Mueller Report

I figured the report deserves a separate thread.

BREAKING: The House Judiciary Committee is told to expect notification by 5pm that the Mueller report has been delivered to Barr— Ellen Nakashima (@nakashimae) March 22, 2019

While we wait for more information, I think the following David Frum piece,
A Special Prosecutor is not the Answer, written in 2017, is worth reading. The gist is that a Special Prosecutor will focus illegal acts that can be prosecuted, and that a president can do a lot of bad things that aren’t crimes. The Trump campaign coordinating with Russia and its cutouts to harm Clinton may not be illegal, or the Special Prosecutor may decide there isn’t enough evidence to prosecute anyone. This does not mean that the coordination is acceptable. What it does mean is that the question is not something for the legal system to answer, but the political one. In my view, the Republicans has hindered the political system from properly functioning. If Clinton had become president and Clinton campaign behaved similarly with regard to Russia, we would be moving towards, if not completing, impeachment. If a future president behaves in a similar manner, impeachment and removal would be justified.

This is probably better:


TODAY WE LEARNED: (1) The Mueller investigation is over. (2) Mueller isn’t recommending any additional indictments. (3) Trump did not fire Mueller. (4) Trump did not sit for an interview. (5) DOJ never overruled any Mueller requests. (6) There are still many unanswered questions.— Marshall Cohen (@MarshallCohen) March 22, 2019

20 thoughts on “Mueller Report

  1. Attorney General Barr Summary of the Mueller Report

    I didn’t read the summary, but I did read this breakdown.

    There are two issues Barr addresses: 1) whether Trump campaign “colluded” with Russia; 2) Trump obstructed justice. To me, while the second one is a big deal, the one I want to focus on is the first. My biggest concern is if Trump is either compromised (because Russia has compromising information on him or Trump owes them money) or there is a, tacit or explicit, quid pro quo with Russia. The following seems to settle this question:

    But crucially, Mueller reported that his investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” whether expressly or tacitly.

    But the author, Ken White, goes on to this:

    Trump’s triumphant supporters notwithstanding, we don’t yet know what that means. When a prosecutor says that an investigation “did not establish” something, that doesn’t mean they concluded it didn’t happen, or even that they don’t believe it happened. It means the investigation didn’t produce enough information to provethat it happened. Without seeing Mueller’s full report, we don’t know whether this was a firm conclusion about lack of coordination or a frank admission of insufficient evidence. The difference is meaningful, both as a matter of history and because it may determine how much further Democrats in Congress are willing to push committee investigations of the matter.

    So I’m concluding we need to see the Mueller report.

    I will say this. I can accept a report that clears Trump, but what I really need is some plausible explanation or narrative that can put Trump’s campaign and himself in a more innocent or at least benign light with regard to their behavior and rhetoric regarding Russia. I haven’t really found one, yet.


    The following article relates to the last point above:

    Barr’s note is clear that Mueller did not uncover evidence Trump and his gang were in direct cahoots with Russia’s covert operation to interfere with the US election and boost Trump’s odds. But the hyper-focus on this sort of collusion—as if Trump instructed Russian hackers on how to penetrate the computer network of the Democratic National Committee—has always diverted attention from a basic and important element of the scandal that was proven long before Mueller drafted his final report: Trump and his lieutenants interacted with Russia while Putin was attacking the 2016 election and provided encouraging signals to the Kremlin as it sought to subvert American democracy. They aided and abetted Moscow’s attempt to cover up its assault on the United States (which aimed to help Trump win the White House). And they lied about all this.

    First, I’d like to really be clear on the way Barr and, more importantly, Mueller thought of “collusion,” which many legal experts point out is not a legal term. (I think the legal term is “criminal conspiracy.) How do they define this? Because if it’s defined by an explicit agreement–e.g., a formal contract or a recording of people making an explicit agreement, etc.)

    Second, what Corn says about Trump aiding and abetting is correct–or at least the part about Trump lieutenants meeting with Russia and then Team Trump giving cover to Russia (e.g., Trump casting doubt on Russian interference, etc.) And this isn’t the only example. I think we need some explanation for these things that put them in a less negative light, in order for Trump to be truly exonerated.

    (By the way, if Barr’s summary doesn’t accurately represent Mueller report, that’s going to be really bad.)


