Post-Mueller Recriminations

The mea culpas and I-told-you-so's are rather premature.

The Attorney General’s summary of the Mueller report has produced a cottage industry of columns and confessions about overreactions on the Russia front.

Most notably, former CIA Director John Brennan, who has been simply over-the-top:

Former CIA Director John Brennan said Monday that he “suspected there was more than there actually was” in regard to collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.

“I don’t know if I received bad information, but I think I suspected there was more than there actually was,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday about the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

“I am relieved that it’s been determined there was not a criminal conspiracy with the Russian government over our election,” Brennan added. “I think that is good news for the country.”

Brennan’s remarks came one day after Attorney General William Barr said in a letter to Congress that Mueller, who investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election, did not uncover evidence of conspiracy or cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Brennan previously asserted that the Trump campaign did collude with Russia, writing in a New York Times op-ed last year that President Trump’s claims of “no collusion” were “hogwash.”

Brennan also said in a tweet last week that he suspected Trump was panicking “over the likelihood the Special Counsel will soon further complicate your life, putting your political & financial future in jeopardy.”

“I still point to things that were done publicly, or efforts to try to have conversations with the Russians that were inappropriate,” Brennan said Monday, adding, “but I’m not all that surprised that the high bar of criminal conspiracy was not met.”

George Will, who left the Republican Party over Trump (“Thanks to Mueller, 2020 won’t be about 2016“):

Robert S. Mueller III’s report is a gift to the nation, which now knows what was already a reasonable surmise: that its chief executive’s unlovely admiration for a repulsive foreign regime, Vladimir Putin’s, is more a dereliction of taste and judgment than evidence that he is under that regime’s sway. The report is an even larger gift to the nation because it might help stabilize the Democratic Party — if the party reacts more reasonably to it than most of the party’s most conspicuous presidential candidates have been reacting to the political stimuli of 2019. What Mueller’s report makes possible is something like a normal presidential election in 2020.

After thousands of hours of cable television obsessing about Mueller’s report in advance of it, with most of the obsessives basing their speculations on less than the reading of tea leaves or of chicken entrails, and most of the obsessives grinding partisan axes, it is difficult, but important, to remember two things. First, before Mueller was appointed special counsel, it was indisputable that Russia hacked American emails as part of its activities to work for Donald Trump’s election. Second, while Mueller investigated these activities, the accusation of 2016 collusion between professional Russian operatives and the ramshackle Trump campaign apparatus was already implausible because Russia could pursue its ends without coordinating its activities with a campaign rife with lowlifes and bottom-of-the-barrel Republican operatives.

The report comes to no conclusion about whether Trump intended to obstruct justice. This agnosticism is, however, a politically nullity: Voters are unlikely to care what the president intended when he used a constitutional power (e.g., firing the FBI director) or indulged his incontinent anger (rhetorically and on Twitter) during an investigation into an alleged crime he did not commit.

[…]

The 2016 election changed the nation’s too serene sense of itself as immune to the sort of grotesque electoral outcomes that other nations experience. After Mueller’s report, the 2020 election will be about various normal issues — health care, the economy’s strength and the equity of its results, etc. — but above all it will be about this: Is the current tone of public life, which is set by the president, the best America can do?

Thanks to Mueller, the 2020 campaign will not be about the 2016 campaign. It will be about a post-Trump future — if unhinged Democrats can stop auctioning themselves to their party’s most clamorous factions, thereby making Trump seem to be what Mueller’s report does not say that he is: acceptable.

David Brooks, another #NeverTrump Republican (“We’ve All Just Made Fools of Ourselves — Again“):

Maybe it’s time to declare a national sabbath. Maybe it’s time to step back from the scandalmongering and assess who we are right now.

Democrats might approach this moment with an attitude of humility and honest self-examination. It’s clear that many Democrats made grievous accusations against the president that are not supported by the evidence. It’s clear that people like Beto O’Rourke and John Brennan owe Donald Trump a public apology. If you call someone a traitor and it turns out you lacked the evidence for that charge, then the only decent thing to do is apologize.

Republicans and the Sean Hannity-style Trumpians might also approach this moment with an attitude of humility and honest self-examination. For two years they’ve been calling the Mueller investigation a witch hunt. For two years they’ve been spreading the libel that there are no honest brokers in Washington. It’s all a deep-state conspiracy, a swamp. They should apologize for peddling the sort of deep cynicism that undermines our country’s institutions.

And what about the rest of us? What about all the hours we spent speculating about the Mueller report, fantasizing about the Trump ruin or watching and reading speculation about these things? What about the superstructure of scandal politics we have built and live in today?

The sad fact is that Watergate introduced a poison into the American body politic. Richard Nixon’s downfall was just and important, but it opened up the mouthwatering possibility that you don’t need to do the hard work of persuading people to join your side. Instead, you can destroy your foes all at once through scandal.

