The Significance of Trump’s Obstruction of Investigation of His Family’s Campaign Finance Crimes, Plural

In the Barr Memo usurping Congress’ role in determining whether the evidence presented in the Mueller Report amounts to obstruction, he based a lot of his judgment finding no obstruction on the fact that Mueller “did not establish” that Trump and his campaign conspired with Russia.

In making this determination, we noted that the Special Counsel recognized that “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference,” and that, while not determinative, the absence of such evidence bears upon the President’s intent with respect to obstruction.

The line is unbelievably cynical for several reasons. First, right at the beginning of the report, Mueller points out that his use of “did not establish” does not mean “there was no evidence.”

A statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.

Yet in spite of that warning, Barr nevertheless claims that Mueller’s observation that he did not establish Trump’s involvement in a crime related the Russia’s election interference amounts to an “absence of such evidence.”

Moreover, Barr takes that quote out of the context of Mueller’s discussions about the corrupt motives that Trump might have to obstruct the investigation. (I’ve bolded the actual sentence Barr quotes, but included both of Mueller’s discussions of Trump’s implication in potential crimes.)

In addition, the President had a motive to put the FBI’s Russia investigation behind him. The evidence does not establish that the termination of Comey was designed to cover up a conspiracy between the Trump Campaign and Russia: As described in Volume I, the evidence uncovered in the investigation did not establish that the President or those close to him were involved in the charged Russian computer-hacking or active-measure conspiracies, or that the President otherwise had an unlawful relationship with any Russian official. But the evidence does indicate that a thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would give rise to personal and political concerns. Although the President publicly stated during and after the election that he had no connection to Russia, the Trump Organization, through Michael Cohen, was pursuing the proposed Trump Tower Moscow project through June 2016 and candidate Trump was repeatedly briefed on the progress of those efforts.498 In addition, some witnesses said that Trump was aware that [redacted] at a time when public reports stated that Russian intelligence officials were behind the hacks, and that Trump privately sought information about future WikiLeaks releases.499 More broadly, multiple witnesses described the President’s preoccupation with press coverage of the Russia investigation and his persistent concern that it raised questions about the legitimacy of his election.500


Second, many obstruction cases involve the attempted or actual cover-up of an underlying crime. Personal criminal conduct can furnish strong evidence that the individual had an improper obstructive purpose, see, e.g. , United States v. Willoughby, 860 F.2d 15, 24 (2d Cir. 1988), or that he contemplated an effect on an official proceeding, see, e.g., United States v. Binday, 804 F.3d 558, 591 (2d Cir. 2015). But proof of such a crime is not an element of an obstruction offense. See United States v. Greer, 872 F.3d 790, 798 (6th Cir. 2017) (stating, in applying the obstruction sentencing guideline, that “obstruction of a criminal investigation is punishable even if the prosecution is ultimately unsuccessful or even if the investigation ultimately reveals no underlying crime”). Obstruction of justice can be motivated by a desire to protect non-criminal personal interests, to protect against investigations where underlying criminal liability falls into a gray area, or to avoid personal embarrassment. The injury to the integrity of the justice system is the same regardless of whether a person committed an underlying wrong. In this investigation, the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference. But the evidence does point to a range of other possible personal motives animating the President’s conduct. These include concerns that continued investigation would call into question the legitimacy of his election and potential uncertainty about whether certain events-such as advance notice of WikiLeaks’s release of hacked information or the June 9, 2016 meeting between senior campaign officials and Russians could be seen as criminal activity by the President, his campaign, or his family.

In both of these discussions, Mueller suggests that Trump may have believed his orders to Roger Stone to optimize WikiLeaks’ releases might be a crime when he obstructed the investigation; and in the discussion Barr extracts the quote from, he also suggests that Trump may have believed the June 9 meeting amounted to a crime.

The former is important given that Trump blatantly lied in his responses to Mueller about talking to Stone about his efforts to optimize WikiLeaks releases, even though at least three witnesses say he did. The prosecutorial decision with regards to WikiLeaks spans Volume I pages 176 to 179, but aside from a footnote explaining why they didn’t charge WikiLeaks for trafficking in stolen property, it is entirely redacted. The prosecutorial decision on Stone optimizing the release of stolen documents spans 188 to 190; it is also largely redacted, though it’s clear there were First Amendment concerns about pursuing it. Note that prosecutors continue to investigate Stone.

By contrast, the discussion of Mueller’s decision not to charge the June 9 meeting as a campaign finance violation is not redacted. Ultimately, Mueller’s team decided not to prosecute it because they did not have admissible evidence that Don Jr and the others knew taking the meeting and the offered dirt was illegal (which raises questions about whether they have hearsay or SIGINT suggesting they did), and because they had a hard time placing a value on the information offered.

The Office considered whether to charge Trump Campaign officials with crimes in connection with the June 9 meeting described in Volume I, Section IV.A.5, supra. The Office concluded that, in light of the government’s substantial burden of proof on issues of intent (“knowing” and “willful”), and the difficulty of establishing the value of the offered information, criminal charges would not meet the Justice Manual standard that “the admissible evidence will probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction.” Justice Manual§ 9-27.220.


There are reasonable arguments that the offered information would constitute a “thing of value” within the meaning of these provisions, but the Office determined that the government would not be likely to obtain and sustain a conviction for two other reasons: first, the Office did not obtain admissible evidence likely to meet the government’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these individuals acted “willfully,” i.e., with general knowledge of the illegality of their conduct; and, second, the government would likely encounter difficulty in proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the value of the promised information exceeded the threshold for a criminal violation, see 52 U.S.C. § 30109(d)(l)(A)(i).


Additionally, in light of the unresolved legal questions about whether giving “documents and information” of the sort offered here constitutes a campaign contribution, Trump Jr. could mount a factual defense that he did not believe his response to the offer and the June 9 meeting itself violated the law. Given his less direct involvement in arranging the June 9 meeting, Kushner could likely mount a similar defense. And, while Manafort is experienced with political campaigns, the Office has not developed evidence showing that he had relevant knowledge of these legal issues.


Accordingly, taking into account the high burden to establish a culpable mental state in a campaign-finance prosecution and the difficulty in establishing the required valuation, the Office decided not to pursue criminal campaign-finance charges against Trump Jr. or other campaign officials for the events culminating in the June 9 meeting. [my emphasis]

This analysis is critically important for a number of reasons.

First, the Report did not say this was not a crime. Rather, it said that under Justice Manual guidelines, Mueller’s team should not prosecute the case because they were unlikely to get and sustain a conviction. The analysis suggests there was a crime, but not one Mueller would win conviction on at trial.

That, by itself, blows Barr’s analysis on obstruction out of the water, because Mueller argued that this probably was a crime. Barr says Trump could not have obstructed justice because there was no underlying crime, but in fact, Mueller said there was a crime, just not one that could be prosecuted successfully.

But it’s crucially important to an impeachment inquiry for another reason (and explains one of the apparent referrals for attempted witnesses tampering of Rudy Giuliani friend Robert Costello to SDNY — though I suspect the fact that the passages  describing Trump’s attempt to tamper with Cohen’s testimony are unredacted means SDNY will not prosecute).

