‘Constitutional crisis’ over Mueller report

Controversies over the Mueller report and the Trump administration continue in the US.

The vote was 24-16 in favour of holding Barr in contempt.

Reuters Explainer: Can Trump use executive privilege to withhold full Mueller report?

The White House on Wednesday invoked executive privilege to block the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s unredacted Russia report as a U.S. House panel met to vote on holding the U.S. attorney general in contempt of Congress for withholding the document.

The White House’s move escalated a constitutional clash between the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and Republican President Donald Trump over its powers to investigate him, his administration, his family and his business interests.

Trump is stonewalling Congress on multiple probes, blasting the investigations as “presidential harassment.” In an unusual move, he is even suing to stop the release of some materials that lawmakers want.

There are so few court decisions on executive privilege that it is hard to be certain if Trump can withhold the unredacted report and underlying evidence, said Ross Garber, a lawyer in Washington who focuses on political investigations.

But to prevail in court the White House will eventually need to be more specific about which documents are protected by executive privilege and why, Garber said.

In a letter to Trump on Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr encouraged the president to make a “preliminary, protective assertion of executive privilege designed to ensure your ability to make a final assertion, if necessary, over some or all of the subpoenaed materials.”

Some legal experts have argued that Trump long ago forfeited, or waived, his right to make an executive privilege claim over conversations described by witnesses in Mueller’s investigation and related documents.

Meanwhile:

Trump – pathological liar, cheat, abuser, unhinging

The Donald Trump problem has been excused by many, but it is getting worse and he should be called for what he is:

  • a pathological liar who continues to lie about things when clearly incorrect or shown to be incorrect
  • a cheat in marriage, a cheat in golf, someone who tries to cheat the legal system, democracy
  • an abuser of anyone who challenges his position, his lies, his cheating, his integrity (there is little of that)
  • he thinks he is above the law and can subvert justice

He can’t be believed, and he can’t be trusted. He is a disgrace and a danger to the presidency of the United States.

He thinks he is above the law and can subvert justice.

He is obsessed with being seen to ‘win’ and attacks anyone he thinks might prevent him from winning.

And this is all out in the open and obvious. It’s fair to presume he has done more and worse that we don’t know about.

What got him into the presidency and what keeps him there are the excuses and inaction of supporters, and of politicians and officials and staff who pander to his narcissism.

The just released Mueller report has revealed that some officials have ignored his orders to subvert justice and to do other crazy things – it is just at well that he haasn’t been able to find enough family and sycophants to fill all the positions in the White House.

And if anything Trump is getting worse, going by the tantrum he has thrown over the Mueller report. And this shows how widely and wildly he can swing.

When the mildly worded Barr summary was released Trump praised it and praised Mueller and claimed (falsely) complete exoneration.

Now the full Mueller report has been released, which hasn’t painted him in a good light but came short of recommending prosecution for  his attempts to obstruct justice, Trump is praying at the report and everyone involved in it.

It is common for him to condemn critics, or in this case people who are required to comply with the law in an inquiry, as Democrats (often falsely) and haters. He has an army of supporters who repeat his ‘hater’ accusations to try to attack the messenger and divert from his faults.

More tweets in reaction to the report:

“Donald Trump was being framed, he fought back. That is not Obstruction.” I had the right to end the whole Witch Hunt if I wanted. I could have fired everyone, including Mueller, if I wanted. I chose not to. I had the RIGHT to use Executive Privilege. I didn’t!

The framing and witch hunt claims are nonsense. There are ways of ‘fighting back’ (dealing with judicial inquiries) without trying to sack those officials working on behalf of the US government.

Anything the Russians did concerning the 2016 Election was done while Obama was President. He was told about it and did nothing! Most importantly, the vote was not affected.

A common tactic of trump is to blame others, in this case Obama. And he’s wrong about the vote not being affected. It must have been affected by Russian actions.

When there is not an underlying crime with regard to Collusion (in fact, the whole thing was a made up fraud), it is difficult to say that someone is obstructing something. There was no underlying crime.”

“If dozens of Federal prosecutors spent two years trying to charge you with a crime, and found they couldn’t, it would mean there wasn’t any evidence you did it – and that’s what happened here – that’s what we just learned from the Mueller Report.”

It doesn’t mean there “wasn’t any evidence”. There was evidence cited in the report. It’s just that officials chose not to prosecute the President.

“The Mueller Report is perhaps the single most humiliating thing that has ever happened to the White House Press in the history of this Country. They know they lied…Many reporters lied about Russia Collusion and so much more. Clapper & Brennan, all lies”

The accusations of lies are common – while ignoring the biggest liar of all, Trump.  It’s a common tactic of his (and his friends and excusers in media) to accuse others of what he does.

