intel reports on Iraq which CIA did not support, and lieing about it (and all their other shenanigans Marcy detailed at that time… almost too manifold to mention).

      Just like ’07 “financial crisis” so many of us shouted was inevitable, while Bush Jr. and Greenspand were telling us the “economy is strong” nobody went to jail for nearly bankrupting the planet).

      Just like repub voting purges at least since ’04, tilting election after election while dems sit on their hands with their thumbs in their mouth.

      And just about everything dTrump and said and done in these 2 depressing years, almost making Bush Jr.’s crimes look like child play. In particular his Bevis-like nauseous, childlike comments dismissing GW (and lately very successful farming country wind power) like it was “Three Mexican” (countries).

      I’m with BayStateLiberal up-thread. Our government is beyond broken, it is a tool of a few powerful, filthy rich few out of sight and mind. And it’s getting worse. We can document the atrocities for posterity. I was very optimistic, even through BO’s 1st term. But the corruption has come back like a boomerang, with more force then ever before.

      And… I really appreciate/admire Marcy for all she does and has been doing here for so long. One of the few reliable windows into machinations of our utterly corrupt government “machine”.

      • Mooser says:

        Americans seem to have decided on a “bust-out”. Rather than work to fulfill the US’s promise of inclusion, they will take the place to pieces and sell the pieces off.

        • P J Evans says:

          Take that blanket statement and stuff it back in its hole. MOST Americans are NOT fine with Tr*mp and the GOP-T and their bigotry.

  23. Thomas Paine says:

    Barr’s pronouncement that Trump was not indictable on obstruction was and is meaningless because of the OLC long-standing opinion on the indict-ability of the POTUS, (which was ostensibly made to ALLOW for the indictment of VPOTUS Spiro Agnew on tax fraud). At the time I thought and said that it was academic at best. In any case, the finding of “no exoneration” is the most significant in the Barr memo, because it means that the conspiracy exoneration is also unfounded and academic.

    Unless there is a clear finding of no obstruction, then you can’t really say anything about the conspiracy charge because, the perpetrators “kicked sand in the eyes of the umpire”. The Congress should therefore not except ANYTHING Barr or Rosenstein “summarized” and continue to demand the source document, unredacted. They should be free to determine what happened on their own. They may include subpoena’s for and testimony’s from (in the right place and time) for the ENTIRE Mueller team. Anything less does not serve justice.

  24. Eureka says:

    The details behind Rosenstein’s call and Rudy’s victory lap are not yet public; they’re certainly something the House Judiciary Committee should pursue.

    Excellent point– added to my rep contact to-do-list. More generally, there have been some fast-moving balls in this game lately of the finer points which may need our reps’ attention (or awareness that we are paying attention), and I appreciate EW and bmaz twitter updates on these issues especially.

  25. Jockobadger says:

    There’s a reason Mueller ‘punted’ to the Congress – it’s the hokey DOJ policy that a sitting president can’t be indicted (in spite of the fact that everyone, including trump’s lawyers, know he’s guilty as a newborn devil.)

    Mueller will be vindicated. He did what was required. The truth will out and hopefully in time.

    • bmaz says:

      There is a very fair chance that said preclusion by DOJ/OLC policy is really why the report does not read different than it does.

      • J R in WV says:

        What we need is a legislative declaration — a law, in other words, that no one is above the law — that everyone is subject to legal action, an indictment, at any time they are found to have committed a crime, of any sort. The level of office held notwithstanding — President, Vice-President ( we already know a VP is indictable, Spiro Agnew having provided that fact! ), Senate Majority Leader or Speaker of the House!

        Such an overwhelmingly stupid policy, no doubt created not long after the first Republican was elected President after Nixon’s term. Not counting G. Ford the unforgivable pardoner. He wasn’t elected!

        • timbo says:

          The idea is certainly problematic. The hope is that it is specious. But then somehow corporations are protected for “free speech” so it’s kind of a bad pickle at the moment.

    • AndTheSlithyToves says:

      I’m with you, Jockobadger. Time for EW to roll out the “Un-Indicted Co-Conspirator” t-shirts to be worn while reading a synopsis of the Wheeler Report…

      • Jockobadger says:

        Excellent plan Slithy. Now where’s my synopsis, damn it? Where’re my not-necessary-to-redact summaries from Bobby Three Sticks? JHC. Barr knows he’s in a real jam. Nixon was engaged in political dirty tricks – a jot of burglary with a tittle of cover-up. This is in a whole different league.

