Robert Mueller Asked To Be Instructed To Hew To the Report

Since DOJ’s letter to Robert Mueller got released last night, many on the left have fumed that this is part of a nefarious effort by Bill Barr to silence Mueller.

And while I don’t doubt that Barr will do anything he can to limit the damage of Mueller’s testimony to his client, Donald Trump (indeed, there were reports that he met with HJC Ranking Member Doug Collins yesterday), this letter was orchestrated by Mueller, not Barr.

As the letter notes, Mueller wrote to DOJ on July 10. By that point, it was already crystal clear what kind of guidance DOJ would offer if asked. So he had to have known he’d get the letter he did. And yet he asked for instructions, when nothing obligated him to do so.

Moreover, this letter was released by his spox, not by DOJ. Effectively, then, this is Mueller setting — re-setting, repeating what he said in his press conference on May 29 — expectations. That doesn’t mean people can’t ask Mueller questions beyond his report (I would argue that matters about the release of the report are not covered in DOJ’s letter). But he now has the ability to blame DOJ for not answering.

That said, it’s likely that this actually limits GOP plans for the hearing more than Democrats. That’s true, in part, because Democrats have already been planning really milquetoast questions, assuming that having Mueller read directly from his report will be sufficient to generate new outrage over Trump’s actions. But it’s also true because most of the things Republicans want to emphasize — the role of Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, the Steele dossier, the FBI’s use of informants, Carter Page’s FISA application — are mostly outside the scope of the report. About half the questions Chuck Ross suggested, for example, would be outside the scope of the report (while I situated my questions more closely in existing public documents, probably half of mine would be deemed to go beyond the report as well).

If the Republicans want to talk about the Steele dossier, Mueller will guide them to either Jim Comey’s briefing about the dossier on January 6, 2017, or the pee tape — the only allegation in the dossier that made the unredacted parts of the report. And if Republicans choose that option, it’ll mean Mueller will explain over and over that Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, was taking steps to chase down the pee tape well before the dossier was made public. (Hope Hicks was also trying to chase down the pee tape, but that didn’t make the report.) It’s not going to help Trump’s case to show that his campaign took the pee tape seriously, along with all the other sex scandals that threatened to erupt right before the election in 2016.

Likewise, if Republicans want to talk about “FISA abuse,” the former FBI Director will either direct them to the three places in the report where Trump included Jeff Sessions’ inaction on FISA among the reasons he wanted to fire him to thwart the investigation, or (more likely) he’ll point to the standard to obtain a FISA warrant.

On four occasions, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) issued warrants based on a finding of probable cause to believe that Page was an agent of a foreign power. 50 U.S.C. §§ 1801 (b ), 1805(a)(2)(A). The FISC’s probable-cause finding was based on a different (and lower) standard than the one governing the Office’s decision whether to bring charges against Page, which is whether admissible evidence would likely be sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Page acted as an agent of the Russian Federation during the period at issue. Cf United States v. Cardoza, 713 F.3d 656, 660 (D.C. Cir. 2013) ( explaining that probable cause requires only “a fair probability,” and not “certainty, or proof beyond a reasonable doubt, or proof by a preponderance of the evidence”).

And he can then point to all the details in the report, such as Page’s willingness to share non-public information with known Russian intelligence officers, and his claims that he represented the interests of Donald Trump in December 2016, including on negotiating a Ukraine deal.

I’m not happy that Mueller is walking into this hearing setting expectations as low as he can. Though I was sympathetic to his offer to testify in closed session, as I’m fairly certain Congress would get more useful answers with less conspiracy theorizing.

But it’s worth noting that these instructions will serve as a tool to shut down Republican grandstanding even more than it will shut down Democrats.

129 replies
  1. Eureka says:

    Thanks. This is why it pays to step back and not be reactive. I would love to know the reaction-phases of the frothy right, though. Has anyone told them?

    • Savage Librarian says:

      Yeah. At least we might have less grandstanding to look forward to. That’s not nothing.

    • Democritus says:

      Totally agreed, and something I’ve been working on is not getting spun up when the mass media starts Chicken Little-ing. Too often they ignore important stuff and then overreact to diversions.

      My approach in our new dystopian times has been finding people whose opinions I trust and seeing what they make if things and what facts or theories they add to the table before getting spun up. Also just watching who calls the balls and strikes fairly, and is clear about facts vs theories and shows their work with citations.

      Thank EW for providing some clarity.

    • Eureka says:

      @ SL: And the likes of Hannity and the denialists will still make hay with whatever they do (as opposed to a Wallace). Those scripts are already written; they’ll have to adjust some. But the televised event for the masses should be less of a shit-show. That dems had planned for this stricture might give them some advantage performance-wise (and, I daresay, they might have discovered some loopholes). (And I really wish there weren’t ‘sides’ in a fact-finding/-exposing mission for the benefit of our country, but here we are.)

      @ Democritus: Yup, narcissists (Trump) and MSM both fuel reactivity, and the confluent effluent reeks. We all have to be wary when others are manipulative for attention’s sake– clicks, ratings, polls, what-have-you. I’ll skip the Don Henley (Evening News) and Living Colour (Cult of Personality<–that's a great jam!) links, we have enough songs for tonight :)

    • dwfreeman says:

      Essentially, that’s what the DOJ is instructing him to do. No comment about his deliberative process, no comment beyond the report itself, no third party commentary. I will be shocked if Mueller offers anything of value during his five hours on the stand tomorrow.

      • Rayne says:

        Apparently you haven’t given any thought to the bullshit grandstanding the GOP members of the House Judiciary will indulge in to not only undermine the work of the Special Counsel’s Office but to undermine a nascent impeachment inquiry.

        In being ordered to hew to the report, Mueller will have very little to say to fucking stupid and rabid asshats like Doug Collins, Louis Gohmert, Jim Jordan, and Matt Gaetz.

    • JamesJoyce says:


      Dangling dingleberries, dereliction of duty and “don’t indict sitting douche…

      Flush the entire lot in toilet with some tidy bowl then bleach.

      Executive Gasbag and Tarnished Teapots go together. Like crumpets and tea.

      Barr is a fool’s tool.

