Many opinions on Mueller statement on Russian interference investigation

Perhaps the most important comment from Robert Mueller, but largely lost in the noise:

And I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments: That there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election, and that allegation deserves the attention of every American.

Of course Donald Trump has an opinion on the Mueller statement.

And of course that totally misrepresents what Mueller said.

We conducted that investigation, and we kept the office of the acting attorney general apprised of the progress of our work. And as set forth in the report, after that investigation if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime we would have said so.

We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime. The introduction to the Volume II of our report explains that decision. It explains that under long-standing department policy, a president can not be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that too is prohibited.

The Special Counsel’s Office is part of the Department of Justice, and by regulation it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was, therefore, not an option we could consider.

And beyond department policy, we were guided by principles of fairness. It would be unfair to potentially — it would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge.

Here is Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Full Statement

And a range of opinions:

Shame on Robert Mueller Alan Dershowitz, The Hill
True to Form, Mueller Delivers the Facts Frank Montoya, New York Daily News
Mr. Mueller, We Need to Hear More Robert De Niro, New York Times
Jim Comey & Robert Mueller: Two Peas in a Pod Julie Kelly, American Greatness

 

 

Mueller says Trump not cleared but couldn’t be charged

Roberty Mueller says that criminal charges against Trump were never an option for his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

But he says the investigation didn’t clear Trump and there were other ways to hold the president accountable.

Reuters:  Mueller says he could not charge Trump as Congress weighs impeachment

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller said on Wednesday his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was never going to end with criminal charges against President Donald Trump and indicated it was up to Congress to decide if it should impeach Trump.

In his first public comments since starting the investigation in May 2017, Mueller said Justice Department policy prevented him from bringing charges against a sitting president, telling reporters it was “not an option we would consider.”

But he also said his two-year investigation did not clear Trump of improper behavior and pointed out there were other ways to hold presidents accountable.

“The Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting President of wrongdoing,” Mueller said as he announced his resignation from the Justice Department.

Democrats in Congress are debating whether to try to move ahead with impeachment, even though the Republican-controlled Senate would be unlikely to convict the president and remove him from office.

The White House and several top Republicans responded to Mueller’s comments on Wednesday by saying it was time to move on to other matters, while several Democratic presidential candidates called for impeachment.

Matthew Jacobs, a former federal prosecutor, said he thought Mueller was “saying in his own way that a crime was committed.”

A source close to Trump said the Mueller statement amounted to a “bad day for the home team.”

“Mueller’s statement today was a direct assault on the president,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “And it will only empower the Democrats to be bolder and more aggressive in their move to impeach him.”

Mueller’s full statement is here.

Reuters: Trump says “nothing changes” after Mueller statement

U.S. President Donald Trump reacted swiftly to a statement by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on his Russia investigation on Wednesday, saying nothing had changed and “the case is closed!”

“There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent,” Trump wrote in a Twitter post. “The case is closed!”

Mueller, however, did not proclaim Trump’s innocence. “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime we would have said so,” Mueller said.

I doubt that the case is closed, politically at least.

 

Democrats versus Barr versus Mueller are not fading away

The Mueller investigation led to the Barr letter which was followed by the release of most of the Mueller report was followed by the release of a Mueller letter to Barr, and now Barr has been questioned in the US senate. And the controversies continue, predictably with many angles being taken by media and politicians.

Washington Examiner: 5 takeaways from the Barr hearing

1. Tension between Attorney General William Barr and Robert Mueller

Barr revealed a split with the special counsel over the pursuit of evidence that President Trump tried to obstruct the probe. Mueller did not draw any conclusion on obstruction, despite gathering the evidence.

“The investigation carried on for a while as additional episodes were looked into,” Barr told the panel. “So my question was, why were those investigated if, at the end of the day, you weren’t going to reach a decision on them?”

Later in the hearing Barr dismissed a March 27 letter from Mueller complaining about Barr’s four-page memo to Congress about the report. “The letter’s a bit snitty and I think it was written by one of his staff people,” Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

2. Barr didn’t review Mueller’s evidence.

Under questioning from Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a former prosecutor who is running for president, Barr acknowledged neither he nor Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reviewed the trove of evidencegathered by the Mueller team before he cleared Trump of any wrongdoing.

The Mueller report did not clear Trump of any wrongdoing, but Barr’s letter summarising the findings of the investigation were taken by Trump and others as doing that.

3. Barr is probing leaks to media.

Under questioning from Republicans on the panel, Barr said he is investigating Department of Justice leaks to the media regarding the investigation into alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.

4. Barr is examining the justification for surveillance warrants into Trump campaign.

Barr said he is investigating the basis for the Justice Department’s decision to secretly surveil the Trump campaign beginning in October 2016. Barr said he is working with Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to determine if a surveillance warrant was properly obtained by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court the month before the election.

