Barr seizes the narrative, lies — and will probably bury Mueller’s report.
As everybody in the English-speaking world must know by now, Attorney General Barr has sent a 4-page letter to Congress which sets out the principal conclusions of the Mueller report, submitted Friday afternoon.
A careful reading of the letter makes plain that Barr is representing Trump — not the country.
In connection with Russia, Barr’s letter says:
The report further explains that a primary consideration for the Special Counsel’s investigation was whether any Americans – including individuals associated with the Trump campaign – joined the Russian conspiracies to influence the election, which would be a federal crime. The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As the report states: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
This is being read as a full exoneration of the campaign, but it is no such thing.
The bracketed ‘T’ tells us that Barr is quoting a sentence fragment, that the sentence actually reads “…, the investigation did not establish …” And what — exactly, please — does ‘establish’ mean? I can’t think what it could possibly mean but that Mueller found plenty of evidence of conspiracy, but could not meet the legal test of proof that there was an agreement to break the law.
After all, there is already lots of uncontested evidence of cooperation in the public domain. And, of course, much of the dirty work was done by Wikileaks in cooperation with Russia, not the Russian government per se.
So it reads like a carefully-written truth intended to convey a falsehood. If that sentence fragment is the strongest passage Barr could find in the report, we’re good to say that Mueller did not exonerate the Trump campaign; he merely was unable to prove a graveyard meeting at midnight that culminated in an agreement to break the law.
Barr’s letter reads:
The Special Counsel’s decision to describe the facts of his obstruction investigation without reaching any legal conclusions leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime. Over the course of the investigation, the Special Counsel’s office engaged in discussions with certain Department officials regarding many of the legal and factual matters at issue in the Special Counsel’s obstruction investigation. After reviewing the Special Counsel’s final report on these issues; consulting with Department officials, including the Office of Legal Counsel; and applying the principles of federal prosecution that guide our charging decisions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president.
In making this determination, we noted that the Special Counsel recognized that “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference,” and that, while not determinative, the absence of such evidence bears upon the President’s intent with respect to obstruction. Generally speaking, to obtain and sustain an obstruction conviction, the government would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person, acting with corrupt intent, engaged in obstructive conduct with a sufficient nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding.
There is no nice way to say it: This is so bizarre it’s embarrassing. What Barr is saying here is that there was no obstruction of justice because they are unable to ‘establish’ an underlying crime. In other words, unable to prove the midnight meeting in the graveyard and the agreement to break the law, there could not have been obstruction of justice.
It’s as if he thinks there is no obstruction of justice if you successfully obstruct justice by hiding the crime. This is crazy on its face, and should not be taken seriously.
Mueller’s full report, and the underlying evidence, should be placed in the public domain — because Barr has joined Trump’s defense team and cannot be trusted. The reasonable expectation, however, is that after a lot of hemming-and-hawing about defaming innocent bystanders, et cetera, et cetera, Barr will decline to release the report, or issue a version so grievously redacted that it is useless.
This country is now under attack by its officers, and that must not be allowed to happen.