Mueller’s analysis of Don Jr’s receipt of dirt from foreigners could not be prosecuted because it wasn’t clear there was a crime and he didn’t have evidence that those who engaged in the crime knew it was a crime.

But SDNY has already decided that Trump’s hush payments are a crime. And in that case, it’s far harder for Trump to claim he didn’t know it was a crime for corporations to donate to presidential campaigns, because FEC investigated him and Cohen for it in 2011. A pity for Trump that he continues to alienate the guy who saved him from legal repercussions on that crime the last time, Don McGahn.

Mueller treats the question of whether Trump obstructed Cohen’s testimony in its own section, separate from his pressure on Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone not to cooperate. After laying out Jay Sekulow’s role in suborning Cohen’s false testimony on the Moscow Trump Tower deal, Mueller actually mentions the hush payments as part of the obstruction consideration.

In January 2018, the media reported that Cohen had arranged a $130,000 payment during the campaign to prevent a woman from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter she had with the President before he ran for office.1007 This Office did not investigate Cohen’s campaign period payments to women. 1008 However, those events, as described here, are potentially relevant to the President’s and his personal counsel’s interactions with Cohen as a witness who later began to cooperate with the government.

The report shows how, as he did with the Trump Tower deal, Cohen released false statements covering up the President’s actions. It describes the search of Cohen’s property and Trump’s reaction. It describes elaborate efforts to convey to Cohen he’d be “taken care of” if he did not cooperate.

Cohen also recalled speaking with the President’s personal counsel about pardons after the searches of his home and office had occurred, at a time when the media had reported that pardon discussions were occurring at the White House. 1031 Cohen told the President’s personal counsel he had been a loyal lawyer and servant, and he said that after the searches he was in an uncomfortable position and wanted to know what was in it for him. 1032 According to Cohen, the President’s personal counsel responded that Cohen should stay on message, that the investigation was a witch hunt, and that everything would be fine. 1033 Cohen understood based on this conversation and previous conversations about pardons with the President’s personal counsel that as long as he stayed on message, he would be taken care of by the President, either through a pardon or through the investigation being shut down. 1034

The report describes how, after Cohen pled guilty to the hush payments and implicated Trump in them, Trump turned on him.

On August 21, 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty in the Southern District of New York to eight felony charges, including two counts of campaign-finance violations based on the payments he had made during the final weeks of the campaign to women who said they had affairs with the President. 1044 During the plea hearing, Cohen stated that he had worked “at the direction of’ the candidate in making those payments. 1045 The next day, the President contrasted Cohen’s cooperation with Manafort’s refusal to cooperate, tweeting, “I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. ‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’-make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!”1046

Only after that does it focus, again, on Trump’s efforts to cover up the Trump Tower Moscow deal, and Trump’s retaliation against Cohen for cooperating on that issue.

When the report conducts the analysis of whether this amounts to obstruction, it includes the SDNY case in both the “nexus to an official proceeding” and “intent” sections.

Nexus to an official proceeding. The President’s relevant”conduct towards Cohen occurred when the President knew the Special Counsel’s Office, Congress, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York were investigating Cohen’s conduct. The President acknowledged through his public statements and tweets that Cohen potentially could cooperate with the government investigations.


The President’s concern about Cohen cooperating may have been directed at the Southern District of New York investigation into other aspects of the President’s dealings with Cohen rather than an investigation of Trump Tower Moscow

In other words, even though Mueller didn’t prosecute the hush payments, he treated as one of the things Trump was attempting to obstruct with Cohen’s testimony.

This analysis renders Barr’s judgment — that Trump could not commit obstruction of justice because he didn’t commit the underlying crime — utterly irrelevant and wrong with regards to the President’s efforts to obstruct Cohen’s testimony.

Even with the June 9 meeting, Barr is wrong: Mueller believed there as a crime, he just didn’t believe he could prosecute it.

But SDNY has already decided — and obtained a guilty plea naming Trump as a co-conspirator — that the hush payment investigation that Trump was also obstructing was a crime, with the necessary proof that the criminals knew it was a crime. The 2011 precedent would further back that case.

Barr’s attempt to exonerate Trump on obstruction heavily depends on the fact that DOJ didn’t find a crime involving Trump.

Except DOJ did.

emptywheel’s Mueller Report coverage

The Significance of Trump’s Obstruction of Investigation of His Family’s Campaign Finance Crimes, Plural

How “Collusion” Appears in the Mueller Report

Putin’s Ghost: The Counterintelligence Calculus Not Included in the Obstruction Analysis

Working Twitter Threads on the Mueller Report

The Trump Men and the Grand Jury Redactions

Mueller’s Language about “Collusion,” Coordination, and Conspiracy

The Many Lies and Prevarications of Bill Barr

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. 

106 replies
  1. jaango says:

    “Mueller’s team should not prosecute the case because they were unlikely to get and sustain a conviction. The analysis suggests there was a crime, but not one Mueller would win at trial.”

    Obviously, a pertinent Jury Pool, was not relevant to the attendant “high-level ” politics being practiced by these “high level” political operatives, given their self-gratification for the Training Manual.

    • dwfreeman says:

      Mueller didn’t want to miss Trump with a kill shot and Barr didn’t want Mueller to aim the gun at him, period. This was and is a Republican enterprise through and through. Conservatism is a matter of political principle no matter how that term is applied, and corrupted in theory, practice or enforcement, in this case.

      The irony is this: Trump’s lawyers successfully prevented him from talking to the special counsel or answering questions on anything outside the campaign. But even then, he failed to answer 37 questions because of alleged non-recall. And this didn’t even include the payments he made to protect his political liability with voters. And he still came up nearly 3 million votes short to Hillary Clinton in the popular vote.

      If hush money payments were the only crime made by this candidate, he made them only to protect his name viability with voters for something which had limited impact on his office approval rating once learned in real time.

      From his perspective, he did not specifically make the payments to cover up a particular crime. As far as he and his handlers saw that payment it was designed to avoid bad publicity. It was like seeking a loyalty pledge from one of his employees through a non-disclosure agreement in which he had to pay for the privilege of denying someone’s First Amendment rights.

      The question isn’t his conduct and whether it’s corrupt, the question is whether anyone wants to go the distance to prosecute that behavior in court like SDNY.

  2. SteveR says:

    I don’t think anybody is surprised Barr concluded Trump could not be charged with obstruction–he told everyone (especially Trump) precisely that when he applied for the job. But what is a surprise is that he forgot the part of his June 8, 2018 memo where he said that it is Congress that is vested with the authority to act when a President obstructs justice.

    Barr wrote:

    In today’s world, Presidents are frequently accused of wrongdoing. Let us say that an outgoing administration — say, an incumbent U.S. Attorney — launches a “investigation” of an incoming President. The new President knows it is bogus, is being conducted by political opponents, and is damaging his ability to establish his new Administration and to address urgent matters on behalf of the Nation. It would neither be “corrupt” nor a crime for the new President to terminate the matter and leave any further investigation to Congress. Barr Memo, June 8, 2018, p. 12

    Of course, Barr will insist he has done nothing to deprive Congress of its authority to investigate Trump; however, it is clear that was his goal.