5. Senate Judiciary (probably) won’t call Mueller to testify.

Democrats are eager to hear testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller, they said Wednesday. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., doesn’t plan to invite him.

“I’m not going to do any more,” Graham said after Barr’s day-long hearing. “Enough already, it’s over.”

But it appears to be far from over.

RealClear Politics – Pelosi: Attorney General Barr Committed A Crime; “He Lied To Congress”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday accused Attorney General William Barr of criminally lying to Congress about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and Mueller’s letter relating to how Barr has characterized its findings.

“What is deadly serious about it is the attorney general of the United States of America is not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That’s a crime,” the Speaker told reporters.

Asked again about the accusation, Pelosi said: “He lied to Congress. If anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law.”

Asked whether Barr should go to jail, the speaker said: “There’s a process involved here.”

There’s something for everyone to cherry pick from.

Fortune: World’s Greatest Leaders

Fortune Magazine’s World’s Greatest Leaders

 

  1. Bill and Melinda Gates
    For evidence of what happens when an unstoppable force — Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates — meets a profoundly movable human being, the empathetic Melinda Gates, one has simply to measure the impact of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  2. Jacinda Ardern
    Jacinda Ardern had already broken new ground as a pregnant woman—and then a new mother—leading a nation. And this year, the 38-year-old Prime Minister showed the world her fullness as a leader as she deftly, empathetically, and humbly navigated New Zealand through the worst terror attack in its history, after 50 were killed at two mosques in Christchurch in March.
  3. Robert Mueller
    Few people on either side of the partisan divide seem satisfied with the outcome of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. But that very dissatisfaction speaks to the nobly impartial example the former FBI director set as he led an arduous, sensitive investigation. He and his team didn’t uncover the smoking guns that President Trump’s critics craved, nor did they grant the President the exoneration he demanded. Instead, sticking to the evidence and tuning out the hype, they exposed serious wrongdoing and shed light on systemic flaws that the nation is now more likely to address.
  4. Pony Ma
    Compared with others in China’s boisterous tech scene, Ma keeps a low profile. But his influence has gone global thanks to WeChat, Tencent’s billion-member instant messaging service. WeChat is the epitome of the super-app model, a single interface through which users can pay bills, order food, book tickets, play games, and more.
  5. Satya Nadella
    Under Nadella, Microsoft has generated incredible growth from new businesses like its Azure cloud platform. And Nadella recently showed that he could put principles first while navigating employee unrest, as he stood by a contract to supply the U.S. Army with augmented reality headsets. He argued that Microsoft shouldn’t withhold technology from institutions that protect our democracy.
  6. Greta Thunberg
    Greta Thunberg isn’t here to inspire you; she’s here to give you anxiety. “I don’t want your hope,” the 16-year-old climate activist said in a speech at the World Economic Forum this year. “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”
  7. Margaret Vestager
    At a time when U.S. lawmakers are divided over reining in Big Tech, Vestager has shown how it can be done. She “Apple-converted-space” fined Google a total of $9 billion for alleged anticompetitive behavior, sought $15 billion in back taxes from Apple (both moves are being appealed), and is investigating Facebook. Dismissive of industry excuses, Vestager says: “If it’s your algorithm, it’s your responsibility.”
  8. Anna Nimiriano
    South Sudan has lost five years and an estimated 383,000 souls to civil war, and the challenges of speaking truth to power at Nimiriano’s newspaper range from gas shortages to death threats. When security forces hauled a colleague to jail and told her to shut down the paper, she persuaded them to release him and let her publish.
  9. José Andrés
    In March, chef José Andrés descended on Manhattan to prepare for the launch of a fresh addition to his restaurant empire—a 35,000-square-foot Spanish food hall in the sparkling new Hudson Yards complex. Here, alongside other A-list chefs such as the French Laundry’s Thomas Keller and Momofuku’s David Chang, Andrés’s New York City culinary concept would ply patrons with cured meats and cheese, tapas and paella, and a selection of a dozen sherries.
  10. Doug McMillon and Lisa Woods
    Health care costs in the U.S. have reached astronomical levels—spending hit $3.7 trillion in 2018—and they continue to climb, weighing on patients and the employers who help foot the bill. As America’s largest employer, Walmart is all too familiar with these trend lines—which have led McMillon and Woods to innovate to do health care better. For the company’s 1.1 million U.S. employees and their families, Woods launched the Centers of Excellence (COE) program in 2013, enabling workers to travel to top hospitals Walmart contracts with for select procedures.
  11. Aliko Dangote
    Dangote is Africa’s richest person—worth $16.4 billion, according to Bloomberg—and the four publicly traded companies under the umbrella of his Dangote Industries now account for about a third of the value of the Nigerian stock exchange. He’s now converting his wealth into impactful philanthropy: Dangote’s foundation, the largest in Africa, has helped establish a top-tier business school at Nigeria’s Bayero University; it’s also teaming up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fight chronic malnutrition in Nigeria.
  12. Masayoshi Son
    Son has become a tech kingmaker. He upended venture capitalism in 2016 by launching the $100 billion Vision Fund, and his backing often proves ­pivotal in battles between rival startups. Son personally vets CEOs of potential portfolio companies and spurs them to scale up dramatically, even if profit is elusive. Ride sharing as we know it might not exist without his avid backing of Uber, Grab, and Didi Chuxing.

