The Mueller Report and the Trump Evangelicals

Mueller Report

I spent part of the weekend reading the Mueller Report. Nothing I have written below is new if you have been following the news coverage of the report or read it for yourself, but I thought I would use this space to jot down some of my notes as I processed it.

  • The Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton and in favor of Donald Trump.  In other words, it is possible that Donald Trump won in 2016 because of Russian help (Vol. 1:1).  Future historians should put an asterisk next to Trump’s victory in 2016.  We may never know how the Russians helped Trump, but they clearly interfered.
  • There are “numerous links” between the Russian interference in the U.S. election and the Trump presidential campaign (Vol 1:1).
  • The Trump campaign did not conspire or coordinate with the Russian government in its election interference activities (“collusion” is not a legal term), but it certainly came close.
  • The Russian Facebook campaign played to American fears.  These Russian-authored social media accounts and ads were promoted through retweets and responses to tweets by Sean Hannity, Roger Stone, Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Michael Flynn.  (Vol I: 26-27).  In other words, these people helped make the Russian interference effective.  (Of course none of these people knew they were retweeting and promoting the work of Russians).
  • The report presents the Trump campaign as chaotic and disorganized.  Several members of the campaign were working with Russia to help Trump get elected.  Some lied about it and got caught.  Others seemed to just get lucky that they did not do anything reaching the level of criminality.  Those who told the American people that there were no links between the Trump campaign and Russia included Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., Kellyanne Conway, Mike Pence, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Trump himself.  (Thanks to Lawfare Blog for identifying these names and providing links).
  • It seems like most Trump supporters stopped reading the report after Volume 1.
  • Mueller says up-front that he respected the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) and agreed not to indict a sitting President.  Yet he also says his office uncovered “potentially obstructive acts related to the Special Counsel’s investigation itself.” (Vol. 2:1)
  • Mueller reminds the readers that “a President does not have immunity after he leaves office.”  Why would he put that in the report if he did not think a legitimate case of obstruction could be made against Trump? (Vol 2:1). Perhaps the answer comes on p. 2:2: “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.” In other words, Mueller may have found evidence of a possible indictment for obstruction, but could not bring an indictment because of the OLC guidance.  As several scholars have shown, including historians Julian Zelizer and Yoni Appelbaum, this is Mueller’s way of suggesting that it is the job of Congress to handle such behavior.  (Also 2:156-182).
  • Volume 2:3-7 reads like Mueller’s case for impeachment:
    • Trump lied about contacts with Russia
    • Trump tried to intimidate former FBI Director James Comey to end the investigation into  Michael Flynn’s ties with the Russian government. According to Mueller, there is “substantial evidence” to support Comey’s side of this story.  Trump denied that he asked everyone in the room to leave so he could pressure Comey to drop the investigation.  He lied about this.
    • Trump tried to get Jeff Sessions and several other members of the federal government to bring an end to the ongoing Russia investigation.  How is this not obstruction?
    • Trump fired FBI director James Comey and tried to make it look like he was fired for incompetence unrelated to the Russia probe. We now know that Comey was indeed fired because Trump did not like the Russia probe, despite the fact that the FBI director insisted that Trump was not under investigation.
    • Trump tried to get White House attorney Don McGahn to remove Mueller as Special Counsel.  McGahn told Trump that such a request was “silly” and “not real.” He would not do it.  Trump then told McGahn to deny press reports confirming that the president ordered him to have the Special Counsel removed. (2:114)
    • Trump tried to get Corey Lewandowski to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions to publicly declare that the Mueller investigation was “very unfair” to him.  Trump also wanted the probe limited to future election interference, rather than focus on the Russian election interference in 2016.  Lewandowski asked White House aid Rick Dearborn to get the message to Sessions.  Dearborn never delivered it.  This is one of many examples of Trump’s staff protecting an out-of-control and incompetent president motivated by his own narcissism, self-image, and personal vendettas.
    • Trump edited Donald Trump Jr.’s statement about a June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton to make it appear that the meeting was about adoption.  He and his personal lawyer then lied about the fact that he did this.
    • Trump pressured Jeff Sessions, on more than one occasion, to unrecuse himself from heading the Mueller investigation because he thought Sessions might fire Mueller.
    • After Flynn began cooperating with the Special Counsel, Trump tried to get Michael Flynn to give him a “heads up” about any “information that implicates the president”
    • Trump tried to manipulate Trump Organization executive Michael Cohen’s testimony before the Special Counsel. (2:138, 146)
  • On pages 2:9-12, Mueller lays out the five kinds of obstruction of justice under the heading “The Legal Framework of Obstruction of Justice.”  Wow!  It seems like Trump violated all five of these forms of obstruction.

The Bottom Line:

Donald Trump is a liar who clearly obstructed justice.  He has forced others to lie to the American people on his behalf.  Some, like Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a self-professed evangelical Christian, lied for the president on multiple occasions.  (That is a lot of slips of the tongue). Others refused to lie for him. The Mueller report reveals that Trump’s presidency lacks a moral center.  He should be impeached.

And what about the court evangelicals and all of those other white evangelicals who still support Trump?  They will double down in their support for the president.  He is God’s chosen instrument and his evangelical supporters will invoke biblical examples of how God’s anointed instruments will always suffer persecution.  They will claim that the Mueller Report is biased (except, of course, the parts that say there was no collusion).  They will continue to stoke the “witch hunt” metaphor.   They will continue to take their marching orders from Fox News and claim that the report proves that Trump did not commit a crime.  They will argue that the country should simply move forward as if nothing happened.  They will ignore the parts of the report that show Trump’s immorality and lies.  Court evangelicalism blinds one to the truth.  For example:

What document are these guys reading?  It can’t be the Mueller report.  🙂

But perhaps a few pro-Trump evangelicals will see the light and finally realize, like Billy Graham eventually did with Richard Nixon, that Trump is not worthy of their support

71 thoughts on “The Mueller Report and the Trump Evangelicals

  1. Tony,

    I don’t want to mislead, so for full disclosure I am not an attorney or making legal representations. Just passing along some info. That being said, I will attempt what you ask.

