The Debate We May Be Having Tomorrow: If Trump Obstructed Justice to Hide Compromise by Russia, Could that Be a Crime?

In my How to Read the Mueller Report post, I said that if Bill Barr’s memo (which claims the report is broken into just two sections, one on the trolls and hack-and-leak activities, and one on the obstruction question) is to be believed, the report won’t provide much detail about the second half of Mueller’s mandate: to figure out the nature of links between Trump’s flunkies and various Russians.

But we have good reason to believe Barr’s memo is not reliable.

Plus, there’s this passage that came out during the pushback from Mueller’s team.

According to a senior law enforcement official who has spoken to members of Mueller’s team, Mueller team members say it includes detailed accounts of Trump campaign contacts with Russia. While Mueller found no coordination or criminal conspiracy, the official said, some on the special counsel’s team say his findings paint a picture of a campaign whose members were manipulated by a sophisticated Russian intelligence operation. Some of that information may be classified, the official said, so it’s not clear whether it will be released in a few weeks when Barr makes public a redacted version of the Mueller report.

At the time Mueller’s prosecutors were leaking to correct Barr’s misleading portrayal of their report, a story said that the report actually shows that Trump’s team was susceptible to the manipulation of people working for Russia.

That is, it may not so much be that Mueller’s team found Trump and his flunkies’ conduct criminal. Rather, maybe they found their conduct naive — susceptible to compromise by Russia.

Their venality likely contributed to their vulnerability as well.

Such a conclusion is what I was pointing to when I suggested one question the report will answer is, “Did Mueller decide Don Jr is simply too stupid to enter into a conspiracy?” The evidence already in the public record, after all, shows that Don Jr took a meeting offering dirt at a time when he believed that cozying up to Russia could help the family business land a ridiculously lucrative $300 million real estate deal. At the end of the meeting, he told Russians who might be deemed agents of the government that the Trumps would revisit sanctions relief if his dad got elected. And contrary to the Trump camp’s public claims, there not only was follow-up after Trump won, but Trump himself did make moves towards giving Russia that sanctions relief.

That exchange could fit all the elements of a conspiracy charge: an agreement to trade dirt and real estate for sanctions relief and overt acts to further the conspiracy. Unless you figured the key player at the center of the agreement to enter into a conspiracy, Don Jr, is too stupid to know what he’s doing.

The leaked conclusion that Trump’s flunkies were manipulated by a sophisticated intelligence operation sure seems to support the “too stupid to enter into a conspiracy” conclusion.

All that said, the only way that such analysis would be consistent with both the regulatory mandate of the report (limiting the report to a discussion of prosecutions and declinations) and Barr’s description of it (saying it was split into the hack-and-leak and trolling section, and the obstruction section) would be if that analysis appeared in the obstruction section. (Frankly, I suspect Barr’s memo is wrong on this point, as Mueller would need to explain that Don Jr is too stupid to enter into a conspiracy, if that’s why he decided not to charge him in one).

That is, it may be that what Trump was obstructing was not criminal conduct, a knowingly engaged conspiracy, but stupid conduct, his failson saying all the words that amount to entering into a conspiracy, without realizing he was entering into one.

The reason Trump may have fired Mike Flynn and Jim Comey and pushed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress may be to hide that he got badly used by Putin’s envoys who appealed to Trump’s narcissism and greed to get him (in the form of his especially stupid son) to agree to sanctions relief.

Such a conclusion would be consistent with the reason Barr exonerated Trump, in usurping Congress’ authority to make that judgment: Trump and his failson didn’t so much knowingly commit a crime — they didn’t mean to enter into a conspiracy with the Russians, it just happened because they’re too weak to resist. Under such analysis, because Trump didn’t commit a crime, he had no crime to obstruct, and therefore did not obstruct.

Again, this is all hypothesis based on the known outlines of the report, at least as presented by an Attorney General who can’t be trusted.

Given that it’s a possibility, however, I want to prepare for the possibility that tomorrow we’ll be debating whether a President can obstruct justice to prevent voters from learning how badly he and his dumb son compromised themselves in an foreign intelligence operation in the course of running a presidential election to get rich.

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. 

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212 replies
  1. Rapier says:

    This is an acceptable narrative that maybe even the Mueller haters might accept at some later date. It does downplay the filthy lucre aspect that motivated all the players on Team Trump however. That to me has always been the worst aspect of the whole thing. However that players are in it, “it” being government right up to intelligence and counter intelligence and defense part of governance, for the money ,is not not even considered wrong anymore by the savvy, it is considered de rigueur.

  2. Charles says:

    Accepting this as a reasonable starting hypothesis, I would challenge it by noting Trump’s relationship with Putin. Putin is arrogant and contemptuous toward Trump, while Trump is subservient toward Putin. Putin gets his global objectives, including sanctions relief, while Trump gets nothing.

    So, the investigators may have concluded that Trump is simply a rube who got caught by a clever Russian, but I remain skeptical. And now that the Mueller report is out and Trump is absolved of criminal liability for his dealings with Russia, Trump is a free agent. The logical one to go after is Putin, while cutting a deal with the Democrats. Instead, he’s turning his fire on the Democrats while remaining subservient toward Putin.

    Something is off.

    • Fran of the North says:

      Nah. The dangle is still dangling. What purpose does it serve for the Russians to take it off the table?

      Trump is like a dog with a bone. He’s never going to let the possibility of an eponymous building in Moscow go as long as it has any chance of happening.

      If he goes after Putin et al, he puts the nail in the coffin of the project.

      • P J Evans says:

        True. Tr*mp thinks that the only way people are remembered is if they get their name on something (which makes him look remarkably ignorant of history).

      • Alan K says:

        When Trump was electoral-colleged, the public was well aware that Trump was corrupt, and that there was Russian involvement in the campaign. Possibly Mueller concluded that a “Don Jr was a fool” defense would have convinced a jury, and the other topics: Trump as intelligence asset, and Trump as corrupt politician, did not fall into his mandate. It would be interesting if the log of Mueller requests to DOJ contained any discussion of the latter.

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah, Charles, a couple of things are “off” with your comment, not the facts. First off, the Mueller Report is not “out” yet. Secondly, Trump is not “absolved of criminal liability”. Are you transcribing bullshit from Fox News or something, or just that uninformed? You certainly have not been absorbing the material here to pitch that deceptive nonsense.

      • Charles says:

        If you’re going to bait me, bmaz, use something meatier than word salad.

        1. The report was out at the time that I wrote my comment in the sense that Trump had been briefed on it. It was that event (Trump knowing what was in it), not public knowledge that would determine Trump’s behavior.

        2. Now that we have most of the report, we know that the basic hypothesis that Marcy put forward and that I was responding to (“it may be that what Trump was obstructing was not criminal conduct, a knowingly engaged conspiracy, but stupid conduct”) does not fully fit the report. When the president said on the appointment of Mueller “I’m fucked.” he clearly understood that he had committed criminal acts. True, the report says that establishing criminal intent on the Tower meeting was not up to DoJ threshold, but with respect to the press release edited by Trump, it states that “the President edited a press statement for Trump Jr. by deleting a line that acknowledged that the meeting was with “an individual who [Trump Jr.] was told might have information helpful to the campaign” and instead said only that the meeting was about adoptions of Russian children. When the press asked questions about the President’ s involvement in Trump Jr.’ s statement, the President’s personal lawyer repeatedly denied the President had played any role.” This is clear evidence that the president was aware that the conduct was potentially criminal and that by lying and instructing his lawyer to lie, he was furthering a coverup.”

        The basic point I made is that the president was acting too guilty to be consistent with the hypothesis “that what Trump was obstructing was not criminal conduct, a knowingly engaged conspiracy, but stupid conduct.” The Mueller report, incomplete as it is both textually and in terms of the investigation, confirms my skepticism.

        Furthermore, Trump’s best interests lie in damping down the congressional investigation by placating the Democrats in some way. This is what Reagan did after Iran-Contra, and he escaped impeachment. Instead, Trump’s guilty behavior and his viciousness toward immigrants, the press, and others has inflamed the Congress. Viciousness and guiltiness is more consistent with a man who knows that there is evidence that will show he committed serious crimes and is playing King Canute with the evidence than with a man who was stupid but not criminal.

        I’m not sure why I spend my time engaging you, since I concluded some time ago that your interest is in bullying, not in discussing. Maybe some day I will better understand why I try to restore civility to our national madhouse by showing an example of how we might better disagree agreeably.

    • EricB says:

      I am upset that the President and other high officials, with constant access to legal advice, are allowed to use ignorance as a defense (or even worse, be offered it as a defense when they haven’t asked for it).

      I accept that it might be true, but I reject that it’s exculpatory.

    • Mainmata says:

      Putin’s blackmail of Trump’s massive money laundering of Putin’s oligarch friends for 10 years before the election.

  3. John B. says:

    I had always thought that ignorance of the law (stupidity) is no excuse for breaking the law or entering into a conspiracy with our legendary foes for political gain and filthy lucre…but for don jr and his almost as ignorant pater familias no biggie? Hmmmmm.

    • Peacerme says:

      Stomach ache. Privilege. Disgusted.

      A land mark study on death row inmates. Many more where this comes from. If this is the take away I have lost all respect for Mueller.

      latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1988-10-23-mn-259-story

      “All had serious psychiatric problems, and most had brain abnormalities, low IQs and poor mental test scores.”

    • Drew says:

      Ignorance of the law is no excuse, but in this case the law that would apply to this ignoramus requires specific intent, if I understand correctly (IANAL). Thus Jr. is too stupid to form intent, therefore is unable to commit this specific crime. I take Marcy’s analysis as predictive of the reasoning regarding not charging a bunch of these goons, not as necessarily agreeing that the crime was not committed.

      I’m not very satisfied with the logic, but conspiracy charges are notoriously difficult to establish and convict. The venality question makes me think that the conspiracy was conspiracy to solicit and take bribes–and bribery is its own separate and more easily prosecutable crime (also mentioned in the constitution).

      Which brings us to the likelihood that the full set of facts might well put Trump (& Co) in the position of having deeply and clearly impeachable offenses laid out, without statutory crimes being chargeable. If they venally solicited bribes & favors from a foreign government and betrayed the interests of the United States in the process, it would take very tortured logic to say that wasn’t impeachable.

      The criminal charges I expect will be for money laundering & similar crimes, mostly committed in New York and charged through SDNY, EDNY & NYAG.