There are 50 leaders on the list. Ardern stands out as a politician – there are few of any others.

 

Mueller inquiry highlights lack of trust in US Government

The Robert Mueller inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 US election has driven growing division in the United States, and has highlighted the lack of trust in the US government.

Neither side of the political divide looks good, not looks likely of addressing the dismal decay of democracy in the US.

Frank Miele (RealClear Politics): Mueller Report Is Litmus Test for a Divided Society

What the litmus test of the Mueller report reveals is whether or not we as individuals, as political parties and as Americans have faith in our government.

According to a recent poll, 84 percent of Americans want the entire report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller released to the public.

They aren’t satisfied just knowing that the investigation into President Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia is over after two years.

They aren’t satisfied with the attorney general, a distinguished public servant, explaining the results of the investigation as he is mandated to do by law. No, they want to see the report for themselves … they want to go over it with the proverbial fine-tooth comb and hunt down every inconsistency, every missing comma, every hidden clue that what they already know to be true is indeed true — that they can’t trust the government, that the wool is being pulled over our eyes, that the system serves some ulterior purpose and works on behalf of someone or some group that is not us.

That is a horrid condition for the body politic to find itself in. It suggests a complete lack of confidence in our leaders, in our institutions, even in our Constitution.

What the demand for transparency means at its core, however, is that we don’t trust government.

That distrust has been earned over many years and many governments and presidents.

What undermines our Constitution and our government is people like Nancy Pelosi questioning the motives and honor of good people who have chosen public service as a higher calling while at the same time she tirelessly defends James Comey, John Brennan and James Clapper, who appear to have used their plenary powers to intervene in 2016 and either prevent or subvert the election of Donald Trump.

I think that Trump has probably done more than anyone at trying to undermine the motives and honour of people, especially those involved with the Mueller inquiry – including Robert Mueller. He repeatedly called what Mueller was doing a witch hunt and a virtual coup attempt – until the Barr summary suggested there was no evidence of wrong doing by Trump.

The only way we can make the litmus test for trust in government the same for all Americans is if we test that trust through fair investigation. Don’t just tell us that Mueller can be trusted, but Barr can’t. Subject both of them — and all of our public servants — to the same rigorous examination. Find out where the truth leads. We’ve had two years of investigation of President Trump based on salacious allegations funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign. Now let’s apply the same level of scrutiny to the Democrats who have assured us without evidence for two years that the president colluded with Russia.

Miele is not helping the state of division in US politics here.  The Democrats certainly should be held to account,

The release of the Mueller report – that is expected soon – is likely to reignite an already volatile political situation. Unfortunately, expected redactions are unlikely to quell the inflammatory rhetoric and accusations flying in all political directions.

The shining beacon on the hill is a flaming inferno of dysfunction of democracy.

Conduct of media and Trump questioned after release of Mueller summary

So far just a summary of the report of the inquiry by Special Counsel (Robert Muller) has been released, but claims and accusations are flying, with the media bearing the brunt of most criticism.

Trump is justifiably very please with the outcome, but as usual has made inaccurate statements – he has not been fully exonerated as he claims, and his conduct during the inquiry, in particular his accusations against Mueller, was far from presidential.

But the media is copping most of the flak.

Politico:  Media stares down ‘reckoning’ after Mueller report underwhelms

Fox News host Sean Hannity accused “CNN, MSNBC, and the mainstream media” of having “lied” for two years in his first tweet on Sunday after a four-page summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusions was made public.

Pot, kettle.

“Now they will be held accountable,” he warned.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump. Jr. accused “CNN, MSNBC, BuzzFeed and the rest of the mainstream media” of “non-stop conspiracy theories” in a statement, while urging “honest journalists within the media” to “have the courage to hold these now fully debunked truthers accountable.”

That Mueller concluded no one from Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia in attempting to influence the election has ramped up scrutiny of the news media’s handling of the two-year investigation.

There may be some truth in that, but it is an over generalisation – Lowry is a part of the media and I presume he isn’t criticising himself.