    Corrupt (Google Dictionary.com): “Having or showing a willingness to act dishonestly in return for money or personal gain.”

    Corrupt (Merriam Webster): “1a : to change from good to bad in morals, manners, or actions Officials were corrupted by greed. was accused of corrupting the youth also : bribe
    b : to degrade with unsound principles or moral values.”

    It seems that “corrupt” or “corruption” is defined by the act itself – generally as something done underhandedly for some kind of benefit. At least as far as popular definitions go.

    But in looking at the US Code it’s a bit more detailed. I bolded the conjunctions “or” where it seems to indicate that “obstruction of justice” can be based on factors aside from corruption: …”corruptly or by threats or force, or by…”

    18 U.S.C. § 1503 defines “obstruction of justice” as an act that “corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice.”

    https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/obstruction_of_justice

    18 U.S.C. § 1505: Whoever, with intent to avoid, evade, prevent, or obstruct compliance, in whole or in part, with any civil investigative demand duly and properly made under the Antitrust Civil Process Act, willfully withholds, misrepresents, removes from any place, conceals, covers up, destroys, mutilates, alters, or by other means falsifies any documentary material, answers to written interrogatories, or oral testimony, which is the subject of such demand; or attempts to do so or solicits another to do so; or
    Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress

    https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1505

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  2. The entire premise of obstruction of justice here is legally baseless. There. Was. No. Underlying. Crime. To. Obstruct.” – Tony

    Tony,

    If you are an attorney then I’d hit the law library rather than parroting Trumpian/Fox News/Outrage Media talking points. There. Does. Not, Need. To. Be. An. Underlying. Crime. For. Obstruction. To. Have. Occurred.

    Furthermore, the attempt to obstruct justice, defined by federal statute as “interference with the orderly administration of law and justice” – to assault justice itself – does not need to be successful to be a criminal act. Here are some citations that may prove helpful:

    https://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/obstruction-of-justice.html

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    • Thanks, Jim. I’ll get right on that. Here’s your assignment: cogently explain how one can prove corrupt intent — a prima facie element — beyond a reasonable doubt (that is: there could be no other motive for allegedly obstructive conduct) where there has been no crime.

      I look forward to your analysis.

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      • An innocent person could choose to interfere in an investigation because they fear being falsely charged, and or found guilty of a crime they did not commit.
        And when the waters are murky, such as in what constitutes campaign contributions for instance, a person may have to wonder if they may be guilty, whether they really are or not.
        Obstruction simply means things like lying to an investigator. Not necessarily hiding a crime.

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      • I’m also not a lawyer, but you changed your argument. Your argument was that there was no underlying crime. There were however numerous crimes unearthed by the investigation.

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        • Alex: the only underlying “crime” which would have been relevant to an obstruction charge is, of course, conspiring with Russia. By Flynn, by Page, by Trump Jr., by the maid, etc., which the Donald was supposedly trying to hide. None of those other crimes you reference had anything to do with so-called collusion.

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          • “The only underlying “crime” which would have been relevant to an obstruction charge is, of course, conspiring with Russia.”

            Is that really true?

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  3. Those that support Donald Trump after that report came out have no credibility whatsoever. They support a liar and in the process of doing so are liars themselves. While we may not be able to convict Donald Trump due to the support he gets from his fellow corrupt cronies in the Senate, he will be brought to justice after the 2020 elections. Those that continue to support him may no longer say they believe in the rule of law for they reject the very Constitution the government stands on.

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    • Jimmy Dick,

      What do you think about the impact of the current and proposed investigations into collusion between certain DOJ/FBI officials and the Hillary campaign?
      James

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      • Something to keep in mind:
        Anything that starts with “What About THE CLINTONS? THE CLINTONS? THE CLINTONS?” will always end with “HAIL TRUMP! TRUMP! CAN! DO! NO! WRONG!”.

        Starting in 2016, Clinton Derangement Syndrome is always mated with the opposite polarity of Trump Derangement Syndrome. “Here Ahura-Mazda, There Ahriman!”

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      • Investigate away. But this is not about Hilary Clinton. It is about Donald Trump. How about you stay on topic and stop trying to draw attention elsewhere. If you want to defend Donald Trump, you have no credibility.

        “You can’t stay neutral on a moving train,” Howard Zinn.

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        • Jimmy Dick,
          It is ultimately about Hillary or at least her campaign officials since this mess started with the Steele Dossier and a few partisans in DOJ and FBI.
          As far as Trump, please cite a federal statute which he violated? Do you think it’s fair to go farther than Bob Mueller did?
          James

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  4. The last time I looked the question is supposed to be is there enough evidence to conclude a crime was committed? Addressing the question in the negative, we can’t say he DIDN’T commit a crime, makes little sense given the way our legal system works.

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  5. John: one other key point. You reference Mueller’s acknowledgement of the OLC guidance that sitting presidents cannot be indicted. You posit this deference as the reason why Mueller chose not to bring charges.

    But that’s not what Mueller says anywhere in his report. It would have been quite straightforward for Mueller to state: “Our investigation uncovered evidence of obstruction by Trump, which under existing law warrants indictment. However, due to OLC’s legal guidance that sitting presidents cannot be so charged, which this prosecutor will not challenge, the remedy for this President’s crime now rests with Congress.”

    He said nothing of the sort. Note how he tried to weasel out of this by framing the issue in the negative: “We cannot conclude that no criminal conduct occurred.” But what this also means is: “We cannot conclude that any criminal conduct did occur.” And that happened to be Job One for Mueller. If he cannot conclude that the evidence supports a charge, that’s The End. No dice. Sure — impeachment is a political remedy, and if D’s want to spent the next year pursuing that in the House in the run up to the next election, Godspeed. But Mueller’s contortions in an effort to avoid stating the obvious — we can’t prove obstruction — are both transparent and embarrassing.

