DemDaily: No Person Is Above The Law
April 19, 2019
Thursday morning, at 9:30am, United States Attorney General William Barr held a press conference to brief the public on the redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, delivered to Barr in its entirety on March 22nd.Conveniently, the announcement came when Congress was on Spring recess, and while the President was on his way to vacation in Florida. It was also prior to the 11:00am release of the report to Members of Congress. The redacted report, however, was previously made available to the White House and Justice Department officials prior to its release.
Barr's stated interpretation that "as (President Trump) said from the beginning, there was, in fact, no collusion," was a shocking mischaracterization, given the damning evidence against the President subsequently revealed in the report.
It also called into question the propriety, ethics and actions of the country's top law enforcement official, who has apparently decided to sacrifice his credibility to protect the President from criminal prosecution.
The Redacted Report
The 448-page report is separated into two volumes. The 1,000+ redactions include four categories: grand jury information, personal privacy, harm to ongoing matter, and investigative information.
Volume One: Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election
|"The Russian government interfered in the 2016 election in sweeping and systematic fashion."|
The scope of the investigation focused on two primary operations.First, a social media campaign carried out by Russian entities that favored then-candidate Trump and disparaged candidate Clinton. Those efforts reached over 126 million Americans online.
Second, the Russian government's hacking of, and operations against, the Clinton Campaign, the DNC and individuals. This includes dissemination of the hacked materials through WikiLeaks and the Trump Campaign.
The report clarifies that it was seeking evidence of criminal conspiracy, not "collusion" - a term used frequently by President Trump, and six times in AG Barr's press conference, but one that has no clear legal definition.
|The investigation "identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign."|
"The investigation established that several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the Office, and to Congress, about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters. Those lies materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference."
Those individuals included many Trump associates that have since been indicted or convicted, including George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort.
In total, the Mueller investigation has resulted in 38 indictments or convictions, 215 criminal charges, and five prison sentences to-date.Conclusion
However, although "the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russia efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."
Volume Two: Obstruction of Justice
Focuses on the actions that arose from the FBI's Russia-related investigation, and whether the President, his campaign and administration associates obstructed justice in relation to that investigation and the subsequent Special Counsel's investigation.
The report does not, in fact, exonerate the President, as claimed by Attorney General William Barr but, instead, provides a roadmap for future prosecution.Prosecutorial Judgement
Mueller states at the outset that his decision to refrain from "a traditional prosecutorial judgement" was due to the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel's (OLC) opinion that a sitting President could not be indicted as it "would impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions."
He notes, however, that "while the OLC opinion concludes that a sitting president may not be prosecuted, it recognizes that a criminal investigation during the President's term is permissible...and that a President does not have immunity after he leaves office. Given those considerations...we conducted a thorough factual investigation in order to preserve the evidence..."
An important caveat Mueller makes is that, while his investigation "did not establish particular facts," that "does not mean that there was no evidence of those facts."
The report outlines numerous instances of alleged obstruction of justice in which "the president engaged in a phase of conduct involving public attacks on the investigation, non-public efforts to control it, and efforts in both public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation."
|However, "The president's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders and accede to his requests."|
Evidence of Obstruction
Among Trump's failed efforts, the report references:
* Attempting to prevent former Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the investigation. When Sessions, who Trump eventually fired, told the President of the appointment of the Special Counsel, Trump stated, "Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm fu****."
* Asking former FBI Director James Comey to end the investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, which ultimately resulted in Flynn's prosecution and conviction for lying to the FBI. Comey was later famously fired over "the Russia thing."
* Asking Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to publicly take responsibility for Comey's firing.
* Asking former WH Counsel Don McGahn to tell the Acting Attorney General to fire the Special Counsel, one of the President's multiple demands that he do so. McGahn refused and threatened to resign over the President's order.
* Asking former Trump Campaign Director Cory Lewandowski and former WH Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn to deliver the President's message to Sessions that he should confine the Russia investigation to future election meddling only.
"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 judgement."
"The evidence we obtained about the President's actions and intent present 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."
While the Mueller investigation was limited in scope, the ensuing results triggered additional investigations referred to other Justice Department offices. The report lays out 14 redacted matters that are still being investigated.
"With respect to whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has the authority to prohibit a President's corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice."
This morning, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) issued a subpoena to the Justice Department demanding the full, unredacted version of the Special Counsel's report by May 1st.
Attorney General William Barr is scheduled to testify before the Judiciary Committee on May 2nd, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to testify no later than May 23.
"The conclusion that Congress may apply obstruction laws to the President's corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional systems of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law." -- Special Counsel Robert Mueller
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