    • e.a.f. says:

      Ignorance of the law is not an excuse, I’ve heard and seen enough of it in administrative law. Here in Canada, there is also the issue of “intent”. Don’t know how that plays in the U.S.A. From time to time, a Judge has ruled, there was no intent to commit a crime, not guilty. So perhaps the suggestion is Trump Jr. is simply too stupid to have the intent to commit a crime. Some would find that objectionable, others not so much.

      • bmaz says:

        As Drew said immediately above, there is a difference between “ignorance of the law” and “intent” (or mens era as commonly known in criminal law) as a required mental state for a given crime.

        • Peacerme says:

          I get it. It was hard for me to understand the legally of it. My brain reacted to the wording of too dumb before processing that this is a legal definition. I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it.

        • Skillethead says:

          “mens era” sounds kind of like a deodorant.

          Was that an autocorrect, or just a funny typo?

          • Stacey says:

            It seems to me that all of the behavior we are aware of in the public space, shows that INTENT to conspire with the Russians is all over the place, just like Trump’s INTENT to obstruct justice is all over the place.

            Trump wanted his Moscow erection no matter what and he wanted to lose to Hillary so he could spend the next 8 years being the bigger badder Fox News/Trump TV poking her in eye 24/7 playing the victim for losing the rigged election to his cult members. And Putin wanted the sanctions relief, no grief over Crimea, and to damage Hillary’s presidency. I believe Trump did not think he would win the election and I believe he never intended to win (which probably complicates the pre-election conspiracy angle) and at some point Russia went from just trying to damage Hillary, to actually thinking he could win, and therefore helping Trump to win. But because the goals, I think, sort of moved around a little bit during the process of the election, the conspiracy gets hard to prove legally. One has to look more broadly, at the ‘you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours’ angle, but think of it maybe as ‘the itch sort of moved around a bit once the scratching started’–if that makes sense? But scratching was ALWAYS the intent!!!!

            It’s possible that others involved in Trump’s campaign wanted him to win more than he wanted to win and did stuff to ensure that was more likely to happen, but I honestly have never thought he really wanted to or thought he would win. And I think he objectively HATES the job!!!!

            • Tom says:

              I agree that Trump would have been happier being a sore loser in 2016 rather than a victorious candidate. I also wonder whether some of the reported chaos in Trump’s 2016 campaign was due to the cross-currents generated by staff trying to elect a candidate who really didn’t want to win. But I’m still having trouble reconciling those conclusions with the fact that, in some ways, Trump really seems to enjoy being in power: the attention he receives must be a big part of it. And now that he’s in the Oval Office, the DOJ policy on not indicting a sitting President must provide a lot of motivation for running in 2020.

    • CitizenCrone says:

      Stupidity or naivete is tempting –and at first blush believable. But these are not babes in the woods! Review the Soho project and the conscious, deliberate lies Ivanka & Don Jr perpetrated to mislead prospective buyers. (Cohen got SDNY to drop charges.) Every one of them has lied from day one. One or two may be in over his head with this govt gig, but they’re busy as ever with influence, secret deals, revenge, money magic and furthering their own interests.

      Also–don’t forget Trump was schooled by that other Cohen. And advised by Stone.

      • Democritus says:

        This, I also found Active Measures a good resource for people who haven’t been following closely. It gives them the perspective with which to view the 2016 elections.

        It’s gonna be a hell of a day everyone, hold on to your hats.

        I really hope that the team was able to outsmart the obstruction, and I’m sure, well I hope, it’s not over yet, but I worry very much for he Rule of Law.

        • Tom says:

          Can’t help but think Mueller’s findings must be pretty damning if Barr feels it necessary to put so much spin on the story before the report is even released. He’s acting as if he’s a bomb disposal expert trying to defuse an explosive device without having it blow up in his face. Hope someone asks Barr at his press conference how he expects anyone to ask questions about a report that he’s still sitting on.

    • RedApe says:

      What if it wasn’t Donald Trump Sr. that was compromised, but Donald Trump, Jr.

      a. Trump Tower Moscow Venture with the Crocus Group (2013-2014)
      The Trump Organization and the Crocus Group , a Russian real estate conglomerate owned
      and controlled by Aras Agalarov, began discussing a Russia-based real estate project shortly after
      the conclusion of the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. 291 Donald J. Trump Jr. served as
      _the primary negotiator on behalf of the Trump Organization; Emin Agalarov (son of Aras
      Agalarov) and Irakli “Ike” Kaveladze represented the Crocus Group during negotiations, 292 with
      the occasional assistance of Robert Goldstone. 293
      In December 2013, Kaveladze and Trump Jr. negotiated and signed preliminary terms of an agreement for the Trump Tower Moscow project.”

      From the Mueller Report something like the “piss tape” – presumed to be a compromising tape of Trump in Russia while at the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant existed. Longtime Trump business partner Giorgi Rtskhiladze (who helped seal deals for Trump in Khazachstan and Georgia – and was assisting in the Trump Moscow Project-was interviewed twice by Mueller investigators.
      “On October 30, 20I6, Michael Cohen received a text from Russian businessman Giorgi Rtskhiladze that said, “Stopped flow of tapes from Russia but not sure if there’s anything else. Just so you know …. ” 10/30/16 Text Message , Rtskhiladze to Cohen.
      Rtskhiladze said “tapes ” referred to compromising tapes of Trump rumored to be held by persons associated with the Russian real estate conglomerate Crocus Group, which had helped host the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Russia . Rtskhiladze 4/4/l8 302 , at 12. Cohen said he spoke to Trump about the issue after receiving the texts from Rtskhiladze. Cohen 9/ 12/ 18 302, at 13. Rtskhiladze said he
      was told the tapes were fake, but he did not communicate that to Cohen . Rtskhiladze 5/ l0/18 302, at 7.”

      The Crocus Group or Crocus International is a Russian real-estate and property development company that, in 2013 , hosted the Trump-owned Miss Universe Pageant , and from 2013 through 2014, worked wit h the T rump Organization on a Trump Moscow project. So who were these mysterious people with the Crocus Group that had control of a Trump “sex-tape”. Why would the have them, or have made them?

      In whatever case this clearly might be the rumor passed on to Steele…that the Russians had sexually compromising material “on Trump”.

      But what if the tape wasn’t fake, and what if it wasn’t Donald Sr. What if it was Junior?

  4. Pat says:

    “That is, it may not so much be that Mueller’s team found Trump and his flunkies’ conduct criminal. Rather, maybe they found their conduct naive — susceptible to compromise by Russia.”

    To me, this has always been the indefensible point for those who believe he belongs in office: his documented, factual actions present only two options:

    a) He’s knowingly corrupt, or
    b) He – and those with whom he surrounds himself – are so dunderheadedly inept that they’re easy marks for those who are knowingly corrupt.

    • Thomas Paine says:

      It will be quite obvious for most folks to miss – the entire Trump Klan is too stupid to commit conspiracy, but they likely stumbled into a variety of lesser crimes in the process of moving the circus to WDC, and they are too “proud” to admit they were and are being duped by the Russians and others.

      The Mueller Report may convince many that the Trumps are innocent of a crime they couldn’t even conceive of AND they are so inept that removal from office is way overdue to prevent further damage to the Union.

      The indictments for a host of lesser crimes center about garden variety fraud and corruption are coming from the SDNY, EDNY and the NY State AG.

    • Mainmata says:

      The Trump Organization has been a criminal enterprise for decades. Trump has been involved with the Russians for a very long time and not on peace missions. He is a thoroughly corrupt mafia don who has engaged in extensive money laundering, RICO-related activities (not just with Russians) and other corruption. How much of that in the Mueller report is another matter.

      • Kai-Lee says:

        There seems to be some question now as to which set of instructions Mueller was really following in this exercise. Was it the original terms of appointment by RR, signed in May, or a later revision of sorts, issued in August/17? Or has the work been interrupted? Certainly, there are many referred investigations but not, to my knowledge, for conspiracy to defraud per the election or for obstruction of justice pursuing investigation of same.

        Surely all of these many potential crimes were “matters arising” in the course of the primary investigation?!!?

        ORDER NO. 3915-2017
        APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COUNSEL
        TO INVESTIGATE RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE WITH THE
        2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION AND RELATED MATTERS
        https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/967231/download

  5. RWood says:

    “Did Mueller decide Don Jr is simply too stupid to enter into a conspiracy?”

    When you asked this yesterday I laughed and said no, as I am under the impression that ignorance of the law is not a valid excuse for breaking it. Ignorant or not, he entered into it, so I deemed the question a moot one.

    After reading this I see another way to view it. Was Jr “stupid enough” is a question I think even Mueller will have a hard time answering. One thing Mueller CAN answer is whether the other Trump people in the room are that stupid. To give Jr a pass Mueller would also have to convince me that Manafort and Kushner are equally stupid. And based on their history’s, especially Manafort’s, I would have to say no. He would also have to prove to me that the three of them did not discuss the upcoming meeting beforehand and have a strategy ready for what they were going to do/say.

    I would label Jr as “poorly coached” when it comes to what he said in that meeting.

    My 2 cents, worth every penny.

    • Rita says:

      The “too dumb to conspire” argument is plausible with regard to Junior and Trump.

      But I agree that Manafort was anything but dumb. He was too experienced in both foreign and domestic political campaigns to not understand the implications of the Russian overtures. Whether he informed the others is a separate question. And. If he did, did they pay any attention?

    • Maestro says:

      When people say “ignorance of the law is no defense”, what they mean is that a defendant cannot argue that they did not know a particular act was against the law as a defense against conviction. That’s not the circumstances that we are dealing with here.

      Conspiracy is a specific intent crime, which means that the government has to prove that the defendant knew and intended to enter into a conspiracy. In this case, it would mean that the government would have to prove that Don Jr. knew and intended to enter into an agreement whose aim or purpose would result in a violation of federal law. What Marcy is positing is that Don Jr. may have been too stupid to know he was entering into an agreement with the Russians when he said the things he did.

      • RWood says:

        If I were writing that as a scene…

        “So, councilor, what you are trying to make this courtroom believe here today is that Donald Trump Jr., a graduate of the Warton School of economics and a fourth generation businessman, the man who currently serves as a trustee and executive vice president of The Trump Organization, and who oversees its group of approximately 500 business entities that own, operate, invest in, and develop residential real estate, hotels, resorts, residential towers, golf courses, casinos, university’s, broadcast media companies, model management groups, publishing companies, retail outlets, financial services, food and beverages companies, business education services, online travel outlets, commercial and private aviation corporations, and beauty pageants, all in various countries around the world, does not have the mental capacity to recognize a simple quid-pro-quo agreement when it’s presented to him?”

