Nel's New Day

April 19, 2019

Barr Obstructs Justice

Back in 1978, a Democratic-controlled Congress passed the Ethics in Government Act allowing attorneys general to “request that a specially appointed three-judge panel appoint an outside individual to investigate and prosecute alleged violations of criminal law.” Fast-forward 22 years and a GOP-controlled Congress let the law lapse. The DOJ, however, knew that the administrations would continue to have scandals that needed an independent investigator to objectively gather and analyze evidence and testimony, and present conclusions to the public. Before George W. Bush took office, DOJ officials created guidelines for “specific investigations or prosecutions that may be deemed to present a conflict of interest if pursued under the normal procedures of the agency.” After Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) appointed Jeff Sessions as his new AG, deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, in charge of the DOJ investigation because of Sessions’ conflicts of interest with Russian contacts, appointed Robert Mueller under the 2000 DOJ special counsel guidelines.

To avoid giving special investigators too much power with little oversight, the AG—or in this case deputy AG Rod Rosenstein—could manage investigations. Guidelines required Mueller to “receive, review, and, where appropriate, forward to the Attorney General or an agency head … disclosures of violations of any law, rule, or regulation, or gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.” Rosenstein also required Mueller to give the person in charge a confidential final report about why the investigator prosecuted some people but not others. That requirement came from Ken Starr’s “grandiose vision of the truth-reporting role,” as legal experts Jack Goldsmith and Maddie McMahon wrote in a Lawfare blog essay. Rosenstein worked for Starr during the Whitewater investigation.

Mueller indicted 34 people and obtained guilty pleas, trial successes, and sentencing in 22 months. A few weeks after Bill Barr, the man who wrote a memo explaining his viewpoints that the president is above the law, was confirmed as AG. Weeks later, Mueller’s investigation was shut down. Barr took Mueller’s 448-page report, changed the opinion to exonerate DDT, heavily redacted the report, refused to give the unredacted document to Congress, and went back to exonerating DDT through omissions, misrepresentations, and lies:

  • Barr justified DDT’s obstruction of justice by saying that he was “frustrated and angered.”
  • Barr said nothing about DDT’s expectation of benefiting from hacked material.
  • Barr claimed that he should made the decision on obstruction of justice although the report had a conclusion:  “[I]f we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.”
  • Barr too responsibility for decision-making from Congress despite Mueller’s order “that Congress can validly regulate the President’s exercise of official duties to prohibit actions motivated by a corrupt intent to obstruct justice.” Barr refuses to give Congress the unredacted report.
  • Barr claimed no “obstructive conduct” because DDT’s staff wouldn’t follow his orders to obstruct justice. In DDT and Barr’s world, failure after attempting a crime means no crime. Mueller states that DDT tried many times and with many aides to impair, limit, and shut down Mueller’s investigation and wrote that DDT’s attempts “were often carried out through one-on-one meetings in which the President sought to use his official power outside of usual channels.”
  • Barr repeatedly used the term “no collusion”—one of DDT’s favorite terms—although Mueller clarified that collusion is not a legal term. The report has over 100 pages of connections that describe “collusion.” Mueller’s summary states that DDT’s “Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”
  • Barr claimed that DDT fully cooperated with the investigation. Yet DDT repeatedly refused requests to be interviewed for the investigation and showed an abysmal lack of recall in 19 of 22 responses to written questions.
  • Barr insisted that Mueller “found no evidence” of DDT’s campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, but Mueller identified “numerous” Trump campaign-Russia contacts. It outlines how Trump was elected with Russia’s help.

Eleven instances of DDT’s obstruction of justice could be prosecuted as crimes, according to Mueller:

  • DDT’s efforts to fire Mueller.
  • DDT’s order to former FBI director James Comey to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn.
  • DDT’s firing of Comey.
  • DDT’s efforts to hijack oversight of the Mueller investigation.
  • DDT’s order to White House counsel, Donald McGahn, to deny that Trump had tried to fire Mueller.
  • DDT’s conduct with associates who pled guilty to crimes, including Flynn, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen.
  • DDT’s “repeated efforts to get McGahn to create a record denying that the President had directed him to remove the special counsel.” are held up for special scrutiny.
  • DDT’s publicly telling witnesses not to cooperate.
  • DDT’s telling Michael Cohen to not contradict him in congressional testimony about Trump Tower Moscow.
  • DDT’s trying to hide emails exposing Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russians for “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
  • DDT’s advanced knowledge about the planned dumps of Democratic emails hacked by Russia and given to WikiLeaks.
  • Dozens of accounts of suspect contacts between Russian operatives and Trump campaign figures.