    Finally, Mueller’s gratuitous verbiage about “no exoneration” is meaningless. It’s not up to Mueller, or any prosecutor, to exonerate. That’s not what he does. He determines whether there are sufficient facts, under governing law setting forth the elements of a particular crime, for a charge to be leveled. His answer, despite all the obfuscation and the likely gritted teeth, was: no.

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    • “He determines whether there are sufficient facts, under governing law setting forth the elements of a particular crime, for a charge to be leveled. His answer, despite all the obfuscation and the likely gritted teeth, was: no.”

      Actually he said, “We have a longstanding policy dating to Clinton and even Nixon of not indicting a sitting president, especially since that is Congress’s constitutional role.” Which is very different than “No.” But go ahead and interpret it like you want.

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  6. “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick…..” Proverbs 13:12

    This verse pretty well sums up the sorrow which Trump’s adversaries feel today. They counted on Robert Mueller to deliver the knockout blow yet he failed to deliver. For two long years they waited. All was in vain. The fervent hope for a Russian-connected Trump campaign scandal was not there.

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    • I bet the Russians sure are glad that so many Americans are more intent on vindicating Trump than worrying about their meddling in our election. They wanted him in the White House. I don’t know if they dared dream the deeply flawed man would have the undying support of so many Americans who believe they love this country.

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      • Jeff,
        Let me posit an alternate view. The Russians don’t care fundamentally about Trump’s flaws or strengths. Any scenario which causes a disruption in the U.S. system is fine to them. The Mueller team has certainly given them their wish on this account.
        I still clearly recall the divisions of the country during Vietnam and things seem even worse now.
        James

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        • James,
          I believe very strongly we would have the vast amount of this division simply because of Trump doing and saying what he does if there had never been a hint of Russian interference in our election. He is to blame for the majority of his problems.

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          • Jeff,

            I will concede that he is not a man who has tried to unite the dueling factions. With that being said, I have started to wonder if his confrontational style might be the only way to defeat the unrelenting left. The conciliatory approach of other Republicans has not stopped them.
            James

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  7. “What did we get for our $35 million? Naught. Nada. Goose egg. Zero. We’ve seen everything Mueller’s got, and there’s still nothing | Mike Huckabee”

    Uhhhhhhh didn’t the Justice Department rake in something like $45 million from Paul Manafort’s ill-gotten gains, not to mention the dozens of people convicted of a wide range of crimes? (yes. the answer is yes.)

    For perspective, Ken Starr’s investigation into Clinton’s sexual indiscretion cost about $70 million.

    Why do evangelicals tolerate bald-faced lying from the Huckabee family? If they’re not lying, they’re clearly ignorant–why doesn’t that count against them? Why are they still treated like pillars of the community?

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    • Why do evangelicals tolerate bald-faced lying from the Huckabee family?

      Because the Huckabees are CHRISTIANI(TM).
      Mike Huckabee has been God’s Anointed for Our Next President(TM) — at least for a couple weeks — for how many election cycles?
      As well as the Duggars’ Friend in High Places?
      And endorsed David Barton’s (NON-Secular Humanist) Histories of the US with “all Americans should study Barton — at gunpoint if necessary”?

      “One of Us! One of Us! Gooble! Gobble! One of Us!”
      — Todd Browning, Freaks

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    • Justin,
      Ken Starr’s investigation was ultimately about perjury and witness tampering. Clinton’s sexual misdeeds were not the primary crime (if indeed they were crimes.)

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      • You carefully defined the scope of the Starr investigation but blew right past the question of why you tolerate habitual bald-faced lying from the “Christian” Huckabee family.

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            • Sheridan,
              I will try to check it out, but I am skeptical of these so-called “fact check” sites. From what I have seen they manipulate a lot of information to suit their agenda. I’d prefer that you give me an example of Huckabee lies.
              James

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              • You are skeptical of “fact-check” websites because you think they have an agenda? And you want me to give you an example of Sarah Huckabee Sanders lies? Sorry, James, I’m not going to fall for that. If you REALLY want the truth do your own research – beginning with a search for “Sarah Sanders lies.”

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  8. One thing which John refuses to grapple with — because it is just too inconvenient — is that Mueller did not find sufficient evidence to charge Trump with obstructing justice. He’s a prosecutor. THE prosecutor.
    Prosecutors determine whether sufficient evidence exists to charge someone with a crime. Mueller and his dream team spent two years, tens of millions of dollars and gazillions of man hours probing every nook and cranny of Trump’s life and all those within 30 degrees of separation from him and his administration, and despite those Herculean efforts, couldn’t come up with the goods. Sad trombone noise: there is no obstruction case.

    Undaunted, John contends that obstruction is “clear.” Here’s the conundrum: if it was clear, it would have been charged, by applying all those allegedly dispositive, bullet-point facts to the applicable law. Apparently then, John’s real beef is with Mueller, for failing to do his job. For unconscionably refusing to indict for such a purportedly obvious crime. Maybe — I’m just throwing this out there — the Russians got to him, too.

    This raises the question: why did Mueller punt on obstruction, rather than come out and plainly admit there was insufficient evidence to support a charge? All the better to give gloomy Team #Resist, whose hopes and fever dreams he had already shattered with the explicit finding that no Russian collusion occurred (“Buh, but … gibbering Rachel and Clapper and Brennan and Chief Inspector Schiff and Anderson and all the very smartest people promised us! They promised!”) — some rhetorical fodder for more impeachment-mania. Btw: if the D’s take John’s advice and pursue impeachment, and it appears they are about to drive Thelma and Louise-style over that cliff, there’s gonna be More Trump in 2020. Ahab-like fanaticism is delicious, nourishing mother’s milk in CNN-land, but it does not play well in Peoria.