        “Is that what we’re being asked to believe?”

      • Stacey says:

        The thing that’s frustrating with the Mobbed Up Trump code language that Michael Cohen talked about is that if a Russian BossMan says “I’d like to help your dad win this election…I wish someone would remove these pesky sanctions on us” and Trump or his son says “we’d like to build this tower in Moscow…we can’t finance it with these sanctions in place…if we win, we’ll revisit those” then it looks like an agreement to any normal person once they both start moving in the direction of furthering that end goal. It may be a legal reality that more consciousness of guilt has to be proven at the ‘entered into an agreement’ stage of the game, but all the lying ought to prove a consciousness of guilt during and after the game. How do we end up short of the legal threshold even if we stumbled into the agreement ‘unconsciously’ but then we realized it was looking really bad for us (legally or otherwise) and we started trying to cover it all up?

        Trump’s old mob lawyer taught him well how to skirt the edges of conspiratorial intent in his language and behavior, but that’s why they created RICO, for exactly this type of situation. Because all together, the behavior in its entirety is a criminal pattern and that’s how the whole Trump Org behaves! I hope other offices are pursuing that angle against the whole organization!!!

  6. CaliLawyer says:

    I think Jr. was merelly the eyes and ears of his father at the 6/9 meeting – the principals were definitely Manafort and Veselnistkaya. He doesn’t cross the street without Tweety Amin’s permission, which makes his participation in that meeting as an empty vessel problematic without any real knowledge of what Jr. and Amin talked about.

    That said, I’m really curious if we’ll get any new clues about whatever payoffs Kushner got, and the mechanisms thereof. If there’s one thing this whole sorry group is good at, it’s old-fashioned money-laundering.

    So:

    1. TrumpCo gets a Potemkin tower in Moscow and election help from Israeli intelligence;
    2. SA gets nukes, dead dissidents and tougher Iran sanctions;
    3. FlynnCo gets millions for selling nukes;
    4. Turkey gets Gulen and potential Kurd massacre;
    5. Israel gets the Golan Heights, Jerusalem as capital and tougher sanctions on Iran;
    6. Russia splits Turkey from NATO, then gets sanctions relief, a base on the Mediterranean, and the role of power broker in the ME;

    What exactly did Jared “Mr. Middle East Peace” get and what were the mechanisms for it?

    • CaliLawyer says:

      1a. So much corruption and so little time – forgot about GRU/Wikileaks favors to TrumpCo lol

      • CaliLawyer says:

        FWIW I do think the Kremlin has plenty of kompromat on DJT for bribery and money laundering, so it isn’t all carrots.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I think that’s right: Jr would have been a conduit for dad, not because he hadn’t time for the meeting that consumed the precious time of his top campaign staff, but because Trump Sr knew the meeting was illegal and wanted a cutout. No one would know more about such things than Paul Manafort.

      • RWood says:

        John Sipher at Just Security agrees:

        “In my opinion, if anyone associated with the campaign may have been a witting source for the Kremlin it was either Carter Page or Paul Manafort. Page’s history with the FBI and Russian services is fairly well known. If the Russians didn’t pitch him to become an agent it was because they determined he wasn’t worth the effort.

        Manafort is a different story. Manafort’s out-of-control ego and greed were apparent to everyone he met. He spent years conspiring with and enabling war criminals, undermining U.S. policy and looking to make a buck anywhere he could. He enriched himself while engaged with Russians and Russian-linked Ukrainians. Anyone who has spent years making money on the fringes of Russian politics has rubbed up against the cesspool of Russian intelligence, criminality and corruption. He appears to have been comfortable in that world. At the very least, the Russian services certainly had years of access to Manafort. His position as the Trump campaign chair would have also made him a top target of interest for Russian intelligence (and the services of China, Iran etc.). Failure to proposition him would have been an act of professional negligence by the Russian services. It was just too easy.”

        He also refers to Trump as a “useful idiot”. Hard not to agree with him there.

        • CaliLawyer says:

          Page is a strange bird – on the one hand, he comes across as a total bozo but at the same time the FBI had more sustained interest in him than almost anybody, based on what’s been revealed so far, and the FISA warrants got longer and longer. Manafort I believe got outed in one of the emails as the one supporting the Putin contacts but only through low level cutouts like Page. I believe he met up with Sechin’s right hand man, so there is that.

          • PieIsDamnGood says:

            Isn’t there a plausible theory that the focus on Page in the dossier was a disinformation effort by Russia?

            • bmaz says:

              Isn’t there a “plausible theory” that Page was a dumbass security threat that had been under observation by the US since 2013/2014? Of course there is, because those are the actual facts.

        • CaliLawyer says:

          Also, Sipher for some reason didn’t even mention Trump’s off the record contacts with Putin and the attendant intelligence sharing.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Useful but not unwitting. Trump and Jr would have been witting enough to agree to let powerful foreign actors help them win the presidency.

          Co-conspirators do not need to be equally intelligent or talented, nor do they each need to know what the others are doing. Once the conspiracy is launched – an illegal purpose agreed and an overt act committed – co-conspirators, in effect, become partners. Each is bound by the acts of the other, whether they know about them or not.

      • RWood says:

        Slightly CT here, but I’m going there anyway.

        Would Trump, a) be satisfied with a report from one of the attendees regarding what happened in the meeting, and if so, who would make that report? or b) not trust anyone to accurately report to him, especially his stupid son, and therefore be listening in when the meeting occurred?

        If b, then I have to wonder who was also listening in? Is it too much of a stretch to think there’s a transcript of this meeting somewhere on a DOJ computer?

      • WinningerR says:

        I’d expect that anybody smart enough to use a cut-out would also be smart enough not to use his own son (and namesake!) as said cut-out.

    • elk_l says:

      Re: “What exactly did Jared “Mr. Middle East Peace” get and what were the mechanisms for it?”

      No doubt, there is a Trump-Kushner Tower, Jerusalem, in there somewhere.

  7. MattyG says:

    Interesting. This post presents an intruiging hypothetical, but everything in DTs actions and body language towards Putin argue against DT ever having had a epiphany that he was being badly played by the other side. From all appearances whatever was going on he was all in. That Junior, Kush and others in DTs innermost circle were never charged with anything prior to Mueller submitting the report – even Papadopolis level lying charges we can be pretty sure they committed – argues more that Mueller’s problem was how to indict a welter of subordinates while the chief must (by DOJ protocol) remain only an unindicted coconspirator in clear view. This would be a very ‘indelicate’ situation that may have caused all sorts of ‘squirmy’ methodological problems for the investigation. Issues Barr could exploit.

    I suggested this interpretation in a reply shortly after it was announced Mueller would be submitting his report. My take was that the report might be more of a roadmap to indicting the ‘gang’ as a whole when the chief could be clearly targeted, and the weaknesses in the prosecution until such time that he was. I don’t know what the legal meaning is for Barr’s assertion that Mueller didn’t “establish” a case for collusion, but Bar could well have used the ‘squirmy’ issues to park evidence of such a case, but evidence that was partially out of reach for now from a prosecution perspective level by the DOJ. Barr said he didn’t consider DOJs policy of not indicting a sitting president in rendering his judgement, but if the report itself compartmentalized evidence using this standard, Barr could hide behind that in asserting no collusion was “established”.

    • Bri2k says:

      “…but everything in DTs actions and body language towards Putin argue against DT ever having had a epiphany that he was being badly played by the other side.”

      I don’t know if there’s a typo in there but Trump sure didn’t look that way in Helsinki.

      • MattyG says:

        Helsinki was confirmation he was on board, all in. His posturing; defending the Russian postition over that of US, was eager and unquestioning. Yes, he may have realized what a jam he was in, but not in the sense that he had just discovered that he’d been played. He’s a fool from way back and chasing after his own lies and deceptions are his way of living.

      • CitizenCrone says:

        In Helsinki when Trump and Putin entered the room after their secret one-on-one: Putin very pleased with himself, Trump stunned, gob-smacked, sheepish. Like he’d been slapped upside the head with a little reality. Like he’d just found out how much he wasn’t in control.

        • MattyG says:

          To the extent DT can recall what he actually does – he knows what he did for the election. He accepted Putin’s help and has needed to cover his tracks almost every step of the way since. His debasement in front of Putin (Helsinki, and on every other occasion) was just that – the “paying the price” part. I doubt he’s self aware enough to experience a “holy shit what did this guy do” moment. We could see he’s been played like a fiddle – but he fine with the treatment. He’s probably pissed he couldn’t cut some of the deals Moscow dangled, but then again we hardly know the details, and DT has likely gained $$$ in the various 3-way deals that have been going on in the Mideast etc.

    • Stacey says:

      I think no one should assume that anything Barr has said so far or will put out at any point later regarding this report, or how he will massage the redactions, is honest or true to Mueller’s original investigation or conclusions.

      This article gives us some good history of Barr’s “summarizing of the principle conclusions” of documents he would not allow congress to see back in 1989. He even used the same phrase to give congress the impression he was giving them an honest accounting of the document!

      https://www.justsecurity.org/63635/barrs-playbook-he-misled-congress-when-omitting-parts-of-justice-dept-memo-in-1989/

      The dude literally lied all over this and some years later when the OLC opinion in question came out publicly it was obvious he had strategically deceived congress in order to pretend to notify them of ‘nothing really new here’ but oh yeah, the opinion totally flipped long-standing precedent on international law and violating treaties by our law enforcement just going into other countries and scooping people up without notifying that country (Panama, in particular at that time). Barr told congress the opinion specifically dealt with domestic law enforcement issues which was precisely not true and was meant to put them at ease about what the press had reported was in the new opinion from OLC.

      This guy is gangster and as shameless as Trump in his boldness to lie to whomever he needs to. When he said ‘he has no future career goals he can be maneuvered to protect therefore we should trust him’, even that was a deceit! He’s already proven he’s willing to just throw his body on the grenade for no better reason than to protect and further his own interpretation of the executive branch’s far reaching powers. He had to know that the 1989 OLC opinion would eventually come out and he’d be exposed, and he threw his body on the grenade anyway! This time the only difference is the exposure will happen much sooner, he must surely realize, and yet, here he is in mid air lunging at the grenade!