        Rayne asked the right question earlier: What does a patriot do now? (paraphrase)

  26. rst says:

    FWIW, from Devlin Barrett’s 4.7.19 WaPo article, “Scrutiny and Suspicion as Mueller report undergoes redaction”:

    “…Barr is working with Rosenstein, Mueller and their key aides to produce an edited version of their report….”

    • Kai-Lee says:

      Bull Barr: Hey, Bob, whaddya think? Palatino or New Times Roman?
      Mueller: I kinda like Palatino, Bill.

      And scene.

    • Jockobadger says:

      rst, question: I can read and understand the plain text from Barrett’s piece including the quote above, but I wonder what that means on the ground? E.g. are Barr, Rosey, Mueller, and all their key aides secluded somewhere, beavering away at the redaction job in a collegial fashion? Or is this all being done via secure email or similar? Does anyone here know or have experience with this sort of “process?”

      Sorry if OT a bit. Btw, thanks SlithyT.

  27. Eureka says:

    On page 6 of the linked Cohen package, it says of the July 2016 call from Stone to Trump re impending WL release:

    Then afterwards, he asked Cohen whether Stone could be believed.

    I don’t remember this from Cohen’s testimony. I’d think Cohen would have been asked how Cohen replied in turn, and I don’t recall that either. I searched Cohen’s testimony* for “believe” (also “believed” just in case not wildcarded) and found no relevant instance. Maybe it was phrased differently. Anyone else remember this?


    Adding: I also hadn’t heard about him possibly knowing of

    “…possible federal campaign finance violations by the Republican National Committee, including possibly illegal conduiting ofillegal substantial donations to the RNC by foreign nationals, including from China. ” (page 12 of the pdf)

    but that could have been discussed maybe in a publication I missed.

    • Eureka says:

      The weird thing is that it (first example) seems vaguely familiar, perhaps from repeatedly hearing them all talk/converse/seems plausible etc. But I just don’t recall it from the public testimony, so any feedback would be appreciated.

  28. Philip Rhodes says:

    I have always thought that the major motivation for the ‘correction’ made by the Special Counsel’s Office (OSC) to the Buzzfeed story was to dampen down what was becoming a crescendo discussion of the need for Congress to begin an impeachment investigation (i.e. the combination of suborning perjury + illegal campaign financial activities being seen as sufficent for Congress to act even before the Mueller report was available).

    At the time I was quite puzzled by the wording of the correction which was interpreted in vastly different ways by various pundits and talking heads – interpretations varying all the way from ‘ all aspects of the story are wrong’ to ‘the story is essentially right but the proof is not as strong as claimed’.

    The additional information that DOJ pushed (forced?) the OSC to make a correction does provide some clarification (at least to me) – i.e. it was DOJ not the OSC that was panicking about the possible rush to initiate impeachment hearings. Now I wonder whether the byzantine wording of the correction was something of an (obtuse) pushback by the OSC as a sign of disagreement.

    Does any of this make sense or am I way misreading the actions?

    • InfiniteLoop says:

      I’m not ready to rule out OSC having their own motives for the correction. Ultimately, it defended Cohen’s credibility, and I believe the most compelling benefit of that involves Congress, not a courtroom.

      It’s worth keeping the context in mind. When the BF story ran, it was conceivable (to people who hadn’t closely read the Cohen allocution) that Cohen had provided some sort of smoking gun evidence. The reaction at the time generally took “directed” to mean its strongest possible sense, although we now understand the connotation with more nuance.

      I suspect “directed” might not have come across so strongly if BF hadn’t emphasized the novelty of their reporting — incorrectly. EW noted prior examples at

      What we know now suggests OSC believed at the time of the BF story that the obstruction question would properly fall to Congress. We don’t just have more reason to think DOJ acted in bad faith; we also have more reason to think there were independent reasons that OSC’s protection of Cohen’s credibility was aggressive to a fault.

  29. Rugger9 says:

    Raw Story has a couple of interesting high-level reads today:

    By all means Congressman Barr, please do have Mueller testify. In public, so Kaiser Quisling and AG Barr can’t muzzle him about talking about the report and AG Barr’s summary.