    • Geoff says:

      Don’t forget, Barr may also simply be playing along with the Guliani method – that is, throw all sorts of garbage out there to spin the story and sway public opinion, because if you can turn enough Democrats into Tumulty types, you get your opponent to let you off the hook through inaction. This is what we are teetering on the brink of right, and what Rayne was valiantly fighting against in her recent post. We have to do this, Senate be damned. I’m coming down on a side now. Impeach the MF!

      • BroD says:

        I’m willing to listen to an argument against impeachment but, at this point, it seems to me the House is duty-bound to proceed.

    • William Bennett says:

      Barr: Let us say that an outgoing administration — say, an incumbent U.S. Attorney — launches a “investigation” of an incoming President.

      And right there he’s already gaslighting, because the investigation wasn’t originally about the president-elect; it was a counter-intelligence investigation into the behavior of a hostile power trying to influence the election. It was the aforesaid president-elect who forced the investigation to be about him and his inner circle because, instead of cooperating and supporting the C-I investigation, they kept lying and putting themselves in the way of it.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The subject of an investigation always calls it bogus. Barr’s factual assumptions concede the truth of that perspective and eliminate the probability that an alleged criminal would lie to avoid liability for his crime.

    Apart from helping save Donald Trump, Barr is giving defense counsel a new argument, one explicitly adopted by the DoJ itself. In the usual Republican courtier way, though – as was done in Bush v. Gore – he will make plain that only high Republican officeholders can use it.

    • InfiniteLoop says:

      IANAL but Hasen’s argument is logically bogus.

      Outside of DOJ policy on indicting a sitting president, Hasen says Mueller’s two main reasons for not prosecuting Don Jr. (difficulty proving willfulness, and unsettled legal questions around what constitutes a crime) also apply to a hypothetical prosecution of Trump Sr. over the Stormy payments.

      Trouble is, the analogy doesn’t hold. SDNY charged Cohen months ago, so clearly they think the payments were intended to influence the election and therefore illegal. And Trump Sr. followed the Edwards case so he knew the rules. (Heck, his Twitter defense that it was a private matter shows he knew the rules.)

      Hasen’s probably right about Barr, though.

      • Avattoir says:

        If it were me asked to write on that same subject, I’m quite sure I’d organize and describe differently, at least using a different approach on the problems facing government prosecution of the 2 Dons.
        But since we all cab see in Haasen’s piece correctly identifying each of the 2 most difficult obstacles to making out a case against either of the Dons, I’m disinclined to agree with you that Haasen’s reasoning is at all ‘logically bogus’.
        The statute and the Edwards precedent interpreting it elevate the required intention to something quite a bit more specific than general reckless as to the state of the law, and at least arguably something even more specific than the actor being apprehensive that he or she might or even “is” breaking some law. Haasen’s piece doesn’t analyze the fact situation that clearly, but he does make the bottom line point.
        And even tho Haasen’s other point – the one on how unlikely it is to expect the DoJ as currently manned to prosecute either Don in relation to the June 9 meeting – is superfluous, I’m sure neither of us nor any neutral observer of all this is capable of gainsaying its accuracy.
        Haasen’s specialty and focus is election law, not obstruction of justice, and his piece reflects his thinking it all thru that lens. Regardless, IMO he got the picture right enough.

        • Rayne says:

          I think the 2011 case suggests Donnie Jr. doesn’t have an out — if he is and has been upper management/executive staff for the Trump organization, how can he claim stupidity about FEC finance law if the organization has already had a run in about inappropriate funds or lack of reporting under FEC regs?

          I’m beginning to believe it’s not that Donnie Junior is stupid but that he is pathologically reckless in his attempts to ape his father’s behavior. He’s only been able to get away with it for the same reasons his father has: reasonably effective if sketchy accountants and lawyers who are seasoned fixers.

        • phazed says:

          Don Jr tweeted this less than a week after the June 9 meeting:

          Saudi Arabia Has Funded 20% Of Hillary’s Presidential Campaign, Saudi Crown Prince Claims

          https ://www. zerohedge. com/news/2016-06-13/saudi-arabia-has-funded-20-hillarys-presidential-campaign-saudi-crown-prince-claims

          “As a reminder, It is illegal in the United States for foreign countries to try to influence the outcome of elections by funding candidates. That appears not to have stopped the Saudis, however.”

          [ FYI – link ‘broken’ with blank spaces to prevent accidental click through. /~Rayne]

        • Eureka says:


          I suppose their ‘out’ is that this is re cash, rather than dirt, and who knows that dirt has a cash value? (rhetorical, that last part…)

        • Eureka says:

          …Since the long history of at least Trump Sr. with AMI suggests they know a thing or two about the cash or other value of dirt…

        • bmaz says:

          Jesus, yet another cite to Zero Hedge??

          People, stop doing that, it is complete garbage! And, as Rayne says, a propaganda outlet. Of the Russian bias variety.

        • Rayne says:

          In this particular case it was absolutely appropriate. Showing not only that Donnie Junior understood that receiving something of value from a foreign entity calls into question the argument Junior, though stupid, was too stupid to understand accepting help from Russia was illegal, but that proxies were using this as a point of attack against Clinton. If Donnie Jr. repeated this anywhere he’s clearly projecting.

          I’ll allow this one, counselor.

    • dwfreeman says:

      The implication of the story is, don’t count on SDNY getting the chance to prosecute the case under a Barr regime or on the basis of how both Barr and Mueller dealt with other campaign-related obstruction and criminal-related issues documented in the Mueller report.

      Except that, this case predates Barr’s confirmation and his ability to control its destiny unless he plans to overrule any grand jury-authorized prosecution that involves Trump. I mean why is Cohen subject to prosecution and actions that benefitted Trump personally and politically, while Trump has no liability for the same whatsoever? How do you defend that contention except to prolong the prosecution outside Trump’s run in office?

  4. JAFive says:

    Given how fast Barr got his letter out, it seems rather doubtful that he had even read the full Mueller report before sending it. He certainly didn’t have time to read it carefully and think about it deeply.

  5. robert britton says:

    IANAL. but when did the laws
    change that you had to be smart enough to KNOW you were breaking the law in order for it to be a crime? when did acting out of FRUSTRATION make it ok to commit a crime.

    this whole thing with Trump is a farce. it’s a farce that so many are admitting he won’t be impeached. it’s a farce to believe our founders believed a president was above the law and couldn’t be indicted. it’s a farce that the media does nothing to put the screws to the GOP for defending trump and not putting them in the crosshairs for their complicity. it is a farce now that it’s ok to accept help from a foreign government to win an election.

    what a joke of a republic where getting a consensual bj and then lying about it warrants impeachment proceedings but the myriad of crimes, ethical violations, emoluments violations, conduct unbecoming, failure to uphold your oath of office, et al does not warrant impeachment proceedings.

    it is a farce that dems are so week, by not beginning impeachment that they too violate their own oaths by determining politics matter more than the constitution.

    i am beyond disgusted with my country i served in the USN to help protect and defend.

    Pussies, wimps, more interested in Game of Thrones than the existential crisis we face.

    fucking mad as hell.

