Over 450 Former Federal Prosecutors: Trump Was Not Charged With Obstruction Because He Is POTUS

Mueller and Trump

That’s a lot of former federal prosecutors.

Here is a taste of Matt Zapotosky’s piece at The Washington Post:

More than 450 former federal prosecutors who worked in Republican and Democratic administrations have signed on to a statement asserting special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s findings would have produced obstruction charges against President Trump — if not for the office he holds.

The statement — signed by myriad former career government employees as well as high-profile political appointees — offers a rebuttal to Attorney General William P. Barr’s determination that the evidence Mueller uncovered was “not sufficient” to establish that Trump committed a crime.

Mueller had declined to say one way or the other whether Trump should have been charged, citing a Justice Department legal opinion that sitting presidents cannot be indicted, as well as concerns about the fairness of accusing someone for whom there can be no court proceeding.

“Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice,” the former federal prosecutors wrote.

“We emphasize that these are not matters of close professional judgment,” they added. “Of course, there are potential defenses or arguments that could be raised in response to an indictment of the nature we describe here. . . . But, to look at these facts and say that a prosecutor could not probably sustain a conviction for obstruction of justice — the standard set out in Principles of Federal Prosecution — runs counter to logic and our experience.”

Read the entire piece here.  Read the statement here.  As of Monday night at 11:59PM, the number of signatures had reached 567.

William Barr Misled the American Public

BarrBenjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institution wanted to give William Barr the benefit of the doubt.

No more.

Here is a taste of this piece “The Catastrophic Performance of Bill Barr”:

When Barr was nominated, I wrote a cautious piece for this magazine declining to give him “a character reference” and acknowledging “legitimate reasons to be concerned about [his] nomination,” but nonetheless concluding that “I suspect that he is likely as good as we’re going to get. And he might well be good enough. Because most of all, what the department needs right now is honest leadership that will insulate it from the predations of the president.”

When he wrote his first letter to Congress announcing the principal conclusions of the Mueller report, I wrote another piece saying, “For the next two weeks, let’s give Attorney General William Barr the benefit of the doubt” on the question of releasing the report in a timely and not-too-redacted fashion.

I took a lot of criticism for these pieces—particularly the second one, in which I specifically said we should evaluate Barr’s actual performance in regard to releasing the Mueller report, and thus wait for him to act, rather than denouncing him preemptively.

Barr has now acted, and we can now evaluate his actual, rather than his hypothesized, performance.

It has been catastrophic. Not in my memory has a sitting attorney general more diminished the credibility of his department on any subject. It is a kind of trope of political opposition in every administration that the attorney general—whoever he or she is—is politicizing the Justice Department and acting as a defense lawyer for the president. In this case it is true. 

Read the entire piece here at The Atlantic.

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

Trump is Getting His Base Ready for the Release of the Mueller Report

This came to my inbox today:

Friend,

The Democrats are panicking.

They know they have no chance of winning in 2020 so they just keep LYING about President Trump.

He’s up against a coordinated WITCH HUNT from the Corrupt Media, the Liberal Swamp, AND the Hollywood Elites… He can’t win this fight alone, Friend, he needs you.

Let’s send a message to all of the Trump haters by having 1 MILLION AMERICANS publicly stand with President Trump before the Mueller Report is released tomorrow.

Please PUBLICLY stand with President Trump in the NEXT 3 HOURS to join the Official Defend The President Coalition before the Mueller Report is released tomorrow. >>

No matter what we do the Democrats and the complicit media will NEVER be satisfied that their dishonest hoax proved what we’ve known all along.

How many times do they need to release different versions of this report?

Attorney General Barr already said that the report “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” EXONERATED!

We know the truth, Friend. Be on the right side of history and stand with President Trump in his fight against this Nasty Witch Hunt.

Please join the Official Defend The President Coalition to get on the list of Patriots who FOUGHT BACK against the Nasty Witch Hunt.