  2. CD54 says:

    For me personally I would wish that Mueller were forced to declare the Federal Sentencing Guideline for each and every instance of Obstruction of Justice (10 possible/8 absolute?) described in the Special Counsel Report. That would be a nice jumping off point.

  3. Tom says:

    I’ve never been able to see the logic or rationale behind the GOP’s fixation on Strzok’s and Page’s text messages (which only stated what many Americans, including some GOP, felt about the idea of Trump as President), the Steele dossier, the Carter Page FISA application, and the rest of it. None of that obviates the fact that Putin tried to sabotage the 2016 election, that the Trump team welcomed the Russian help, and that President Trump is still trying to conceal his own role in the whole matter, now with the assistance of AG Barr.

      • Americana says:

        Thankfully, squid ink generally only works to obscure over a limited patch of water. You forge on through and there’s clarity.

    • AMG says:

      It’s actually very easy to see the logic behind the “GOP’s fixation on Strzok’s and Page’s text messages (which only stated what many Americans, including some GOP, felt about the idea of Trump as President), the Steele dossier, the Carter Page FISA application, and the rest of it.”


      Wait, what?

  4. Bay State Librul says:

    Let me introduce to you the next Attorney General (If Dems win)

    Neal Katyal from NY Times today:

    There are just three simple yes-or-no questions Congress should ask Robert Mueller:

    Mr. Mueller, the president said your report found, in his words, “no collusion, no obstruction, complete and total exoneration.”

    First, did your report find there was no collusion?

    Second, did your report find there was no obstruction?

    Third, did your report give the president complete and total exoneration?

    • bmaz says:

      You mean the basically moderate Republican Neal Katyal? The guy who personally vouched for Gorsuch and lobbied for his confirmation? That Neal Katyal?

      No thanks. Just because he is an anti-trumper is not enough.

      • Bay State Librul says:

        Yeah. The notorious NKK. I think he is a dem, if I’m not mistaken. In any case, I like him.

      • Rayne says:

        Could you focus on the questions and consider whether these questions are worth asking right out of the gate, no matter who generated the questions?

        I like that each of these questions and their expected answer in each case should be short and clear to the public, no matter who proposed them, though they should not be the only questions asked.

        The fourth question I’d like answered early in the hearing is whether Mueller was a) ordered to terminate the SCO and its investigations, and b) who gave the order if there was one.

        • Americana says:

          There’s no way Mueller would be prevented from answering such questions under the guidance given by the DOJ, is there? So many questions spin off from that simple question of whether Mueller was forced to terminate the investigation before he’d finished w/Stone et al… Stone, as far as I can tell, is the nexus for half of the worst things in which Trump engaged. So that’s one of the biggest questions I’d like answered tomorrow — whether Mueller was forced to cut the line and let that gurgot go. Thereby letting all the other gurgot grunts go… Is Stone’s legal situation going to shatter the comprehensiveness of the investigation or just alter its trajectory?

    • Fr33d0m says:

      Meh. If your only going to ask three questions then yes/no questions are probably not very good use of your time. I like EW and Ben Witttes’ approach better.

    • JKSF says:

      You mean the Neal Katyal that wrote the regulations putting the Special Counsel under the direct authority of the Attorney General?
      What could possibly go wrong with that?

  5. Strawberry Fields says:

    I trust that Mueller is an honest, but aslong as he’s still waffling about “if we were confident that he didn’t commit a crime, we would state it, we did not state it” aka making a clear accusation which he claims has to be written in cryptic language, I just have the lowest expectations. If he sticks to the language though, and I suspect he will, I hope he at least brings some new cryptic poetry.

    • JAFive says:

      I, too, do not have high hopes.

      That said, I think that good questioning can pierce through the ambiguous/evasive language, and this could actually be one of the main payoffs to the exercise. Particularly if he’s willing to answer hypotheticals (of course, he might not be). Done right, the questioning on that passage becomes the key soundbite of the whole hearing.

      The other one that I really hope someone has planned out is a line of questioning on the Trump Tower meeting because I think that could definitely be explosive if handled deftly even if Mueller’s not going out of his way to be helpful. That’s another convoluted section of the report where the underlying claim appears to be very clear though never explicitly stated (i.e., Trump Jr. did act unlawfully. The decision not to prosecute was about the difficulty in satisfying the willfulness element of the statute, not any doubt that he acted unlawfully).

      • P J Evans says:

        That’s one where everyone seemed to be lying about what happened. But not about the same not-happening things.

  6. Rita says:

    I thought that the the strict limitations would hurt Republicans more. Unfortunately, they will simply use their time to trash the Mueller Report without Mueller having much opportunity to explain or defend.

    • JAFive says:

      Yes. In fact, I think they’d rather not have Mueller respond to their questions about Page/Strzok. The far right media then portrays Mueller as part of the cover up for refusing to answer.

  7. Alan K says:

    It’s gonna be a circus – and don’t hold up any hopes. The House GOP has all the advantages here. Their base doesn’t care about Trump’s crimes, and their fear of Trump’s revenge is palpable – so the motivation to be outrageous is very high. And frankly, the House Dems generally don’t care either. Their chances depend on districts that are generally centrists, the centrists are more afraid of AOC than Trump, and they are not really going to lose any Dem voters if Trump is on the ticket.

    But I hate it that we will have no revenge on this man and his enablers until 2021 when the SDNY gets going — but having said that — isn’t 2021 very close to the statute of limitations for 2016 campaign crimes?

    Of course, if Trump / Epstein are entangled as procurers for each other, then …

  8. fpo says:

    I’ll be anxious to see viewership/ratings data for this hearing. Notwithstanding months of cable news coverage and, to a lesser extent, MSM reporting, general public awareness of – and proactive involvement with – the Mueller report is quite low, especially given the fundamental importance and implications for governance that it embodies.

    “A scant 24% of Americans say they have read any of Mueller’s report, 75% have opted not to dive in to the 448-page document, and just 3% report having read the whole thing.”
    [ ]

    For Dems, that reality – and the fact that Trump, Barr, the GOP and Faux News have been chanting “no obstruction/no collusion” 24/7 for months – together with the “low expectations” for Mueller’s testimony, suggest that “moving the needle” in any significant way (re starting an impeachment inquiry) is unlikely. Considering that Trump’s favorables have actually gone up among GOP voters, even in the face of recent blatantly racist, xenophobic comments, the Dems need more than a re-read by Mueller of the report’s key findings.