  6. PeteT says:

    Had a brief exchange with @bmaz on Twitter – he’s back BTW – that has pretty much cemented my wavering that the House (Dems) need to impeach Trump. Since Sekulow has filed a suit to block Cummings subpoena to Mazar that is likely an attempt to slow walk – run the clock – to The Supremes. Won’t be the last.

    A way to short circuit that kind of cuteness is to file for impeachment upon which the Constitutional basis for subpoenas is well established (paraphrasing @bamaz here).

    So, Rayne is spot on in her recent topic. Marcy as well from Twitter and elsewhere. It’s time.

    My “only” question is what (negative) impact might impeachment proceedings have on those investigative farm outs that are known and the 12 or so that are redacted-unknown in add-on to those baking in NY State and Manhattan?

    • OldTulsaDude says:

      I’m only glad that the valiant men who stepped ashore in Normandy didn’t first question what (negative) impact (on their lives) it might have. There comes a time when duty must be served. That time is now.

      • PeteT says:

        Could not agree more. Perhaps the concern I expressed was ill worded. I am pro impeachment and they need to proceed.

        Let’s try this: How might a House impeachment proceeding impact any in process federal and state investigations? No impact, delay… Delay would be important if impeachment is achieved in the Senate, however unlikely, but as a side effect the statute of limitations expires.

        Impeach first, prosecute criminal/civil afterwards.

        • P J Evans says:

          You start with the hearings looking into these activities, so people can see why the impeachment is necessary. THEN you impeach – if he’s convicted, he can be tossed from office – and after he’s out of office, the prosecutions, if any, happen.

        • John K says:

          This group at EW is way out in front of the rest of the country in terms of awareness and understanding of the particulars of all these shenanigans. Public hearings will help clear the air for those who aren’t paying quite as much attention and, because the report does contain significant evidence of crimes, the impeachment snowball should just get bigger and bigger.
          I still think it’s too early, but as someone else noted, the general public’s lack of an attention span may require the filing of impeachment just to get them to wake up.

  7. Hun Solo says:

    My family has fought for America for at least 3 generations. I signed up to fight in a war I opposed 50 years ago. My dad was shot down while helping bomb the Nazis senseless, and my Granddad fought in WWI trenches.

    I agree with Steve Bannon that allowing our enemy to attack America is treasonous or at least the actions of a traitor, and to excuse it because Don Jr et al may have been too stupid to know it was legal makes my blood boil.

    • Avattoir says:

      Too stupid to know it was illegal, or too stupid or ignorant or both to know how – in what way – it was illegal?
      That’s a big problem with the trend by the courts in reviewing convictions of pols for bribery and campaign finance laws: that it leads to an absurd test whereby the pol accused of the crime might even claim something like, I knew it was wrong, and possibly illegal, but I didn’t know PRECISELY in what sense(s) it was a crime.

    • AndTheSlithyToves says:

      Excerpt from WHO,WHAT,WHY podcast “THE MUELLER REPORT: FURTHER PROOF THAT A SAVIOR ISN’T COMING” Interview of Sarah Kendzior
      Jeff Schectman: One of the arguments that was made for a long time is that those autocratic impulses were at least checked by the incompetence of the Trump administration. That seems to be less true today.
      Sarah Kendzior: Oh god, I mean that argument was incredibly naïve. I think I went on your show right after the election and warned everybody about that, that these are not in fact incompetent people. These are criminals.
      This is a transnational crime syndicate, and you don’t need to have particular geopolitical acumen, like in the case of Trump, to be a front for that kind of organization.
      They’re essentially kleptocratic. They’re about money. They’re about money laundering, fraud, racketeering. These are activities that they’re skilled at. They’ve been skilled at them and engaged in them for decades, and the same is true with their mastery of spin.
      They’re very good at manipulating the media. They’re very good at deceiving people, and they’re very experienced in it. This idea that they’re somehow incompetent, one it’s wrong, but also just doesn’t even understand what their agenda is, which is basically to destroy the government and to bring America as a powerful democracy to its knees.
      They are purposely destructive. They put in people to lead departments that they want to destroy. The Public Education Secretary doesn’t believe in public education. The Housing Secretary doesn’t believe in housing. That was intentional. That wasn’t some sort of accident, like gee we accidentally picked the worst person for the job. That was the goal.
      I think people finally do understand this now. I think we’re seeing a new development in it with all of the acting positions which of course makes it much easier for Trump and his inner circle, particularly Kushner and Ivanka, to consolidate power.
      This is so typical. These are all things I … and others said would happen years ago. We were constantly told, “Oh checks and balances, oh the Constitution,” and you know, laws are only as good as people who will uphold them. What we’ve found is that people aren’t particularly good or particularly courageous at all.

      • P J Evans says:

        The Secretary of the Interior – whoever that is this month – is working for the extractive industries and doesn’t care about parks, forests, and monuments. (One of those people who believes the only good piece of land is one that’s been mined, cut over, or built upon.)

      • dwfreeman says:

        Sarah’s insights are right on target and destroy Barr’s implausible cloudy defense of Trump’s motivational behavior on obstruction and the framing argument he sought to convey overall in the run-up to his calculated holiday weekend release of the Mueller report to limit public figure reaction and congressional first impression of the findings.

        Given any reading of the report and current reviews, what we find are an indefensible characterization of Mueller’s work by the one man who insisted above anyone else to be the sole gatekeeper and last word on the work product of the special counsel. Barr failed miserably in that role as an independent arbiter of the facts and conclusions as reported by Mueller’s team of investigators.

        It is imperative now that Barr’s performance for this administration –even Rosenstein’s shifting calculations of allegiance– be examined in the cauldron of public scrutiny. What still awaits, is a final report from Mueller on whether his three bosses who oversaw his investigation, allowed him to do his job without encumbrance from their supervision. Chances are as the good soldier he is, Mueller will deliver a clean review on that score. But it should be noted, Mueller declined to comment on any part of Barr and Rosenstein’s roll-out of his team’s work, including all the misleading statements about the content of their report. The fact that he didn’t appear at the public unveiling at the Justice Department is also revealing, but in the end, I expect Mueller even if asked in congressional testimony, will never offer a discouraging word in public about the process or how it was handled by his superiors, insisting his report should speak for itself.

        Legal whitewashing in real time for guilty Republican administrations is a Barr specialty. And so the attorney general has proven himself a vital asset for our useless idiot in the White House who depends on the kindness of strangers and colleagues to do his questionable bidding without legal consequence or even potential threat of impeachment.

  8. Charles says:

    National Security Archive has an analysis of the redactions ( Excerpts:

    “The Justice Department redactions are on their face overdone. The censors working for Attorney General William Barr even blacked out people’s names that appear in published news accounts or in public quotations.

    A blotch labeled HOM also covers the first few words of an actual news story title listed in the footnotes on that page – a title you can look up on CNN….

    The Stone censorship also proves that – of all four of the censorship categories claimed by Barr – HOM is the most subjective. HOM black outs make up the bulk of the Barr redactions….”

    • Areader2019 says:

      Thanks for the link, I’m glad people are noticing that.

      Barr redacted Roger Stone’s name out of an article, but footnoted the source. So I’m not a detective….but even I can track down the article and find the name. Why bother doing that?