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Don Jr, like his dad, has a limited intelligence and is woefully ignorant. But both father and son are feral and predatory, the father more than the son. Whether their feral sense or their ignorance – in addition to their voracious greed – dominated their relations with Russians would seem to be a fact question for a jury.

    • Yogarhythms says:

      Eh, 17APR19 1:19PM
      If only “…a fact question for the jury”. I’ll settle for committee testimony I’m semiretired and don’t know if I can wait for voir dire.

    • ken melvin says:

      Very good; the very qualities that ‘maybe’ made Trump rich. His intelligence doesn’t reach causal.

  9. jaango says:

    For these past several months, I have yet to find or recognize the Unassailable Fact that the Mueller Report is simply put, the denial, deflection and diversion that is tantamount to White Collar Crime. And from the standpoint the today’s neoliberalism and as premised on the grubbiest of the money grubbers, via our $5 trillion of congressionally approved spending, this white collar criminal behavior is being readily dismissed due to placing this behavior into a political context. Now, bring on more of the underlying “redacted” and which permits me to “offer” my tongue-in-cheek humor on this subject matter.

    Need more be said?

  10. Sandwichman says:

    “…the possibility that tomorrow we’ll be debating whether a President can obstruct justice to prevent voters from learning how badly he and his dumb son compromised themselves…”

    I suspect that the Trump “counter report” will be a counter attack on the “spying” done by “bad cops,” the intent of which will be to deflect from consideration of the obstruction of justice question. Fox, of course, will run with that Hannity/Pirro narrative while the NYT/CNN “mainstream” will presumably succumb to a “balanced” coverage that gives equal weight to the competing obstruction and spying narratives. Given that coverage of the Barr letter gave prominence to the bogus “no collusion, no obstruction” claim, the obstruction v. spying controversy will leave the “no collusion, no obstruction” claim in place.

    • Fran of the North says:

      Margaret Sullivan has an informed piece in the Washington Post today on how the media should treat the release of the report.

      “That’s why it will be important for journalists, in the initial reporting, to be open with their audiences or readers about what they don’t know — to say, in essence, “we just got this and we are reading it in real time and trying to figure it out.”

      Transparency (we’re just making sense of this) and humility (we really don’t know what the bottom line is yet) will be crucial elements.”

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/media-must-fight-their-own-dna-to-properly-cover-the-redacted-mueller-report/2019/04/16/198ac22e-6057-11e9-9ff2-abc984dc9eec_story.html

    • dwfreeman says:

      I suspect we learn little detail in this report given the likely amount of rainbow redactions will color its findings and hide significant meaning. So, what we will mostly learn from that is how much influence the official gatekeepers, Barr and Rosenstein had in massaging the message they wanted Mueller’s work to show.

      And so in the end, they will have protected their party and its benefactors while going along with each other’s predilections to politically get along.

      Political expediency seems their primary motive, but history won’t judge that choice well. I see no reason to protect Trump from himself. Others see it as a cottage industry of palpable legal need, Barr in particular. He trumpeted his 19-page private solution, then rode in like a hired gun to protect the venal rancher from his own stupid venality.

      Meantime, Rosenstein is just hoping to survive this with his career identity and pension intact. So, like the willing ranch boss, he’s willing to back Barr and avoid a historical battle while pretending Mueller’s minions work was beside the point.

      How else do you judge Rosenstein’s oscillating tendencies in this whole affair. It’s easier for him to protect turf and those in his orbit than put himself in direct line of fire by support of truth and justice.

      So, let’s be clear about this: We are already compromising the results of a report that we know based on our own understanding of pubicly acknowledged and reported events, sequences, activities and relationships point to a conclusion that the Republicans are seeking to alter reasonable and political perception.

      This is a Republican enterprise. I can’t emphasize this enough. This report is an exercise in party pretension in search of truth and consequence with a Fox and Friends finish.

      • Bri2k says:

        I keep imagining how well it would be received on the right if the rule was “Only Democrats can investigate Democrats”.

        You’re absolutely right. This is a 100% Republican enterprise. Now if they were smart, they’d have cleaned house on their own but greed must be a difficult thing to turn off.

        Many thanks to Ms Wheeler and the rest of the crew here for keeping things on an even keel and contributing enormously to my understanding of all this.

      • Stacey says:

        Comey made a recent comment in an interview that his concerns about Rosenstein are that his reputation is as ‘a survivor’. Meaning, whatever Rod has to do, whichever boss he has to serve today, right now, to survive to fight another day, that’s what he does. Does that sound about right?

    • Tom says:

      The last I heard, Rudy G. stated that the WH counter-report has been edited down to about 35-40 pages. It may have dawned on the President’s team that the more they say in their report, the more they may expose themselves to inadvertently revealing new information or giving clues as to where they feel the President may be most vulnerable. Of course, the WH counter-report is intended to be a distraction as much as a rebuttal, but I wonder if it may not deserve careful reading nonetheless. This time tomorrow we shall know.

      • errant aesthete says:

        I am in complete agreement on the notion that tomorrow’s production is a “Republican enterprise” and an “exercise in party pretension in search of truth and consequence with a Fox and Friends finish.”

        I also caution a healthy degree of skepticism in viewing this extravaganza in how the media will choreograph it and roll it out. Barr has already arranged a 9:30 press conference to clearly assert his leverage and distinction as chief storyteller of the tale that’s about to unfold.

        Seth Abramson pointed out in a highly readable piece on what to expect from the media tomorrow, that “AG Barr is a *political* actor; he appears to be synchronizing his rhetoric, terminology, and document production with Trump and his legal team.”

        https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1118313104687996928.html

        He makes some very good points, basically concluding that “Thursday will be exciting—but it is decidedly unclear whether it’ll be consequential. Do *not* let the media’s excitement over higher ratings—or simply its own confusion about whether Thursday matters, and if so, why—to cause *you* to overestimate its importance. /end

  11. SICK says:

    What do you make of the theory that Barr and Mueller are using a definition of coordination that requires proof of an agreement, which is contrary to the law and Federal Election Commission regulations and, more importantly, has been rejected by the Supreme Court?

    As further described below:

    1. Footnote: 1 in Barr letter, “In assessing potential conspiracy charges, the Special Counsel also considered whether members of the Trump campaign “coordinated” with Russia election interference activities. The Special Counsel defined “coordination” as an “agreement—tacit or express—between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference.”

    2. The FEC’s current regulation, 11 CFR § 109.20(a), provides: “Coordinated means made in cooperation, consultation or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate, a candidate’s authorized committee, or a political party committee.” Coordination can result if a “communication is created, produced, or distributed after one or more substantial discussions” between the campaign and the person paying for the communication, regardless of whether there was any “agreement” about the communication.

    • Maestro says:

      Barr’s definition of “coordination” is certainly problematic because the way he defined it leaves no distinction whatsoever between that term and conspiracy, rendering the claim to have concluded there was no coordination in addition to a finding of no conspiracy completely meaningless.

      The second point is true, but the cited regulation only applies to the specific context of campaign finance. It would not necessarily apply in areas outside of that.

  12. BobCon says:

    This is long shot, but I am curious if Mueller will touch on a more significant Russian interference effort in 2016. Trump has been extremely touchy about the legitimacy of his election, and it seems possible that obstruction might be partially an attempt to hide a major Russian contribution to 2016.

    Similar to the too dumb to conspire line, it seeems possible Mueller may have found Trump didn’t know the full extent of the Russian campaign until after Election Day, and therefore wasn’t doing enough to conspire.

    I know it has been suggested here that the extent of Russian interference has been shifted outside of Mueller’s work. But it still seems possible to me that some references to a larger Russian campaign may be included as a partial motive for obstruction.

    I could see Barr being even more concerned with protecting the integrity of the 2016 election results than the personal integrity of Trump Sr. and Jr. That might partially explain why Barr is there in the first place.

    • CaliLawyer says:

      Barr is there to save the Republican Party. He’s a loyal Bushie and a lot of establishment Rs are likely touched by this, and not only through the NRA. Cambridge Analytica has done work for a number of Rs, and the American right wing media sure sounds a lot like RT. It’s been the Kremlin model in Europe, too, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some media grifters in addition to Stone and Corsi get tarred a bit.

    • viget says:

      The 2016 election integrity will be the last domino to fall, and it will fall, but probably not for many many years, when the FBI and the IC writ large believe that they have successfully protected the process, assuming they ever do that.

      Think of the implications to admitting that foreign states (Russia, possibly folks tied to Israeli intelligence, mercenary hackers paid by foreign states) actually changed the outcome of an American election? What sort of panic would ensue? It would immediately make the outcome of every election that follows questionable. So I could certainly see why Barr and/or Mueller would not want to make that public.

      I’m not saying that’s necessarily the right answer. I think our allergy to the truth in this country for fear of exposing the criminality of the ruling class is the soft underbelly that Russia (et al.) have exploited. This would have been a lot less painful if the truths surrounding the Reagan years, Iran Contra, the S&L scandals, the Iraq War, the Plame affair, etc., etc. were dealt with piecemeal instead of trying to bury all at once. Now we’re gonna have to rip the bandaid off and the wound may still be festering.

      • BobCon says:

        I don’t think Mueller would be in a position to quantify the effect of any undisclosed Russian interference, if it was something he revealed as a part of the motive for obstruction. That kind of analysis is outside of the expertise of a prosecutor unless it involved something very specific like altering voting machine totals (I seriously doubt that is the case).

        However, I don’t think Mueller would have a reason to avoid disclosing a larger Russian campaign except for established issues such as protecting an ongoing investigation that is now being handled by a different unit. He’s already done some of that.

        Barr, of course, would have a very strong incentive to minimize or hide any further Russian role. His stunted language suggests he might be doing that, although there are plenty of other possible explanations.

        I lean toward thinking Mueller won’t include more evidence of Russian interference in his obstruction discussion, and it will be left for the CI piece or other investigators. But I would be very glad to see it if he leaves enough breadcrumbs for the House to start digging for more in the meantime.