    A recent thread prompted me to read/listen to Rep. Barbara Jordan’s “Statement on the Articles of Impeachment” that she gave to Congress on July 25, 1974 (Nixon impeachment hearing(s)). In that brief statement she effectively presents key findings of the Watergate investigation and relates them to directly to the specific Congressional perogatives for consideration of impeachment of the President.

    For example: …”James Madison, from the Virginia ratification convention. “If the President be connected in any suspicious manner with any person and there be grounds to believe that he will shelter him, he may be impeached.” And Jordan relates the facts of Nixon meeting with Henry Peterson 27 times to discuss Watergate matters.

    And…”Impeachment” is attended — “is intended for occasional and extraordinary cases where a superior power acting for the whole people is put into operation to protect their rights and rescue their liberties from violations.” We know about the Huston plan. We know about the break-in of the psychiatrist’s office. We know that there was absolute complete direction on September 3rd when the President indicated that a surreptitious entry had been made in Dr. Fielding’s office, after having met with Mr. Ehrlichman and Mr. Young.”

    And one more, “…James Madison again at the Constitutional Convention: “A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution.” The Constitution charges the President with the task of taking care that the laws be faithfully executed, and yet the President has counseled his aides to commit perjury, willfully disregard the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, conceal surreptitious entry, attempt to compromise a federal judge, while publicly displaying his cooperation with the processes of criminal justice.”

    [ ] Full text and audio of Jordan’s statement.

    Staying within the four corners of the report, and with Jordan’s statement as a guidepost, I would love to see just one Democrat – while they have the audience and the opportunity – inform the public as to why any and all of this matters, now and for years to come.

    • bmaz says:

      Well, yes. That is good stuff by Jordan. And if you study the Federalist Papers, Hamilton, Madison and Jay (mostly Hamilton and Madison) lay out the urgency of addressing an abusive and corrupt executive such as Trump.

      Adding, of course opening a mere inquiry as an investigative and oversight tool, does not mean that the ultimate remedy the Founders provided, trial and removal, need be implemented.

  9. JAFive says:

    To me, it seems that there’s a distinction between material “beyond” the report and material “beside” the report, so to speak. Reaching conclusions the report does not reach, supplying details it omits or redacts, and discussing internal debates/deliberations seem fairly clear out of reach.

    But, there’s another category of material that wasn’t in the report because it was (presumably) understood to be implied, already in the public record (e.g., the report doesn’t rehash some of the existing charging documents explicitly because the material is already public in them), or sufficiently meritless not to warrant space. It seems fair to assume that Mueller is free to engage on much of this.

    For example, I think it’s safe to say that Mueller would answer questions about his qualifications to undertake the report (those these are not described in it) or the Van der Zwaan case – at least within the boundaries of the Statement of the Offense (though this only gets a passing footnote with no detail in the report).

    So then what about a question like “Was your investigation tainted by political bias?” That’s not a subject within the report itself. If he refuses to answer it, that makes a fantastic clip on Fox News. And it doesn’t seem to go “beyond” so much as “beside” the report to discuss that.

    That Mueller requested this, I think is only bad news for the Democrats and mostly good news for the Republicans. Given that Democrats hold the majority, the committee is unlikely to attempt to compel an answer on a Republican question. He doesn’t need to be shielded from *answering* those. This shield is useful in avoiding answering a Democratic question, that the chairman might attempt to direct him to answer.

    And, I think, the whole rub of the hearing is that the Democrats need Mueller to provide answers. The Republicans don’t and might actually benefit if he does not. The Strzok/Page, Steele dossier, etc. charges ring louder unanswered than answered. Jim Jordan can get his job done without Mueller saying a word.

    The Democrats need as much cooperation from Mueller as possible. They may still be able to get the job done without him going “beyond” the report, but a willingness to do a little of that would have been helpful. As a result of the last discussion of this, I’m inclined to believe that even just reading the words of the report aloud would be useful. But delivering forceful, clear statements that do more than that would be much more useful.

  10. fpo says:

    I gave up on any signs of “urgency” – along with the Dems’ collective sense of duty or responsibility, a long time ago. Any remaining optimism rests in part with a majority of the public understanding what actually occurred and why it matters – and I just don’t see that happening without a formal inquiry.

    These hearings might assuage the conscience of some, but history will not be kind to those in power now.

    • bmaz says:

      Sadly, I agree. And that is why I am so relentlessly insistent that opening the inquiry to facilitate gettin the information to the public is so important. And has nothing to do with voting articles on impeachment out for trial. That is the big lie about arguing an inquiry equals a failed Senate vote. It doesn’t. And it is the best tool in the Dem’s belt to try to get some real oversight and evidence. And you are right that history will not look well upon this fecklessness.

      • Democritus says:

        Hey bmaz, I hope I get the tone on this right, and I doubt you need me worrying about you, but don’t let these fuckers get you down. Though, yeah the collapse of our societal contract is kinda a big deal.

        I was gonna post this in yesterday thread to another commentator who is also getting down. Hell I mean I am too, I’m scared for our country and think Nancy is pissing away our chance to stop Trump. But I keep thinking why are we all just bitching but giving up? And I see the accounts I am 99% sure are trolls on twitter, Reddit and one newspaper both pushing despair and in one case pushing on the left to start copying Trumps tactics such as telling liberals to start telling people they can leave the country. Thereby further normalizing Trumps hateful rhetoric, at least I think that’s the goal.

        Oh shit, I forgot the quote I wanted to post:

        Wisdom to live by from Alex Steffen:

        “Optimism is a political act.

        Entrenched interests use despair, confusion and apathy to prevent change. They encourage modes of thinking which lead us to believe that problems are insolvable, that nothing we do can matter, that the issue is too complex to present even the opportunity for change. It is a long-standing political art to sow the seeds of mistrust between those you would rule over: as Machiavelli said, tyrants do not care if they are hated, so long as those under them do not love one another. Cynicism is often seen as a rebellious attitude in Western popular culture, but, in reality, cynicism in average people is the attitude exactly most likely to conform to the desires of the powerful – cynicism is obedience.