      Just to thumb his nose at people who want to read the report, as opposed to believe his summary non-summary?

  9. Scott says:

    Trump will go unpunished, the SDNY investigations will be quietly closed, and Manafort will be pardoned. Does anyone truly believe otherwise?

    • bmaz says:

      And your evidence for this defeatist blather is, what, exactly? Or is this just all you got? I checked the rest of your few (4) historical posts, and this same chicken little crap seems to be all you have. Thanks for playing.

    • Rayne says:

      Dude. You need to up your game if you’re going to troll here. A pardon if accepted forfeits the pardoned’s Fifth Amendment rights. Figure it out from there.

  10. William Bennett says:

    Re “impeachment inquiry” or “impeachment proceedings” or whatever: just a point of clarification, because I’m not sure people are clear about what they’re referring to. This doesn’t pertain to the wise proprietor and mods of this site, nor most of the commentators, but the term is getting bandied around a lot and I think there’s a kind of vague sense that it refers to something like the Watergate hearings, where Sen. Ervin’s committee was on TV live, day after day interviewing witnesses followed by a great deal of analysis and pouring over the tea leaves by TV commentators. I think that’s exactly the kind of thing that SHOULD happen, because it’s what brought about a genuine sense of Constitutional crisis and changed the perception of the president. That’s exactly what we need to happen now, and I take it that Mueller’s report has laid the foundation for it.

    But that was precisely NOT an “impeachment process.” It ended up leading to the point where a formal impeachment process was immanent, but all the damage—all the exposure of nefarious conduct—was done in the Congressional INVESTIGATION process leading up to that point. As I understand it, the impeachment proceedings, proper, are heavily rule-governed and time-limited. So demanding “Impeachment now!!!” and getting p.o’d at Dems pols who are saying we aren’t there yet is wrongheaded. We do emphatically want “proceedings”—we want Mueller Report witnesses being called up and grilled and the Trumpublicans’ dirty laundry hung up in front of the cameras from gavel to gavel, as PBS did with the Ervin committee for two weeks in May 1973. What I want is maximal damage to the public standing of the president and his party, which is what that process led to, but all that was the ***preliminary*** to impeachment.

    • bmaz says:

      What a load of crap. So, in this day of hyper speed media and argument, what “you” want to do is dither around like it is 50 years ago? Because that makes you feel “safer”??

      Again, I want to ask you the same as every other naif that makes this argument, what you REALLY WANT is to dither away the evidence gathering powers of a centralized impeachment investigation, including the superior Constitutional arguments in favor thereof, in order to dick around with strung out across multiple feckless committees process, that have nowhere near the same centralized powers? You WANT the dumbest and weakest process possible? Good to get you on the record about that.

      You are completely desirous of emasculating the Article I powers in the face of ridiculous Article II intransigence, fraud and criminality?

      THAT is your argument? Really? How in the world do you square that with the Founding thoughts in the Constitution and Federalist Papers? What in the world are you advocating? Surrender? Abandonment of key Constitutional provisions? Cowardice? What is your play here?

      • Hops says:

        But we do need to consider public opinion, and the public isn’t generally too bright. How many people even know that the Federalist Papers are, or what’s in the Constitution? This is over people’s heads. I wouldn’t rule out Civil War 2.0 if handled wrong.

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          There are different kinds of ‘smarts’. A person may be a master cabinet maker or truck mechanic, yet not have strong linguistic-verbal skills. That cabinet maker or mechanic still deserves decent, reasonably honest government.

          US literacy data, organized by state. Fascinating stuff:

          If you google maps for 2016 Presidential election, you’ll see a great deal of overlap between lower literacy rates and Trump votes — except in the Dakotas and upper Midwest, which has a Protestant tradition of solid public education. The Southern states have a very mixed history with respect to good public education, and we are seeing political fallout.

          Someone with deeper pockets than mine needs to hire a few animators to translate the Mueller report into a sequence of anime’s. It would be a tremendous public service. MSNBC and CNN could also help their viewers with more timelines and diagrams incorporated into their reports.

        • 200Toros says:

          YES! I was just thinking the same this morning. This stuff is too deep for most people to follow, they are overloaded with the fire-hose of scandals from this corrupt admin. A short, powerful, and scathing summary of the key findings of the Mueller Report, and why this admin is catastrophic for our country, in video form, would be hugely beneficial. (If it’s out there, please let me know.) And thank all at EW for keeping my hopes up!

        • Stacey says:

          It’s tempting to think the US population is woefully ignorant and unable to comprehend things like the Mueller report, and in large part they do appear to be, but I’m always surprised when I listen to the late night comedy shows that deal with political topics. The audiences are not hearing ‘the news’ Stephen Colbert is telling them for the first time on that show. Their responses indicate they are tracking with these things. I don’t know how average a group of Americans an audience for a comedy show is (probably less conservative than your average Kansan, I’m guessing) but it’s a measure of political literacy that usually sort of surprises me each time I notice it there.

        • BobCon says:

          The basic issue is that there are two tracks for Congress to move.

          The first is to go with investigations under its regular oversight authority, the same as it does when looking into the Air Force payroll or steroid abuse.

          The second is to launch impeachment procedings. Investigations can still occur under that authority.

          The advantage to the second track is that the House has explicit powers under the Constitution to carry out impeachment proceedings. Its general oversight powers are less well defined.

          It is, of course, possible for the House to hold oversight hearings and later on move into an impeachment phase. I think that is probably not a good strategy, since it is going to lead to more dead ends, repetition and wasted effort.

          Starting the impeachment effort, again, does not mean forgoing hearings and investigations. It also does not mean Congress is on the clock to act within a limited amount of time. Realistically, the House will take months, possibly a year or more to come to a conclusion.

          It is hard, though, to imagine that there is a better opportunity than the release of the Mueller report to launch an impeachment proceeding. There is going to be a long process of stonewalling by Trump, new news will dribble out, and momentum will be lost. Most of all, there is simply no way to regain the time that will be lost. Watergate shows that this process will take time, and it makes little sense to fritter away time.

          There are risks to the Democrats if they initiate the process. They will have to explain any decisions to move with deliberation, and it will consume resources. But there are risks to postponing the decision as well, and I think the opportunities outweigh the risks.

        • bmaz says:

          BobCon – Exactly. It is absolutely critical to further buttress the subpoena power. I have been saying this for a long time, even before release of the Mueller Report. But it is absolutely critical now. Opening an impeachment investigation does not mean you have vote on articles. Not at all. But they need to use the power of an official investigation.

        • BobCon says:

          And just to reemphasize a point, the time factor is critical. The House leadership should assume the impeachment process will take time.

          Losing months now helps the GOP a lot. The impact of Mueller’s report will never be higher. Waiting means the House will need to spend more time arguing its importance. They need to pay a lot more attention to the clock.

        • bmaz says:

          Yes, indeed. Frankly, it is hard too see why all this is so hard to understand for Pelosi et. al, and not a given.

        • BobCon says:

          I think the House leaders are completely underestimating how blatantly Trump will defy subpoenas. He will challenge everything to the Supreme Court, and when (if) the Supremes side with Congress, he will defy them as well.