Thank you,

Team Trump 2020 

Robert Mueller as Atticus Finch

Mueller and Trump

I am guessing that Donald Trump has never heard of Atticus Finch, the central character in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.  Here is a taste of David Van Drehle’s column at today’s Washington Post:

Harper Lee understood, as she wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird,” that many people would have trouble understanding her hero, Atticus Finch. Others talk; he acts. Others equivocate; he stands firm. Others sell out and call it victory; he suffers defeat without complaint because he would rather lose the world than lose his dignity and integrity.

Though such people are rare indeed, a society cannot manage without them. And so Lee has Miss Maudie Atkinson, the shrewdest of the Maycomb neighbors, explain Atticus to his own offspring. “There are some men in this world who are born to do our unpleasant jobs for us,” she says. “Your father’s one of them.”

Robert Swan Mueller III is one, too — and not in the safe pages of fiction but in the hot kitchen of real life. For nearly two years as special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, Mueller has endured a nearly constant barrage of insults and character assassination from a Twittering President Trump and his bootlicking propagandists.

There is only one explanation for the president’s relentless attacks. He thought that Mueller was likely to throw the book at him. And there are only two explanations for that expectation. Either Trump knew he deserved it, or Trump assumed Mueller would sink to his own level of mendacity and self-serving to pervert justice. The idea that a public servant, indeed, a team of public servants, would quietly discharge a mission with honor was utterly beyond Trump’s fathoming.

The country had an unpleasant job that needed doing. The president of United States had surrounded himself with people who lied about their contacts with highly placed Russians. He had fired the director of the FBI, James B. Comey, and within hours he personally assured the Russian ambassador that he did so to shut down an inquiry into these lies. It was possible all this could be explained as the product of incompetence and naivete, because Trump had been utterly unprepared for the presidency and was surrounded by gangsters and clowns. But it was also possible something intentional was going on.

Read the rest here.  Trump owes Mueller an apology.

Jerry Falwell Jr. Told Trump to Fire Sessions

File Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Jerry Falwell Jr. at a campaign rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa

Here is a taste of Lorraine Wolbert’s piece at Politico:

Falwell said he has urged the president to fire Sessions and told POLITICO he planned to bring up the subject again Monday evening at a small gathering with Trump and the first lady. Later, Falwell and dozens of other faith leaders were to attend a formal White House dinner celebrating the evangelical community.

In forsaking Sessions, faith leaders are turning on one of their own, a man who for decades fought in the political trenches for conservative Christian causes. As a senator from Alabama, Sessions was one of the first Republicans to endorse Trump’s long-shot presidential campaign, taking heat from his party in return.

But he has angered Trump loyalists more recently because the Justice Department has not declassified all materials sought by Republicans in regard to the Russia investigation. The president believes Sessions, who recused himself from the Russia probe because of his involvement in the 2016 campaign, has failed to rein in a probe that Trump claims is driven by politics.

This is what court evangelicals do.  They tell the president to fire an Attorney General who rightly recused himself from the Mueller investigation.  Falwell Jr. wants Sessions fired in the hopes that his replacement as Attorney General will end the investigation.  In other words, Falwell Jr. wants to protect Trump against accusations that he is an adulterer, a liar, and a felon.  Yes, this is now what we can expect from the president of the largest Christian university in the world.  Oh wait, Liberty no longer holds that distinction.

Donald Trump and Witch Hunts

Salem_witch2

Donald Trump has said multiple times that the Robert Mueller investigation into his presidential campaign’s relationship with Russia is a “witch hunt.”  The use of this phrase invites historical analysis.  I took a crack at such analysis last May.

In the latest issue of Perspectives on History, American Historical Association president and veteran early American historian Mary Beth Norton provides some historical analysis of her own.  Norton is the author of In the Devil’s Snare: The Witchcraft Crisis of 1692.

Here is a taste of her piece, “An Embarrassment of Witches: What’s the History behind Trump’s Tweets?“:

WITCH HUNT!”

That’s how President Donald Trump’s tweets tend to refer to the investigation led by Robert Mueller into possible collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia.