Longtime Rolling Stone writer and author Matt Taibbi published an excerpt from his new book on Saturday which argued that “Russiagate is this generation’s WMD,” a reference to news coverage during the run-up the Iraq war, widely seen as the greatest journalistic failure in modern memory.

“The sheer scale of the errors and exaggerations this time around dwarfs the last mess”.

But as with some of the media on the collusion accusations, this may be premature, until details of the inquiry findings are released – and if they are not all released, it will provide scope for continued questions.

It may be premature to castigate the news media when a lot questions remain unanswered. Attorney General William Barr only provided a four-page summary of Mueller’s report, which notably on the issue of obstruction, “does not conclude that the president committed a crime,” but “also does not exonerate him.” It remains unclear why, exactly, Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded over the weekend that there was not sufficient evidence to support obstruction — especially as the president was never interviewed.

Also, blaming “the media” writ large is problematic in potentially lumping unsupported speculation — whether on cable news or on social media — with dogged reporting on an investigation which led to a half-dozen Trump associates, including a former campaign chairman and national security adviser, either being charged or pleading guilty to crimes. Not to mention, there are still a dozen investigations, largely based in New York, stemming from the special counsel’s investigation.

Some journalists have already pushed back on the weekend criticism. “Given the issues, stakes, and seriousness with which special counsel treated all of this, the media’s coverage of Russia-Trump connection and possible obstruction over the last two years was somewhere between about right and not quite aggressive enough,” tweeted Esquire’s Ryan Lizza.

Of course there are valid criticisms of the modern media (all of it). Lance Morrow (City Journal): Journalism Dies in Self-Importance

I suppose it’s true that “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” as the Washington Post’s slogan says. But journalism may also die, by morphing into forms that can no longer be described as journalism. Journalism may come to mean a crooked scandal sheet, or high-minded propaganda. Sometimes squalor and self-righteousness are equally disreputable.

The other day, Ted Koppel, a voice from the late-twentieth-century practice of journalism, spoke about what has become of his old business in the age of Trump. “We are not the reservoir of objectivity that I think we were,” Koppel said, in an understatement. The Left always cites Fox News in this regard. He singled out the Washington Post and the New York Times, saying that they have gone overboard in their bias, transforming themselves into anti-Trump advocates.

“We are not talking about the Washington Post [or New York Times] of 50 years ago,” Koppel said. “We’re talking about organizations that . . . have decided, as organizations, that Donald J. Trump is bad for the United States.”

Other media, or at least parts of it (like Fox), have at times blatantly taken Trump’s side.

Koppel made clear that he does not disagree with the verdict that Trump is “bad for the United States.” He means only that the Post and Times abandon their journalistic responsibility when they take sides so blatantly.

Today, opinion and dogmatic speculation are the currency of politics and journalism. Facts have become elusive or even unnecessary, except for, say, the body counts at mass shootings. Otherwise, the world is fluid and angry and ideological. Among other things, the new journalism—more theater than journalism, a slugfest of memes—is a lot easier to practice. Much of it, on either side, is little more than noise.

Washington Times:  Media pulled off big con with Russia collusion story

America got conned again.

It was all a big set-up. A ruse. A dirty canard.

The whole thing was one giant lie.

And everybody peddling it — from House Democratic leaders, to Senate Democrats running for president, to the Senate Republican who reported the whole thing in the first place, to the roaring lions of the Great White Media…

I presume the Washington Times excludes themselves from ‘Great White Media’.

Media defends itself. Politico – Week 96: Trump Might Not Be Guilty, But Neither Is the Press

Trump walked away victorious if bloodied from the announcement, hailing the Barr letter, in a classic bit of exaggeration, as a “complete and total exoneration” as he boarded Air Force One in Florida. But Trump had every right to revel.

Mueller’s air-tight inquiry—did his team ever leak?—encouraged political speculation from Democrats and journalistic supposition on the part of reporters that Russian monkey wrenching of the election, which almost everyone now concedes happened, had succeeded in penetrating and influencing the Trump campaign.

No information should not be an automatic excuse for speculation.

Mueller’s failure to connect Trumpworld directly to Russian skullduggery in a way that would hold up in a court of law made a shambles—for the time being, at least—of the theories formed by pols and reporters studying the issue from outside Mueller’s cone of knowledge.

Did the press blow the Trump story? That’s what journalist Matt Taibbi wrote in his newsletter the day before the release of the Barr letter, excoriating “every pundit and Democratic pol” who hyped an emerging Russia headline. He dings CNN, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, the New York Times, and others for what he considers credulous and gullible reporting, comparing their output to the faulty coverage of WMD during the Iraq War run-up. The Taibbi tirade will be cringemaking for every reporter whose extrapolations of the Russian story now place them on the wrong side of the Barr précis.