          I think he is counting on the right wing justices to delay decisions as long as possible, and if there is no way to avoid ruling before election day, they will impose sanctions so weak that Trump can dodge them indefinitely.

          They may, of course, reverse course if Trump looks like a sure loser in 2020, but I don’t see them in any hurry to back the House.

        • Ckymonstaz says:

          Think your both in the money about why impeachment investigation needs to happen now but not sure I believe the Democrats underestimate Trump fighting every subpoena to the supreme Court. I think they know it all too well and the old leadership is gambling letting this dumpster fire presidency and those enabling it will decimate the Republican party so thoroughly they will have another massive blue wave in 2020 that will bring the GOP to it’s end

          Which of course is misguided hubris from the old guard democratic leadership who should know better than anyone that as long as Fox news remains and the GOP stays pro life anti LGBT and immigration there is a sizable portion of our population who will continue voting for them no matter the hipocrisy or corruption apparent at every level of the grand old party

          Hope I’m wrong but fear pelosi and shumer and Perez will never be bold enough to do what’s right with impeachment or letting a true liberal like Bernie win the nomination

    • Rayne says:

      Hey, maybe you’ve heard of this thing we have here in the future where we live. It’s called the internet, a series of toobz which lets video from all manner of events be distributed live and on demand to many different kinds of “channels” and displayed on devices in people’s homes, offices, why even in their hands or wrists like the old Dick Tracy 2-way wrist radios.

      (My grandpop would have loved this stuff.)

      Anyhow, besides the fact we can do it here in the future differently than in Nixon’s administration, there’s much more important reason why we need to tackle both investigative hearings and impeachment process as quickly as possible and on all fronts at the same time: NIXON WASN’T AN UTTERLY BATSHIT LOON WHO MIGHT PLAUSIBLY BLOW UP A COUNTRY BECAUSE IT WOULD HELP HIS APPROVAL RATING.

      I remember Nixon. I may have been a kid at the time and I may not have cared for his policy on Vietnam whatsoever, but there is ZERO comparison between him and Trump — and the internet is part of that difference, too. I can’t for a moment imagine Nixon being a complete douchebag on Twitter the way Trump is because Nixon still respected the office of the presidency. He would never have treated it like an elevated reality TV show.

      We need to go hard and fast using every avenue, every tool in the arsenal because we can only make him stop his bullshit kleptocratic hollowing out of government if he is kept on the golf course or he is busy with his lawyers. And that goes for the rest of his worst minions, too — subpoena them, put them under the glare of TV cameras and iPhones and occupy them until they are out of office one way or the other.

      What House Dems really, REALLY need is a project manager who can schedule this in such a way that the White House has no breathing room, and a media producer who can make sure every bit is captured in a way that maximizes timely content and messaging to the public.

      • Eureka says:

        They also need a working draft of hypothetical articles of impeachment so they know what thematic categories they are aiming for and so that investigations might be organized and communicated more clearly to the public.

        The swill of generalized corruption creates confusion as to what counts or could count and that makes space for Rudy et al. to pound the pavement in continued pre-buttal. Put the swill into some neat draft categories, decide what’s primary, secondary, tertiary under each, and get going. Overlaps may be later resolved and categories and priorities refined as hearings progress.

        I’d think they have such lists and have for some time, but it’s not coming through clearly in e.g. MOC media appearances, but for “obstruction” (which works as a category), and “finances/taxes” (not workable category labels for possible impeachment).

        • Rayne says:

          Rep. Al Green launched a bill but I think it’s time to add amendments to sync it with the SCO report. Looking at the Nixon articles, it was broken into two sections — the first listed charges which could fall under criminal code (like suborning perjury, obstruction, conspiracy), the second was abuses of power. I think that’s a handy breakdown.

  11. CD54 says:

    To be honest, all the usual D disorganization is embarrassing. They should have known long ago that the political move is to pass more, extremely strangling Russian sanctions — while linking them to Russia’s refusal to extradite every single person ID’d in the Indictments while framing it in terms of National Security for U.S. elections.

    Force the Senate and Trump to publicly defend Russian Army attacks on U.S. elections (“Message to you, Rudy”). Let the Senate and Trump shut down the government again to protect the Russian Army. And run national ads showing the Master/Slave video from Helsinki non-stop.

  12. timbo says:

    This. The DP needs to pursue this, hold hearings on campaign finance reform, investigate what the President and his men did, etc, around this violation. But will the DP do it? Hard to say—they called Cohen up and had him testify about these facts a few weeks ago…now what is the DP leadership going to do to steer the Enterprise back towards the rule of law?

    • P J Evans says:

      It isn’t the job of the Democratic Party. It’s the job of the House and the Senate, regardless
      of party.
      You keep blaming the wrong group.

      • Ruthie says:

        It is an uncomfortable reality that while your comment is correct in theory, it ignores the Republican Party’s complicity in the attempted coverup. Unfortunately we ARE reliant on the will of the Democratic Party.

      • timbo says:

        Show me a single person who is not in the DP leadership that has the political capital to get on with this Constitutional obligation? Right now though, the DP leadership is having to contend with some of their most popular Presidential primary candidates advocating for and against even starting impeachment proceedings in the House. So, basically, this >is< about the DP more than any other person or entity. Does the DP leadership in the House stand for or against their own duty to the Constitution?

        • P J Evans says:

          Political parties DO NOT GOVERN. They aren’t even in the Constitution. (You can be an elected official and change parties, without losing your seat. Several have done that in the last year.)
          So stop talking about hat the Democratic Party should do. It ISN’T THEIR JOB.

  13. Terrence says:

    My understanding is that tax fraud (Federal(?)) has no statute of limitations. The NY Times laid out substantial evidence of fraud by the whole family. Any ideas as to why this isn’t being investigated Or is SDNY and NY State interested?

    • BobCon says:

      The NY Times article spells out what Trump faces for the old fraud that they uncovered: “According to tax experts, it is unlikely that Mr. Trump would be vulnerable to criminal prosecution for helping his parents evade taxes, because the acts happened too long ago and are past the statute of limitations. There is no time limit, however, on civil fines for tax fraud.”

      NY State has announced that they had opened an investigation, but I don’t know the status. We don’t know what is happening, if anything, on the federal level, but that lack of information is not unusual.

  14. Eureka says:

    Thank you for starting this running index to you MR coverage.

    Thank you once again for doing the advance work for pertinent congressional committees: more mental notes filed, including attn.: HJC.

    This quoted above:

    And, while Manafort is experienced with political campaigns, the Office has not developed evidence showing that he had relevant knowledge of these legal issues.

    makes my face curl.

  15. Willis Warren says:

    you’re probably on to something with the SigInt admissibility…

    I’m wondering, is the SigInt inadmissible because of consent laws?

    Why is this a criminal investigation and where’s the awful NSA/CIA deepstate when you need them?

    • viget says:

      IANAL, and lawyers please correct me if I’m wrong, but SIGINT is inadmissible because it is considered an “unreasonable search” and therefore violates the 4th Amendment. Thus the need to parallel construct in order to get admissible evidence. If you can’t do that, then you’re SOL.

      I also assume that because FISA warrant info is considered classified, that it cannot be used as the basis for a typical criminal search warrant? Or is that not correct?