      • William Bennett says:

        @Viget: Agree in every particular. Too Big To Fail. This has been my deepest misgiving all along as we keep getting hints of how large the iceberg is below the tip we’re able to see directly. The deep suspicion that those in the position to expose it all may be making the choice that we can’t expose the full extent without calling too many things into question, like whether we even have a democracy anymore or just the trappings of one, and raising questions that we don’t have answers for, like what do you do about a fraudulent election that’s already into its third year, especially if fraud and the taint aren’t limited to the presidency, bad as that is. Exposing all that has the potential to collapse the whole structure of belief that upholds the system. Yet once you start pulling on the thread, how do you stop it from being a cable that starts to haul the whole rotting skeleton up from the muck. And hey, how bad are things really, even if it is all a sham? We’re so far down the road toward oligarchy already anyway, and people seem to be ok with it by and large. Surely any Serious Person would acknowledge it’s in no one’s best interest to risk the harm such revelations would wreak, vs how little they could do to change the way things are. The wiser course, surely, is to just let it all settle back into the muck and go on with the show. That’s the soothing pattern. That’s how we handled Iran-Contra, the BCCI scandal, so many things it just wouldn’t have been wise or productive to bring into the full light of day.

        These things are all just so ugly and contrary to the national myth of righteousness and freedom. We’ve always seen the wisdom in letting them slip into oblivion. Surely that’s an even wiser course to follow here.

        • rip says:

          Of all the very thoughtful posts on this topic I think you have exposed a root nerve. Investigation and prosecution of many of the players will reveal a profound rot within our society – government and corporate incestuousness.

        • Theresa says:

          William Bennett
          I strongly believe you have summed it up perfectly. Trump is just the useful idiot to keep it all going. Barr is falling on the sword (not really as he will be handsomely rewarded) to protect the GOP, the American oligarchs. We’re all just stupid to believe we have a democracy. It took the election of I1 and his unfathomable survival in office to prove that to us.

          • Savage Librarian says:

            So, is it time to give up now? Why is everybody working so hard to be heard then? What’s that all about? We don’t have to admit that there is a purpose to life. But it might be more satisfying to do so. And, who knows, maybe we are genetically obligated or compelled in that way ;-)

            • Rayne says:

              No. You’ve just been gaslighted *again*. Shake it off. Trust what you’ve been seeing, hearing, reading for the last two years.

              I opened a fresh open thread, by the way.

              • Savage Librarian says:

                Hey, Rayne! Thanks. I understand completely. I just disagree that we should give up. Democracy is a process. It is a river, not a riverbed.

  13. Badger Robert says:

    Well stated, the article and the comments. Collusion is not the main issue: incompetence, stupidity and complicity in multi pronged effort co-ordinated by private actors in Russia is the main issue.

  14. Boro says:

    No, President Trump and his team were not naive, about Russia. Mr. Trump has built a relationship with Russia since 1985-86. He is quite savvy to the ways of the world and Russia.

    I believe Manafort holds some more answers. He brought the Russian Intelligence agent voting data. It may not have been voting data or if it was voting data one might think it was now a conspiracy at this point.

    Of course, I am not an attorney, and do not understand what makes up collusion.

  15. e.a.f. says:

    The question, the headline asks, no answer. One could say though he was less than honest with the American electorate. It may be unethical, but illegal, I’ll have to rely on the article and others who comment here.

  16. OldTulsaDude says:

    Many of us (myself included) have been looking for a criminal quid pro quo.

    What if the quid pro quo was not about the help with the election but simply sanction relief (which could be argued as a policy decision) and the Moscow Tower deal (a legitimate business.)

    This would fit in more with the reporting that Mueller’s team found the campaign fell victim to Russian manipulation.

    • CaliLawyer says:

      There are many examples in criminal law of otherwise legal actions coupled with corrupt intent turning illegal. For example, extortion: I can ask you for money, and I can threaten to publish embarrassing information about you, but combined, it’s a crime. Obstruction/destruction of evidence: I am generally free to destroy documents in my possession, but they’re material to an investigation and if it’s done to impede, it’s a crime.

      • OldTulsaDude says:

        I was only thinking about a provable criminal case. As long as Individual-1 can claim policy decision, it would be virtually impossible to prove a criminal quid pro quo about sanction relief for Moscow Tower, especially since there is no tower.

  17. CaliLawyer says:

    The actual language of the Rosenstein letter is narrow:

    “(b) The Special Counsel is authorized to conduct the investigation confirmed by then-FBI
    Director James B. Comey in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on
    Intelligence on March 20, 2017, including:
    (i) any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals
    associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and
    (ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and
    (iii) any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).
    (c) If the Special Counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is
    authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters.”

    If Mueller interpreted the prosecution of “federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters” to be narrowly limited by subsection (i) (“Russian government”), and only if “necessary and appropriate,” (unusually narrow scope) one can see why the use of cut-outs would preclude, almost by definition, Mueller from charging/proving conspiracy here.

    That said, the other USAOs are not subject to these narrow and unique restrictions, and may pursue charges outside the SCO’s remit.

    • bmaz says:

      Huh. And you familiar with and/or in possession of the subsequent modifications and supplications thereto?

    • JamesJoyce says:

      Cali or Bmaz,

      I’m confused?

      Is the standard of Mueller’s review “probable cause” or “beyond a reasonable doubt” within the narrow scope of the Mueller investigation per R letter, above?

      There is a difference. A “Bill of Attainer “ issued by grand jury is based upon probable cause that a crime “may” have been committed.

      This is an indictment. This is a the charge coming from a grand jury. A prosecutor can use a grand jury to indict. This simply replaces the prosecutors discretion to charge that a crime “may” have been committed vs “was” committed beyond a reasonable doubt for conviction.

      If you limit the amount of evidence available per investigation to establish “probable cause” you win.

      Is it not for a “trier of fact” or “jury” to determine the “beyond a reasonable doubt standard” at trial to obtain a conviction by judge or jury?

      Mueller’s report does not have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed.

      All that is needed is to establish from evidence presented a probability or likelihood that a crime “may” have been committed.

      I have served on grand jury. This is not correct.

      Is Barr inserting an erroneous standard of review at this part in the process? If you can’t exonerate somebody of the possibility they may have committed a crime then by default does this meet the simple “probable cause,” threshold.

      Please clarify?

      Thanks…

  18. Leu2500 says:

    We put the mentally handicapped to death until 2002. So I don’t want to hear that Trump, Jr, Kushner, etc were “too stupid to know what [they were] doing.” Unless they have an IQ less than 85 they are intelligent enough. Anyways, I think it’s more a case of they were (are) “too greedy to care what they were doing.”

    Besides. The FBI briefed the campaign nlt July 2016 that Russians would try to infiltrate it. And yet Trump continued to pursue the Trump Tower Moscow deal at least up to the election. (I know, per Giuliani. But also reportedly per Trump’s take home test.)

  19. viget says:

    Emptywheel, an excellent article as always. I think we all have danced around the edges of this before, but you’ve succinctly nailed it.

    It’s probably true. Don Jr. was a useful idiot, and the Russians certainly would have seen it. What bothers me is that folks like Manafort clearly knew what was going on (and so did Jared, and possibly Ivanka I think), yet Mueller was unable to nail them. It also begets another question. If Trump Sr., or Trump Jr. wasn’t the ultimate target of the probe, then who was? Why did they even flip Manafort, if not to get to Trump Sr? Was it Kushner they were after?

    And then there’s Flynn. I will give you that maybe Trump had no idea what Flynn was really up to during the campaign and maybe even during the transition. But after the inauguration, he had to have known, especially with Sally Yates, the FBI, and the IC briefings screaming alarm bells. There was too much money involved, and I cannot believe that Trump wasn’t to be cut in on all that (though, perhaps that’s what Cohen was supposed to ensure).

    So when he fired Comey, I think he was finally made aware of the whole arrangement. Therefore, anything after that could be construed as obstruction. Perhaps not with finding out what happened with the election, but certainly to save himself and his presidency from quid pro quo scandals.

    Perhaps this is why Mueller was conflicted re: obstruction; it would have had to have been on the quid pro quo stuff that he might have only learned of later. Therefore, if the obstructive acts occurred during a time when he didn’t know why he was obstructing, you can’t prove intent.

    Again it comes down to what did the president know, and when did he know it….

    • Germane says:

      No matter how you slice it, (“collusion” “conspiracy” “coordination”, “quid pro quo”), or whether specific laws were broken, or whatever obfuscation Barr is trying to pull off, the real question is whether the president and the people who worked on his campaign are corrupt. The evidence is manifest.

      • viget says:

        Agreed, there is certainly ample evidence of that. Hopefully those points will be made front and center in the report.

        I suspect the corruption writ large probe continues as well at SDNY, DDC, EDVA and possibly EDNY.

  20. Jockobadger says:

    Thank you Marcy. Your writing and thought-processes are very clear and relatively easy for me to understand (usually!)

    I apologize in advance if these are dumb questions and I know it’s been discussed to some extent above, but I’m still unclear on something: I have always understood that “ignorance of the law is no excuse” (and I understand that ignorance and stupidity are not synonymous.) So is it the case that if someone’s mental faculties are so limited, i.e. shorted in the smarts line but not clinically mentally retarded, they can be fully absolved of criminal behavior? Does this mean Mueller et al worked through an analysis of failson’s intelligence, and then his probable intent, and found that he was truly too stupid to have criminal intent? He did graduate from college, right? So is he really too stupid to commit a crime?

    I guess it is possible. Anyway, I apologize again to all of you, but this sucks if true.

    • bmaz says:

      Per the Supreme Court, no. They not only allow conviction, but execution, of mentally lacking individuals all the time.

    • Maestro says:

      When people refer to ignorance of the law not being an excuse or defense, it has a specific meaning. It means that a defendant cannot escape culpability for an offense by claiming they did not know their actions were illegal. An analogous situation in these circumstances would be if Don Jr. admitted that he entered into a conspiracy with the Russians, but that he didn’t know it was against the law to do so. Such a claim is not a legally permissible defense.

      As far as we know, this is not the case and Don Jr. has never made that argument. Rather, the point Marcy is making is that Don Jr. may not have known he was entering into an agreement at all. To prove a conspiracy charge the government has to prove that the defendant knowingly and intentionally entered into the agreement; Don Jr. could argue that he didn’t know and didn’t intend to enter into any agreement with the Russians, and all he did was take a meeting and make an offhand remark. If he successfully convinced a jury of that, it would be a defense to the conspiracy charge because the government would have failed to prove all the necessary elements of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Not even Trump’s spawn are that unaware. For one thing, they routinely (mis-)manage dozens of properties, hundreds or thousands of contracts in dozens of jurisdictions. Regardless of how much they delegate, they know the basics and the positions and directions they want to take.