But there’s a major difference between the press coverage of the WMD story and the Russia business, one that deserves highlighting.

Media should have reported on the Mueller inquiry. It was a big deal and quite newsworthy. But in the absence of facts ‘reporting’ and ‘news’ were often overrun with speculation and predictions.

In defense of the coverage, let’s remember that charges of collusion didn’t arise in a vacuum. Thanks to Mueller, we now know about the steady and suspicious dalliances with Russians during the campaign by the easily compromised, ethically challenged, political amateurs inside Trumpworld—George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. (and Michael Flynn after the campaign).

Recall how many documented lies Mueller has caught the president’s men telling. Recall again the relationship between Manafort and his business associate Konstantin V. Kilimnik, believed by Mueller to be allied with Russian intelligence.

There was a lot of news that justified reporting.

The dishonesty and lying of senior members of trump’s campaign team, and their prosecutions and findings of guilt, were big news.

So with all due respect to Donald Jr., who was quick on Sunday to turn the absence of more indictments from Mueller into an indictment of what he called “the Collusion Truthers,” I will not be “apologizing for needlessly destabilizing the country.” Quite the opposite. Investigators investigated. Reporters reported. The republic still stands.

As long as Trump is bestowing exoneration on himself today, let’s not forget to mention Mueller and his much-reviled deep-state warriors—remember all those “13 angry Democrats” tweets?—who proved they could wield the law in a fair and impartial matter.

There was misreporting and preposterous claims in the absence of facts from across the media spectrum.

Can the Mueller findings be trusted? At this stage only a brief summary has been revealed by the Attorney General, who was appointed by Trump.

Remember that one prominent person was scathing of Mueller and his inquiry.

NZ Herald chose to publish this from David Von Drehle:

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 Donald 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 honour was utterly beyond Trump’s fathoming.

America had an unpleasant job that needed doing. The president of the 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 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.

Someone had to sort out the facts. The task would be exhausting, it would be thankless and it would likely end in some degree of vilification.

Mueller’s report has not yet been published, and there will be more to say about it when more of it has been seen. Perhaps parts of it will remain secret for years, if not decades. But we can say that Mueller ran the tightest ship Washington has seen in a very long time, leakproof and diligent. And it appears he was more than fair to the president and the first family. According to Attorney General William Barr, Mueller alleged no collusion with the Russians.

That seems more than fair. Maybe the president will apologise now for his many months of attacks on the silent Mueller. “I’m sorry,” Trump might say, “I guess you weren’t on a witch hunt after all. I guess you didn’t hire a bunch of partisan hacks, as I repeatedly charged. Thank you for doing your job with honesty and integrity.”

Nothing like an apology From trump yet, Just a typical misrepresentation of the summary findings.

On ‘Obstruction of Justice’ the Attorney General’s letter states that the Special Counsel said “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”.

Mueller found no evidence of collusion, and  “the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offence’.

But what was clear during the investigation was that claims from both the media and Trump were inappropriate.

The Mueller report should put an end to questions of collusion, but what appears to be an exemplary investigation by Muller is in stark contrast to the performances of the President and the media. If neither change their approach to their respective jobs then the disrepute of politics and political reporting remains a stain on the United States.

 

Release of Mueller report

It sounds like the report detailing the findings of the Robert Mueller inquiry in the US is imminent.

UPDATE:  Robert Mueller has submitted his report on the Russia probe

Special counsel Robert Mueller has submitted a confidential report to Attorney General William Barr, marking the end of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump, a Justice Department spokeswoman said.

The Justice Department notified Congress late Friday that it had received Mueller’s report but did not describe its contents. Barr is expected to summarize the findings for lawmakers in coming days.

In a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary committees, Barr wrote that Mueller “has concluded his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters.”

Barr wrote that Mueller submitted a report to him explaining his prosecution decisions. The attorney general told lawmakers he was “reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.”

Attorney General Barr has sent this letter to the heads of the Senate and House of Representatives Judiciary committees:

Dear Chairman Graham, Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Ranking Member Collins:

I write to notify you pursuant to 28 C.F.R. 600.9(a)(3) that Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters. In addition to this notification, the Special Counsel regulations require that I provide you with “a description and explanation of instances (if any) in which the Attorney General” or acting Attorney General “concluded that a proposed action by a Special Counsel was so inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices that it should not be pursued.” 28 C.F.R. 600.9(a)(3). There were no such instances during the Special Counsel’s investigation.

The Special Counsel has submitted to me today a “confidential report explaining the prosecution or delineation decisions” he has reached, as required by 28 C.F.R. 600.8(c). I am reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.