    The entire premise of obstruction of justice here is legally baseless. There. Was. No. Underlying. Crime. To. Obstruct. Russia Collusion was a fable, fueled by the dossier-centric disinformation campaign concocted by Hillary and boffins within the DNC to explain away the unthinkable: that she was perhaps the worst presidential candidate in history, who through a special combination of arrogance, tone-deafness, entitlement, contempt for vast swaths of the electorate and a long history of corruption and unscrupulousness in the service of acquiring political power, lost to, as Kevin Williamson once put it: the orange trousered ape.

    Firing Comey was well within Trump’s Article II powers. Comey admitted under oath that his firing did nothing to impede the ongoing investigation. Mueller had access to all members of Trump’s campaign. Indeed, Trump never invoked executive privilege to shield information even once. To prove obstruction, one must prove corrupt intent beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s impossible when there was no collusion to begin with. Here’s how Andy McCarthy — the guy who prosecuted the Blind Sheikh — succinctly put it:

    “Even assuming for argument’s sake that a president could be prosecuted for otherwise lawful executive acts that a prosecutor claimed had been corruptly motivated (this was Mueller’s expansive theory of obstruction), it would still be incumbent on the prosecutor to prove corrupt motivation beyond a reasonable doubt. If Trump is not guilty of the underlying collusion offense, then any actions he took that arguably had a negative impact on the investigation — even if we found such acts foolish or unseemly — could be explained by his frustration over the baselessness of the investigation and its debilitating effect on his capacity to govern. If the president has not colluded, a prosecutor could not establish a corrupt intent to conceal guilt.”

    Bingo.

    A final word about John’s, frankly, condescending view of “white Evangelicals” who differ with him as a bunch of Fox news-watching lemmings. One can agree — as I do — that Trump is an habitual liar and a man of low character, who had surrounded himself with any number of low level grifters and D.C. swamp remoras, while also concluding, based on the evidence (that is, the lack of it) that collusion was a risible smear campaign from the get go and that obstruction did not occur. John seems to reject any possibility of good faith, reasoned disagreement on these issues, and is content to call everyone in the other camp a band of morally compromised Trump groupies and political throne-sniffers. One could reciprocate in this vein by claiming that anyone post-Mueller who continues to insist, True Believer-style, that the bad orange man obstructed justice because he “tried to do” a bunch of things which never actually happened, all to cover up a crime which never occurred, are suffering from end stage confirmation bias and engaged in fervent wishcasting. But I won’t say that.

    I’ll merely say that once again, we have a respectful, albeit spirited, disagreement on the merits. But we will always have our Kohr’s Orange Cream Cone Konsensus, which bridges all other divides.

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    • you hurt your very interesting argument when you attempted to connect Clinton with that dossier. Also, your point about there being no obstruction because there was no collusion with Russia is incredibly inaccurate. Mueller pointed out 10 instances in which Trump attempted to obstruct the investigation. THAT cannot be ignored. And getting back to the point of Mr. Fea’s post, it is incredibly naive to overlook the eagerness of evangelicals to push aside the part about obstruction. That is evasion as well as distortion – two very un-Christian things to do.

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      • Alvin: apparently, you somehow missed the undisputed fact that the Clinton campaign paid for the dossier, using law firm Perkins Coie as the money conduit and Fusion GPS (Glenn Simpson’s outfit) to retain Steele. This has been known — well, except to the FISA court because the FBI hid these facts — for quite some time.

        As for Mueller’s ten examples of potential obstruction, you misunderstand the legal issues in play. Essentially, Mueller took the position — oddly, without reaching a conclusion (his job) by applying facts to the law — that those were instances which theoretically could be a crime.

        Barr, in his memo, even though he differed with Mueller on the law — for purposes of his (and Rosenstein’s) analysis, ACCEPTED Mueller’s theory of what could constitute obstruction . That is: he assumed each of those examples could theoretically be a crime. But he then properly concluded that as a matter of requisite fact — those elements necessary to demonstrate obstruction under Mueller’s theory — obstruction could not be proven. Why? Because the lack of any crime (treasonous collusion with a foreign power) makes it impossible to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Trump’s actions were done with corrupt intent.

        Is it possible Trump’s intent was corrupt? Sure. Is it even probable? Let’s grant that as well. But that’s still not sufficient. Because it’s also both possible and equally plausible that Trump was acting out of genuine outrage that he was being investigated for a non-existent crime. That is: he was innocent, and acting from that knowledge. I’m sure you don’t believe that, but there’s no way to rule it out as the motive for what Trump said and did. And there’s your unavoidable, reasonable doubt. (We won’t even delve here into the separate argument that a proper exercise of Constitutional authority under Article II — for example, firing Comey — even if undertaken with corrupt intent, can never amount to obstruction of justice. This is a view held by many able lawyers with subject matter expertise who have considered these questions.)

        Anyway, Mueller knew he was short of the finish line. It’s why he abdicated. The facts — no Russia collusion — do not permit a finding of obstruction under even his broad theory of what could potentially be criminal behavior. The inability to prove intent is the insurmountable obstacle.

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        • A conservative website, The Washington Free Beacon, funded by the Republican donor Paul Singer, a New York hedge fund billionaire, first hired Fusion GPS to get anti-Trump opposition research. Apparently not happy with or afraid of the results they pulled out and the law firm that you mention obtained the reports that collectively are known as the Russian dossier . The author of those reports, Christopher Steele, is a respected former British intelligence officer. Even Rudy Gulliani, Trump’s attorney, who sees nothing wrong with taking information from hostile foreign nationals, would probably see nothing wrong with getting info from sources hailing from a close US allied nation. And, unlike the Trump campaign that did not inform law enforcement of shady foreign contacts from a hostile nation attempting to interfere in our elections, the author of “The Dossier” reported his information to the FBI.

