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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Mueller Report

I read the version put out by the Washington Post (not the one with an intro by Alan Dershowitz; looking, doesn't seem that version adds more commentary) and it is mainly the report itself other than various additional documents (e.g., indictments and Michael Cohen sentencing transcript; these have helpful brief intros). The volume intro and Mueller/Trump article are both a tad thin though latter interesting. Some notes ala some editions of classics regarding the report proper would have been helpful. The legal glossary was helpful; the list of people cited found in the report itself is very helpful. The redactions were not too bad though made a few things (including involving Manafort) unclear. 

There are two parts though the "speaking indictments" provide important helpful details too: Russian trolls/hacking (with Trump campaign involvement) and Trump obstruction of justice (live performance version very good; overall that section is easier to read too). I really don't expect the average person to plow thru hundreds of pages; parts of the first volume particularly hard going. Summaries that bring things together and Mueller testifying (next week) etc. are therefore very important.  Again, the indictments provide some good material (shades of the Libby one) and the sentencing hearing transcript is interesting as well. 

There is clearly enough there to show obstruction, especially his interference (recall his actual position as chief executive) of ongoing investigations and prosecutions. This beyond somewhat closer calls involving the Comey firing and so on.  As to some sort of conspiracy with the Russian "government" (notable qualifier) to interfere with the election, "coordination" might not be provable (notable qualifier*) in a court of law. But, numerous engagements (some of which Trump on down blatantly lied about) with Russians and Russian operatives are shown.  Clearly wrong and impeachment worthy.  (Note, e.g., Kushner, now a chief member of the Administration, was involved.)

And, the in depth look at use of trolls to get involved in electoral politics (how much did this change the result?) and hack (plus use Wikipedia as a funnel device) the Democrats (though unclear how much this mattered in the end) was striking.  Roger Stone's role, including reference in his indictment of various unnamed major Trump campaign personnel, is notable here. Briefly touched upon: hacking actual state election databases.  Trump blatantly bs-ing about Russian not being involved (who knows?) and afterwards still saying getting information in this fashion would be okay is notable. Finally, after his "sarcastic" invite to get Clinton emails, huh, right away the Russians started to try to get them.

It is to be recalled this investigation was overseen by the former FBI head, picked by George Bush Jr.  The limits of a criminal investigation (see note) as well should be kept in mind.  All the same, there is an in depth examination of whether there was evidence Trump might be guilty of obstruction.  The report proper ends with a legal analysis on why he could be, a sort of rejoinder to AG Barr. In his public statement later on, after Barr's spin job, Mueller underlined Trump's guilt was purposely left open. (Note too he said he was open to providing parts of the report earlier but the "AG" rejected that approach.)   And, more.

I won't try to analyze things further. See, e.g., these articles.


* Other than things like protected communication of counsel (e.g., attempts to influence witnesses via Trump's personal counsel likely was not on the person's own but involved Trump), the report noted various things hindered the investigation. This includes destruction of evidence, the limits of obtaining certain information given lack of hard evidence, lying to investigators and Trump himself trying to obstruct (which the report says only "mostly" failed).  There are also legal rules that might have been applied too strictly, such as regarding Donald Trump Jr. Anyway, the amount of smoke here requires gas masks.

[Redactions might hide something, but I also am unclear how Manafort passing internal campaign poll data, including for swing states, to a Russian operative is not itself illegal.  Unlike Donald Trump Jr., he is well aware of the rules and poll data was cited at one point as covered by campaign finance rules.  Manafort at one point is said to deny knowing the guy involved has a connection to the Russian government, but that's hard to believe, and Manafort's deputy agreed the connection was apparent. Finally, this seems a form of actual "coordination" in some fashion.]  

One telling bit that received a lot of attention was when Trump himself was annoyed that someone was taking notes. The person retorted that as a "real lawyer," that is what one does. It might not even been his notes, but that of an aide.  But, it reflects Trump's mob mentality and it is another problem with proving things in a court of law.  Finally, he never was convinced to agree to a face to face meeting.  His replies to written inquiry was a bit of a joke: almost half of it was repeating questions, another quarter or more "I don't recall."  Full cooperation though. 

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