        Optimism, by contrast, especially optimism which is neither foolish nor silent, can be revolutionary. Where no one believes in a better future, despair is a logical choice, and people in despair almost never change anything. Where no one believes a better solution is possible, those benefiting from the continuation of a problem are safe. Where no one believes in the possibility of action, apathy becomes an insurmountable obstacle to reform. But introduce intelligent reasons for believing that action is possible, that better solutions are available, and that a better future can be built, and you unleash the power of people to act out of their highest principles. Shared belief in a better future is the strongest glue there is: it creates the opportunity for us to love one another, and love is an explosive force in politics.

        Great movements for social change always begin with statements of great optimism.”

        Hope maybe this either cheers you up, helps with a different cognitive framing, or just gives you a little warm fuzzy, and if not maybe go grab some nice tequila this weekend, blow off some steam and feel free to tell me to go pound sand 😉

        • hester says:

          Ty for that.

          I too despair. Partly b/c I am the child of a Holocaust survivor and some of this feels like what my father described in 1938 Vienna.. Note I said “feels”.

          I think some of us Yids easily default to a despair setting. It’s in the DNA i fear. I’m glad my dad isn’t alive to see this. He so loved this country and was grateful to be able to be here.

        • Democritus says:

          In the interests of honesty, and not wanting to seem smarter than I am lol, I totally stole that quote from this great Reddit thread that was titled I think a note of caution on despair. Let me get the link, because we on the left could really use more coordination and collaboration. There is a lot of duplication of effort, that the right with their corporate overlord funded thinktanks and Koch networks have a leg up in…

          Here it is:

          Either way we can’t let the twatwaffles get us down! We could use a human march modeled after the women’s march. Or a march of unity to fight back against Trumps divisiveness. The rabbi from Poway had a great quote about shining a light, or being a lighthouse, I can’t remember of the top of my head.

          Anyway bmaz and ew crew thanks for all the work in defense of our country and it’s mores that you do.

        • bmaz says:

          Thanks. But don’t worry about me, I’m fine. You should see the shit I deal with on the day job.

          • Democritus says:

            Something I’ve been thinking about on and off lately is I think as a society we should be acknowledge our gratitude for the people like you, firefighters, EMTs, nurses and docs in life and death, cops (though this is a longer discussion) all dealing with the ugliness and dark side that exists in all society. And not in the fake rah rah that allows you to pretend life is fair and kind, but acknowledging their sacrifices and resilience. It’s also seen in people who ignore homelessness and how people can get trapped. Like willful blindness maybe?

            Anyway I’m very glad you are someone strong enough and resilient enough to do the work you do, and thanks for it. If you ever need a cactus needle sharpening service let me know and I’ll see what I can whip up. ;-).

            I charge one lb of hatch green chili’s per hour of cactus 🌵 sharpening spa time. Deseeded please, because my stomach has shed its line no since Trumps been elected.

        • Vicks says:

          We need a song!
          It all started with “Crossfire Hurricane” to which Team trump responded by ruining the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by playing it at all his rallies.
          What is it going to be?

    • OmAli says:

      fpo wrote, “history will not be kind to those in power now.”

      They don’t give a good godsdamned. Anyroad, the way things are headed, they are probably the ones who will be writing that history.

      • fpo says:

        Either way, certain significant ‘histories’ have already been rewritten, so as to conform with a certain view of the world. Public education textbooks being one area that’s seen more than a little attention. Ask Betsy D., she’ll know all about it.

        music…”I shot the sheriff’ gets my vote. The Wailers, circa 1973…live recording, if possible.

  11. Frank Probst says:

    I still expect the whole thing to be dull. But the DOJ letter is absurd. Bill Barr doesn’t get to dictate what questions Congress can ask, and they should say that given this development, they reserve the right to call Mueller back for more questioning in the future.

    I don’t know how you “certify” someone as an expert witness in a Congressional hearing, but the only way they’re going to get anything out of him–and I think that this is unlikely to happen–is to ask him, as the author of the report, to lay out the evidence for the 11 counts of obstruction of justice, and then switch gears and ask him, in his capacity as an expert federal prosecutor, if he thought that the could prove each count beyond a reasonable doubt if he had obtained that evidence against an ordinary citizen. And like I said, I doubt Mueller would go for this. There’s going to be a lot of “I don’t want to answer any questions that are hypothetical or that fall outside the four corners of the report.”

    • bmaz says:

      You don’t really need to certify a witness as “expert” in a Congressional setting. That is a creature of trial court law. Regular witnesses can only testify about what they personally know, saw, heard, etc. But an accepted expert can testify about opinions and conclusions beyond what they have heard. That really doesn’t apply in a Congressional setting.

  12. TheToadKillerDog says:

    It seems to me the best strategy for the Democrats is to not mention anything about obstruction of justice. I would keep it all focused on Russian interference in the election for a couple of reasons. First, most Americans have already made up their mind on President Trump’s involvement in the obstruction. Second, it would be pointless political theatre as the Senate will never convict anyway. Third, it could and should, be framed as patriots defending our nation and our institutions. Emphasis on “our”. Fourth (okay, that’s more than a couple) it is what Mr. Mueller wanted to emphasize, if I recall correctly his statements when the report was released. He may be a more willing to bend the (self-imposed) rules on that topic. Fifth, the hoped for lack of partisan name-calling might also inject some civility into the proceeding.

    • bmaz says:

      It is not “pointless political theater”, it is their job. And it is NOT about Senate conviction in voted out articles of impeachment. Anytime the investigative exercise is framed in terms of what the Senate would do in an imaginary trial, before all the facts have even been adduced, it is a lie. Don’t spread a lie.

      • Democritus says:


        Also the Democrats in no way should be forming strategy for the protection of our country on the basis of civility with the GOP.

        (Oh so hard not poking at a centerist Democrat candidate who thinks we should pursue civility with the GOP here)

      • Marinela says:

        I now understand what you mean about starting the impeachment investigation.
        What I am unclear, do you need the votes to start in the house, or is procedural, no votes needed?
        I thought that there was an impeachment vote the other day and didn’t pass the house.

        • bmaz says:

          Yes. Any impeachment exercise always starts in the House, whether a mere inquiry, or voting on articles of impeachment. But they are not the same act. Opening an inquiry is an investigative tool. Is it possible it might, over time and evidence, lead to actual voting of articles? Sure, but there is no reason in the world it has to.

