Attorney General William Barr issues his summary of Mueller’s report

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Attorney General William Barr has issued a brief letter summarizing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. The New York Times reports, Mueller Finds No Trump-Russia Conspiracy but Stops Short of Exonerating President on Obstruction of Justice:

The investigation led by Robert S. Mueller III found that neither President Trump nor any of his aides conspired or coordinated with the Russian government’s 2016 election interference, according to a summary of the special counsel’s findings made public on Sunday by Attorney General William P. Barr.

Mr. Barr also said that Mr. Mueller’s team drew no conclusions about whether Mr. Trump illegally obstructed justice. Mr. Barr and the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, concluded that the special counsel’s investigators lacked sufficient evidence to establish that Mr. Trump committed that offense, but added that Mr. Mueller’s team stopped short of exonerating Mr. Trump.

“While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Mr. Barr quoted Mr. Mueller as writing.

Let’s look at some of the highlights from Attorney General William Barr’s March 24, 2019 Letter to House and Senate (.pdf):

The report explains that the Special Counsel and his staff thoroughly investigated allegations that members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, and others associated with it, conspired with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, or sought to obstruct the related federal investigations. I the report, the Special Counsel noted that, in completing his investigation, he employed 19 lawyers who were assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts,  forensic accountants, and other professional staff. The Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, issued almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers, made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.

These interviews did not include President Trump, nor apparently Donald Trump, Jr. or his son-in-law Jared Kushner who were in attendance at a Trump Tower meeting in Manhattan in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer connected to the Kremlin on the promise of being given dirt on Democrat Hillary Clinton. Kushner had other contacts, including a conversation with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition about setting up a secret communications channel through the Russian embassy. Trump Jr. Escapes Mueller Probe Despite the Trump Tower Meeting.”[Q]uestions will be raised about Mueller’s approach if it turns out that he neither questioned the president’s relatives nor made them a target of his investigation.” Ya think!

“Just because there’s not enough evidence for a criminal case doesn’t mean there wasn’t wrongdoing,” Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor. said in a phone interview. “No criminal case doesn’t mean no conspiracy.”

The report does not recommend any further indictments, nor did the Special Counsel obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public.

This puts to rest the media speculation about a substantial number of sealed indictments the in the District of Columbia.

But it also raises questions about an August court filing by a federal prosecutor in Virginia which inadvertently revealed that the Justice Department has filed undisclosed criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Court filing indicates DOJ filed undisclosed criminal charges against Julian Assange. If Julian Assange and Wikileaks was not part of Mueller’s Russia investigation — and how is he not? — what other investigation is Assange part of?

The report outlines the Russian effort to influence the election and documents crimes committed by persons associated with the Russian government in connection with those efforts. The report further explains that a primary consideration for the Special Counsel’s investigation was whether any Americans — including persons associated with the Trump campaign — joined the Russian conspiracies to influence the election, which would be a federal crime. The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As the report states: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

In a footnote to this paragraph, Barr explains that “The Special Counsel defined “coordination’ as an ‘agreement – tacit or express – between the Trump campaign and the Russian government on election interference.”

[T]he Special Counsel did not find that any U.S. Person or Trump campaign official or associated conspired or knowingly coordinated with the Internet Research Agency (IRA) in its efforts, although the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian nationals and entities in connection with these activities.

This would appear to exonerate Brad Parscale, digital media director for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and Cambridge Analytica, founded by Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon and conservative businessman Robert Mercer. It also lets Facebook off the hook.

It also leaves unanswered questions about unusual communications between a domain linked to the Trump Organization (mail1.trump-email.com), and Alfa Bank, one of the largest banks in Russia. Was There a Connection Between a Russian Bank and the Trump Campaign?

“[T]he total number was notable: between May and September, Alfa Bank looked up the Trump Organization’s domain more than two thousand times.” “Only one other entity seemed to be reaching out to the Trump Organization’s domain with any frequency: Spectrum Health, of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Spectrum Health is closely linked to the DeVos family[.]”

The second element involved the Russian government’s efforts to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. … Based on these activities the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election. But as noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated  individuals to assist the Trump campaign.

This is despite the fact that “Prosecutors for Special Counsel Robert Mueller said in court filings that former Trump adviser Roger Stone directly communicated with WikiLeaks and Russian hackers (Guccifer 2.0) who stole thousands of emails from Democrats.” Roger Stone Communicated With Wikileaks And Russian Hackers: Mueller. WTF? This conclusion of the Mueller report is inexplicable.

Obstruction of Justice. The report’s second part addresses a number of actions by the President – most of which have been the subject of public reporting – that the Special Counsel investigated as potentially raising obstruction-of-justice concerns. After making a “thorough factual investigation” into these matters, the Special Counsel considered whether to evaluate the conduct under Department standards governing prosecution and declination decisions but ultimate determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment.

Remember that the Special Counsel did not interview President Trump, so how could he determine whether Trump had “corrupt intent to interfere” with a pending federal judicial proceeding? So Robert Mueller punted rather than explain his decision not to prosecute in a declination decision, as Department standards require.