    After more than 20,000 emails and documents stolen by Russian hackers were released by WikiLeaks at the start of the Democrats’ presidential convention in July 2016, the Clinton campaign pushed the point that its candidate—and the American election—was being assaulted by Moscow. In response, Trump Jr. and Manafort publicly proclaimed this was nonsense and a lie being promoted by the Clintonites for political gain. (A month earlier, when the Democratic Party revealed it had been hacked by Russia, the Trump campaign accused them of cooking up a hoax.)

    Maybe Trump Jr. and Manafort dismissed this because they, especially Trump Sr., didn’t like the implication that Trump couldn’t beat Clinton without help. This is a little far-fetched, but I don’t think I could rule this out. Still, whatever the motivation, their actions actually helped provide cover for Russian interference. Maybe Trump Jr. and others really didn’t know that Russians were interfering? If this occurred after the Trump Tower meeting, however, that’s harder to believe.

    Lawfare has some of the most thoughtful and measured legal experts. I haven’t read their entire reaction to the Barr summary, but they have earned my trust:

    What I worry is that all the nuance (and I’ll get to some examples later) will be overshadowed by headlines like this:

    (“Mueller Finds No Russia Trump Conspiracy”)


    I didn’t read the article, but if McLaughlin (who I believe was former acting CIA director) is basically treating the Barr summary as definitive–that is, the Trump-Russia concerns are put to rest



    1. Thread from Republican Representative from Michigan:

  2. This thread from Julian Sanchez captures one of my worries:

    The frame being preemptively set up for when the full report drops: Anyone who thinks there are important questions beyond “is there a prosecutable crime?” or doubts Barr’s conclusory assertion on obstruction should be determinative, “can’t let go.”

    If the report had been released on its own, we’d naturally be debating the full range of findings—not just “is there a provable crime?”—and which side of the obstruction question Mueller refused to resolve is stronger.

    With Barr’s anemic “summary” setting the baseline, that same—entirely reasonable—conversation can be cast as a desperate attempt to resurrect issues Mueller (but, really, Barr) will be said to have “settled” already.

    The assault on the media in the interim—for wickedly reporting that an ongoing investigation instigated by a Trump appointee was happening—is designed to make the press gun shy about treating those residual questions as significant when the report does drop.

    By the way, the reactions from the people I follow on twitter, particularly conservatives who are more supportive of Trump or those on the left who are hostile to idea of Russian information warfare (in the 2016 election), have surprised. They’re too strong and definitive in my opinion. These reactions are premature–the Mueller report hasn’t been released, yet.

    Another thread I liked from a person I’m unfamiliar with me (but works for Niskanen Center, which is more of a Libertarian organization, I believe)

    The crescendo of furious gaslighting following Barr’s propaganda summary suggests a plan was place to exploit the gap between the submission of the report and public revelation of what’s in it to delegitimize Mueller’s actual findings and the ongoing investigations.

    Trump cronies are incoherently claiming BOTH (a) that the report exonerates him AND (b) the investigation was so ethically compromised and politically biased nothing that came of it can be taken seriously and shouldn’t be made public. Obviously can’t be both.

    Trump’s “one weird trick” is the shameless public delegitimization of anyone aligned against his interests. Once again, we’re seeing he’s the GOAT at this evil art. It’s what’s made him the Houdini of industrial-scale white-collar theft.

    Our idiot media still isn’t capable of understanding how to not be co-opted by Trump’s reality-bending propaganda machine, and continues to get played like a burgled Stradivarius.

    Barr’s cover-up gambit means Mueller will certainly be called to testify under oath in the House. That’s why we’re getting the full-on blitz to mischaracterize his findings: to lock the media and public into a favorable narrative nowhere in evidence, before he actually speaks.

    The Trump machine’s rush to assert an adamantly conclusive interpretation of the investigation on nothing but a crony appointee’s spin on it, and then using this to discredit the larger attempt to uphold the rule of law and separation of powers is completely poisonous.

    The media’s atrocious gullibility, which is letting this happen without serious resistance, is even more scandalous than the credulity that herded public opinion behind the invasion of Iraq. Because we already *know* this administration does nothing but lie.

    The Trump machine is making a lot of political hay with necessary legal distinctions. Barr says Mueller didn’t establish conspiracy or coordination b/w the campaign & “the Russian government,” which doesn’t imply there wasn’t plenty with Russians hard to pin as agents of Putin.

    He says Mueller didn’t establish that any Trump associate or U.S. citizen “knowingly coordinated” with the IRA to influence the election. Which doesn’t imply that Stone (not part of the campaign) didn’t coordinate with anonymous agents of the IRA, or with Assange (not American.)