          As to TX Rep. Al Green’s stunt, he used an uncommon device to vote on a dummied up single article of impeachment straight to the floor. It was an asinine and counterproductive move. Green has done that before, it is just idiotic.

    • P J Evans says:

      The facts that came out in the Watergate hearings made it obvious that Nixon was a criminal – and he resigned rather than face impeachment and possible conviction. That’s what we need here: hearings to bring out the facts.

  13. dwfreeman says:

    If Mueller never intended to charge the president with any crime or its obstruction, then why did he bother to detail all the ways Trump sought to fire him and block his investigation from going forward? Was the reason he detailed these actions only to protect the outcome of his own work regardless of whether anyone ever acted on it, and if that’s true, was the investigation short-circuited by his overseers, essentially relegating the report to the same inconsequential result that so many are now challenging as the failure of his findings?

    Here’s the ultimate irony of the political situation surrounding this whole case: None of it will result in protecting our voting system from future Russian influence. On the contrary, there is a greater likelihood that influence will go on unabated, almost certainly to ensure the GOP can surreptitiously rely on it in whatever way suits their needs.

    The question of Trump’s electoral college victory was legitimate or not is not addressed by this report, other than in detailing all the ways the Trump campaign accepted illegal foreign assistance to obtain political dirt on his opponent. No one can say independently without a doubt that Trump won without Russian help, which his campaign never acknowledged, but aggressively pursued and accepted. In the end, they just lied about it, and pretended it never happened. And federal authorities are too cowed by the prospect to publicly admit it.

    So, we are left with that ultimate question of Trump’s electoral legitimacy. His entire presidency could be an asterisk. Forget whether he can’t be criminally charged, was he legitimately elected? And nobody seems truly interested in discovering or reporting that finding. Instead, we live within the political confines of an election in doubt and by an attorney general’s opinion which protects that outcome.

    • Rayne says:

      If Mueller never intended to charge the president with any crime or its obstruction, then why did he bother to detail all the ways Trump sought to fire him and block his investigation from going forward? …

      This is NOT about personal intentions. Mueller was appointed to a role delineated by Rosenstein; he performed his duties within that role while complying with both DOJ policy and federal law. His personal intent may have been to charge anyone and everyone believed to have violated federal law but his role required him to do otherwise.

      Trump’s repeated obstruction falls under (b)(ii):

      Read pages 1-2 of Volume 2 of the Special Counsel’s report in which he explains the limits under which the investigation worked. The fact that he could not indict Trump falls on us to remedy through Congress, both through impeachment and through changes to law to remove the limitations of DOJ policy when an executive has violated federal law before taking office, and after taking office abusing their Article II powers to protect themselves from accountability.

    • AMG says:

      as rayne pointed out, pages 1 and 2 of volume 2 lay out four considerations that guided the investigation and by my count, lay out 5 limitations to any outcome:
      first consideration:
      1) no indictment
      2) no federal criminal accusation
      third consideration:
      3) can’t use “Justice Manual standards governing prosecution and declination decisions” because “we determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes.”
      4) no prosecutor’s internal report
      5) no sealed indictment

      back to your question:
      If Mueller never intended to charge the president with any crime or its obstruction, then why did he bother to detail all the ways Trump sought to fire him and block his investigation from going forward?

      that’s answered in the second consideration:

      Second, while the OLC opinion concludes that a sitting President may not be prosecuted, it recognizes that a criminal investigation during the President’s term is permissible. The OLC opinion also recognizes that a President does not have immunity after he leaves office. And if individuals other than the President committed an obstruction offense, they may be prosecuted at this time. Given those considerations, the facts known to us, and the strong public interest in safeguarding the integrity of the criminal justice system, we conducted a thorough factual investigation in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary materials were available.

      and just for the heck of it – and because i like it, here’s the fourth consideration:

      Fourth, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the
      applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment. The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from
      conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.

  14. errant aesthete says:


    How notable your revelation on Mueller requesting the ground rules. How radically it changed perception.

    There’s a great deal of pessimism and woe in anticipation of what is to come tomorrow. And with good reason. So much is at risk; so much invested. And, oh, the expectations!

    I remember reading somewhere that Trump governs like everything is a bar fight. In his case, a “staged” event with his assigned actors playing their parts, echoing their outrage, repeating his talking points. It went on to say that while Trump brings Tweets to make his case, Mueller brings a book. So how people react to tomorrow could come down to something as basic as critical thinking versus no thinking at all.

    Nevertheless, thank you, for exercising balance, restraint, and open-mindedness. It serves us all, as does your relentlessness search for the truth.

  15. 200Toros says:

    Regardless of anything Mueller actually says tomorrow, I would assume the president and his spineless sycophants will be tweeting and saying, “Well there you have it – Mueller answered EVERY single question by literally saying: “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Total Exoneration!” And the GOP and his core will eat it up and regurgitate ad nauseum… And yet, I am trying hard to keep a glimmer of hope alive that there may be some voters out there who will see their blatant lies, right after hearing Mueller himself, and say, wait, now they’ve gone too far… And would that Speaker Pelosi be among them.

    • Americana says:

      I’m curious as to the timing Trump will adopt for his rebuttals and putdowns of Mueller and how his Russian troll horde will interface w/Trump’s own BS. Surely we’ll see the handiwork of the Internet Research Agency in the trollish handling of the disinformation. Since Trump said he wouldn’t watch the whole hearing, he’d only be “watching a few minutes,” I’m assuming he’ll restrain himself until later in the day in an attempt to look as if he’s unconcerned. So I see a vast wave of Russian trolls trying to share whatever disinformation they can concoct throughout the day prior to when Trump’s tweeting starts. There’ll be a massive wave of disinformation that will need to be countered.

  16. vicks says:

    Would Mueller being subpoenaed (at his request if I recall) revert or change his status (as an American citizen vs DOJ employee) under questioning?

  17. harpie says:

    [I accidentally place this info on the other thread:]
    Mueller makes a last minute request for long-time aide Aaron Zebley to be sworn in.
    I wonder why.