Mueller did apparently set out the facts that he punted to his Department of Justice superiors.

Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

With all due respect, this is what the American people were paying the Special Counsel to do. Punting without drawing any conclusions is simply  not acceptable.

The Special Counsel’s decision to describe the facts of his obstruction investigation without reaching any legal conclusions leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime. … After reviewing the Special Counsel’s final report on these issues; consulting with Department officials, including the Office of Legal Counsel; and applying the principles of federal prosecution that guide our charging decisions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed  during the special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president.

For what it is worth, Robert Mueller, Rod Rosenstein and William Barr are all Republicans who were appointed to their current posts by President Trump.

Prior to his nomination by President Trump to be Attorney General, Trump’s attorney general pick once sent an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department calling Mueller’s obstruction probe ‘legally insupportable’:

William Barr, President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, sent an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department in June calling the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into obstruction of justice “legally unsupportable” and “potentially disastrous[.]”

In his 20-page memo, which the Journal reviewed, Barr argued that Mueller’s obstruction probe is based on an overly expansive reading of the special counsel’s powers.

He also wrote that Mueller shouldn’t be allowed to demand an interview with Trump about obstruction of justice.

“As I understand it, his theory is premised on a novel and legally insupportable reading of the law,” Barr wrote. “Mueller should not be permitted to demand that the President submit to interrogation about alleged obstruction.”

The investigation, Barr said, shouldn’t be sanctioned by the Justice Department.

William Barr auditioned for the Attorney General position by telling Donald Trump exactly what he wanted to hear, and he just delivered for him. Barr has denied that this was a condition of his appointment, but you are right to question the veracity and motives of those involved.

After being Used by White House in James Comey’s Firing — Rosenstein wrote the bogus firing memo under duress — Rod Rosenstein Suggested Secretly Recording Trump and Discussed 25th Amendment:

Deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, suggested last year that he secretly record President Trump in the White House to expose the chaos consuming the administration, and he discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office for being unfit.

Mr. Rosenstein made these suggestions in the spring of 2017 when Mr. Trump’s firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director plunged the White House into turmoil. Over the ensuing days, the president divulgedclassified intelligence to Russians in the Oval Office, and revelations emerged that Mr. Trump had asked Mr. Comey to pledge loyalty and end an investigation into a senior aide.

Mr. Rosenstein was just two weeks into his job. He had begun overseeing the Russia investigation and played a key role in the president’s dismissal of Mr. Comey by writing a memo critical of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But Mr. Rosenstein was caught off guard when Mr. Trump cited the memo in the firing, and he began telling people that he feared he had been used.

Mr. Rosenstein made the remarks about secretly recording Mr. Trump and about the 25th Amendment in meetings and conversations with other Justice Department and F.B.I. officials.

* * *

Mr. Rosenstein disputed this account.

“The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect,” he said in a statement. “I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”

Rosenstein has announced that he is retiring from the Department of Justice after the filing of the Mueller report. Maybe soon he can be more forthcoming.

Recently, former U.S. Attorney U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara explained why he also considered taping a call with Trump and told MSNBC that the reports about Rosenstein “sort of rung in my ear a little bit,” and that he believes Rosenstein was serious.

“I tend to believe he was not joking, because there has been a certain kind of conduct that happens,” Bharara said, citing Trump’s falsehoods and explaining that prosecutors routinely take notes, or make recordings, as corroborating evidence.

If the Times reporting is accurate, Rosenstein clearly believed that Trump was engaged in criminal activity. He is name-checked in Barr’s letter because Rosenstein was the DOJ supervisor over Robert Mueller’s investigation after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself.

Barr’s final assertion is that his decision is not based upon Department policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted. He never had to make that determination after having pre-judged the evidence before he was even confirmed that the obstruction of justice was “legally unsupportable” and “potentially disastrous.”

Congress will now have to step up and do its job.




1 COMMENT

  1. Seems to me that the AG’s letter alludes to a huge heap of evidence both for and against “coordination” and obstruction that is, of course, not presented in the AG’s letter. Congress and the public need to see that evidence, good and bad, and come to a conclusion as to whether to POLITICALLY exonerate the President and those of his intimates that have not so far been indicted.

    This matter is far from over, but the AG’s bottom line declination to charge the President and others with obstruction seems to hinge on a great deal of evidence we just haven’t, and may never, see. I tend to think that there are many little definitional games being played to reach the AG’s conclusion that are not entirely honest.

    For instance, Barr is extremely careful to lay out a very specific definition of “coordination” that may hide a great deal of cooperation that does not rise to include any tacit or express agreement between parties to interfere with the election. As to the obstruction question, Barr’s letter seems to lean very heavily on the finding of a lack of “coordination” with Russia to determine that all the obstruction we have seen in plain sight does not actually constitute a beyond a reasonable doubt case of obstruction. It’s almost as if Barr is saying that without an underlying case of “coordination” there can be no obstruction regarding the investigation. I think that assumption is very questionable; the President and others can obstruct an investigation of “coordination” with Russia, even if there is insufficient evidence to establish “coordination” beyond a reasonable doubt.

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