Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Progressive Perspectives on the Mueller Report, “Russiagate,” and the Real Trump Scandals

So ends one of the more incoherent political scandals in modern memory.

After two long, breathless years of investigation, accusations, leaks, scoops, walk-backs, and wild conspiracies, the main findings of Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump-Russia conspiracy were finally released on Sunday. As most anyone reading this now knows, its conclusions are devastating, though not for the reasons many of Mueller’s fans had hoped.

The excerpt of the report included in attorney general William Barr’s summary reads thus: “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Placed just after a list of statistics outlining the massive scope of the investigation – thousands of subpoenas, many hundreds of search warrants and witnesses interviewed, and the like – the message seems clear: there is nothing here.

There’s certainly a chance that Barr, a Trump political appointee, summarized the findings in such a way as to be most politically advantageous for the president (though he did also point out that Mueller did “not exonerate [Trump]” over the charge of obstruction of justice). And many will continue to hang on Mueller’s wording – “did not establish” – to insist the jury is still out.

But those still holding on to a flicker of hope that Mueller will emerge on horseback, thick stack of papers in hand, with details and conclusions running counter to Barr’s summary need to get a grip. If there was something there, it would have leaked a long time ago.

It’s hard to overstate how devastating this all is. This is the culmination of what some declared the “crime of the century.” The idea that Trump “colluded” with Russia was considered virtually a foregone conclusion for the past two years by the majority of the political and media class. It fed a constant stream of breathless, often irresponsible and misleading, media coverage, the definitive account of which was written up by Matt Taibbi and is worth reading in full. And until an approaching election concentrated Democrats’ minds and brought them to their senses in last year’s midterms, it served as the foundational element of the otherwise incoherentresistance” to Trump’s presidency.

– Branko Marcetic
Excerpted from “Closing the Russiagate
March 25, 2019

[w]hatever the substantive conclusions, Mueller has failed to play the cultural and psychological role that some liberals have expected him to play since his appointment almost two years ago.

. . . [Such expectation] reflects a yearning for something, anything, to end the death loop that American democracy appears to be trapped in – for a big, dramatic blowup to fix the system’s ills. In the liberal imagination, that blowup typically takes the form of Trump’s removal from office, an event that sets us back to a path of normalcy and sane politics.

This yearning is understandable – but it is both dangerous and misplaced. Ending the Trump presidency will not fix, or even substantially ameliorate, most of the problems plaguing the American political system. They were mounting for years before he took office – indeed, they made him possible – and will continue to plague us for years after he leaves.

And more importantly, as this week clarifies, there will be no dramatic end for Trump. He will not be impeached, at least not the way the Bill Clinton was impeached, following recommendations from an independent prosecutor. He will certainly not be removed from office by a Republican Senate – that’s one prediction I am willing to make as long as Mitch McConnell is majority leader.

If he’s going to leave office, it’s not going to be because the other shoe drops, and some morsel of information about Trump heretofore unknown to the public is going to force him to resign in shame or be forced out. There’s no revelation that can do that when [gesticulates wildly to literally everything that has happened and been revealed since 2015] was not enough.

If he’s going to leave office, it will be because he loses the 2020 election, is term-limited in 2024, or dies. Barring a surprise 67-vote Democratic majority in his second term, there’s no fourth option.

– Dylan Matthews
Excerpted from “Robert Mueller Was Never Going
to End Donald Trump’s Presidency

March 24, 2019

This is the essence of Trump’s failure – not that he has chosen one set of policies over another, or has divided rather than united Americans, or even that he has behaved in childish and vindictive ways unbecoming a president.

It is that he has sacrificed the processes and institutions of American democracy to achieve his goals.

By saying and doing whatever it takes to win, he has abused the trust we place in a president to preserve and protect the nation’s capacity for self-government.

Controversy over the Mueller report must not obscure this basic reality.

– Robert Reich
Excerpted from “The Real Trump Scandal Was Never Collusion
March 26, 2019

According to a new report from the New York Times Mueller has farmed out federal indictments to 1) the SDNY, in Manhattan, 2) the EDNY, in Brooklyn, 3) the EDVA in Virginia, 4) the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles, 5) the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington DC, 6) the DOJ National Security Division, and 7) the DOJ Criminal Division.

So what is the take away from all this? Those who are familiar with Mueller’s investigation understand that “no more indictments from Mueller” doesn’t mean “no more indictments.” It means every single one of Mueller’s existing indictments resides in a “presidential pardon proof” prosecutorial district. Recall how Mueller handed off the Cohen case to the U.S. Attorneys’ office for the SDNY, who sent Cohen to prison.

As his own investigation ends, it becomes clear Mueller plans to handle all indictments/prosecutions resulting from his investigation through these seven federal prosecutorial entities. In other words, the people on Team Trump who are celebrating right now are merely suffering from a lack of understanding about the rule of law and how federal and state prosecutions work.

– Christopher Witt Diamant
via Facebook
March 25, 2019

There will be people protesting: the Mueller report doesn’t prove anything! What about the 37 indictments? The convictions? The Trump tower revelations? The lies! The meeting with Don, Jr.? The financial matters! There’s an ongoing grand jury investigation, and possible sealed indictments, and the House will still investigate, and…

Stop. Just stop. Any journalist who goes there is making it worse.