        They frequently oversell their success when describing build completion, percentages of units sold, property values, etc. But unless virtually every line of their tax returns are fake, they know the difference between what they say to brag about or sell a property and what the real circumstances are. They just take the position that everything they say is “marketing puffery” for which the law cannot hold them to account.

        That sort of relative sophistication would weigh heavily against any claim that they were babes in the woods. They are in a literal Catch-22: if they are sophisticated enough to claim that they are too naive and inexperienced to be held criminally responsible for their conduct, they are sophisticated and experienced enough to be held responsible. Unless, of course, they all want to take a thorough psych eval.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          In support of my argument, I suggest this ProPublica investigation of Trump’s business practices:

          [https://features.propublica.org/trump-inc-podcast/trump-family-business-panama-city-khafif/]

        • Maestro says:

          That’s undoubtedly what the prosecution would argue. And it would be up to the jury to weigh the evidence and decide what the facts truly are.

      • Jockobadger says:

        I don’t know about this. I understand your argument, Maestro, and thanks, but:
        “Don Jr. could argue that he didn’t know and didn’t intend to enter into any agreement with the Russians, and all he did was take a meeting and make an offhand remark.”

        I don’t see how this reconciles with Jr. being contacted by Goldstone and offered dirt on Hilary.
        Jr. accepts the meeting with the “If what you say is true, I love it….” email.
        Then, when it comes out about the meeting, he makes some vague remarks about Magnetitski.
        Then he tweets the email string and makes a statement about who wouldn’t take a meeting about the oppo…?
        Then, we hear that tr*mp certainly had nothing to do with the statement by Jr.
        Then Sekulow says, nah, tr*mp had nothing to do with it.
        Then we find out that tr*mp did dictate the Magnetitski bit.
        Then it was just a dad trying to help out his kid
        Etc., etc.

        This does not appear to me at least to be a situation where failson didn’t know or intend to enter into an agreement. He agreed to a meeting to get the dirt then he and dad tried desperately to cover it up.
        Stupid? You bet. Did he know what he was doing? You better believe he did. Sophistry in my view.

        • Jockobadger says:

          I forgot to mention that Jr. knew Goldstone was offering a meeting with “Russian” folk, though not necessarily the RF gov’t.

          • Tom says:

            But didn’t Goldstone say in his email that the offer of info on HRC was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump”? At that point, Don Jr. should have realized he didn’t want any part of this and pushed back strongly, but he didn’t.

        • Maestro says:

          All of those facts would certainly be argued at trial by the prosecution. It would be up to the jury to decide what the facts are and whether they meet the elements of the offense.

          The point of my post is to explain what type of legal defense is available to the defendant and how that is different from the “ignorance is no excuse” axiom.

          • Jockobadger says:

            Thanks Maestro – you are truly great at explaining this stuff. Much appreciated. I’m just in a surly mood b/c of the coming Rebuttal to the Exoneration. 1984-type stuff.

  21. orionATL says:

    well, well. what a great 2020 campaign opportunity/slogan for the dem candidate – trump got had by the russians; trump is a sucker; trump definitely ain’t no sharp yankee trader.

    this message shows trump for the naked emperor he actually is when it comes to making deals with dangerous nations like Russia and n. Korea, both of which have nuclear weapons. did I mention Nuclear Weapons? does anyone remember how often over the last 60 years the Republican party has yelled that the democratic candidate is soft on defense, soft on national security, foolish in his negotiations with the Soviets, with the Chinese, or with the n. vietnamese? shove that message in Republican faces in 2020. trump is a weak president.

    trump is in fact a profoundly, dangerously ignorant fool when it comes to foreign policy, possibly the most ignorant president we have ever had.

    but, but trump is also a remarkable, a feral (as someone remarked), deal maker for himself; he has instincts that allow him to collect and keep a great deal of moolah from others over and over again. I am not sure, though, that trump cares enough about the presidency or about the nation he claimed to want to lead to worry at all about whether he was a president being badly outsmarted so long as he gets the money in the end.

    in the end he did not get the money from trump towers moscow, but his family may have gotten money from the Russians, Chinese, and saudis-cum-allies to more than make up for that. in addition, trump’s properties are making money due entirely to his presidency and to his remarkable refusal to adhere to the “no emoluments” stipulation of the constitution, a stipulation I doubt any other president has ever dared ignore for himself (grant and Harding for their allies and poker pals).

    in short, trump may well have gotten played for a sucker in foreign policy in a way that would embarrass Eisenhower, Johnson, g.h.w. Bush, Clinton, or Obama, but trump’s set of values may not, in fact almost certainly does not, include the capacity to be embarrassed about such matters so long as he gets the money.

    I’m not sure I’m entirely convinced of all I’ve written above, but I am dead certain that trump’s values and behavior are 6 sigma abnormal. in that sense he is both unfit to be president and dangerous as president. I am certain that he lacks empathy, he lacks loyalty, he lacks any sense of obligation to tell the truth, he lacks self-insight, he is incapable of loving and capable of cruelty, he is profoundly ignorant of politics and most other areas of human intellectual endeavor, he is a sybarite of the first order. he is an intellectual and emotional isolate.

    a sustained public argument that, despite the appearance created by trump’s angry verbosity and “tough guy” language, he is in fact a weak and foolish president fangerouscto the nation might be enough to unhorse him in 2020 – if he doesn’t fall off his horse first.

  22. Willis Warren says:

    The “woops, we din’t mean to conspiracy” explanation doesn’t explain why Trump was claiming the vote was gonna be rigged and setting himself up to contest the election when he lost.

  23. Rugger9 says:

    Two things:
    1. I see lots of hope in what Barr will allow out there into the public view. Even though there have been Palace leaks about what is in the report along with the usual smoke and mirrors, we don’t know really what is actually in it or what Mueller considered. I also find it interesting that AG Barr’s non-summary summary of 4 pages set the stage for a whitewash which (allegedly) was pushed back on by the SCO team. The redactions will be extensive and slanted, just note Barr’s “important points summary” of the 1989 Iran-Contra report (ICYWW, I was in the Gulf as a target for the missiles St Ronnie sent to the Iranians so I’m a bit sore about it) which it was discovered later to be a Calvinball exercise. What is not getting enough play is that apparently the SCO teams wrote their summaries of their findings that AG Barr ignored in his so-called summary letter.

    As I noted before, until the full report is out (and I should observe that Ken Starr’s Clinton report was released along with the salacious GJ information courtesy of Barty O’K) we will not know the true reason for the redactions, only what AG Barr has graciously decided we need to know color coded as to why we are blocked from seeing it. The Ds just need to push back hard for the whole thing (and the taxes) and put the GOP in hard spots voting for sleaze.

    2. Observe also that Ghouliani has dropped his rebuttal length to merely 30-40 pages which beg the questions about why a rebuttal is needed if nothing was done wrong, as well as how could he rebut a report he hasn’t seen yet (officially) unless someone briefed him and Kaiser Quisling? In short, AG Barr spilled the beans to the Palace to give time to develop a strategy for the Foxbots like Hannity and Ingraham.

    In my reading of the comments here from our crack legal squad, stupidity isn’t a defense either for Junior (though his lawyers are gonna try it) and we also have the “back channel” gambits through social media, and the lies about the meeting topics, etc., that make it clear this was not an accidental / coincidental meeting.

    • Rugger9 says:

      Well, the NYT thinks Barr squealed. We also have the official lines about it being a nothingburger from the usual suspects including the cow owner. Then again, the Gray Lady gave op-ed space to Ken Starr, still unapologetic about the Baylor rape culture on his watch. It must be a both-siderism thing. Nor does it appear how Starr squares his own office’s leakiness and release of grand jury testimony precedent to Barr’s stated policy on behalf (and likely implicit direction of) Kaiser Quisling.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/17/us/politics/trump-mueller-report.html

      I think it may be worth watching Faux Noise tonight to see what the operative spin is. AG Barr for his part will be laying out the smoke and mirror show in the AM. We might as well have a pool on how many net pages will be unredacted, with the large boulder of salt that what AG Barr releases tomorrow is actually from the Mueller Report and SCO summaries. After all, Barr has been busted for 3-card-memo-monte before in 1989.

      “Officials” of the RF and “agents” of the RF are examples of Barresque parsing to get to the desired conclusions. Everyone knows the FSB / GRU uses cutouts as good spycraft. As far as the law goes (IANAL, so please correct me if I’m off base), “agents” is the operative level for which we’ve executed spies before.

      My entry: 40 pages unredacted.

  24. REG says:

    The Muller investigation was limited to only determining if there was collusion between members of the Trump campaign and “OFFICIALS of the Russian government”.

    This was to narrow. What about collusion between members of the Trump campaign with “people” from Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, and Ukraine THAT HAD CLOSE CONNECTIONS WITH OFFICIALS OF THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT, (that were not necessarily “government officials”).

    The much bigger and broader question that should have been asked.

  25. NY Arch says:

    Great write-up as usual, EW. One thing that I haven’t seen explored sufficiently is the phone call that Jr. made after (or during?) the 6/9 meeting. Apparently, he called a NYC real estate honcho, Howard Lorber, which the Trumpers took as vindication for them all, since -if it wasn’t DJT that was called, well, then – it could not have been about the ongoing consipiracy. But, Howard Lorber is well known investor and player in many different RE deals in NYC. He is known to be very savvy in ways in which most of the NYC RE community knows that Trump is not (In fact, Trump is known to have been nothing more than the idiot mouthpiece for his father’s development company. He would get headlines being a rich idiot publicly and generate plenty of press, which Roy Cohn taught both father and son, could never be bad for their business). Lorber was with Trump in Moscow in 1996 and has Ukrainian and Russian RE interests. I never saw any follow-up about that call but have assumed (hoped) that Mueller and/or his supporting US Attorney offices are looking at Lorber as a cut-out or another conspirator.

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. I have reverted your username to the last version you used here. Please use the same one each time you comment so community members get to know you. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • Reader 21 says:

      Lorber is connected to some unsavory dudes from guess which “foreign power” (quoting from Cater Page’s FISA App). Yep, you got it—Russia. And guess who’s connected to Lorber, per Craig Unger’s excellent reporting—yep, William Coverup Barr.

  26. RWood says:

    Barr just announced a “Press Conference” before he releases the report tomorrow.

    I guess we get spin both before and after the show now.

