Robert Mueller’s statement

This morning Robert Mueller made a public televised statement about the Report, as well as about his specific role as Special Counsel.

Fairly needless to say, I’ve subsequently been devoted to the people I follow on Twitter, to get everyone’s take.

Fairly needless to say, I have my own.

Jerry Nadler said on Rachel Maddow’s show last week that he knew Mueller’s desire was to make a public statement but, if Mueller did go before the Judiciary Committee, to have the questioning done behind closed doors, with the transcript of his testimony thereupon released.

A lot of agitation on Twitter fails to recognize what I believe is Nadler’s role in Mueller’s statement today. I’d think they’d talked often — during which Mueller told Nadler what he’d prefer to do — and considerations about how and when this public statement might be made were a major part of the conversations.

I’d think they came to an agreement, sort of like this: Mueller would announce he was leaving DOJ, and would make this public statement which would answer key questions the Committee might ask, thereby reducing the likelihood that Nadler would have to pursue getting Mueller to testify before the Committee.

Then, post this statement, Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic House leaders would evaluate how it affected Party and public feelings about impeachment and pre-impeachment investigations, contempt charges (against Barr, McGahn, Mnuchin, et al), subpoenas and getting court-ordered subpoenas when the subjects were refusing to show up.

Meanwhile, I carefully read Mueller’s statement and noted some things he said in his level, legal, subtly highlighted way:

But beyond these few remarks, it is important that the office’s written work speak for itself.

Every lawyer on Twitter interpreted this as “READ THE DAMN REPORT.”

As alleged by the grand jury in an indictment, Russian intelligence officers who are part of the Russian military, launched a concerted attack on our political system. The indictment alleges that they used sophisticated cybertechniques to hack into computers and networks used by the Clinton campaign. They stole private information and then released that information through fake online identities and through the organization WikiLeaks.

The releases were designed and timed to interfere with our election and to damage a presidential candidate. And at the same time, as the grand jury alleged in a separate indictment, a private Russian entity engaged in a social media operation, where Russian citizens posed as Americans in order to influence an election.

Mueller is telling us directly, this is how bad it is, people, and unless our intelligence services are making radical moves against it, the Russians will be doing it, are doing it now, again. Mueller isn’t qualifying his language at all.

The matters we investigated were of paramount importance. It was critical for us to obtain full and accurate information from every person we questioned. When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of their government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.

We who have read the report know Mr. Mueller did not obtain “full and accurate information from every person [they] questioned.” There was obstruction, and there were lies.

The first volume of the report details numerous efforts emanating from Russia to influence the election. This volume includes a discussion of the Trump campaign’s response to this activity, as well as our conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.

“…insufficient evidence.” The Mueller Report stated clearly that evidence had been destroyed in some cases, removed from them and some evidence was in foreign countries and was therefore unobtainable.

He cites the Trump campaign’s responses and follows by saying “there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.” Not that there was insufficient evidence to charge conspiracy but to charge a “broader conspiracy.” So he found conspiracy but evidence had been kept from him which would prove what actually went on in a larger sense.

That set a lot of bells ringing in my brain.

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.

There it is. The investigators did not have confidence that Trump did not commit a crime but they could not charge him with a crime, because…

The introduction to the Volume II of our report explains that decision. It explains that under longstanding department policy, a president cannot 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. A 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.

So that was a direct “You lied!” to Barr, because Barr did lie publicly about what Mueller said to him.

I’m sure you, like me, see how many times Mueller says “the president” and “charged with crime.” He could have said it once and then modified those specific words in completing his paragraphs, but he didn’t. He said it many times. I can just imagine what he was thinking when he wrote and spoke those words: “How many times should I repeat ‘president’ and ‘charged with a federal crime’ to make sure everybody gets what I’m saying?”

Then comes this, which I’m copying in a bigger font because I think it’s absolutely stunning and just in case you’re not stunned, I’ll tell you why I’m stunned after this quote:

First, the [DOJ] opinion explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting president, because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents available. Among other things, that evidence could be used if there were co-conspirators who could be charged now.

“…co-conspirators who could be charged now” is a punch in Trump’s face, because Mueller already indicted and convicted or got pleas from quite a number of people involved in this thing. So his choice of words, “if there were co-conspirators,” is both coy and sharp because he’s saying there are some people named and referred to in the Report who were not yet charged but could be.We all have our fave candidates for such indictments, don’t we?

And second, the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing. [That process is known as impeachment.] 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.

And right there, in exquisitely, legally responsible, and fair denial, he’s saying to Congress, “But you can accuse him of a crime because you have a mechanism to resolve the actual charge.”

And here’s where he slams Barr:

…We conducted an independent criminal investigation and reported the results to the attorney general, as required by department regulations.

The attorney general then concluded that it was appropriate to provide our report to Congress and to the American people. At one point in time, I requested that certain portions of the report be released and the attorney general preferred to make — preferred to make the entire report public all at once and we appreciate that the attorney general made the report largely public. And I certainly do not question the attorney general’s good faith in that decision.

We’ve all read that Mueller provided Barr with his team’s written summary of the Report, to present publicly to us, as a way of getting our attention for what he found in a short form we’d find easier to absorb than the full Report.

But Barr didn’t make Mueller’s summary public. Instead, he publicly offered his own distorted “summary” and statement about the Report to let his improper and unsubstantiated exoneration of Trump sit in the public ear for a while before he released the full Report which took time and attention to read.

Mueller’s statement about Barr’s choices is an exemplary choice of words for anyone — especially a lawyer — who wants to say “fuck you” to someone under thin cover.

Mueller ends his talk with yet another subtle smack at Barr and Trump’s crazy and destructive “investigation of the investigators”, then — further walloping them — repeating the serious efforts to interfere with our election, efforts which were initially conducted by the FBI investigators who are under attack from Barr and Trump, and whom Mueller here praises as being “of the highest integrity.”

Now, before I step away, I want to thank the attorneys, the F.B.I. agents, the analysts, the professional staff who helped us conduct this investigation in a fair and independent manner. These individuals who spent nearly two years with the special counsel’s office were of the highest integrity. And I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments, that there were multiple, systemic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American. Thank you. Thank you for being here today.

 

 

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