For years, every pundit and Democratic pol in Washington hyped every new Russia headline like the Watergate break-in. Now, even Nancy Pelosi has said impeachment is out, unless something “so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan” against Trump is uncovered it would be worth their political trouble to prosecute.

The biggest thing this affair has uncovered so far is Donald Trump paying off a porn star. That’s a hell of a long way from what this business was supposedly about at the beginning, and shame on any reporter who tries to pretend this isn’t so.

The story hyped from the start was espionage: a secret relationship between the Trump campaign and Russian spooks who’d helped him win the election.

The betrayal narrative was not reported as metaphor. It was not “Trump likes the Russians so much, he might as well be a spy for them.” It was literal spying, treason, and election-fixing – crimes so severe, former NSA employee John Schindler told reporters, Trump “will die in jail.”

In the early months of this scandal, the New York Times said Trump’s campaign had “repeated contacts” with Russian intelligence; the Wall Street Journal told us our spy agencies were withholding intelligence from the new President out of fear he was compromised; news leaked out our spy chiefs had even told other countries like Israel not to share their intel with us, because the Russians might have “leverages of pressure” on Trump.

CNN told us Trump officials had been in “constant contact” with “Russians known to U.S. intelligence,” and the former director of the CIA, who’d helped kick-start the investigation that led to Mueller’s probe, said the President was guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” committing acts “nothing short of treasonous.”

Hillary Clinton insisted Russians “could not have known how to weaponize” political ads unless they’d been “guided” by Americans. Asked if she meant Trump, she said, “It’s pretty hard not to.” Harry Reid similarly said he had “no doubt” that the Trump campaign was “in on the deal” to help Russians with the leak.

None of this has been walked back. To be clear, if Trump were being blackmailed by Russian agencies like the FSB or the GRU, if he had any kind of relationship with Russian intelligence, that would soar over the “overwhelming and bipartisan” standard, and Nancy Pelosi would be damning torpedoes for impeachment right now.

There was never real gray area here. Either Trump is a compromised foreign agent, or he isn’t. If he isn’t, news outlets once again swallowed a massive disinformation campaign, only this error is many orders of magnitude more stupid than any in the recent past, WMD included. Honest reporters like ABC’s Terry Moran understand: Mueller coming back empty-handed on collusion means a “reckoning for the media.”

Of course, there won’t be such a reckoning. (There never is). But there should be. We broke every written and unwritten rule in pursuit of this story, starting with the prohibition on reporting things we can’t confirm.

– Matt Taibbi
Excerpted from “It's Official: Russiagate Is This Generation's WMD
March 23, 2019

We thought Mueller was the savior. There should have been huge demonstrations to protest what's happening – we shouldn't have waited for Mueller. Trump is a white supremacist criminal who has separated and detained thousands of families at the border, who has placed a record number of conservative judges in lifetime positions, who is dismantling government agencies, placing corporate shills in important posts, letting his son-in-law make deals with Saudia Arabia, his daughter make deals with China, who is allowing drilling and mining on federal land, who is undoing environmental regulations, etc. etc. He broke federal election laws by paying off women before the election. We have to do more to stop this!

– Terry Burke
via Facebook
March 25, 2019

Related Off-site Links:
Mueller Finds No Trump-Russia Coordination, But “Does Not Exonerate” Trump of Obstruction of JusticeBloomberg (March 25, 2019).
Mueller Leaves Obstruction Question to Barr, Who Clears Trump – Greg Farrell (Bloomberg, March 24, 2019).
Has “Cover-Up General” William Barr Struck Again? – Thom Hartmann (Common Dreams, March 26, 2019).
Trump Administration Losing 94 Percent of Lawsuits Over Illegal Policy Changes – Igor Derysh (Salon, March 23, 2019).
Robert Mueller Was Never Going to Save Us – Juan Cole (TruthDig, March 25, 2019).
Mueller Report Ends a Shameful Period for the Press – Chris Hedges (TruthDig, March 25, 2019).
Mueller Madness: The Media Pundits Who Got It Most Wrong – Sohrab Ahmari (New York Post, March 25, 2019).

UPDATES: Here's What We Still Don't Know About Donald Trump's Links to Russia: Virtually Everything – Bob Cesca (Salon, March 28, 2019).
Adam Schiff Presents His “Evidence of Collusion” – Ryan Bort (Rolling Stone, March 28, 2019).
Adam Schiff Delivers Massive Smackdown: Trump Is “Immoral,” “Unpatriotic” and “Corrupt” – Heather Digby Parton (Salon, March 29, 2019).
On Russiagate and Our Refusal to Face Why Trump Won – Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone, March 29, 2019).
Mueller's Team Finally Speaks; Suggests William Barr Is Running A Cover-Up – Roger Sollenberger (Paste, April 4, 2019).
New Hints of the Mueller Report: Did Trump Simply Get Rolled by the Russians? – Heather Digby Parton (Salon, April 5, 2019).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Progressive Perspectives on “Fake News” and the Alleged Interference by Russia in the U.S. Presidential Election
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump as President of the United States
Progressive Perspectives on the Rise of Donald Trump
Carrying It On

Image: CNN illustration / Getty images.

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