    Also: it seems we have a Trump Tower in Azerbaijan that was allegedly used for laundering Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps money. But, the Palace just called the IRGC a “terrorist organization” which seems a bit awkward to me. Juan Cole over at Informed Comment explains an unintended consequence as well (US troops are now even more likely to be targeted).

    Lastly, the taxes question is one that NYS is joining in on (there’s a bill routing in Albany) but I’m somewhat surprised by Mick’s bellicose intransigence on what is really black-letter law. AG Barr at least is trying to sort-of pretend to obey the law even though the redactions will look like Valerie Plame’s book a couple of years ago. Of course, Citizen’s United also overturned a century’s worth of black letter law and precedent, but with KQ’s holdings oozing slime from under so many rocks the Palace can’t stop all of them. And that’s even before we talk about the leakers and whatever Michael Cohen is giving up to stay out of jail.

    • P J Evans says:

      As I understand it, the one in Azerbaijan was never completed – but there are photos of Princess Ivanka onsite, in a hardhat, so claims that they weren’t involved are weaker than wet tissue. It was money-laundering for the oligarchs there, also.

    • Rayne says:

      Rugger, I appreciate the links but the original source for reporting would be better than RawStory which merely regurgitates others’ work, siphoning off their traffic. We need to support the news outlets doing the actual work.

      What about this story is new over what was known two years ago? Why is this news now, in other words?

        • harpie says:

          Adam Davidson, who wrote the 3/13/17 New Yorker article, has a tweet thread today in response to the designation news:

          7:37 AM – 8 Apr 2019
          [quote] The Trump Organization was informed in 2015 that its partners, the Mammadov family of Azerbaijan, were likely laundering money for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. [link to article] 1/
          Trump’s contract gave him the right to audit the Mammadovs finances. He was uniquely positioned to break up a likely multi-billion dollar money laundering scheme.
          He did not report anything to authorities. He continued the business relationship for the entire campaign. 2/
          The Mammadovs worked with the Iranian Darvishi family, whose company, Azarpasillo, is a barely disguised front for the IRGC.
          The Darvishis were part of the IRGC air force WMD acquisitions team, working, specifically, on missile guidance systems. 3/
          It is highly likely that the Trump Tower Baku was a tool used by the Darvishis to acquire WMD and that Trump received millions from this scheme.
          Ivanka oversaw the project.
          Nobody at Trump Org denies any of this. They acknowledge its true. 4/end [end quote]
          Later, Davidson addresses AP, and others:

          7:58 AM – 8 Apr 2019
          [quote] Dear reporters covering IRGC designation, Alan Garten, Trump Org general counsel, acknowledged that Trump and Ivanka knew their Baku Azerbaijan partners were likely laundering money for the IRGC.
          Please include this fact in your coverage. [end quote]

    • harpie says:

      wrt: Collins letter, Jeremy Herb reported this morning:
      6:38 AM – 8 Apr 2019
      [quote] Top Judiciary Republican @RepDougCollins sends Nadler a letter calling on him to immediately bring in Mueller to testify. Nadler has said it’s “inevitable” Mueller’s testimony will be sought, but he wants the full report first: [end quote]
      Here’s a link to that letter from Collin’s Judiciary Committee website:
      Collins to Nadler: Invite Mueller to testify immediately 4/8/19
      bmaz response to letter:
      6:42 AM – 8 Apr 2019
      [quote] It would be idiotic to call Mueller to testify before having the report. Doug Collins wants to call him immediately and likely then argue that there is no need for public release of the report. This is extreme bad faith by Collins. As usual. [end quote]

      • Rugger9 says:

        I wouldn’t second guess bmaz too much, unless there wasn’t a way for either Cummings / Schiff et al to bring Mueller back in or for the Ds to ask whether Barr’s summary accurately and completely communicated Mueller’s findings especially on the counterintelligence prong. Congressman Barr’s gambit I think will backfire, especially if Mueller leaves the DOJ as I saw in the rumor mill above.

        As far as sourcing from Raw Story, it’s where it is and I did make a point about it being a summary. Note also that the reason the Azerbaijani story has another set of legs now is that the IRGC was just named as a terrorist organization, so the linkage between the Palace and the IRGC via the Trump Tower would be relevant. I would also observe that Jon Batchelor (sp) runs a RW radio show here in the Bay Area and spent an extended period of time (a week) in Azerbaijan touting its charms, so to speak with Richard Nixon’s grandson as a featured guest as well as a couple of other wingnuts on the same boondoggle. Why would anyone go there (i.e. no direct flights, and a dictatorship) and spend an entire week like these guys did unless there was a purpose that was not clear at all when they ran this series? Why does anyone care about Tricky Dick’s grandson as a RW rock star? I don’t even see anything on the internet about the guy.