      • bmaz says:

        No no, that is not necessarily correct. Much of SigInt is actually legally obtained (whether that “should” be is a far different argument). It is not necessarily a 4th Amendment violation.

        The main holdup is putting up to open court inspection, and cross-examination, the “means and methods” that are used to acquire it. And, when it is truly necessary, such evidence can be still be adduced pursuant to a process known as CIPA. While it is not an everyday thing, this all can, indeed, be done.

        • viget says:

          Ahhh… thank you bmaz for educating me. I always assumed it was a 4A thing.

          Hence, the “greymail” we speak of on this blog on a semi-regular basis.

          Makes me think that whenever Mueller talks about “no admissible evidence” that’s actually code for SIGINT that would be susceptible to greymail attempts.

          That suggests that the FBI knows a whole lot more about that June 9 meeting than Mueller can reveal.

          I always thought it strange that DJT Jr.’s email response was “I love it… especially later in the summer.” If the info was actually conveyed a few days later at the June 9th meeting, then why speak of “later in the summer?”

        • harpie says:

          “why speak of later in the summer?”
          That’s the coordination part. Recently Ryan Goodman tweeted:

          9:02 AM – 22 Apr 2019

          Big item in #MuellerReport:
          Russians didn’t just tell Papadopoulos they had emails on Clinton. They PREVIEWED their plan for “anonymous release.”
          And who was one member of Congress who informed the public?
          Video, transcript

          This links to:
          Russia “Previewed” Plan to Disseminate Emails with Trump Campaign And how that’s legally significant Ryan Goodman March 1, 2018

          The [Schiff] memo went a legally significant step further. As Rep. Adam Schiff recently told Chris Hayes,
          “our memo discloses for the first time that the Russians preview to Papadopoulos that they could help with disseminating these stolen emails.”
          Rep. Schiff added, “When Donald Trump openly called on the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, they’d be richly rewarded if they released these to the press, his campaign had already been put on notice that the Russians were prepared to do just that and disseminate these stolen emails.” [more]

        • viget says:

          Yes, that’s exactly what I was looking for.

          That “later in the summer” line makes no sense if DJT Jr. was truly in the dark about the plan to release emails, and the “sensitive info” (ie adoptions and Maginstsky act) was actually conveyed during the meeting.

          But, if the Trump campaign already knew the emails were coming, then this makes a whole lot more sense. This was the commitment meeting to agree to sanctions relief.

        • Tom says:

          Because it would have had a more adverse effect upon the Clinton campaign if it was released closer to the election date. Less time for damage control from the Clinton team.

  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Nice little tidbit: Fighting their invented crime of “presidential harassment,” Trump’s lawyers sued Trump’s accounting firm and the chairman of the House Oversight Committee to stop the production of his tax returns and working papers. []

    To support their unusual position, Trump’s lawyers cited an 1880 case. That should give any lawyer pause. Precedents that old have often been modified or overtaken by subsequent legislation or case law. Plus, the US federal income tax did not come into effect in 1913, which makes the 1880 case not obviously relevant. But never mind. That 1880 case was overruled in 1927, and has not been valid law for a hundred years.

    Checking those sorts of things becomes second nature for any first year law student who wants to be a second year law student. When a high-powered lawyer for the president makes such an obvious error on an important point of law, it looks like a fraud on the court deserving of rebuke.

    Not to be outdone, Trump’s lawyers also argued that Trump’s accountants were bound by the CPA’s code of professional conduct (stifle the chortles). Among other things, those require that client information be kept confidential.

    That same CPA code of conduct acknowledges, however, a corresponding obligation “to comply with a validly issued and enforceable subpoena.” The ethical problems in this case are not the CPA’s.

    “There is simply no valid legal basis to interfere with this duly authorized subpoena from Congress,” Cummings said. “This complaint reads more like political talking points than a reasoned legal brief.”

    • P J Evans says:

      and C people hire wanna-bes? (I have a hard time believing that lawyers who are supposed to be working for the President are that bad.)

      • AndTheSlithyToves says:

        Lawyers with any scruples, ability and knowledge of history will not work for Donald Trump.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Arch-conservative fundamentalists believe they are always fighting an existential threat, a fight which forgives behaving in ways more reprehensible than the enemy.

        It’s all for God and the Republican Party, his presence on earth, ad nauseum. But they find common cause with remarkable talent. Mostly, it seems to be about monopolizing power.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      My impression is that, having decided that their case was novel and that no existing case or statute supported it, they decided to invent some, but buried it in the middle to avoid detection. Most judges frown on that severely. It violates a basic premise on which the adversarial legal system is based.

      The lawyers who signed their names to the brief []:

      For the Trump Organization and others: Stefan C. Passantino of Michael Best and Friedrich LLP, Maine Avenue, SW, DC.

      He is described as advising the president on “ethics issues.” He is either very busy or has SFA to do. He joined the administration as a deputy WH Counsel shortly after the inauguration, but has since returned to private practice. He was formerly at Denton’s and McKenna Long, and has worked with Newt Gingrich. Corporate compliance (often an oxymoron) and political law seem to be his specialties.

      For Donald J. Trump:

      Willam S. Consovoy, Cameron T. Norris of Consovoy McCarthy Park, PLLC, Arlington, VA, and Patrick Strawbridge, CMP, Boston, MA.

      Consovoy is FedSoc, clerked for Clarence Thomas, runs the S.Ct. clinic at the arch-conservative Scalia Law School at George Mason. Appellate and ConLaw practice.

      None of these guys gets a pass for poor citation. That aside, their basic argument is that Cummings is invalidly attempting to perform a law enforcement function, and that no possible legislation could issue from an investigation of presidential materials, many of which predate Trump’s entry into public office.

      Its argument about the limits on congressional oversight seems ahistorical, constipated and disingenuous. The brief’s purpose appears to be to paint oversight as if it could only be motivated by partisan political purposes and says the courts are not the proper venue to play out such schemes.

      The brief seems especially miffed that Mr. Cummings, when drafting and issuing his subpoenas, did not coordinate with and seek approval from the minority members on the Committee. I do not recommend drinking hot liquids while reading it.

      [Note to moderator, please correct typo: earlofhuntingdon]

      • AndTheSlithyToves says:

        From a 3-22-2019 piece on the Website:
        At the nexus of the political and criminal underworlds stood Trump’s former attorney, Roy Cohn, the henchman for the anti-communist witch hunts of late Senator Joseph McCarthy and a prolific defender of gangsters.

        When the Department of Justice accused Trump of discriminating against black tenants in 1973, Cohn was quoted advising the young developer: “Tell them to go to hell and fight the thing in court.”

  17. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Good advice from Eugene Robinson:

    Does it “play into Trump’s hands” to speak of impeachment? I think it plays into the president’s hands to disappoint the Democratic base and come across as weak and frightened. Voters who saw the need to hold Trump accountable decided to give Democrats some power — and now expect them to use it.


    • BobCon says:

      I’ve forgotten who to credit for this (maybe Dave Weigel) but I agree.

      In the vision of Fox News, the Democrats will have launched impeachment whether they do or not in reality. There is no way holding back will change that point of view. So why hold back?

