The Mueller Impeachment Referral

A redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report on Russian interference in the 2016 election was released Thursday, allowing Congress and the public to read the findings for themselves.

Attorney General William Barr went to bat for Trump at a press conference on Mueller’s report early Thursday, shortly before the report’s public release, in which he repeatedly echoed the the president’s talking point that there was “no collusion” during the 2016 election. The Trump-picked attorney general’s decision to speak on the redacted report before it was sent to Congress drew fierce criticism. Democratic lawmakers then requested that Mueller testify about his findings before the House Judiciary Committee as soon as possible.

Throughout the special counsel’s nearly two-year investigation, six Trump campaign associates and dozens of Russian operatives were charged with various crimes.

Some key takeaways from the report are as follows:

Mueller looked at 10 instances of obstruction by Trump.

The report details multiple instances in which Trump attempted to obstruct justice by using his position to interfere with the special counsel’s investigation. Mueller declined to make a determination about whether the president obstructed justice.

The report pointed to instances like Trump telling former White House Counsel Donald McGahn to fire Mueller, and asking political operative Corey Lewandowski to tell then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit the scope of the investigation to future elections.

An obstruction of justice charge would require the special counsel to determine that Trump’s actions, which may have impeded the Russia probe, were done with that intent, Mueller said in the report. It seem obvious that was exactly what Trump was trying to do, but for some reason the special counsel didn’t come to that conclusion.

Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice were foiled by his staff.

Trump may have been saved from an obstruction of justice charge due to his aides’ refusal to follow his illegal orders.

Then-FBI Director James Comey, for instance, ignored Trump’s request to stop investigating the president’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who was later convicted of lying to the FBI; McGahn didn’t help fire Mueller, and Lewandowski didn’t pass along Trump’s message to Sessions saying Mueller’s investigation was unfair to the president and to limit its scope.

I have only minimal legal training, but is seems like that should still be a crime. Either Mueller didn’t feel that it was or felt that Congress should make that determination.

Mueller’s report detailed Russia’s extensive interference in the 2016 election.

The report goes into two main operations through which Russians interfered in the election: First a Russian group carried out a social media campaign designed to “sow discord” in the U.S. political system, supporting then-candidate Trump and disparaging Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton; second, Russian intelligence hacked the Clinton campaign volunteers and employees and released stolen documents, infamously through WikiLeaks.

Mueller did not find that Trump’s campaign illegally conspired to aid Russia’s interference in the election.

Mueller’s investigation did find extensive links between members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials. “The links included Russian offers of assistance to the campaign,” he wrote. “In some instances, the Campaign was receptive to the offer, while in other instances the Campaign officials shied away.”

Despite establishing election interference by the Russian government, Mueller wrote that “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

The special counsel report specifically said that it was looking at “conspiracy” and not “collusion.” Barr in his press conference on Mueller’s report echoed the president’s refrain that there was “no collusion.”

It seems that there clearly was, but it didn’t reach the level of criminality, at least not for rich people…

The special counsel found plenty of other criminal leads that were forwarded on to other investigators.

The special counsel found evidence of crimes outside its scope and made 14 criminal referrals to other jurisdictions.

Only two of the referrals are publicly known to date. Mueller found evidence of potential wire fraud and Federal Employees’ Compensation Act violations related to Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal fixer, and referred that evidence to federal prosecutors in New York and the FBI’s New York Field Office. Cohen received three years in prison on charges including campaign finance violation and lying to Congress, and gave testimony in February that revealed the inner workings of the Trump campaign.

The second public criminal referral includes potential Foreign Agent Registration Act violations related to Gregory Craig and his former litigation firm, Skadden. A federal grand jury recently indicted Craig on charges of making false statements and hiding information from the Justice Department related to his and his firm’s work on behalf of Ukraine. The charges stemmed from investigating former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his work on behalf of a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

The Mueller team chose not to subpoena Trump because it wasn’t worth it.

Mueller’s report addresses why Trump was never subpoenaed, which would have forced him to testify as part of the investigation into his campaign and Russian interference in the election.

Essentially, after the president refused to be interviewed voluntarily, the special counsel’s office “weighed the costs” of a potentially long legal battle to obtain an interview with Trump versus the value of completing the investigation sooner. Mueller’s team ultimately decided it had gathered enough information from other sources for its investigation.

Ultimately, Trump ended up submitting written answers to some of Mueller’s questions in November 2018, which the report called “inadequate.” The president reportedly only answered questions related to Russia’s interference in the election, and not about whether he tried to obstruct the investigation into his campaign’s potential links with Russian meddling.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied to the press about circumstances surrounding James Comey’s firing.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that the president only fired FBI Director James Comey because Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had recommended it. Mueller’s report, however, indicates that Sanders’ May 2017 explanation for the president’s actions was not true (which was obvious); Trump wanted Comey gone because the director wouldn’t publicly state that the president was not under investigation.

