For the past couple of years, we endured Donald Trump’s paranoid claims about fellow Republican, Robert Mueller.
Throughout it all, Trump lied when he called Mueller an angry Democrat on a witch hunt.
Trump held his fire on the Mueller report until after his Roy Cohn aka William Barr scrubbed and spun it into a letter that Trump deceptively says exonerated him.
In fact, Trump’s Attorney-General said the opposite, as documented in Jason Easley’s reporting.
But, if it did exonerate him, as Trump claims, he admitted to lying to his supporters because: witch-hunts don’t result in exoneration. Witch hunts don’t leave legal conclusions to be drawn by the subject’s hand-picked Attorney-General. And throughout it all, Trump had people in place to make sure there would be the appearance of exoneration – facts and evidence be damned!
Trump had his spin meisters out there smearing Mueller’s character in the name of discrediting his findings and the process itself. When it came to Trump’s most dedicated supporters, he succeeded.
But, most of America knew the 37 indictments resulting from the Mueller probe, weren’t for nothing. Several people in the Trump campaign lied to officials about their contact with Russians. We know that Russians were indicted for interfering in the 2016 election in the name of helping Donald Trump. We know that Donald Trump jr. was happy to accept help from a Russian attorney to smear Hillary Clinton. We also know that Trump publicaly called on Wikileaks to release missing emails.
No amount of spin can undo these events.
So when Trump told his supporters Robert Mueller was an angry Democrat on a witch-hunt: he was lying. Trump lied every time he made that claim.
What little we can glean from the Barr press release disguised as a summary of legal findings, Barr couldn’t come out with a clean exoneration of Donald Trump.
This is a big deal because Barr separated the exculpatory components of Mueller’s report from the inculpatory ones and even then, he couldn’t bring himself to clear Mr. Trump.
It begs the question: what does the report say? Indeed members of the House Judiciary committee immediately called for access to the full Mueller report.
David Cicilline pointed to the fact that Congress needs see what Mueller actually said, to decide what steps to take next.
The Attorney General needs to make this evidence available to Congress immediately, along with the entirety of the Mueller report, so we can decide what steps to take next. (2/2)
— David Cicilline (@davidcicilline) March 24, 2019
Others like Eric Swalwell noted, rightfully, that Congress has yet to make a determination.
The #MuellerReport explicitly chose to NOT “exonerate” @realDonaldTrump. Although Trump’s AG (who got the job by denouncing the investigation) chose to not charge Trump with a crime, Trump has not been exonerated by Congress. Now, our work begins.
— Eric Swalwell (@ericswalwell) March 24, 2019
The report is needed to see to what extent if any it differs with the Attorney=General‘s characterization of Mueller‘s findings.
When, as the letter suggests, Mueller concluded there was no conspiracy with Russia, it leaves us scratching our heads. We know that Mueller didn’t talk to people in attendance at the Trump tower meeting. Notably, Donald Trump jr. and Jared Kushner. It’s likely they weren’t questioned because they are subjects of at least one other investigation. It’s also possible, Mueller asked Trump and Kushner’s lawyers for interviews and they refused on fifth amendment grounds. The less likely possibility is that Mueller didn’t want to know the answers, given the hostile political environment.
Without knowing who Mueller talked to, or what evidence he considered, we have no way of knowing how valid Barr’s conclusion is. And yes, without seeing Mueller’s report, we only have Barr’s word that this was Mueller’s conclusion.
Determining what Barr left out can be established by seeing the full report. This is where we can expect a fight between the DOJ and House Democrats. In fact, Congressman Jerry Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary committee, already said he intends to call Barr in to testify.
In light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department following the Special Counsel report, where Mueller did not exonerate the President, we will be calling Attorney General Barr in to testify before @HouseJudiciary in the near future.
— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) March 24, 2019
We need to see the full report, primarily to see what Mueller’s conclusions actually were, and what they were based on. But also, dare I say, to determine to what extent the Attorney=General reflected Mueller’s findings in in his letter. To what degree, if any, did Barr omit substantial facts and conclusions?
On the question of obstruction of justice, Barr gave himself a lot of wiggle room to exonerate Trump. Barr’s perception of executive power is consistent with the unitary executive doctrine, which pretty much says the president is above the law. It’s probable that even in the face of Trump’s public admissions, like during the Lester Holt interview, Barr would not reach a finding unfavorable to Trump. To do so would entail admitting, contrary to the argument he made in his audition brief, that it’s virtually impossible for the president to obstruct justice.
In short, Barr already drew his conclusion before he read the report. We know that from his audition brief and by the way, so did Trump’s lawyers.
It doesn’t take much to figure out, that is why Trump nominated him.
The other thing is establishing proof of state of mind. Short of an interview with Donald Trump, which didn’t happen, there’s no way of determining with absolute certainty what his state of mind is. There is, however, a record of his stated intentions. Whether there is sufficient evidence is subject to the probability of the evidence persuading a jury.
Ironically, data in a poll conducted by Fox, no less, works in favor of a prosecution. According to that poll, “most voters think President Donald Trump has tried to interfere with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of collusion between the president’s 2016 campaign and Russia.”
If any poll would find in favor of Trump, it would be one conducted by Fox given its sympathy to Donald Trump.
During his first press conference following release of Attorney-General Barr’s letter, Congressman Nadler noted that Barr drew his conclusions on obstruction of justice, a complex legal issue, in less than forty eight hours following receipt of the report. This matters because Mueller investigated this matter for two years and felt the facts were insufficient to draw a conclusion one way or another. Yet, Barr, drew his conclusion forty-eight hours after receiving the report.
Given Barr’s views on executive power, and his quick conclusion on obstruction, particularly given what we all saw and heard, Nadler rightly said that Barr’s letter raises more questions than it answers.
While Barr said “no collusion” and put effort into being Trump’s Roy Cohn, his efforts are likely to have unintended and undesirable results.
The objective was to shut this whole thing down as fast as possible, especially since even Trump’s supporters not only believe there was collusion, they also believe he obstructed justice.
By leaving us with more questions than answers, Barr all but guaranteed the Mueller report will be front and center with lots of public hearings – including testimony from Barr.
Ms. Woodbury has a graduate degree in political science, with a minor in law. She is a qualified expert on political theory with a specific interest in the nexus between political theories and models and human rights.
Based on her interest in human rights and the threats that authoritarian regimes are to them, Ms. Woodbury’s masters thesis examined the influence of politics on the enforcement of international criminal law was cited in several academic studies.
Published work includes case summaries for the War Crimes Research Office.
She has an extensive background doing legal research in international and domestic law.
Ms. Woodbury’s work for politicusUSA includes articles on voting rights, the right to asylum and other civil/human rights.