Separately, I intend to consult with Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Special Counsel Mueller to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public consistent with the law, including the Special Counsel regulations, and the Department’s long-standing practices and policies. I remain committed to as much transparency as possible, and I will keep you informed as to the status of my review.

Finally, the Special Counsel regulations provide that “the Attorney General may determine that public release of” this notification “would be in the public interest.” I have so determined, and I will disclose this letter to the public after delivering it to you.

Sincerely,

William P. Barr

Attorney General

CNN:  This was the last week of the Trump presidency as we know it

This all began on May 17, 2017, when Mueller was appointed as special counsel by deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. In the intervening 22 months (statistics courtesy of CNN Mueller probe expert Marshall Cohen):
  • Mueller brought criminal charges against 37 people and entities.
  • 6 of them were associates of President Trump: Campaign chairman Paul Manafort, deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, national security adviser Michael Flynn, foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, Trump ex-attorney Michael Cohen and political svengali Roger Stone
  • 5 people have been sentenced to prison
  • Trump has referred to the investigation as a “witch hunt” more than 170 times.

 

Manafort ‘repeatedly and brazenly’ violated law

The Robert Mueller investigation has filed a new sentencing memo for Paul Manafort, saying he ” chose repeatedly and knowingly to violate the law”, with leniency unlikely as it was found that Manafort lied to investigators after making a plea deal.

CNBC: Ex-Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort could get 22 years in prison, special counsel Mueller says in massive 800-page filing

  • Paul Manafort could get nearly 22 years in prison when he is sentenced next month in just one of his criminal cases, special counsel Robert Mueller said in a court filing unsealed Saturday.
  • The special counsel called for a stiff sentence, highlighting his “bold” criminal actions and extensive pattern of deceit that “remarkably went unabated even after indictment.”
  • But Mueller did not recommend that Judge Amy Berman Jackson impose a particular prison sentence on the longtime Republican operative.

Fox News:  Mueller sentencing memo says Manafort ‘repeatedly and brazenly’ violated law

FBI special counsel Robert Mueller’s office accused former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of “repeatedly and brazenly” violating the law, according to a redacted sentencing memo filed on Friday in a Washington court.

“Manafort committed an array of felonies for over a decade, up through the fall of 2018,” the memo says. “Manafort chose repeatedly and knowingly to violate the law — whether the laws proscribed garden-variety crimes such as tax fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice, and bank fraud, or more esoteric laws that he nevertheless was intimately familiar with, such as the Foreign Agents Registration Act.”

Manafort pleaded guilty in September to two counts of conspiring stemming from his Ukrainian political consulting work. As part of a plea deal in the case, Manafort admitted to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

The memo filed Friday also said that some of his crimes were particularly “bold” as some were committed “while under a spotlight due to his work as the campaign chairman and, later, while he was on bail from this Court.” It goes on to allege that “Manafort represents a grave risk of recidivism” if released from jail.

Prosecutors aren’t expected to recommend leniency because a judge found earlier this month that Manafort lied to investigators after agreeing to cooperate. They are not taking a position about whether the sentence should run consecutively or concurrently with the separate punishment that Manafort faces in a bank and tax fraud case in Virginia. In that case, where Manafort was convicted on eight counts of bank and tax fraud, Mueller’s team recommended a sentence of up to 24 years in prison and as much as a $24 million fine.

It is thought likely Manafort will effectively get a virtual life sentence. He is 69 years old.

More on Trump and the Russia probe

It has been revealed that just after Donald trump fired FBI chief James Comey the the FBI investigated whether Trump was secretly working for Russia. Trump has slammed the report (in the New York Times) but didn’t answer a question on whether he had worked for Russia in a friendly Fox interview.

New York Times:  F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia

In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.

The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.

Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. But the president’s activities before and after Mr. Comey’s firing in May 2017, particularly two instances in which Mr. Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry, the people said.

If the president had fired Mr. Comey to stop the Russia investigation, the action would have been a national security issue because it naturally would have hurt the bureau’s effort to learn how Moscow interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Americans were involved, according to James A. Baker, who served as F.B.I. general counsel until late 2017.

Trump does what he often does when something awkward comes up – attacked the source and ex-FBI leaders.

“Funny thing about James Comey. Everybody wanted him fired, Republican and Democrat alike. After the rigged & botched Crooked Hillary investigation, where she was interviewed on July 4th Weekend, not recorded or sworn in, and where she said she didn’t know anything (a lie), my firing of James Comey was a great day for America. He was a Crooked Cop.”

White House response (Sarah Sanders):

“This is absurd. James Comey was fired because he’s a disgraced partisan hack, and his Deputy Andrew McCabe, who was in charge at the time, is a known liar fired by the FBI.

“Unlike President Obama, who let Russia and other foreign adversaries push American around, President Trump has actually been tough on Russia.”