    Mueller Asks for Aide to Appear as Witness During Hearings
    July 23, 2019

    […] It was unclear if Mr. Mueller had made a similar request to the House Intelligence Committee […]

    If the aide, Aaron Zebley, were to take an oath to testify, he could be questioned by lawmakers on the panel […]

    Under House rules, the arrangement could disqualify Mr. Zebley from privately conferring with Mr. Mueller during the hearing — a role he could play if he were not sworn in. […]

    Mr. Zebley has worked closely with Mr. Mueller for years. […] He filled a similar role on the special counsel’s team, coordinating the team and ***serving as a go-between with the Justice Department***. […]

    The two panels had previously expected to talk to Mr. Zebley and another former member of the special counsel’s team, James L. Quarles III, in private sessions after the public hearings. But those meetings were canceled after the Justice Department objected. […]

    added: asterisks

    • Frank Probst says:

      I don’t understand this request at all. Mueller must have had a clear motive for this, but I have no idea what it is, and I’m not sure how I’d respond to it if I were the committee chairman. The limits on what Zebley can and can’t say must be different from Mueller’s, but I have no idea how. The guy’s got a law degree, but I don’t see how that matters. What’s going on here?

        • Democritus says:

          Thanks bmaz, there will be lots of Fox people, innocent worriers, and trolls who could all intentionally or not get us all spin up today.

          I may try to get immersed in something for the day.

          It’s just hard when you can’t do much, and your brain is also like *psssst isn’t there something you should be thinking about?* I can’t even imagine what the tension is like on Capitol Hill.

          • Tom says:

            In situations like this, when you’ve done all you can the best thing you can do is take a nap. I’m trying to take a positive point of view: if Mueller speaks effectively and has viewers across the country saying, “Whoa! So Trump did THAT!? So Trump said WHAT!?” with their eyes bugging out, it will all be to the good. If Mueller turns out to be a damp squib, then I hope at least that Pelosi and other nervous nellies will realize that particular bolt is shot and now it’s really, seriously time to begin impeachment hearings. But right now, I think the GOP has the tougher job because they will have weasely little schmucks like Matt Gaetz trying to trash the reputation of a Marine Corps combat veteran who has devoted his life to public service and the law enforcement profession. I hope Matt is nervous enough tomorrow morning to want to have a few pick-me-ups before the hearing.

            • Democritus says:

              I would love to see Gaetz have his his hateful smug rhetorical ass handed to him by Mueller.

              But yeah, not too much I can do about it. Going to try to get a little exercise in so I can at least get some benefit to the nervous energy. Also setting up snacks for tomorrow, hummus, veggies, some cheese, and Ben and Jerry’s is now selling a version of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream pint where the core of the pint is just a big giant ball of cookie dough ice cream. Spousal unit said they would look for this on the way home!

              Maybe some muffins, aka breakfast cake without icing that is not called what it is so that we can all pretend it’s not what it is.

              Yummy big cupcakes without icing, often with fruit. 😌🥳😌

              I may have a bit of a sweet tooth.

      • Frank Probst says:


        I guess I’m not so much worried as I am just curious (and I may or may not have my curiosity satisfied tomorrow). This appearance has been so finely preplanned that it’s almost like some sort of international summit. It’s just weird to see something like this happen at the last minute. I expect the hearings to be the Dems asking 200 different variants of “Would you have indicted the President if he had been an ordinary citizen.” And the GOP saying Steele dossier, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, missing texts, Jim Comey, Andrew McCabe, blah, blah, blah (not necessarily in that order). And Mueller is just going to play verbal dodgeball for whole thing. It’ll be fun to watch as an exercise in marathon verbal deflection, but I don’t think either side is going to get anything noteworthy out of him (though I expect both sides to spin it to fit their own narratives). Given the format of Congressional hearings, I can see how he’d want aides next to him to quickly flip through copies of the report to get to the specific pages he needs to (not) answer questions. But he doesn’t need to have his top aide sworn in for that. Mueller must have thought of some angle under which his aide needs to be under oath. I doubt Congress will come anywhere close to that angle of questioning, so we’ll probably never know. It’s just curious, especially given that it’s happening at the last minute.

        (For those who are thinking that the DOJ can muzzle Zebley easier than it can Mueller, it’s worth pointing out that Zebley left the investigation when Mueller did, so as near as I can tell, he’s–like Mueller–a private citizen now.)

        • bmaz says:

          Cannot disagree with any of that. It is a stage show, and one not likely to move any needle. As to Zebley, I have checked. He is not back at Wilmer Hale (per Wilmer Hale) from whence he came. At least not yet. He appears to be unaffiliated and just chilling at this point. Still have a couple of feelers out on his current status, but that is it as of now.

      • Tom says:

        If I were Mueller, I’d want someone sitting next to me as a support person, too, and to help deflect any incoming fire from the GOP. Sounds like a good idea.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Seems a bit late for this: the parties have been negotiating over his appearance for some time, and there has already been one delay.

      I imagine Mueller could use the help of a former top aide. But he does not need a minder, especially if the minder is bound by DoJ rules and Mueller is not.

    • Vicks says:

      “As a witness” to what? Isn’t it all in the report?
      I’m smelling a trump bomb or at least a set up for Hannity tonight…
      The nutjobs are all over linking Zelby to “HILLARY’S!!!” freaking server

    • Eureka says:

      Rayne rt’d Elizabeth de la Vega on this:

      “Completely agree @glennkirschner2. Swearing in all of Mueller’s team would be a fabulous idea. They would be able to present the most vivid detail about their areas of the investigation.”


      Glenn Kirschner: “I’m all for it. Different members of Mueller’s team have different areas of expertise & had different, though overlapping, responsibilities involving different parts of the investigation. I’d like to see ALL Mueller team members sworn in to give We The People a COMPLETE picture.”


      Yamiche Alcindor: “Confirmed: Robert Mueller has asked that his longtime right-hand aide Aaron Zebley to be sworn in as a witness during Wednesday’s hearing with the House Judiciary Committee. Dems are weighing the request which has alarmed GOP.”

      • Rayne says:

        My RT wasn’t an endorsement. I don’t know if it’s practical to swear them all in. I also don’t know that Barr won’t insist they are prohibited from testifying for some abstruse reason he’ll pull out of his ass. I do think it’s interesting a former prosecutor suggested this.

        • Eureka says:

          Right. I still don’t feel that I know all the chess routes on this one, but lean towards it not being disastrous and more on the upside if de la Vega endorsed it.