          “— well, except to the FISA court because the FBI hid these facts —“ – Tony

          That is because the FBI did not rely on “The Dossier” to initiate the counterintelligence investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

          Really. These are readily available facts.

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          • Jim: with all due respect, you are blatantly wrong on nearly every key fact.

            1. Fusion was used by both parties, yes. The dossier itself, however, was commissioned and funded entirely by the DNC and the Clinton campaign.

            2. Whether or not Steele is “respected” — very much open to debate (his former boss at MI6, John Scarlett, when asked directly wouldn’t vouch for him) — he was fired by the FBI. (But then while terminated, continued providing information to Bruce Ohr, then 4th in command at DOJ, now demoted, whose wife Nellie just happend to work for F-GPS. All very much on the up and up.) Moreover, in sworn testimony and court filings in the libel case he is facing in Britain, Steele has furiously backpedaled, refused to stand behind the veracity of any part of the dossier, calling it “raw intelligence,” “unsolicited intelligence” and totally unverified. Comey himself admitted under oath that the Dossier was “unverified and salacious” and nothing has ever been done to verify it, because the entire thing is unintentionally comedic bull pucky. (Hey, did you know Carter Page — the guy who the FBI claimed was an “agent of a foreign power” who didn’t receive as much as a jaywalking ticket from Mueller — was promised a 19% stake in Rosneft — a company with a 63 beeeellion market capitalization — in a secret meeting with Igor Sechin, oligarch, friend of Putin and KGB operative? Like, it’s totally true! It’s right there in the Dossier, along with the pee tape and Cohen in Prague and Russian moles in the DNC and the kompromat file on Hillary and the grooming of Trump as an asset while he was still firing people on “The Apprentice.” Good stuff!)

            3. “Sources.” Steele is not the source. He’s just the provider of unvetted information. The “sources” for the Dossier are all unidentified, unknown individuals within the Russian government (gee, I recall hearing something about it being potentially criminal to seek out and disseminate information from such folks, with the intention of destroying an opposing presidential candidate), who themselves are conveying “facts” based on multiple levels of hearsay. This is beyond unreliable. Laughable, really.

            4. You claim that the FBI did not rely on the Dossier to “initiate” the investigation. I admire your careful word choice. Yes, the FBI claims that Papadopoulos was the catalyst for the investigation, in late July, 2016. But the surveillance of Carter Page (and thus, by extension, the entire Trump campaign) obtained through a FISA application (renewed three times), heavily relied upon the Dossier. Disgraced Andrew McCabe — 2nd in command at the time at the FBI — testified that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Dossier information.” The Dossier was the linchpin of the ongoing investigation and, most importantly for purposes of Trump’s enemies, the predicate for the Russia Collusion fantasy. Perhaps my favorite gambit employed by the FBI in seeking a FISA warrant to, yes, “spy” on an American citizen, is that not only did it rely upon the unverified Dossier in the application while failing to disclose its provenance, it cited a breathless Yahoo News story by Michael Isikoff (Sept. 23, 2016) with the headline “U.S. Intel Officials Probe Ties Between Trump Advisor and Kremlin” as independent corroboration, when, in fact, Isikoff’s reporting relied entirely on Steele. Clever.

            These are the readily available facts.

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            • Tony – “1. Fusion was used by both parties, yes. The dossier itself, however, was commissioned and funded entirely by the DNC and the Clinton campaign.”

              Reread. I did not make a claim that The Washington Free Beacon funded “The Dossier.”

              Tony – “2. Whether or not Steele is “respected” — very much open to debate…”

              I never said that it wasn’t debatable but that does not mean that I am wrong in referring to him as respected since I can drag out as much or more factual information to support that contention as otherwise. If “MI6, John Scarlett” refused to “vouch” for Steele it could be a matter of policy about commenting rather than anything nefarious.

              “‘Raw intelligence,’ ‘unsolicited intelligence’ and totally unverified. Comey himself admitted under oath that the Dossier was ‘unverified and salacious’ …” All appear to be accurate so what’s your point? I never defended the veracity of “The Dossier.” Nonetheless, taken together it was enough to bolster suspician at the time and given time some things in the reports have aged well. Anyway, blah, blah, blah.

              Tony – “3. “Sources.” Steele is not the source. He’s just the provider of unvetted information. The “sources” for the Dossier are all unidentified…”

              Steele is the source of the reports, which is what I said. The sources of the information are, of course, different. I, personally, have not read the reports so I don’t know if any sources of information are identified. But, as has been pointed out, the reports making up “The Dossier” were turned over to the FBI and Steele interviewed with them at least twice. The FBI’s job? Verification. Et voila.

              Tony – “4. You claim that the FBI did not rely on the Dossier to “initiate” the investigation.”

              Yes. That is my “claim.” But it is also a fact. As to the cleverness of the word choice? I can’t take credit. I was merely stating a the facts.

              Oh oh, time to head to work.

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              • And, to head off any charges of clever word usage let me point out that I used “bolster” as a verb to mean support. As in, there was already serious suspicion of unscrupulous activity, involving the Russians, by the Trump campaign that “The Dossier” merely supported those suspicions and did not provide a “starting point” so to speak. It was just one additional piece to be worked through. One part of a many-pieced puzzle with no edge pieces or corners.

                Like

            • Unverified raw intelligence like the Steele Report is about assessing the possibility that there is a fire creating that haze in the air and needs attention. It was not meant to be seen by the public..

              If a gossipy neighbor given to flights of fancy and wild conspiracy theories says that he saw John Smith bury a body in his back yard one night last month, you might be wise to ignore it. But, if several neighbors are being uneasy about Smith’s unusual behavior…and come to think of it, Mrs. Smith has been away visiting relatives for how many weeks now?…that unverified raw intelligence could suggest that an investigation is in order.