Fox News: Republican uncovered secret FBI debate over Trump motivation for Comey firing during House questioning

A House Republican’s line of questioning uncovered revelations that in May 2017 senior FBI leadership debated whether President Trump was directed by the Russian government to fire FBI Director James Comey, Fox News has learned.

Contacted by Fox, U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, confirmed his questions to former FBI General Counsel James A. Baker uncovered the claims, some of which were first reported Friday by the New York Times.

Ratcliffe called the Baker transcript leak “selective,” adding that the full transcript of the Oct. 18 interview, which is undergoing a classification review by the FBI and the Justice Department, reveals “that in May 2017, political bias infected senior FBI leadership, and emotion — not evidence — drove their decision making.”

A separate source said Baker told investigators the internal FBI debate over the president’s decision to fire Comey on May 9, 2017, included personnel who have since left the bureau for cause, retired, or have been demoted.

Ratcliffe said he was surprised to read Friday’s New York Times report, which quoted part of his Baker interview, and reported that after the Comey firing “law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior” that they began investigating whether Trump was working on behalf of Russia.

The House Republican would not further describe the contents of the Baker transcript but said it was clear, based on his direct questioning of Baker, that in May 2017 “FBI senior leadership could not accept Comey was fired for cause and the president had the constitutional authority to terminate Comey.”

Ratcliffe said he was aware of the Baker revelations in October, and House Republicans had been working through proper channels to make the entire transcript public.

In a phone interview with a friend at Fox News (Jeanine Piro) Trump avoided answering a question about Russia:

The president was also asked to respond to a recent New York Times report that alleged that the FBI had investigated him for working on behalf of Russia.

“I think it’s the most insulting thing I have ever been asked. I think it’s the most insulting article I’ve ever had written and if you read the article you see that they found absolutely nothing.”

“If you ask the folks in Russia, I’ve been tougher on Russia than anybody else, any other … probably any other president, period, but certainly the last three or four presidents.”

I don’t think ‘the folks in Russia’ are the people to ask about that.

Trump also addressed Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 presidential election, saying “it’s all nonsense.”

“Here’s the bottom line. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. There was no anything. … It’s a witch hunt.”

That is still uncertain. The Robert Mueller investigation into Russian collusion has not yet revealed anything major against Trump. Time will tell whether it has found information that will be damaging for Trump or his family. In the meantime, the saga and slagging match will continue.

Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen is set to testify in congress next month, before he heads to prison in March to start a three year sentence. This could be awkward for Trump. However Cohen may be limited in what he can say.

Fox News:  Michael Cohen, seeking vindication, can’t use most ammunition against Trump

While President Trump’s former personal lawyer turning on him before a House committee will be a television spectacle, Cohen’s allies say he will testify under great constraints.

Cohen may have important new information that he has disclosed to Robert Mueller in 70 hours of interviews with prosecutors, but if so, he won’t be able to reveal it.

The major limitation, as Cohen has said, is that he can’t discuss anything still under investigation by the special counsel. That means Cohen, who is still hoping for a reduction in his sentence, can’t answer questions about Russian collusion or the proposed real estate project in Moscow. It also means he can’t address the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and a Russian lawyer (who was recently indicted on money-laundering charges).

The New York lawyer wants to explain why he went to work for Trump, why he is ashamed of having worked for Trump, and how he made the decision last July to turn on his longtime benefactor, who has called him a “weak person” and a “rat.”

Part of that explanation will focus on Cohen’s view that while certain behavior might be tolerable in a private businessman, the standards are very different when that person becomes president.

Cohen will offer personal anecdotes about his service to Trump and what he has termed his complicity in “dirty deeds,” the sources say. These would likely be unflattering blasts from the past but could have little to do with his record as president.

Trump has survived many unflattering blasts from the past before.

Everyone will have to wait until the Mueller investigation reveals what it has found out about what dealings Trump or his family or associates may have had with Russia in the 2016 election campaign.

 

 

Inquiries of concern to Trump

More has been revealed about what investigators have found out from the Muller inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 US election. The more concern Donald Trump shows the more one could wonder why he is so concerned.

Both Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen have been accused of lying too investigators. Trump claims they have been ‘pressured into lying’ by investigators. But why would they lie?

Bloomberg: Manafort Lied About Contacts With Trump Administration, Mueller Says

President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied to prosecutors about his efforts to reach someone in the Trump administration this year while he awaited trial and about his contacts with a business associate who had ties to Russian intelligence, according to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Manafort misled prosecutors in recent debriefings about his communications and a meeting with Konstantin Kilimnik, the associate with ties to Russian intelligence, according to a filing Friday in federal court in Washington by Mueller, who is investigating Russia interference in the 2016 campaign.