          Weighing the benefit of e.g. Zebley testifying vs. being available to conference with Mueller is also not clear. I also wondered if initial reports that House dems rejected the idea are because of them wanting the words to come out of the horse’s mouth or for some other tactical reason.

          ETA 921p breaking news MSNBC (omFG Maddow taking forever to unspool this sentence) NBC news: Zebley will be sworn in.

          2nd add: just before that they had been airing clip of Schiff saying ~ to effect they wanted words from Mueller’s mouth. Not sure if that is the sole “reason” for initial resistance, but it’s there.

          • Eureka says:

            Modified news: Zebley to be sworn to testify to intel., but not HJC per chyron after commercial break.

            Chuck Rosenberg on now (also Katyal).

      • P J Evans says:

        Jordan and Tr*mp are both squealing about this. Apparently they think that Zebley should stay silent.

      • Eureka says:

        lol re “prophylactic” executive privilege claims. Word is Trump wasn’t into such protective measures. And actually, the way he talks Article II, he’s got the same sense of invincibility today.

        • P J Evans says:

          He’s certainly got the same level of ignorance. I wonder how many of the teenagers he’s rambled at in the last couple of days know what powers Article II actually gives the president.

          • Eureka says:

            Sadly, I think he relies on a lot of mystique and ignorance to peddle his totalitarian wares (which is also as per historically usual with him).

            But also, Bill Barr keeps him mainlined on this shit with memo after memo.

  18. Margo Schulter says:

    In response to Rayne at 1:51 p.m., I concur. A fine point is that in July 1974, the House Judiciary Committee (not the full House) adopted articles of impeachment against President Nixon; and after the disclosure of the “smoking gun” tape on August 5, even Nixon’s staunchest defenders on that Committee announced that they now supported impeachment in view of the evidence that the President was involved in the Watergate coverup as early as June 23, 1972. At that point impeachment by the full House was a foregone conclusion, and Senator Goldwater and others were notifying Nixon that he might get about 10-15 votes for acquittal in the Senate. So his announced resignation on August 8 was in the face of virtually certain impeachment and removal.

  19. jaango says:

    Mueller has been a life-long Republican and he isn’t going to change his spots this late in his life. Thus, expecting Mueller to say anything ‘significant’ this late in his life, defies both Common Sense and Reality. As such, his testimony should be been as an insider’s joke among Democrats. Of course, Democrats are unwilling pull their head out of their ass, and we, the Latinos will have to open the door and windows so that the stink will waft itself out. And yes, Bill Clinton was our prime exemplar for all these many years.

  20. Frank Probst says:

    Whoa. Off-topic but relevant. Bijan Rafiekian (Flynn’s pal) was found guilty on two counts after only 4 hours of jury deliberations:

    I know there’s a good chance that the judge will throw out the convictions, and they’ll be appealed even if he doesn’t. But only four hours of deliberations tells me that this wasn’t really a close call. I had assumed that he was going to walk, because blame-it-all-on-Flynn seemed like a pretty solid defense to me. Shows you how much I know. The prosecution’s case must have been a lot stronger than I thought. And while I know that the length of the deliberations probably isn’t supposed to be a factor in whether or not a trial judge overturns a jury verdict, I think that it’s got to be an unconscious factor in the decision.

    • bmaz says:

      Yes. Frankly, in EDVA, this is not all that surprising. It is very much not a friendly jury pool. That said, I think Marcy’s criticisms were right and, in the end, it was not an overly solid case. I imagine there will be solid Rule 29 (renewed) and 33 motions filed, and they will be decent arguments, though do not expect the court to grant either of them.

  21. MattyG says:

    It’s Vol I stuff that will really set things in motion. If Mueller indicates after vigorous Dem questioning (in some fashion) that evidence of conspiracy was established, but simply not between the campaign and officials of Russia, and, indicates (in some fashion) that *had* his mandate included relations between the campaign and non-offical agents and third parties acting on behalf of the RU, then, he may have found cause to charge, THEN sparks will fly. When congress feels free – or even compelled – to connect dots between the campaign and RU cut-outs, a quid pro quo becomes the driving narrative and the summer gets a whole lot hotter.

  22. harpie says:

    Yesterday, Marcy retweeted Ronald Klain:
    12:55 PM – 22 Jul 2019

    Democrats have put too much faith in Mueller (once again), and the strategy for the Wednesday hearing seems wrong to me. My thoughts on how Democrats should handle “Mueller Day,” are in my new column for @washingtonpost:

    Links to:
    Robert Mueller’s testimony seems destined to disappoint. But Democrats could make it worthwhile. Washington Post July 22 at 3:51 PM

    […] Instead of hoping that Mueller’s oral presentation of his report will be a “game changer,” Democrats should focus on the most useful purpose “Mueller day” could serve: making the case for congressional inquiry into the gaps, inadequacies and unanswered questions left by Mueller’s report. […]

    The report’s plodding incident-by-incident deconstruction of the events of 2016 obscures the core narrative of its findings: The Trump campaign actively sought help from Russia, Russia provided it and the Trump campaign made extensive use of it. […]

    Instead of focusing the hearings on rehashing what is in Mueller’s report, Democrats should use the hearings to justify continued investigations beyond the report […]

    it is especially critical that Democrats use the hearings not to celebrate Mueller’s report but to dramatize its two major gaps […]

    [here’s the nitty gritty]

    Thus, the Democrats’ first objective must be to reverse the dynamic where “Mueller Report” and “full investigation into Trump’s wrongdoing” are synonymous in the public mind and make clear that there are considerable areas of investigation that remain unexplored. […]

    Democrats should use “Mueller day” not to restate what Mueller found but to make a case for why they need to explore what Mueller missed, bungled or overlooked. [end]

    Also, here’s an amazing photograph of an AMAZING rainbow in New Mexico.

    • Democritus says:

      Oh that is a great argument, and exactly what moved me into why we need the impeachment inquiry. I used to defend Pelosi’s patience especially as the report was just being released, but she lost the ball what seems like ages ago now in the Trump distorted time warp we live in, but what maybe June?