The report states: “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.However, we are unable to reach that judgment.

Barr’s exoneration of DDT might become the “Trump defense” for people charged with crimes: he isn’t guilty because he was angry and failed.

Other revelations in the unredacted portions of Mueller’s report:

Witnesses and investigated individuals often used message aps to automatically delete emails and texts after they are read or within a short time. Other documents were hard to find because witnesses and subjects lived out of the United States. The erasure of messages may have violated federal law. Mueller wrote that his office “cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.”

DDT forced former AG Jeff Sessions to give him a letter of resignation and then kept it in his suit jacket’s inner pocket, pulling it out during meetings with aides. Reince Priebus said he worried that DDT was using the letter to influence DOJ investigations.

DDT told 33-year-old Stephen Miller, who has no legal training, to make the legal determination on whether he could fire Comey without cause. The White House lawyer, Don McGahn, “in an effort to slow down the decision-making process,” insisted top DOJ leaders be consulted.

After receiving the Mueller report, DOJ gave its information to the White House to help DDT’s legal team prepare a rebuttal and public relations strategy.

Many passages about DDT’s discussions between DDT’s campaign and WikiLeaks in releasing emails to damage Clinton have been blocked out, but enough remains to indicate a connection between DDT’s campaign and Russia. Mueller confirmed that the Russians tried to hack the Illinois Board of Elections website in 2016, penetrated computer systems in at least one Florida county government, and planted malware in systems at a manufacturer of election equipment. In 2016, Russian agents also hacked into the DCCC computers and disseminated the stolen information reporters and other individuals for six states.

The Rantt Rundown, “Day 819 of Trump’s “Presidency,” gives a detailed analysis of the Mueller report, “Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election.” It also points out that the report is damning for Barr’s reputation because of the contradictions, especially because of his conclusion that his memo arguing a sitting president cannot be indicted had no influence on Mueller’s decision-making. Mueller said Barr’s position was a factor. The full report and analysis are here. The U.S. attorney general is the chief law enforcement body for the people of the United States, not an extension of Trump’s personal legal team.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), chair of Select Committee on Intelligence, gave the White House information about the Russia investigation after he had a private briefing with then-FBI Director James Comey. Soon afterward, DDT panicked. Although perhaps not as nefarious as DDT’s lapdog Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), once chair of the Intelligence committee, Burr has said he’s inclined to ignore the Russia scandal, downplayed it, and then said that he saw nothing wrong in DDT’s privately demanding personal loyalty from Comey.

House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) issued a subpoena for Robert Mueller’s full report. Barr has stated that the DOJ will not allow him to release the unredacted portion to the public—or even Congress. History proves him wrong.

Mueller’s wrote:

“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.”

Jon Swaine wrote in The Guardian: 

“No past president has so frequently denied reality, nor seemed so unfamiliar with the very concept of shame. Neither, perhaps, has any past president enjoyed the support of such a compliant Senate, which is Republican-held, and willing to excuse his every scandal in the service of their agenda.

Mueller’s work lives on in Roger Stone’s trial, planned House hearings, and continued investigation of DDT’s business and inaugural committee by Manhattan federal prosecutors. DDT know that he’s in trouble: he now rants about the “Crazy Mueller Report” during his religious commemoration of Good Friday when he played a round of golf.

Republicans for the Rule of Law, a conservative group with the mission of “defending the institutions of our republic,” will attempt to run a TV ad on Fox network urging GOP lawmakers to hold DDT accountable for Mueller’s findings. The 34-second ad opens, “Twenty years ago, Republicans denounced a Democratic president for lying and obstructing justice.” It concludes, “Republicans stood for the rule of law then. We should stand for the rule of law now.” Longwell, added that the group wants Republicans to “act like a congressional body with equal powers and to provide a check on a president, who clearly from this report does not respect the rule of law.”

 

 

 

End Barr:

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