      • Rugger9 says:

        Perhaps he will as a method to deflect attention. If it were Starr’s show as a hypothetical point, AG Barr would have plenty of angles to leverage. Mueller on the other hand was more like PatFitz going after Scooter Libby (still not pardoned, IIRC, hmmm………) following the rules strictly and not leaking anything. Barr can bloviate but it will not gain traction on anythiing that will not blow back on the Palace or Cow Owner Nunes, among other GOPers.

        Barr might try but it will go nowhere except on Faux Noise and maybe CNN who’s still in the Faux-lite phase.

  27. M.N. says:

    What I don’t understand is why the obstruction hinges on an actual crime. If someone were able to successfully obstruct justice such that a crime can’t be discovered, doesn’t that miss the point. Wouldn’t obstruction be better determined with respect to attempts to influence investigation (independent of findings of a crime)?

    • bmaz says:

      Well, it does not necessarily. Although, what would otherwise be legal acts “can” amount to obstruction.

    • Maestro says:

      You are right to not understand, because obstruction does not hinge on being able to prove the underlying offense. Obstruction charges expressly do not require such a thing to account for the possibility that the obstruction will be successful. That’s exactly why what Barr said and did on this topic was so sneaky and disingenuous—he implicitly created an element of the offense that doesn’t exist.

      At the same time, what he also tried to do was couch his statement within the confines of the obstruction statute—namely the requirement that the government prove the defendant had “corrupt intent”. Barr argued that since there was no underlying offense (e.g. no conspiracy), it would therefore be impossible to prove that corrupt intent existed. But this too was disingenuous; even taking Barr at face value that conspiracy could not be “established”, there are multiple other potential motivations to obstruct that would meet the standard of corrupt intent. For example it could have been done out of fear the SCO would find evidence of other unrelated crimes, that it would find evidence implicating family members, that it would uncover legal but embarrassing facts, or that the SCO investigation would be damaging politically. Any of these things would be sufficient to meet the corrupt intent standard, and Barr’s letter is completely silent on all of them. Moreover, Barr’s letter is also silent on whether or not the reason conspiracy could not be “established” was because the obstructive acts were successful.

  28. Valerie Klyman-Clark says:

    You folks are national treasures. Question: when do you sleep? And along those lines, I do hope all you brilliant contributors and commenters whose insights I so deeply appreciate are taking good care of yourselves . . . everyone. We’re going to need our strength.

    With warmest regards.

  29. harpie says:

    What I’m interested in reading is the

    “front matter from each section [which] could have been released immediately — or very quickly”

    the parts which were

    “done in a way that minimum redactions, if any, would have been necessary, and the work would have spoken for itself.”

    In other words: those portions which Mueller’s team assumed [would be] made available to the public

    “and so they prepared their summaries to be shared in their own words — and not in the attorney general’s summary of their work, as turned out to be the case.”

    All blockquotes are direct quotes from US official[s] in the following WaPo article from 4/4/19:
    Limited information Barr has shared about Russia investigation frustrated some on Mueller’s team
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/limited-information-barr-has-shared-about-russia-investigation-frustrated-some-on-muellers-team/2019/04/03/c98e8a02-567a-11e9-814f-e2f46684196e_story.html

    I already have very little confidence in Barr, so if any of these sections has more than very minimal redactions I will not be surprised. This will also tell me how to approach the rest of it.

  30. AndyinSD says:

    Maybe this has already been discussed, but it seems to me that it is possible that Barr is exonerating the Trump campaign of collusion on a technicality by limiting the collusion to conspiracy with the actual Russian Government. The weak link in the Mueller report may have just been proving that the Russians that the campaign did conspire with were officially working for the Russian government. The wording in Barr’s letter is – “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government”. If you can’t absolutely prove that the people they did conspire with are actually working on behalf of the Russian government then this statement is technically true.

    • Fran of the North says:

      Ding ding! We have a winner.

      I’ll leave it to the much more astute to assess the exact meaning of Barr’s non summary, but my money is that his statements are predicated on an extremely fine veneer that separates ‘official’ RF personnel from those who have plausible deniability.

      • viget says:

        This is a VERY GOOD POINT.

        If true, this certainly puts the Manafort lies in a whole other context. Manafort may have been the key to prove this vis a vis who Kilimnik was actually sharing the polling data with. I think that Andrew Weissman may have been on to this and was still investigating it, but was shut down prematurely. I still find it fishy that all of the sudden Gates “remembered” something new in February about the polling data. Perhaps whatever he told the FBI lead to them having to shut down this thread? Maybe there were graymail concerns.

        I still wonder about Weissman’s penultimate day at SCO… that tan suit seemed kind of a silent protest.

    • REG says:

      To AndyinSD:

      I agree. See my earlier post copied here:

      “It is my understanding that the Muller investigation was limited to only determining if there was collusion between members of the Trump campaign and “officials of the Russian government”.

      This was to narrow a limit. What about collusion between members of the Trump campaign, simply with “people” from Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, and Ukraine that had close connections to officials of the Russian government, (that were not necessarily “government officials”).

      A much bigger and broader question that should have been asked.”

  31. Jockobadger says:

    This just in:

    Justice Department officials have had numerous conversations with White House lawyers about the conclusions made by Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, in recent days, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. The talks have aided the president’s legal team as it prepares a rebuttal to the report and strategizes for the coming public war over its findings.

    Well. JHFC

  32. klynn says:

    EW, this is a great post.

    I do come back to Trump’s practice (as well as members of his team) of maskirovka, vranyo, and dramaturgia. (Read here for a good explanation of dramaturgia. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/03/is-trumps-chaos-a-move-from-the-kremlins-playbook) Whether through coaching or otherwise, these elements are present in and around Trump. Nailing the pattern as evidence becomes a difficult process. But it is there.

    If you go back, even to 2014, Trump uses many chaos references. He uses the word “disruptive” as well. He tosses around the idea of a disruptive 3rd party run prior to announcing. But then his numbers start looking good.

    His announcement to run ends up a really odd speech and different from what was given to the press in draft form. It is worth looking at the pre-draft handed to the press and the transcript of what he ended up saying. So on June 16th as part of his run announcement he pulls out a financial statement showing/declaring his net worth. I think that statement is a perloined letter of sorts.

    Early on September 3rd, 2015 Trump states,“Look, my number one thing is to win, and the best way to win is as a Republican,” he said, according to The Washington Post. “The third party thing is a tough thing, it’s a tough route. And I believe that it can be done, but it’s a tougher route, it’s a riskier route. And certainly it would give Hillary, or whoever’s going to be running on the other side, a better shot, let’s face it. They would love it.” Trump – Washington Post September 3rd 2015.

    At 2 PM September 3rd, RNC Chair Priebus has Trump sign a GOP Loyalty Pledge because he decides he think he can win. Honestly, this pledge was odd.

    Any way, I could go on but it all seems like rambling. Nonetheless, it is all there in plain sight. Especially, the dramaturgia.

    • Fran of the North says:

      It’s a hot day in hell when the dirty tricks you invented to skewer your opponents come back to haunt you.

      Here is hoping that the D’s have the political will to ride the storm and use prior precedent to turn the tables.

  33. Nash says:

    Trying to influence an ongoing investigation is Obstruction. So, by that metric, Trump committed obstruction. Since Mueller did not interview him, and due to difficult issues of law, he did not implicate or exonerate him. That is my understanding here.

  34. Drew says:

    Marcy,
    Given my line of work, I’m going to be very busy from tomorrow afternoon through Sunday. I think this is a good thing because I may be spared many of the initial takes and over-wrought spin when the Mueller report first comes out. I am very much looking forward to reading your more thoughtful insights on Sunday or Monday. I’m sure there will be much to analyze.

  35. foggycoast says:

    if what marcy posits turns out to be true it’s simply tortured logic wrapped inside legal chicanery. trump is not going to be indicted for either conspiracy nor obstruction at this point. just not going to happen. so the import of the full report is to either; 1) begin impeachment proceedings or 2) expose factual evidence of trump’s self-serving treachery to bury him in 2020. without an unredacted report he truly can rightfully claim exoneration.

    as for tomorrow, what if they gave a press conference and nobody came. i’d love to see every major news outlet refuse to broadcast or even attend it. at the very least i hope the questions are more directed at Barr’s malfeasance rather than the report itself. really hope someone leaked it and someone asks very leading questions to play gotcha with Barr.

  36. fpo says:

    “The art of covering up is not easy. Many people lack the skills to master it. Others are held back by bad habits such as procrastination or integrity. But it is my belief that anyone who takes my course can, with the right mindset, permanently avoid accountability for their wrongdoing.”

    Excerpted from “THE LIFE CHANGING MAGIC OF COVERING UP” by Attorney General William Barr

    [https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/the-life-changing-magic-of-covering-up-by-attorney-general-william-barr]

    (You’ll feel better – at least for a little while.)

  37. Geoff says:

    So this makes me think that the WH has been given the complete outline and potentially mini-summary derived from the outline headings, and that he will be way ahead of everyone else on his PR strategy.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/17/us/politics/trump-mueller-report.html

    “The president’s aides have devised a strategy for numerous lawyers and political aides to quickly read different parts of the document to develop a rebuttal strategy, according to multiple people briefed on the plan.”

  38. fpo says:

    Breaking now re Thursday am press conf:

    “House Dems Demand Barr Cancel ‘Inappropriate’ Press Conference on Mueller report”

    “…This press conference, which apparently will not include Special Counsel Mueller, is unnecessary and inappropriate, and appears designed to shape public perceptions of the report before anyone can read it.”

    https://thehill.com/homenews/house/439446-dem-house-committee-chairs-demand-barr-cancel-press-conference-on-mueller

    No chance. Not the way they’re playing this game.

  39. Fran of the North says:

    According to the timeline now public:

    Barr’s presser scheduled for 9:30 A. Release of the report 11:00.

    Best case, those not given advance copies will be 85 minutes behind the right wing spin-meisters. And that assumes that a super hero can read, assimilate, and rebut facts w/in 60 seconds of the release.

    Even without the wild-eyed theory that in addition to the WH, friendly news outlets have been provided with talking points, Barr’s plan is designed to enable the spin machine to go into overdrive with no competing narrative.

    The malfeasance exhibited is nothing short of criminal. The investigation into the investigation needs to include the A.G.

  40. OmAli says:

    Trump said we’ll see a lot of “very strong things” coming out tomorrow, and that Barr has “grabbed it by the horn”. I wonder if the presser is going to be the announcement of a second SC to investigate the Mueller investigation. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a viscious diversionary attack.