        I’m not sure there is a link there, but I also note that the RW rarely spends money without some purpose for it.

        • Rugger9 says:

          I also see that Nadler is summoning Barr again. I would opine that even if Mueller can’t say “why” the Barr summary was discrepant or incomplete he can say that it is.

          AG Barr bought himself a bunch of trouble doing what he did because Nadler will ensure that the appropriate markers are laid down under oath for comparison later. Congresscritter Barr can demand all he likes but Nadler has the gavel and is not amused from what I can see.

            • Rugger9 says:

              Golden Bear. My last year there was Jack’s first as HC. Before that he was our resident psychotic assistant (which was our secret, we’d run teams to death).

              • Molly Pitcher says:

                My husband played basketball ’73-78. Old poker buddy of Jack’s. We both graduated from there. Go Bears

                • Rugger9 says:

                  I still see Jack from time to time, still as intense as ever.

                  This year’s team looks better than last year’s, which got thumped by Life 60-5 in the national final (it was the worst beating ever by an American squad) and one hopes they are motivated to return the favor. Jack will see to it that they are.

      • timbo says:

        That’s because Collins wants to lambast Mueller and the FBI over hot coals for “spying on Trump” during the campaign. Mueller would be put in quite an ackward position by that and forced to say he was not there at the time and/or unaware of any unauthorized spying by the FBI. Yeah, Nadler needs that report first before calling Mueller. In fact, Nadler and the committee need to have closed session testimony from Mueller before there’s any public testimony period.

  30. Willis Warren says:

    I kind of mildly disagree with bmaz that Mueller shouldn’t be called asap, but agree that Collins is being a shit.

    There’s no reason that Mueller couldn’t be called back, and there’s no reason to not release the summaries that the team had provided Barr. In addition to Mueller, everyone who worked with him needs to testify publicly.

    I think the bigger issue is that Mueller is no longer a doj employee, soon. So, I’m wondering how he’ll testify both before and after.

    • Vicks says:

      I was under the impression that Mueller is still under the AG’s thumb? That Barr till can limit what Mueller can divulge?
      If congress demands he be called and he can’t speak freely, they will appear weak and that is never a good look in these situations

  31. CD54 says:

    Nadler: General Barr, is DOJ policy re: indicting a sitting President a reason SCO did not indict Donald Trump?

    Nadler: Mr. Mueller, is DOJ policy re: indicting a sitting President a reason SCO did not indict Donald Trump?

    In accounting they call it the “acid test.”

    • timbo says:

      The questions would have to be phrased with a bit more nuance but, yeah, that’s maybe the gist.

  32. Jockobadger says:

    Willis – Shouldn’t Mueller’s testimony be the same whether before or after the end of his DOJ tenure? I’m nal, but it seems that if one is under oath? Right? Or is it a matter of fulsomeness/nuance of the testimony? Just curious about your comment. bmaz makes sense about waiting til after the report is dropped (in my worthless opinion.) Anyway, thanks!

  33. Willis Warren says:

    From what I understand, Mueller would be allowed to talk about whatever Barr says is ok, as long as he’s a DOJ employee. Now, Barr may not restrict anything, I don’t know. There’s also the ongoing investigations, which I’m sure are out of bounds as well. As long as Barr isn’t his boss, he’d have more freedom

    • P J Evans says:

      The closed sessions would allow much more on the classified stuff that can’t be brought up in the sessions open to the public (and reporters).

    • timbo says:

      Not where secret national security resources and methods are concerned. In those instances, there would have to be national concerns higher than that to make the argument to compel testimony. Almost certainly a special impeachment committee would fall into that category, where testimony to the Congress could brush aside other considerations. Short of that, there’s compelling arguments that counterintelligence investigations shouldn’t suddenly be subject to public disclosure of details without due diligence first. Only Schiff and Pelosi, on the DP side in the House, are likely have an idea at this point of what those considerations might actually be—a hopeful assumption? Nadler almost certainly does not (yet)?

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