So he has gone round media cherry picking people defending him, and ignoring everything else.

The game is obviously not over. Trump is playing it as hard as ever. The more he protests the more it loks like he is trying to hide something or divert from something.

Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report, in itself written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters, which are fabricated & totally untrue. Watch out for people that take so-called “notes,” when the notes never existed until needed.

Because I never agreed to testify, it was not necessary for me to respond to statements made in the “Report” about me, some of which are total bullshit & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad).

If it wasn’t necessary for him to respond, why is he trying to respond now via Twitter?

This was an Illegally Started Hoax that never should have happened, a…

He appears to have not finished that sentence. Maybe someone finally disabled his Twitter account.

The inquiry wasn’t illegally started. And it wasn’t a hoax.

The patently untrustworthy abusive Trump is a disgrace to the presidency. But so far he has managed to keep a mass of supporters and apologists on his side. And there isn’t much that can be done but wait out his four year term, leaving him to rant and rave on Twitter and at political rallies, leaving those in key positions at the White House and in Government positions to ignore his worst commands, and otherwise scramble in the chaos that Trump perpetuates.

Every time Trump tweets he panders to a crowd, but he also keeps putting on record his incompetence and unsuitability for the job.

Trump will no doubt achieve some positives, all presidents do. But he is also clocking up some major negatives, like a growing trade deficit despite heavy handed tariffs. Like US debt, now over $20 trillion. Like the ongoing problems on the US-Mexico border.

Every president keeps accumulating criticisms – Trump more so than most, for good reason. The more he is challenged and exposed (with a lot of self exposure) the more unhinged he appears to get.

That’s dangerous for someone in his position. It is potentially dangerous for the world.

Note: this post is not about squirrels or the media or Obama or the Clintons, all flawed, but all different stories. It is about Trump’s his lying, his abusiveness, his behaviour unbecoming of a president (or any politician). Critique or try to defend that and don’t try to divert.

Mueller report released (minus redactions)

The report following the investigation led by Robert Mueller into whether there was Russian interference or collusion has now been released, which has opened a bunch of discussion points.

Time:  Here Are the Biggest Takeaways From the Mueller Report

Although Russia “perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency” and the campaign “expected it would benefit electorally” from Russian hacking efforts, “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” the report said.

When investigators began looking into Russian influence operations, however, Mueller found that Trump attempted to interfere with the investigation in a number of ways, from firing FBI Director James Comey to trying to limit its scope.

“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, we are unable to reach that judgment,” the report said.

Trump’s response to Mueller’s appointment: ‘I’m f-cked’

According to Mueller, the president was despondent when Attorney General Jeff Sessions informed him that the special counsel had been appointed in 2017.

“This is the end of my presidency. I’m f-cked,” the President said to Sessions.

Trump ordered a White House lawyer to fire Mueller

Trump called McGahn at his home on June 17, 2017, according to phone records. He ordered McGahn to call the acting attorney general and tell him that Mueller had conflicts of interest and needed to be removed, saying something to the effect of, “You gotta do this. You gotta call Rod [Rosenstein],” McGahn told investigators.

McGahn told Mueller that he decided that he would rather resign, because he didn’t want to end up like “Saturday Night Massacre Bork” — a reference to Solicitor General Robert Bork, who fired a special prosecutor at President Richard Nixon’s request during the Watergate scandal, setting off a massive political firestorm.

“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 or accede to his requests,” the report said.

Trump didn’t like his lawyer taking notes

McGahn later told former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus that the President had asked him to “do crazy sh-t.”

After reports emerged in early 2018 that Trump had ordered McGahn to fire Mueller, the President told his aide Rob Porter to ask McGahn to tell the press that he’d never received the order. McGahn again declined, telling Porter that the media reports were true.

Later, the President met with McGahn and asked him to deny that he’d been ordered to remove Mueller.

“I never said to fire Mueller. I never said ‘fire.’ This story doesn’t look good. You need to correct this. You’re the White House Counsel,” Trump said, according to McGahn and former Chief of Staff John Kelly.

Trump also asked McGahn why he had told Mueller about the effort to fire the special counsel, and also why he had decided to take notes during their conversations.

“What about these notes? Why do you take notes? Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes,” Trump said.

A White House spokeswoman admitted she made up a Trump defense

During a press briefing on May 10, 2017, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders defended Trump’s decision to fire Comey by saying that “the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence” in him.

But under oath with Mueller’s team, Sanders conceded that she had not heard from any agents, calling it a “slip of the tongue.”

Trump said he was just joking about asking Russia to find Clinton’s emails

After Mueller inquired about the public comment, Trump replied that he made the statement “in jest and sarcastically, as was apparent to any objective observer.”