He also lied to investigators when he told them that he never tried to communicate a message to anyone in the Trump administration this year, prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors said that they met 12 times with Manafort and that he testified twice to a grand jury, on Oct. 26 and Nov. 2. Mueller concluded that Manafort had “lied in multiple ways and on multiple occasions,” his prosecutors wrote in the 10-page filing, adding that “these were not instances of mere memory lapses.”

Reuters: Cohen Gave Significant Help on Russia Probe, Mueller Team Says

RealClear Politics: Prosecutors Recommend Several Years in Prison for Michael Cohen

Prosecutors offered a vastly different assessment Friday of the president’s former fixer, dismissing him as a duplicitous figure who badly misplayed his hand.

In a court filing ahead of Cohen’s sentencing next week, they assailed him as a greedy opportunist who rode Trump’s coattails to wealth and is now exaggerating his level of cooperation with investigators.

Cohen, 52, is facing the possibility of roughly four years in prison at a sentencing Dec. 12 for crimes that include tax evasion and helping to coordinate hush money payments to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.

In a separate court filing, special counsel Robert Mueller’s office had a more kind view of Cohen’s cooperation, saying he had provided useful information about attempts by Russian intermediaries to influence Trump, as well as other matters.

New York prosecutors said that while Cohen was helpful, he had declined to sign a formal cooperation agreement, which would have required him to confess any other crimes he might have committed. Cohen, they wrote, wasn’t willing to do so. They suggested only a slight reduction in his sentence for his cooperation.

For the first time prosecutors have directly linked trump to arrangements to pay hush money to two women during the campaign.

Reuters:  Prosecutors Name Trump in Hush Payments to Two Women

U.S. prosecutors said on Friday President Donald Trump directed his personal lawyer to make illegal hush payments to two women ahead of the 2016 election, and also detailed a previously unknown attempt by a Russian to help the Trump campaign.

The documents turned up the heat on Trump by confirming prosecutors’ belief of his involvement in a campaign finance violation, while adding to a growing list of contacts between campaign aides and Russians in 2015 and 2016, legal experts said.

“In total, the prosecutors seem to be saying the president was more aware than he has claimed to be,” former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin said.

While Cohen implicated the president in the hush payments to two women — adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal — in his guilty plea in August in New York, the filing on Friday marked the first time federal prosecutors officially concurred.

It said Cohen made the payments in “coordination with and the direction of” Trump.

Last week, Cohen admitted to lying to congressional investigators in an attempt to minimize his efforts to secure the Kremlin’s help for a Trump skyscraper in Moscow. He has said he did so to stay in sync with Trump’s political messaging, and that he consulted with the White House while preparing to testify to Congress.

Mueller said on Friday that Cohen repeated his false statements about the project in his first meeting with Mueller’s office, admitting the truth only in a later meeting in September after he had pleaded guilty to the separate New York charges.

On Friday, Mueller said Cohen’s false statements to Congress had “obscured the fact” that the skyscraper project held the potential to reap “hundreds of millions of dollars from Russian sources” for the Trump Organization.

The future for both Manafort and Cohen looks a bit bleak. Prison is a big price to pay for trying to protect themselves and Trump.

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also claimed that Russia interfered in the election: Rex Tillerson makes rare public appearance in Houston

When asked if he believes that Russia interfered in the presidential elections, Tillerson replied “there’s no question” and that it was well documented by intelligence agencies.

“What Russia wants to do is undermine our confidence and undermine the world’s confidence in us,” Tillerson said.

The relationship between him and Trump became strained after the president grew tired of the former Exxon Mobil CEO telling him that he could not do things the way he wanted.

Tillerson said the two had starkly different styles and did not share a common value system.

“So often, the president would say here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it and I would have to say to him, Mr. President I understand what you want to do but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law,” Tillerson said.

Trump would get very frustrated when they would have those conversations, he said.

Trump responded in typical fashion:

In the meantime Trump has attacked court decisions he doesn’t like again: Trump condemns ‘disgraceful’ 9th Circuit, dubbing it rubber-stamp for his foes

In lengthy and fiery comments to reporters outside the White House on Tuesday, President Trump excoriated the liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as a “disgrace” hours after a federal judge there issued a nationwide injunction against his newly announced emergency restrictions on asylum claims.

One could question Trump’s mental capacity to be President, and whether his attacks on anyone who says something he doesn’t like and his attacks on court decisions he doesn’t like are a disgrace.

Trump successfully worked with a dysfunctional democratic system to become president, but it seems that a democracy with legal checks and balances on power are not something he wants to work with.

Trump does have the power to pardon Manafort (and Cohen but that seems unlikely after Cohen implicated Trump in shady dealings), but if he does that would be just about as bad a look as if Trump tried to interfere with or stop the Mueller investigations.