Except for modern adherents of the Wiccan religion, people today do not believe in witchcraft—and Wiccans do not believe in the sort of witchcraft that became the subject of prosecutions in early modern Europe and America. The consensus among historians now is that witches did not exist in the past, and so by employing the term “witch hunt,” the president is implying that he is as innocent today as were the persecuted “witches” of centuries ago.

He is assuming, probably correctly, that Americans today understand his phrase in exactly that way. Anyone raised or resident in the United States has surely heard of the most famous “witch hunt” in American history, that which occurred in Essex County, Massachusetts, in 1692–93, named for the town in which the trials occurred: Salem. Indeed, many high school students today must read Arthur Miller’s famous 1953 play, The Crucible, which effectively used the vehicle of the Salem trials to comment on the House Un-American Activities Committee investigations of the 1950s, which had ensnared Miller and many of his acquaintances. Even though Miller changed many historical details to make his points—for example, turning the elderly John Proctor into a younger man and the child Abigail Williams into a femme fatale who seduces him—his image of the trials retains its hold on the American imagination.

Read the rest here.

Trump, Cohen, and the Godfather

I’ve been playing around with some tweets the last couple of days in the wake of the Michael Cohen investigation.  When I saw the picture of Michael Cohen hanging around his posse yesterday I couldn’t help but think of Fredo in the The Godfather 2:

Or maybe Carlo Rizzi from The Godfather is more appropriate.  Here is holding court before he gets beat up by Sonny Corleone:

And then there was this photo of a guy whispering something in Cohen’s ear.  Who was this guy?  It reminded me of this classic scene near the end of Godfather 2:

 

Job Ad

A citizen in Washington D.C. is looking for a lawyer on Craigslist:

Seeking a lead attorney to represent client involved in an ongoing Federal investigation. Must be familiar with laws and procedures around discovery, executive privilege, international financing of licensed real estate, election law and the Logan Act. Working knowledge of social media, especially Twitter is a plus, as is a better than average knowledge of the adult film industry and a collection of Playboy magazines from 1985-2010. Must look the part – Gregory Peck or Tommy Lee Jones type. Prior appearances on Fox News a huge plus.
No fatties.

Must be prepared to work with a client who is very forceful and opinionated about his defense and is his own best counsel.

Basically your job boils down to keeping him from testifying under oath and hoping the rest comes out in the wash. 

Ask about our other openings on our staff and submit your resume to be considered for potential openings in the near future. Perhaps the very near future. Like, hit refresh on your browser now. Now again.

Is Trump vs. Mueller a “Battle for America’s Soul?”

Mueller and Trump

Russian-American military historian and writer Max Boot thinks so.  Here is Boot on Robert Mueller:

Mueller embodies the ideals of probity, service and self-sacrifice that trace back to the Pilgrims who came to America in search of a “city upon a hill.” The Puritans preached devotion to the Almighty and had nothing but contempt for vanity and luxury — no blue shirts for them. Over the centuries, their religious fanaticism leached away, leaving behind in American culture a residue of obligation to serve not just God but also mankind.

Here is Boot on Donald Trump:

Trump combines the hedonism of the 1970s with the bigotry and sexism of the 1950s: the worst of both worlds. His consciousness was not raised in the 1960s, but his libido was. He did not take part in the civil rights or antiwar movements and won five draft deferments — including one for “bone spurs” — so that he could devote his life to the pursuit of women and wealth. He later said that fear of catching a sexually transmitted disease was “my personal Vietnam.”

Trump is the embodiment of what Christopher Lasch in 1979 called the “new narcissist” who “praises respect for rules and regulations in the secret belief that they do not apply to himself”; whose “emancipation from ancient taboos brings him no sexual peace”; and whose “cravings have no limits,” because he “demands immediate gratification and lives in a state of restless, perpetually unsatisfied desire.” A product of the “me decade,” Trump is a “me first”— not “America first” — president whose speeches are full of exaggerated or falsified self-praise.

Read Boot’s entire Washington Post piece here.  This makes a lot of sense to me.