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I don’t know. It is a helluva lot of work. Pelosi would not manage it directly, so it requires power sharing and intense coordination. It requires considerable political, legal and theatrical skills. It monopolizes the headlines. It distracts from other tasks, although to me, those seem less important.

        The Blue Dogs, Republicans in all but name, would be against it and might fuck up some votes and smoke-filled room deals. But on what topic that the Senate would not veto? It would become a principal election topic – as if it were not already.

        Holding the powerful to account is probably not something large corporate donors want to see or feel they are contributing toward. They would obscure that motivation by using cover arguments – it would waste resources or distract from their agenda, for example. And a lot of what Nancy must be aiming toward is accumulating the largest war chest the Dems have ever had. An impeachment inquiry might make that harder work.

        On the other hand, it’s the right thing to do, it is necessary to preserve remaining congressional powers and to restrain a wildly errant president. It might also enliven the base and bring in a torrent of small donations, which bigwigs rarely want to bother with.

        It might also empower the young turks. That would seem to be a good thing, to keep the Dems in touch with real voters, to get out the voters desperate for change, relief, and to feel the government is accountable to them, and to bring in those millions of small donations and millions of volunteers. But it is something Pelosi seems to want to avoid to keep her hierarchical, money-driven pay-to-play system working.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Pelosi would also be trying to manage any reveal regarding investigation into Trump with the build-up for the 2020 campaign and election.

        • timbo says:

          Pelosi is more likely to be trying to manage any reveals about Pelosi I should imagine. That is, there is a reason why top leadership in the DP have been avoiding going the impeachment route for over a decade now…and methinks this is because some of the things that are going to come out of any such hearings with regard to GOP campaign money laundering, may, in fact, put some in the DP leadership on the hooks themselves? There was already hints of this in the Clinton era party and, frankly, in Obama’s era too. DeLay went down for simple schemes poorly executed. Prior to that, there were DP operatives in the 90s who were convicted. Similarly, Jarrod’s father similarly was involved in such schemes for the DP.

          To doubt that there’s not currently more sophisticated operations in place within the modern DP and GOP money moving structures strains credulity. But now we have a situation where the idea that the GOP and DP leadership will even be permitted to have a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ about neglecting the other party’s violations in this area may be coming to an end…or will impeachment hearings be held off indefinitely?

        • Molly Pitcher says:

          I think that Pelosi is publicly demurring re: impeachment, but my bet is that she will see to it that all of the investigations go forward as promptly as possible. I know that with the impeachment imprimatur comes certain subpoena advantages, but this approach lets her continue to fund raise as you mention, and to be the beneficent promoter of healthcare and climate change and all of the other issues voters are interested in.

          She is too experienced and successful a politician to not be able to play 3D chess, as this will require. She has AOC and the other young and restless freshman drawing away a lot of the GOP/Fox ire and engaging the left side of the left. I think this gives her more space to maneuver behind the scenes .

          I want to win. I want to win as much as possible in the House and Senate in addition to retaking the WH. Pelosi is about as good it gets at getting that done. Once we are back in power, THEN we can clean up the mess and move forward. IF we insist on dogmatic purity at this moment, we will not win.

          There is still a worrisome and growing percentage of Independents who must be wooed to our side. They are the ones who have to be led gently to Impeachment through the hearings. This is the time for cold blooded calculation, not emotional reaction.

        • Molly Pitcher says:

          I think that once the hearings have exposed what has been under the rocks, THEN Pelosi will agree to Impeachment, because it will be supported by the voters.

        • bmaz says:

          I can guarantee you this is NOT what Pelosi is thinking. And “investigations” without the backup of an impeachment investigation are feckless. This is a constitutional war, and Pelosi wants to bring a knife to a gunfight. She is ridiculous.

        • Molly Pitcher says:

          I am not picking a fight with you bmaz, these are genuine questions. What do you do about the current make-up of the Senate ? Or is it your belief that Impeachment investigations and hearings are successful in and of themselves without the final vote in the Senate ?

        • bmaz says:

          I not only feel that an “impeachment investigation” is appropriate, if not mandatory, for the enhancement of powers that the mere name brings to evidence gathering and, most importantly, subpoena power.

          I absolutely think it is necessary and appropriate without any regard to whether the House ever votes on actual articles of impeachment, much less whether there is ever a Senate vote.

          Do you disagree? And, if so, why?

        • Molly Pitcher says:

          I don’t disagree, I lived thru the Watergate hearings. But I worry that the current, morally bankrupt GOP will just use it as a cudgel in the 2020 elections.

          I am horribly conflicted. My daily level of moral outrage says Impeachment now, my desire for political victory is making me second guess that.

          We need Impeachment action to protect the Constitution and to re-establish power of the Legislative branch for the future of the Democracy; but we need to win, too.

        • Molly Pitcher says:

          Most likely my comments about Pelosi are based in this confliction and my hopes that she is doing what I hope for out of my sight.

        • Ruthie says:

          I couldn’t agree more with the absolute necessity of pursuing impeachment, for all the reasons you suggest.

          Another important consideration, though, is that I imagine there’s a significant portion of the DP base that will be infuriated and demoralized if the House leadership fails to act. The determination to put political calculation ahead of ethical imperatives, no matter the gravity of the matter, is maddening – especially when their calculations so often fail! They have over-learned the lessons of the Clinton impeachment.

          Whereas I think televised hearings which show actual witnesses testifying before Congress will be enormously impactful. People who aren’t obsessed with politics like me (and most/all EW regulars) would, I suspect, pay much closer attention if it didn’t require the extra attention needed to actually read the Mueller report or even informed commentary about it. And frankly, if that doesn’t work we’re screwed anyway.

        • RWood says:

          Most commenters at WaPo are following the Pelosi non-action action. It’s clear that the majority do not know the difference between a standard house investigation and a formal impeachment investigation. Phillip Bump wrote a good piece on the many ways Drump can delay, but he came up short when it came explaining the subpoena powers.

          Some “educating of the public” is gravely needed.

  18. Shaun Mullen says:

    Pardon me for this somewhat OT question. I missed it if it has been addressed.

    Mueller inherited a counterintelligence investigation. As in to what extent had Trump been compromised by Russia, undermining his constitutional duties as president. What were his financial obligations to Russia? What was to be made of his failure to even acknowledge Russian election interference and avoidance of criticizing Vladimir Putin even when the Russian leader ordered his agents to poison people on foreign soil? How about Trump’s opposition to sanctions against Russia? And his disinterest in addressing Russian threats to the American electoral system in 2020 and beyond?

    I do not see that addressed in the report except oblique references to Mueller’s marching orders. NBC News, among others, reports that the CI investigation continues under FBI aegis.

    True? False? Partially true? A little help, please. And thank you in advance.

  19. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The C-I portion is not part of the published Mueller Report. Given its likely discussion of sources and methods, it is not likely to be made public. The Gang of Eight, however, should have been briefed on much of it.

  20. RWood says:

    Not that Nancy would ever do it, but is it time to “throw an elbow”?

    I mentioned it elsewhere here in jest, but now I feel that Kline would be a good example to make. He can go down in history as the first person since 1935 to have Inherent Indent used to compel his testimony.

Comments are closed.