    Barr says Mueller supplies evidence of obstruction, then uses the fact that he doesn’t establish conspiracy to a certain legal standard (which doesn’t at all rule it out, in fact) to argue in a shady way that there was nothing to obstruct, so he let’s Trump off scot-free.

    The Trump admin/campaign then uses it’s own opportunistic judgment as a fixed fact to leverage an attack on the legitimacy of Dem oversight officials in Congress. But Congress’s constitutional oversight authority is wholly independent of the executive’s findings about itself.

    Trump has gone to pains to confuse people into accepting that the legitimacy of congressional oversight depends on a prior, narrow legal finding of criminality, which it has done everything it can to prevent. Having done it successfully, it’s attacking the separation of powers.

    But congressional power over the executive under the constitution is entirely political. If it decides as a body that the president is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, that settles it.

    Trump’s hand-picked AG (confirmed by a lapdog Senate, with a record of shielding presidents from scandal) telling us what the report says & sitting on it doesn’t settle anything. But spinning it like it does to prevent congressional oversight tell us a lot. This is far from over.


    Schiff basically describes my attitude towards Barr:

  3. Did the media botch the Trump-Russia story?

    That’s what journalist Matt Taibibi strongly believes. I wanted to comment on some of his remarks in a recent Vox interview. (Note: I’m going to read through the interview, and just paste segments, and then comment on them.)

    …what happened really quickly is that everybody committed to a narrative and they didn’t examine or test the core hypotheses. A lot of this had to do with BuzzFeed’s release of the Steele dossier, which impacted a lot of reporters whether they realized it or not. They believed this underlying story that Trump had been cultivated as an asset or just as a useful idiot for the Russians, but certainly at that point (January 2017) none of this had been corroborated by any actual reporting.

    But the reporting became increasingly maniacal and alarmist. I recognized right away that if these allegations turned out not to be true, it was going to devastate our profession, and it looks like they aren’t.

    First of all, what we know now is that Mueller hasn’t indicted Trump or any members of his campaign or administration for conspiracy. We don’t know why that is. Was there substantive evidence, but not enough to convict anyone beyond a reasonable? Was there almost no evidence at all? I don’t think we know the answer to that.

    Taibibi and others like him seem to be acting as if any serious concerns that would arise from everything we know about Trump-Russia has been completely put to rest. I really disagree with that. As of now, I don’t think we know enough to allay legitimate concerns.

    Sean Illing On a purely procedural level, I don’t know what the media is supposed to do. The fact that Russia almost certainly interfered in the election, that Trump himself publicly encouraged Russia to hack his opponent’s emails, that multiple people in Trump’s orbit had ties to Russian money, that Trump fired the director of the FBI because of the investigation into his own campaign, and that Trump was acting precisely like someone in the grips of Russian influence (i.e. siding with Putin over his own intelligence agencies). How do we cover all that fairly?

    Matt Taibbi I know what you mean, but I guess the first thing we have to do is look at the totality of the entire situation and not just a piece of it. And I wrote this in one of my early columns. This was such an incredibly serious story, and the allegations being thrown around were so explicit, like the Times story I mentioned earlier saying Trump had “repeated” contact with Russian intelligence. Or any of the other stories that implied Trump was compromised. Given the seriousness of all this, given the fact that there was this idea floating in the mainstream that Trump was literally a spy, we absolutely had a responsibility to go down that alley and check it out, but we also had to think about the other possibility, which is, what if it’s untrue? Well, if it’s untrue, where the hell is this coming from and why? And what was the purpose and what was the motive of the people who wanted us to think this? And we completely abdicated our responsibility in terms of the second half of that equation.

    To me, there’s another possibility that Taibibi bypasses–a possibility Taibibi and others should carefully examine before questioning the motives of those pushing a more sinister reading of Trump-Russia–namely, the possibility for a more benign explanation of the known facts. What would such a narrative look like and how likely is it? If it’s impossible to construct a plausible narrative that can connect the dots in a non-alarming way, examining the reasons behind taking a more sinister angle with Trump-Russia doesn’t make as much sense. You can understand why journalists and pundits would view Trump-Russia in a sinister way, if it’s next to impossible to identify a plausible non-sinister explanation.


    Tracey is another person like Taibibi.

    Without a plausible explanation about what we know about Trump-Russia, and without seeing the Mueller Report, the tack he’s taking just seems premature and rash.