Sanders also admitted that when she told reporters the “rank-and-file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director,” her statement had no basis in fact, as was reported at the time.

Shocking, I know.

Yes, Donald Trump did try to cover up the real reason for that Trump Tower meeting.

Donald Trump Jr. eventually ended up tweeting out screenshots of emails setting up the now-infamous June 2016 meeting between himself, senior Trump campaign officials and a Kremlin-linked lawyer said to be offering information that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Before that, though, his father had attempted to cover up the true reason for the meeting, held at Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Trump never wanted his son’s correspondence to become public. In the summer of 2017, the president repeatedly told Hope Hicks, then serving as a communications adviser, that he did not even want to speak about the emails, which she believed would be inevitably leaked. Trump did not believe her.

Later, however, the president ended up “edit[ing] a press statement for Trump Jr. by deleting a line that acknowledged that the meeting was with ‘an individual who [Trump Jr.] was told might have information helpful to the campaign’” instead, he stated only that the meeting was about adoption. Michael Cohen, at the time still serving as Trump’s personal lawyer, repeatedly denied that the president had helped craft the story given to reporters.

Again, not something you or I would get away with, but that’s the privilage of being a rich, white,Republican.

Grabbing Him by the Posse

It’s Mueller Time!

A federal grand jury impaneled by Robert Mueller has indicted longtime Republican dirty trickster and wannabe Bond villain Roger Stone. Stone was arrested Friday morning by FBI agents (who haven’t been paid in over a month thanks to Trump’s government shutdown) and charged with one count of obstruction of justice, five counts of making false statements to federal officials, and one count of witness tampering.

In the indictment, Mueller alleges that in the summer of 2016, Stone spoke with “senior members of the Trump campaign” about damaging information that WikiLeaks obtained on then Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Mueller also alleges that Stone was claimed both publicly and privately that he had been in direct contact with WikiLeaks. He later insisted that he never once communicated with the organization about the 2016 campaign.

Stone then lied about his interactions with WikiLeaks to the House Intelligence Committee and “attempted to persuade a witness to provide false testimony to and withhold pertinent information from the investigations”.

The indictment also claims that Stone regularly talked with Trump campaign officials about upcoming WikiLeaks information drops of former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s hacked emails.

When he appeared in court later in the day, Stone said that he planned to plead “not guilty” saying he has been “falsely accused” and calling the investigation “politically motivated.” He also evoked his “hero” Richard Nixon by doing the famous “Nixon pose” in front of the gathered crowd.

Because when you deny committing crimes, the person you want to evoke is Richard Nixon…

Stone is the sixth person in Donald Trump’s orbit to be charged, convicted, or have pleaded guilty in Mueller’s investigation into links between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian officials. In total, the Mueller investigation has filed over 100 criminal counts against dozens of individuals and three companies.

Boy, this witch hunt sure is turning up a lot of witches.

The Spy Who Knew Nothing

The Trump/Russia story got a shot in the arm recently with the revelation that there was a formal FBI counterintelligence investigation into Lord Dampnut regarding whether or not he was actively working for the Kremlin. Take a moment to let that sink in. The sitting president of the United States being under investigation by our intelligence agencies to determine if they’re working for a country who has been antagonistic to the United States. Not just a “fellow traveler” (someone whose interests align, but no formal relationship necessarily exists) or a “useful idiot” (self-explanatory), but an actual asset.

That’s the situation we’re in right now.

It’s understandable why people might think this given what is already publicly known. It’s been an open secret that the Russian Mafia has been laundering money through Trumps properties since the late 80s, Russian oligarchs have been keeping Trump afloat financially since American banks stopped lending to him after he went bankrupt several times, not to mention all of the shenanigans during the 2016 election and after.

Add to these the recent revelations about the lengths that Trump has been going to order to hide records of his private “conversations” with Vladimir Putin, even confiscating the notes of American interpreters or only allowing Putin’s interpreters in their meetings.

I could go on for days. Millions of words have been written in the press outlining Trump’s cozy relationship with Russia.

But does all of this mean that he’s an actual asset of the Kremlin? I don’t know. Maybe it’s a backhanded way of defending him, I still think the most likely scenario is that he’s just in the “useful idiot” category. He is just that stupid. Trump’s primary goal in life has been to be an oligarch, so it’s easy for me to imagine him getting manipulated by Russian oligarchs who flatter him for their own means. Especially given that no one in America took him all that seriously until he won the Republican Party nomination in 2016 and had the extreme good fortune to run against the worst Democratic Party candidate they could have possibly come up with.

Also, given other recent revelations about Russian influence in the NRA and the organization that holds the National Prayer Breakfast, it seems that Russia is putting in a lot of money trying to compromise American politics and government.

We’ll hopefully get a much better idea once Mueller comes out with his report. But who the hell knows? These are crazy, scary times.