        • Sandwichman says:

          I just went back and read Trump’s comments where that quote comes from & it makes me even more suspicious that Barr & the Trump team are going to launch their “spies!” counter-offensive. I would expect Barr to be “discreet” about it — a Fox correspondent asking him about spying with Barr replying in the vague affirmative. Then the “counter-report” team will pile on with the full Hannity/Pirro firehose of deception.

          • Tom says:

            Was he thinking of a musical brass instrument, like a trump-et? Or was there a dilemma somewhere in there on the horns of which he was caught? Or had he heard the expression “to grasp a nettle by the thorns” at some point. Or was it just Trump-speak? Or further evidence of cognitive decline?

  41. observiter says:

    Trump and family “may” have shown signs of ignorance regarding the Russians, but they sure seem to have badly wanted that Trump tower. They also don’t seem to care much about laws or regulations and they don’t seem to listen much to legal advice. Is it ignorance for someone to push for a change in the GOP platform so that sanctions against Russia are removed. I feel that Trump and family would do most anything within their power to get that Moscow project built. So, what’s this about ignorance, conspiracy, criminal intent?

    • P J Evans says:

      They might have been ignorant about other motives in that platform change. But it certainly benefited them, and that’s most of what they would have noticed, because they aren’t seeing it through anything but Tr*mp’s ego.

  42. Tracy Lynn says:

    So… It wasn’t my impression that stupidity was a defense. IANAL, but the whole DTJr. Is too stupid… Doesn’t really fly. Or…? Did I miss something?

    • fpo says:

      idk, has anyone seen his birth certificate? Maybe he’s a juvenile – and can’t be prosecuted. Sure acts like one. Just sayin’…

    • P J Evans says:

      It certainly doesn’t fly if you’re minority. Or poor. Or, frequently, if you’re female or not the right kind of religion or political affiliation.

      • fpo says:

        Sorry – omitted a ‘jk’ with that comment.

        The lack of indictments re DTjr is perplexing, given what we’ve seen in public reporting about his conduct. Subpoenas and (favorable) court rulings might provide answers at some point wrt the Mueller report, but I’m not holding my breath there. Other jurisdictions might bear more directly on him (and javanka!), e.g. SDNY and campaign funds abuses, etc. The effin’ apple doesn’t fall far from the tree with this group.

  43. tullalove says:

    Careful, here. As was noted in an earlier post, Barr has some space here to use one explanation as cover for another one (e.g. color-coding certain redactions as one thing, when they are actually multiple things). It can be (is!) true that the morons and ratfuckers working for and around the Trump Campaign were both inept and corrupt. Look for Barr in his “press conference” tomorrow to foreground the former in order to elide the latter (which, I think, is part of EW’s point).

  44. d4v1d says:

    Since when was being stupid a ‘get iout of jail free’ card? The issue on display is that white collar crime is legal – remember that the other stupid junior, prosecutor Vance, passed on putting Kushner and Ivanka behind bars, which could have spared us all this

  45. Observiter says:

    This time around, I doubt Barr is going to have it so easy (compared with Bush and Nixon days). The Democrats, along with the media and the public, appear to be awake and active. I would love to see Barr charged with obstruction, lying to Congress, and more. The House has asked Barr to cancel the press conference. Maybe Barr is going to announce that Trump plans to resign (ha ha ha).

    • Observiter says:

      Maybe Trump is going to make an offer tomorrow that he will resign in exchange for the House (and other investigators) stopping their investigation in to his taxes and finances.

    • JamesJoyce says:

      Anything is possible…

      “ I would love to see Barr charged with obstruction, lying to Congress, and more. The House has asked Barr to cancel the press conference.“

      This looks like a hostile takeover of a corporation using PR?

      How about a nation?

      It seems carefully crafted
      checks and balances are being twisted.

      Frank Church to this reality? 🥴

  46. Observiter says:

    d4v1d, the investigations and indictments aren’t finished. I don’t think the Kushners have something to celebrate at the moment.

  47. Peacerme says:

    My prediction:

    Barr is going to have the press conference to start a new investigation.

    He’s going to pull out all the stops to prevent the truth from being told.

    I really don’t know if my blood pressure can survive. It’s going to be a tough weekend for Dems. It won’t feel better until our legislative body is back to work. Why won’t Barr let Mueller explain his findings and why is Mueller cooperating. Why couldn’t mueller call his own press conference like Comey did?

  48. harpie says:

    https://twitter.com/MarkDiStef/status/1118818619255816193
    3:08 AM – 18 Apr 2019

    Exclusive: The Australian government says its “ready to confirm” the key meeting which led to the investigation into Trump-Russia links

    Links to: Australia Says It’s “Ready To Confirm” A Key Meeting That Led To The Investigation Into Trump’s Russia Links
    Heavily-redacted documents released to BuzzFeed News show Australia’s former high commissioner wrote a three-page cable to the United States about his London meeting with a Trump campaign adviser [Papadopolous]. April 18, 2019, at 6:07 a.m.

  49. Mulder says:

    So Donald President AKA “French person” and Jr. are corrupt, greedy dumb fucks but not criminals (at least in this instance)?

    Are we really resigned to an ending like Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Those leading the quest are taken into custody?

  50. harpie says:

    Lanny Davis and Michael Cohen:
    1] https://twitter.com/LannyDavis/status/1118842329924820992
    4:42 AM – 18 Apr 2019

    As the #Country waits for the #MuellerReport, know this…it does not matter how #Barr #RedactedMuellerReport. @MichaelCohen212 has 7 days, 70 hours, + 100 pages of what #TeamMueller knows and can fill in the bulk of the redactions. Nice try Mr. @POTUS. #Truth We will tell it all

    2] https://twitter.com/MichaelCohen212/status/1118846404582150144
    4:59 AM – 18 Apr 2019

    Soon I will be ready to address the American people again…tell it all…and tell it myself!

  51. Peacerme says:

    That news above about Mueller being called to testify plus Cohen might keep my blood pressure moderated through the weekend. Once again this site will pull me through yet another Republican criminal behavior swept under the rug triggers childhood trauma and lots of bad coping. Thank you all!!!

  52. harpie says:

    Just want to add this to my rant, this morning…then I’ll be out of your hair for a while :-) :
    https://twitter.com/KlasfeldReports/status/1118863777452253187
    6:08 AM – 18 Apr 2019

    Those who don’t believe the Trump administration is aggressively pursuing retaliating against those who investigated him either have not read or failed to appreciate his team’s talking points.
    There need to be direct questions on this subject.

    Screenshot of a Rudy Giulliani tweet, which says [emphasis added]:

    @RudyGiuliani 4/17/19, 1:16AM
    As we await the report which will conclude no charges of collusion or obstruction its important this never happens again. A serious investigation will reveal a conspiracy to obstruct justice, an election and the will of our people. We cannot rest until there is JUSTICE.

    This is the text of a recent Trump fund raising email:

    Let me be clear. Since the day I took my famous escalator ride in 2015 to announce my presidential campaign, the Democrat harassment, fake news attacks, and blatant lies have never been about me…
    Their target has always been you.
    The liberal swamp hates the idea of people like [addressee’s name] being in charge of America, and there is no line they wouldn’t cross to prevent that from happening. Just look at the Phony Witch Hunt – NO COLLUSION.
    In 2016, I was simply your voice, but YOU were the one that took our country back and made the liberal swamp and political insiders FURIOUS.
    Now headed into 2020, we have to remind them that this is your country, not theirs.
    Since you’ve been such an important part of our movement, I wanted to give you this exclusive opportunity to become an Official 2019 Trump Executive Member [Bold and underlined] and receive your PERSONALIZED membership card.

  53. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Nicolle Wallace confirms it is not the norm for the DoJ to give the WH a “heads up,” let alone the full or key elements of a report. Barr gave them so much data Trump’s lawyers have prepared scores of pages of rebuttal arguments.

    More evidence that Bill Barr sees himself as a member of the Praetorian Guard protecting the emperor. He would take us all down the rabbit hole to protect him: the law “means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

  54. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Paraphrasing Barr: “The Russians interfered, but did not have the assistance of Trump, his campaign or any other American.”

    That seems demonstrably false.

  55. earlofhuntingdon says:

    If Barr has concluded that something could not be, as a matter of law, then it would seem irrelevant what the facts are.

    It is not a matter for the DoJ whether the president was legitimately angered at being investigated in what he believed to be a partisan manner. (Hard to frame a lower bar for legitimacy.) Barr uses this belief to conclude that the president had non-corrupt motives and therefore had not intent to interfere. JHFC. In the law, that’s known as zealous advocacy, putting the facts in the best possible light in favor of the client. Except that Barr’s client is the people of the United States, not the president or even the office of the president.

    No one outside the DoJ saw the full unredacted reported…. Not exculpatory if the DoJ gave the WH major sections of it, the full summaries, conclusions and reasoning. Balloo Bear Barr’s speech writers know how to drill a hole large enough for even Trump to walk through.

  56. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Barr is still claiming he cannot release grand jury materials, despite the several avenues available to do so, at least to select congressional committees.

  57. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Barr’s abusive press conference makes clear that Congress needs to conduct and fully document its own investigation. Its focus is properly much broader than the limited scope of whether the president committed a crime. Rather, it is whether he engaged in a pattern of abuse of power and wrongful conduct. That investigation would be essential for it to craft improved laws and regulations to rein in Trump’s serial abuses of power.

    Barr’s contention that the report is not supposed to be made public ignores the unprecedented nature of this investigation and this report.

  58. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Bill Barr concluded his short peremptory press conference with an implied Fuck You to everyone except Donald.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I worked hard to avoid kneepad references, which seem appropriate to so much of this, but thanks for being more direct. In Barr’s case, if the shoe fits….

      What irks me is so many MSM commentators describe this as a departure from a past life of public service. Not. This is what Bill Barr built his Beltway career doing. He did it for the CIA, the Reagan and Bush White Houses, the DoJ, GTE and his other corporate clients. Donald Trump is just another client. He is treating him like all the others.

  59. di says:

    following Bill Barr’s press conference this morning, Jonathan Turley, CBS legal analyst, said,
    “Julian Assange is biggest beneficiary from this”.

  60. generalp says:

    Still waiting for what Barr will pass off for a report but based on his campaign speech this morning, I need to frame and hang Wheeler’s last paragraph in this post. Spot on. Again.

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