              Like

          • Jim: I recommend to you this devastating, fact-intensive piece by Matt Taibbi — no conservative or Trump fan he — on the media’s malfeasance peddling the Great Russia Collusion hoax. Taibbi, if you are not familiar with him, is a man of the political left and arguably detests Trump more than John (he wrote a book called “Insane Clown President”). But, to his credit, he has the intellectual honesty to call out his profession for its abandonment of all journalistic standards in its zeal to perpetuate Russiagate for fun and profit. In making this case, which I’m sure has rendered him persona non grata within the beltway media guild, he reviews many of the things you and I have been discussing here.

            https://taibbi.substack.com/p/russiagate-is-wmd-times-a-million

            Like

            • Ha! A Trumpinista quoting the fakest of fake news by an enemy of the people. Rich.

              “…intellectual honesty to call out his profession…” Well good for him. He’s not alone. I’ve heard and read others. I’ll read it when I get a chance. Doesn’t change the facts.

              What about the intellectual honesty of all of your contra-fake news sources? Start with Trump and the White House Comms people, run through Fox and Friends, then maybe Lou Dobs and throw in Judge J. Pirro. Of course, Sean Hannity, Big Pappa Riley, Rush Limbaugh and the lesser rage stokers should be in the mix. Then we get to the Alex Jones class of “information” provider…….

              Like

              • Jim: I know this is difficult for you to process, because you appear to believe that any conservative who disagrees with you about Trump (again: I didn’t vote for him, and generally agree with John’s assessment of his character, so my prized, laminated “Trumpanista VIP” card which gets me major discounts at the Mar A Lago breakfast buffet, may have to be revoked) is a slavering Fox News zombie, but I don’t watch Fox. Don’t care for Hannity, never watched a minute of Dobbs’s show, have never watched Pirro, have occasionally listened to Limbaugh’s program while driving. Alex Jones? Kook.

                Yes, ’tis true: I somehow avoided the mind control beams of the vast and omnipresent Right Wing Media Complex, mostly by staying off the grid and forcing myself to read the New Yorker aloud in my best Charlie Rose voice, which acts as a bracing, de-hypnosis device.

                I realize that caricaturing people with whom you disagree must bring with it a certain amount of emotional satisfaction, but it doesn’t enhance your arguments.

                And I have absolutely no idea to what you are referring in your first sentence.

                Like

    • Your tirade is both inaccurate and evasive. Ignoring your paranoid claim about Clinton and the dossier, your underlying argument that since collusion was not proven, then there was no obstruction is inaccurate. The report itself by Mueller found 10 instances of obstruction. That in itself is a problem. Mueller himself said he couldn’t exonerate Trump on obstruction.THAT is what the report said. Your bizarre claim of “no collusino mean no obstruction” is alien to the facts. It has no bearing except for a poor argument by yourself. Basically your non sequitur attack on Mr. Fea’s post only proves his point about the twists and hoops some white evangelicals are subjecting themselves to in order to discard the Mueller investigation. Not because they believe that Trump is innocent but because he gives them power and access.

      Like

      • Charlene,
        If Mueller found ten counts of obstruction, then he was remiss for not going forward with criminal action. In other words, the Trump foes bet on the wrong horse when they placed their money on Mueller.
        Hopefully, the people who take up the spurious Steele Dossier matter will prove more effective as investigators and prosecutors.
        James

        Like

        • I was under the impression long before the probe ended that Mueller would comply with the DOJ ruling that s sitting president cannot be indicted.
          I think he laid out the ten potential cases of obstruction for either the Congress to use now in impeachment proceedings, or a normal indictment carried out by whoever appropriate once Trump is out of office.
          It’s not a matter of too little evidence. It’s a matter of who and when it may be dealt with. Mueller sees his role was investigative as far as the sitting president goes.
          You know he arranged indictments for lying by Trump associates.
          But he had to limit himself in his opinion to publishing the evidence of obstruction on the President.

          Like

          • Jeff,
            Hillary Clinton made similar points in a talk within the last day or so, but it obscures the fact that Mueller still could have cited Trump for collision and/or obstruction. It is beside the point that a formal indictment could or could not have been made in accordance with DOJ guidelines. He failed to do either.
            James

            Like

        • James – “If Mueller found ten counts of obstruction, then he was remiss for not going forward …”

          I believe that 10-12 cases have been referred to appropriate investigative/prosecutorial venues for continued investigation and possible criminal charges. And, from some of the informed speculation is that these “packages” are ongoing counterintelligence concerns. The monster! It is alive!

          Like

  9. As to your last comment, unfortunately, the politically-driven* evangelicals will not have so much as a second thought about any of this. They have bought in so fully that nothing could possibly lessen their devotion, let alone dissuade them, at this point.

    Their responses will rotate among the following:
    1. Fake News
    2. Who cares, we’re winning and that’s all that matters
    3. But Hillary!
    Repeat ad infinitum.

    I have observed elsewhere, what amazes me about the politically-driven evangelicals is how completely and totally they have embraced the mindset that “the ends justifies any means whatsoever.” For me, they have all lost any standing to ever make any moral claim, any truth claim, or any Christian faith claim that I would ever take seriously. For them, they see faith and the Bible through the lens of their political partisanship, not vice versa. They have sold everything to a worldly political power and have exalted it as their true savior. They are — literally — worshiping an idol.

    And for many (most?) other pro-Trump evangelicals, from inside their bubble they will hear only the words of these politically-driven evangelicals and the various right-wing media that does nothing but disseminate and amplify the party line, and they will likewise dismiss any concerns.

    *To be clear, by “politically-driven,” I don’t mean all evangelicals who vote and participate in the political process and who may (or may not) have a different political perspective or vote differently from me. I mean exactly what the term says, “politically-driven.” Political gain and power and influence is their end, the end that for them justifies any and all means.