      Plus amazing photo! I’ve always been partial to photos with rainbows and vivid skies with crazy clouds. The depth of the field of view (is that the correct term?) and how far you can see there is always so impressive once you venture into over the mountains and into the heartland of the country from either coast. I’ve done a few cross country drives, mostly along the southern route, and it’s just such a beautiful country we live in.

    • Eureka says:

      I hadn’t read that, but some of it resembles the gist of some comments I’d made yesterday arguing the merits of Marcy’s-type-questions for fueling oversight (–> impeachment inquiry) versus relying on some new Mueller hero story/ephemeral dramatics.

      But it sounds like they’ll be four-corners-ing it (and given developments late yesterday I am glad they well-trained for it).

      This may be an unpopular take, but I am comfortable now with at least the dem frosh women (like Dean, Scanlon) and their appropriate-sounding* confidence and prep for what they plan to make of those four corners.

      It is what it is, and at least some–tho I hope all– will make the best of it.

      * e.g. in clip here:

      Stuff like this is much more inspiring than, e.g. Jeffries appearance on Chris Hayes just now.

      Also, Scanlon will be on Maddow. Lots of other appearances I haven’t kept track of.

  23. JamesJoyce says:

    Mueller may expose obstruction on a massive scale if representatives of the people’s house decide to be lawyers instead of “demorat” or “rethug.”

    *uck William Barr…

  24. Nehoa says:

    Like many others here, my expectations for tomorrow are low. There might be something useful out of the Intelligence committee hearing, but unlikely in the Judiciary hearing.
    An important lesson I learned when I was young was that when you are in a fight, be clear what kind of fight you are in. Is it a dominance fight, or is it a fight to the death? Not recognizing that you are in a fight to the death can obviously be fatal. My point is that we (Democrats/democrats) are in a fight to the death, but don’t realize it or act like it. House Democratic leadership and/or the Dem presidential candidates need to declare a war that starts today and will take a generation to truly win. I participated in such a war in my state, and it took 30 years, but the GOP is almost dead here.
    Begin with impeachment inquiries. Impeachment was America’s fundamental statement that we shall have no king.

  25. harpie says:

    Rep. Julia Brownley, D-CA-26
    4:34 PM – 23 Jul 2019

    This is a pivotal moment in our nation’s history, and I believe President Trump presents an existential threat to our democracy. I am, therefore, calling for the immediate opening of an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. Watch my full statement below. [VIDEO]

    • Rayne says:

      Thanks, harpie — I caught this, made note at the end of the last open thread. Thanks for keeping your eyes peeled. :-)

  26. tryggth says:

    “Mr. Mueller, as you know, we cannot bring criminal charges against the President. All we can do is either impeach or enact laws which tend to a ‘more perfect union’. You have been asked here to testify only insofar as you can inform this committee as to what Article I we should make. In addition to legislation to protecting our democracy against the technological tools of our advisories, do you – based on your experience – have any recommendations for strengthening our system of government?”

  27. harpie says:

    82 [!!!] year Rep. Bill Pascrell [D-NJ-09], responding yesterday to DoJ’s letter to Mueller:
    5:28 PM – 22 Jul 2019

    It is a national scandal that our nation’s Attorney General,
    the chief law enforcement officer of America,
    has corrupted the Justice Dept into
    Donald Trump’s personal legal bodyguard.

    Barr should be impeached.

    After reading this, I explored further and, wow, this Rep. sure plays a mean Twitter game!

    • harpie says:

      He’s on Ways and Means and wrote, today:
      1:40 PM – 23 Jul 2019

      We’re in Alice in Wonderland territory. Congress had to sue to do oversight of Trump’s corruption, now Trump is suing to block our oversight. This lawsuit should be laughed out of court.

      The question remains: what the heck is Trump hiding?

      Trump and his lawyers named me in their meritless lawsuit for demanding to know if Trump’s a crook. I sure did! [see screenshot]

      • harpie says:

        From the law suit:

        Referencing the TRUST Act, Representative Pascrell said he supports ”any tool…that might shed sunlight on Trump’s tax return history” because the country needs to know what he “is hiding” and whether he “is a crook.”

        And, yes, EUREKA! [10:26] I have a huge grin on my face right now.

        • Eureka says:

          Whip-smart and adorable, too– can we adopt him/he adopt us or something.

          Also, I am enjoying this Mueller’s Eve trickle in the impeachment inquiry numbers.

    • Eureka says:

      Oh, you should have seen the self-invitation to the squad- via the Onion.

      Most recent first:

      Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “You’re in, @BillPascrell! ☺️💖👯‍♀️👯‍♂️… ”

      Bill Pascrell, Jr.: “Well. How bout it @AyannaPressley @AOC @RepRashida @IlhanMN?… ”

      The Onion: “82-Year-Old New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell Quietly Asks Ilhan Omar If He Can Be Part Of The Squad …”

      82-Year-Old New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell Quietly Asks Ilhan Omar If He Can Be Part Of The Squad

  28. RWood says:

    How much will ABJ’s gag order on Stone limit the questions that pertain to him/Wiki/Assange/ Trump?

  29. tomorrow says:

    this is not complicated we can keep it simple….what do we say to our grandchildren and great grandchildren…what is right and what is wrong…what is truth and what is a lie?!

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah, no. It cannot be kept that simple, And it is not that simple. Nowhere even remotely close to that simple.

  30. Free The TrumpCucked! says:

    “The House GOP has all the advantages here. Their base doesn’t care about Trump’s crimes”
    Actually, the GOP’s cucks worship criminals.
    twitter MindSeductionx/status/1152750149267070976

  31. Bay State Librul says:

    “Camera Shy” Bob will visit the lights in a double header scheduled in a few hours.
    It’s been a long, arduous journey, where Barr’s lies prevented his report from barely
    registering on the obstruction scale.
    90 fucking days of misery.
    I hoping that history will judge his performance as the #1 in its “100 Greatest Moments in Political Theater.”
    It’s not the “Miracle on Ice” or Jackie breaking the racial barrier.
    It could however become the sweet summer of ’19 where Trump is impeached.
    Let us pray.

  32. klynn says:

    Going OT…
    How can we make a public demand for McFadden to recuse from Tr¥mp lawsuit and make the request have volume? Plus, there is a need push it through loudly today because it would hit back as effective on Mueller Day.

    McFadden has a major conflict of interest with his ties to DT.

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