Despite his insistence that he was joking, Trump later emphasized his comments on Twitter, writing “If Russia or any other country or person has Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 illegally deleted emails, perhaps they should share them with the FBI!”

Trump fired Comey because he wouldn’t publicly exonerate the President

Two days after James Comey refused to deny that the Trump was under investigation during a 2017 congressional hearing, Trump told his family and advisors that he was planning to remove the FBI Director, according to senior advisor Stephen Miller.

Trump also insisted that Comey’s resignation letter declared that Trump wasn’t personally under investigation.

How much of the report is redacted?

Substantial portions of the report are redacted. The omissions make certain sections – including the portion of the document which concerns Wikileaks – difficult to understand.

Fox News – Mueller report sparks new DC war over Russia probe: Subpoenas, payback and more

The public release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Thursday marked the dramatic final note of a lengthy and contentious investigation, but also sparked a tinderbox of new calls for subpoenas, congressional testimony, resignations, and even impeachment proceedings — all despite the probe’s central finding that no evidence showed that President Trump’s team “coordinated or conspired” with Russia.

The whirlwind moments kept coming, even hours after the report’s release, as more and more revelations from the 448-page document trickled out. The White House, for its part, claimed total victory and vindication for the president who, according to the report, once fretted that the special counsel’s appointment meant he was “f—ed” beyond the possibility of redemption and that his agenda would be derailed by partisan distractions.

Within minutes of the report’s publication, House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., charged that the special counsel had provided “disturbing evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice” and, referencing the report’s limited redactions, finished with a tantalizing flourish: “Imagine what remains hidden from our view.”

Nader immediately called on Mueller himself to testify, and top Republicans, including Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr, said they would have no objections to him doing so.

Republicans, meanwhile, called the day a resounding win, pointing specifically to several portions of Mueller’s findings that debunked long-held conspiracy theories and media reports that misrepresented the Trump team’s contacts with Russia.

For example, notably absent from Mueller’s analysis was any mention of the unverified report that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had “secret talks” with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London’s Ecuadorian embassy months before stolen emails damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign were published.

Summing up the positive news for his administration in the report, Trump tweeted a reference to the popular “Game of Thrones” television series, with the words, “No collusion, no obstruction. For the haters and the radical left Democrats — Game Over.”

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters that Thursday was the “best day” since Trump’s election, calling the Mueller probe a “political proctology exam” and the final report a “clean bill of health.”

“It should make people feel really great that a campaign I managed to its successful end did not collude with any Russians,” Conway said. “We’re accepting apologies today, too, for anybody who feels the grace in offering them.”

Democrats, however, raised a slew of objections and charged that Barr had improperly given cover for the president. 2020 presidential contender Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., called on Barr to “resign,” after Barr pointed out in his press conference that Trump’s mental state — including his apparent frustration at the long-running investigation — was relevant to the question of whether he obstructed justice.

On collusion, according to the report, the Trump team believed it would benefit from Russian efforts and sought to share published emails that had been pilfered from the DNC and Clinton campaign, but did not coordinate with Russia on any hacking or misinformation efforts.

In one notable lead that was explored, former national security adviser Michael Flynn told investigators that Trump repeatedly requested that his team find tens of thousands of emails deleted from a private server controlled by Hillary Clinton.

At a July 2016 campaign rally, Trump remarked sarcastically, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

After that statement, Flynn contacted operatives in the hopes of uncovering the documents, according to Mueller. And Peter Smith, a GOP consultant, “created a company, raised tens of thousands of dollars, and recruited security experts and business associates,” the report stated.

The full report (redacted) plus more comment at NZH: The four key takeaways from the Mueller report into Russian interference in US election

3. Aides often ignore Trump’s false and dubious directives

One of the most intriguing parts of this report is the window it provides into how Trump’s aides view him. We’ve had many leaks suggesting internal discord in the White House, but here the aides were compelled to tell the truth.

And a common thread is forming: Trump often asks aides to falsely deny things or do things that make them uncomfortable. Oftentimes, they simply didn’t follow through.

In one section, then-White House counsel Donald McGahn got a message from Trump’s personal lawyer saying Trump wanted McGahn to put out a statement denying a New York Times report that said Trump had tried to fire Mueller. McGahn declined, because Trump had in fact tried to fire Mueller.

4. Many of Trump’s “fake news” claims are disproven

One of the unhelpful realities of the Russia probe thus far has been that so many revelations were based upon anonymous sources. That has allowed Trump to argue to his supporters that the stories were wrong, totally made-up “fake news.”

Except now many of them have been confirmed by the Mueller report.

And so the Washington circus continues.