    Like

    • Dave H.

      What you see as a Christian desire for “Political gain and power and influence…..” might be seen by others as an effort at survival.
      James

      Like

      • James, I am trying to think of the biblical advice for Christians to survive by gaining political power and influence. I don’t think you said this is something to pursue in order to be able to practice the faith. But don’t you think many Christians think it is?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jeff,
          That’s a good question and I cannot say that I have a definitive answer. There is a rather fascinating verse which gives guidelines and room for reflection. Proverbs 21:31 says, “The horse is prepared against the day of battle: But safety is of the LORD.” In other words, we are responsible for acting, but in the end God is in charge. How is that for creating a gray zone?
          James

          Like

          • Its interesting. I have a good friend that is sure he can’t successfully live out the faith unless he can legally keep guns. He is definitely not a threatening person. It basically about his “rights”.
            People really can confuse political ideas, parties, country, and all kinds of things as critical to the faith. They also confuse freedom Christ gives us with freedom granted or recognized by the government. Same word but very different things. My friend doesn’t get that either.

            Like

            • Jeff,
              With all respect to your friend, he might not have the gun view right. Nonetheless, there are other areas where Christians have been marginalized, vilified, and even restricted. In a democracy everyone has to give up a little, but recent trends have not been going the way of Christians. By and large, the same political forces who are opposed to gun ownership are also not favorable to traditional values in other areas.
              James

              Like

      • I’m sorry, but to put it bluntly I just don’t understand enthusiastically embracing a narcissist bully and paying him tribute and flattery in order to procure his services as the church’s “protector.” It seems to me that people of faith can be confident in God’s promises, provision and protection, and not have to seek out their own demagogue savior.

        To draw upon a theological comparison, it seems to me that the church entering into the service of a political strongman in exchange for “protection” is akin to Abraham and Sarah lacking confidence in God’s promise of a child in their old age, and instead “taking matters into their own hand” by having Abraham take Sarah’s servant Hagar as a concubine to bear his child.

        Liked by 1 person

          • I don’t buy the King Cyrus analogy. Not only that, when I listen to the fawning, flattering “court evangelicals” I am actually more reminded of King Herod’s flatterers: “This is the voice of a god, not a man!”

            I have my own faith-based opinion, and admittedly it is just an opinion. I tend to believe that God is indeed using the current president, but not in the way many evangelicals believe (i.e. to deliver the church from intended destruction by “anti-God liberals,” immigrants, and those “other” people who aren’t “us”). Instead, I tend to believe that God is using this current moment to judge and instruct the church. Elsewhere, I have stated the opinion that God has permitted this situation (1) as a form of judgment on the church, to reveal those who are going to put their faith and trust in God versus those who are going to seek out a human savior/deliverer, thereby exposing rank hypocrisy within the church’s ranks; and (2) to demonstrate very clearly to all of us how very easily we can be led astray by a human demagogue, in the spirit of anti-Christ (to be very clear, I am NOT identifying Trump with the anti-Christ, but rather I am describing the dynamic of large portions of the population blindly and unreservedly following a leader who promises them victory and salvation).

            Beyond all this, I really question this entire mindset that the situation facing the church in America was SO desperate, SO dire, that we needed to resort to desperate and extreme measures. I have heard people say that the very survival of the church hinged on the outcome of the 2016 election. I have heard people say that if Hillary had been elected, within a few years it would be illegal to be a Christian. This is utterly ridiculous. The church has endured through many centuries and has been preserved. It has persevered and flourished even in extremely difficult times. I have to think that the martyrs, the persecuted, the oppressed faithful throughout the centuries would look at our modern American definition of “terrible persecution of the church” and shake their heads in bemused amazement.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Dave H.

              While I respect your efforts to interpret current events in America, yours is a minority opinion among Christians . (Which, by the way, doesn’t make it wrong.) I do have to strongly disagree with you that Christians are intent on Trump saving them from immigrants and outsiders. Most of the people I read are more concerned about being saved from home-grown, native-born, certified, American liberals. They appear to be intent on enacting rules and legislation which will impede Christians. The immigrants and other outsiders just want a job.

              You are correct in saying that Hillary would not have outlawed Christianity. Those statements were either based on misinformation or were simply hyperbolic. The problem is that the marginalization of Christians would have continued at the rapid pace set by President Obama. Christianity will probably never be illegal, but there are other means to relegate it to the practical dustbin.
              James

              Like

              • “Most of the people I read are more concerned about being saved from home-grown, native-born, certified, American liberals”

                Yeah except for the massive network of white nationalists openly and vocally supporting Trump, but hey if you don’t read them and don’t make yourself aware of them I guess you’re not responsible for acting in ways that enable them.

                You know, reading all your comments about doing whatever is necessary for Christianity to survive in the world (ie supporting Trump) I can’t help but think of Jesus’ advice: Do not fear those with the power to kill the body, but those with the power to cast your soul into hell. There are worse things than not having the power to control the world around you, like compromising your faith and core morality in an effort to maintain your social position of influence and authority over others. It worked out super great for the Pharisees. But hey go ahead and make your choices, we’re all sinners in our own way and Christ will forgive your sins just as easily as he forgives the terrifying and sinister liberal DEMS.

                (You know you actually wrote “immigrants and other outsiders” which says a lot about you and the way you have conceived of America, which is literally a nation of immigrants. You don’t sound like a white-nationalist at all…..)

                Like

                • Hello Justin,
                  First of all you are grossly overestimating the number of white nationalists in the country. I doubt that they constitute much of a voting block. If you know of a pollster who has uncovered a large body of them, please let me know.

                  As far as your references to the Sermon on the Mount, Christ was making a point about having an eternal rather than a temporal perspective on life. I am not sure why you referred to the Pharisees.