    Here’s another guy:

    One thing I’ve noticed: These individuals seem to decry a rather narrow take on Trump-Russia–namely that Trump was agent or that Trump made an explicit agreement with Putin. What they seem to ignore are the possibility that the desire for personal business deals or blackmail explains Trump and his team’s interactions with Russia. Or maybe they don’t think this is as serious as being a Russian spy or making an explicit quid pro quo?

  4. (Note: I’m not sure the hard copies thing is correct.)

    I agree with this summary of the situation:


    1. Mueller and Barr needs to testify to Congress.

      I can’t read the Times and WaPo articles on this, but based on this one above, my conclusion is that both Barr and Mueller need to testify in front of Congress. In the article you have spokespeople from either side or anonymous sources. We need to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

      1. The (second?) Mueller letter to Barr is damning

        In the Politico article above, a DOJ spokesperson claimed that Mueller had problems with the media characterization of the report, but Mueller, in this letter, seems to point to Barr as the one misleading the public. This is one other piece of evidence that strongly suggests Barr is working to protect Trump.


  5. Redacted Mueller Report

    I don’t have a link right now, but I’ll try to post one later. (If I’m honest with myself, I’d say I’m probably not going to read the whole thing.)

    Before I do that, I saw this really good thread explaining why Mueller didn’t come to a conclusion as to whether Trump obstructed justice. The answer is somewhat complex, but Rangappa, a Yale law professor and former FBI special agent, explains this in a relatively easy to understand way.

    Here’s my attempt to summarize for those not willing to read the thread (which is not that long). Basically, Mueller follows DOJ policy of not indicting a sitting president. Because of this, Mueller believes it would drawing a conclusion would be unfair to the POTUS. Why? If Mueller indicted the POTUS, the POTUS would have an opportunity to respond in a court of law–e.g., questioning witnesses, being tried by a jury of his peers. In other words, if Mueller renders a negative conclusion, Trump would little recourse to rebut or refute that conclusion in a legal setting.

    Rangappa makes an important note:

    Third, he suggests that all of the above would be moot if, as a factual matter, the evidence supported the conclusion that the President did NOT commit obstruction. But, he says, “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

    I take this to mean that if the evidence was more definitive that Trump did not commit obstruction, Mueller would have said so. Since he didn’t, there are some possibilities about the situation: 1.) There is a lot of evidence and a court would likely lose in court or in an Senate trial (if House impeaches him), or 2) there isn’t much evidence. In either case, Trump may or may not be found guilty. But given the first possibility, there could be substantial evidence to convict Trump. The public shouldn’t conclude that Mueller not drawing a conclusion means that there wasn’t much evidence. The evidence is not what prevented Mueller from drawing a conclusion. Instead, it was the policy to not indict a sitting president and a principle of fairness.

    Lawfare Summarizes the Redacted Report

    I wanted to comment on one of several sections that stood out for me:

    What’s more, it is almost entirely devoid of discussion of the counterintelligence equities at issue in the Russia matter. This is a prosecutor’s report, focused entirely on application of fact to criminal laws and to assessment of whether legal standards were met. Whether this absence is because the counterintelligence elements of the investigation were handled in some other format or because they were entirely sublimated to the criminal investigation is unclear. But this is a document summarizing a criminal probe and the thinking of the prosecutors who ran it—not a document describing the management of threats to the country.

    To me, the counterintel aspect of this is the most important. Trump-Russia isn’t just troubling because Trump and his campaign violated norms or behaved in unethical ways. What’s also troubling–and maybe the most concerning for me–is if Trump is either compromised in some way, because Russians can blackmail him or he owes them money, or if he’s putting his interests (e.g., wanting business in Russia) ahead of the country’s. Both would pose a national security threat to the U.S. Based on the Lawfare summary the Mueller report says almost nothing about this. To me, that’s a gaping hole and leaves open important questions.


    Benjamin Wittes writing a kind of journal of his notes as he methodically reads through the Mueller report. Right below this is a link to the first installment (It’s not long.):

    Several things stand out:

    • Mueller investigation began from “a foreign government contacted the FBI about a May 2016 encounter with Trump Campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos,” not from Steele Dossier. (I believe the foreign government was Australia.)
    • Mueller says they could not establish coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian government attempts to interfere with the election–basing this on the following definition of “coordination: “We understood coordination to require an agreement—tacit or express—between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference. That requires more than the two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other’s actions or interests.” What I’m wondering is how one would establish this? And I guess Mueller means this in a legal sense. To give one example to illustrate my confusion, I’d mention Trump publicly asking Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails, and then five hours later, the Russians tried to break into Clinton’s email accounts. Doesn’t this sound like “two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other’s actions or interests?”
    • Mueller report is only a criminal investigation, not a counterintelligence one.