                  Regarding the expression “immigrants and outsiders” it was a paraphrase of Dave’s remark about “immigrants and those other” which was posted at 3:16 today. Please see his note above.

                  James

                  Like

                  • “First of all you are grossly overestimating the number of white nationalists in the country. I doubt that they constitute much of a voting block.”

                    James, I am a little frustrated because it’s like you don’t have any real interest in the reality of the larger world, only in affirming what you prefer to believe. As to information about white nationalism, all you have to do is look. Please, don’t ask someone to spoon-feed you basic historical and demographic information and then get skeptical and hostile towards information that infringes on your unconscious preference to view yourself and your religious culture and your political alignments benignly. Don’t fall into the feedback loop of reflexively rejecting sources and facts because they’re inconvenient to the worldview in which you are immersed. You are better than that.

                    https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/white-nationalist

                    Like

                    • “Oh dear. The SPLC? Speaking of unreality, feedback loops and worldview immersion… ” Yeah man I guess if the facts are too difficult find something that selectively confirms your bias and cite it like reasonable counterpoint.

                      Hi Tony,

                      Does it register with you at all that you’re parroting a website funded by the Koch Brothers and other conservative endowments? It’s funny, elsewhere on this very thread you were super proud of yourself for avoiding Fox News and here you are relying on political commentary that is generated by the same cash.

                      By the way, the link you provided is a distorted rehash that relies heavily on snippets from the work of a Harvard progressive who actually thinks the SPLC is right about hate groups–but wrong not to focus more on plutocratic control over the masses. You’re relying on a conservative distortion of an ultra-progressive argument that THE SPLC ISN’T PROGRESSIVE ENOUGH (LOL!). Here’s a bit your conservative source left out while recycling the information for the Koch brothers:

                      “This is not to say that neo-Nazis aren’t f****** terrifying, or that they don’t pose any threat. The Daily Stormer is a real thing, and there is a lot of dangerous white supremacist nonsense believed by a lot of people. But the “hate” focus is all wrong: The biggest threats to people of color do not come from those who “hate” them, but from those (like the contemporary Republican Party) who are totally indifferent to whether they live or die. This is the frightening thing about contemporary racism: It does not come waving the Confederate flag, it comes waving the American flag.”

                      https://www.currentaffairs.org/2019/03/the-southern-poverty-law-center-is-everything-thats-wrong-with-liberalism

                      I’m really glad you’re on this blog all the time. It’s nice to have our fears and concerns validated.

                      Like

                    • Justin: “Our” fears and concerns? Ah, that’s the royal our, I presume.
                      I see you left out the part where the author — a progressive as you note — called the SPLC a “criminal
                      fraud” for the fear-mongering lies it peddles on its “hate-map.” Just an inadvertent oversight, no doubt. I’m sure the Koch Brothers can be used to explain that away as well. Handy bogeymen, they are. You seem like a smart guy. You have many insightful things to say about some of the issues with Evangelical Christianity, even where I differ with your conclusions. You’d be far more persuasive without the constant resort to ad hominem arguments.

                      Like

                    • “”Our” fears and concerns? Ah, that’s the royal our, I presume.”

                      The plural voice here refers to a multitude of posters who read and participate in these blog conversations because they agree with the premise of the blog publisher and author of BELIEVE ME, which proposes that a wide demographic, especially the evangelical demographic, is currently animated by misplaced fear, unfounded paranoia, and nostalgia for a fictitious past.

                      “We” are concerned that politicized evangelicalism–beginning especially with Regan and the Moral Majority movement, and continuing into the present through the leadership of predatory Court Evangelicals–has led a multitude of Christians into a dead end where they will say, do, and think anything they have to in order to keep rationalizing their support for Trump and the GOP machine that gave him his authority, because they have come to associate true faith with a particular political affiliation.

                      In many ways, you seem to be the embodiment of that concern, because you conduct yourself exactly as one would expect under the hypothesis, aggressively jumping through selectively paranoid hoops and backwards rationalizations to create or sustain an impression of righteousness among yourself and your cultural affiliates. I’m not the first person to note that in this thread, so I am super surprised you would get confused by the use of the phrase “our fears and concerns.”

                      BTW it’s not an ad hominem attack to note the conduct of a person if the general premise regards the conduct of that person.

                      Cheers,
                      Justin

                      ps “Physician heal thyself” is a phrase of criticism used against Jesus, so I was thinking maybe you might want to be a little more selective in throwing it around against your critics.

                      Like

                • Justin,
                  After I wrote you, I re-read your note and saw that you were making reference to a passage in Mt. 10 rather than The Sermon. In any case, the principle is no different.
                  You are correct that we are all sinners; it’s just that some folks of all political stripes don’t acknowledge that fact or seek forgiveness.
                  Again, I don’t know why you made reference to social position, authority, and Pharisees.

                  James

                  Like

                  • “Again, I don’t know why you made reference to social position, authority, and Pharisees.”

                    You don’t see any parallels between A) the efforts of modern conservatives to preserve Christianity by supporting a tyrant and flagrant bully and B) the outcry of the masses, “We have no king but Caesar”?

                    No parallel between A) the pursuit of social prestige and influence by professional scribes and religious laypersons and B) the labors of Court Evangelicals who have branded themselves as pillars of American Christianity?

                    No parallel between A) the Pharisees’ persistent efforts to discredit an inclusive prophet named Jesus and B) the persistent efforts of the Moral Majority to demonize all the liberals threatening to take away their nation and their place?

                    I grew up in a very conservative Christian tradition, and I am very familiar with that culture. There are large tracts of the biblical narrative that are still hard for those same conservatives to process, because the New Testament indicts religious conservatism and extremism and legalism and literalism as an affront to the spirit of God, and in an understandable but ironic twist, throughout history the New Testament has been used as a foundation for many legalistic and extremist forms of dogmatically literal faith.

                    Like

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