    My understanding is that Mueller confirmed that Manafort discussed and gave campaign data to Ukrainian with ties to FSB. Part of this included swing states (e.g., Michigan, Wisconsin, etc.) If this is not cooperation or collusion, I don’t know what those words mean.


    It is too early to give an “all clear” signal and chide the press and others who expressed great alarm about Trump-Russia.

  6. Tracking Reporting, Trump’s statements and Mueller Report Findings

    Cohen is correct. Bottom of page 44 says, “Despite these denials (by Trump), substantial evidence corroborates Comey’s testimony.” On page 45, the report lists the corroborating evidence, which includes other people supporting Comey’s testimony. Trump never said the words, “stop the investigation” to Comey, but Mueller report shows evidence Trump essentially did that.

  7. Barr’s Testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee

    This looks bad for Barr, but I also want to say I’m not entirely comfortable drawing conclusions from video excerpts of Congressional testimony. Still this looks bad (and something out of a courtroom drama).

    Further comments:

    1. Re: POTUS or anyone from WH asking or suggesting he open an investigation of anyone. It really sounds like the WH did ask or suggest this. If true, it goes quite far in suggesting an abuse of power by Trump, depending on the details (e.g., Was the person a political opponent?).

    2. The questions about reviewing the evidence is where I’m a little uncertain. Harris’s point, on the surface, seems valid and compelling–if the AG is going to decide on whether POTUS should be charged, the AG should review the evidence, not just take evidence provided by Special Counsel’s Office at face value. But I don’t know the norms for DOJ or U.S. Attorney’s. Did Barr act irresponsibly or did Harris just try to put Barr in a negative light? I’m not entirely sure, but it doesn’t look good for Barr.

    3. I’m not sure Harris’s last point is substantive or if she’s being pedantic. If DOJ ethics officials cleared Rosenstein to supervise Mueller, would the AG have to go back and ask ethics officials if Rosenstein can make a charging decision? I don’t have an informed opinion, but it seems reasonable to assume he could (even though he was also a witness.)

    Oh I do think Barr should check with the ethics to see if he should recuse himself. A top priority for the AG is to win the confidence of the American public in the office of AG and the DOJ. Getting clearance from the DOJ ethics professionals would be a way to do that–i.e., if they clear him, then the public can have confidence.


    Interesting explanation (which I can’t really judge) on charging decision:

  8. Was the Investigation into Russian Interference and the Trump Campaign Started for Illegal or Inappropriate Reasons?

    That’s a theory that Trump and some of his supporters have pushed. Below is a discussion with a former FBI General Counsel (the top lawyer who handled legal issues for the FBI?), James Baker.

    If you don’t want to listen to the whole thing, here’s a thread with some quotes from the interview:

    I believe Benjamin Wittes expressed a lot of respect for Baker. (Then again, he also expressed respect for Brett Kavanaugh and Bill Barr, too, so take that for what you will. He’s also since publicly criticized both, for what it’s worth.) Either he’s lying or those pushing the alternate theory are wrong–and pretty reprehensible for smearing those in the FBI and US Gov’t. To be fair, if they’re right, this is a huge scandal and problem–FBI should not break laws or procedures to baseless investigate a political candidate.


    The following is a blow to those who say the investigation was started improperly. Acting FBI Director, Andy McCabe says he let Congressional leaders know about opening up a counterintelligence investigation (I assume this relates to Russian interference and Trump/Trump campaign.)

    In the Jim Baker interview above, Baker basically confirms this. I would assume McConnell as Senate Majority Leader would be in this group (also Devin Nunes and Paul Ryan). Remember: Mitch McConnell threaten to publicly complain that Obama was trying to tip the scales of the election. This was in response to President Obama asking party leaders to stand together to denounce Russian interference. So if they didn’t complain or object, that’s telling.



    To expand on Campbell’s good point: If the investigation crossed a serious red line, Barr should provide the evidence, fire or recommending job termination, or bringing charges. If there is no evidence, him saying this seems really wrong. He’s basically slandering people who work under him without evidence. And by making these statements public, he has created impression that he won’t be a fair investigator.

      1. Funny…

        What nationality is Mina? I guess I could have looked it up, but my guess is Mitchell knows it “by heart”.

  9. Mueller’s Congressional Testimony

    1. This is the kind of thing that makes me sick to my stomach.

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