Politics since Watergate has been defined by a long string of scandals and pseudo-scandals — Iran-contra, Whitewater, Valerie Plame, Benghazi, Solyndra, swift-boating. Politico last year compiled a list of 46 scandals that were at one time or another deemed “worse than Watergate.”

The nation’s underlying divides are still ideological, but we rarely fight them honestly as philosophical differences. We just accuse the other side of corruption. Politics is no longer a debate; it’s an attempt to destroy lives through accusation.

Bloomberg national security reporter Eli Lake (“The Reckoning Finally Arrives for the Trump Resistance“):

“The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” That single sentence, taken from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, calls for a reckoning.

It’s a reckoning for Democrats who saw almost every development in this almost-two-year investigation as another dot connecting a conspiracy Mueller has not found. It’s a reckoning for many in the media that dutifully passed along this theory without scrutiny or context. And it’s a reckoning for many national security officials who abandoned their traditional nonpartisan role as custodians of state secrets to engage in a campaign against a president they loathed.

Their suspicions, I should note, were not unwarranted. During the 2016 election, there was strong evidence that Russia had hacked the emails of leading Democrats, a fact supported by Mueller’s indictments. The country later learned from Mueller that Moscow conducted a social media campaign to flood Twitter and Facebook with fake news and propaganda to discredit Hillary Clinton. Trump, meanwhile, once publicly invited the assistance of the Russians.

But many people who should have known better went beyond suspicion and embraced conspiracy. Remember Senator Harry Reid’s explosive letter to James Comey, released just a few days before the election, alleging that the FBI director possessed devastating information about Trump and his campaign’s ties to Russia? Reid did not provide many details. We now know that many of the allegations to which Reid referred echoed an infamous dossier prepared by a former British spy at the behest of an opposition research firm paid by the Democratic Party.

Reid wasn’t the only one. Last year the House Intelligence Committee released memos that showed how this dossier was part of the underlying evidence the FBI provided in a surveillance application to a secret court to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a low-level foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. Page has not been charged with a crime, and yet his reputation has been trashed after a top-secret warrant for his surveillance was leaked to the media.

The dossier set the initial narrative for the Trump administration. After CNN reported that it was included as part of a briefing Comey himself provided to Trump and Obama, Buzzfeed published the whole thing with the helpful caveat that it was not verified and was in places incorrect. The most important takeaway so far of the Mueller probe is that this dossier is garbage.

Then there is the matter of Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. He was forced from the administration and into a legal nightmare after his monitored conversations with Russia’s ambassador to Washington leaked a few weeks before Trump’s inauguration. It’s true that Flynn failed to file as a foreign agent for Turkey, a crime that is normally punished as a slap on the wrist. At the time though, the accusation against Flynn was that he was a Russian spy, based on leaked transcripts that are never supposed to see the light of day. How silly do these hyperventilations look today in light of Mueller’s conclusions?

[…]

Finally, there is that handful of former officials who validated the worst fears of Americans about Trump without ever providing actual evidence. The best example is former CIA Director John Brennan. For the last two years, Brennan has been a frequent guest on cable TV to spread the innuendo that Trump is compromised by Russia. Just this month, he speculated that Mueller would be indicting members of Trump world for criminal conspiracy, even as he insisted he had no “inside knowledge” of Mueller’s deliberations. That last part, at least, turns out to have been true.

The saddest part of all of this is that there was a lot of evidence, hiding in plain sight, that could have spared many collusion proponents their embarrassment. Mueller’s indictment of Roger Stone, for example alleged that Stone was tasked by a senior campaign official to find out what was in the emails that Russia hacked from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. If the campaign were coordinating with Russia’s influence campaign, why would Stone need to go to Wikileaks?

[…]

The end of the Mueller probe is more than just a reckoning. It is also a reminder, if anyone needed another one, that the FBI and the intelligence community can be wrong. And it is a powerful illustration of the importance of keeping spies and lawmen out of politics.

Brennan’s mea culpa is warranted. As I’ve argued repeatedly, his over-the-top rants have been damaging to the ability of the intelligence community to do its job. Because of his former position, he is presumed by the public and the White House to both have insider information and to be speaking for his former agency. He was simply imprudent.

Furthermore, while I have long argued that Trump has committed impeachable offenses outside the scope of the Mueller investigation—violations of the Emoluments Clause and otherwise funneling taxpayer money into his private businesses in a positively shameless manner—my fundamental conservatism comes down to where Brooks and Will land: absent overwhelming, bipartisan consensus that the President is unfit to serve, the way to remove them is through the ballot box. Relatedly, as I have noted repeatedly through the process, I’m highly skeptical of independent counsel system and the massive fishing expeditions that they invite. Not only are innocents invariably caught up in the fishing net but it leads naturally to a criminalization of politics.

All that said, the recriminations and mea culpas are premature. Even though I’m a staunch critic of this President and his appointees, I will believe until and unless proven wrong that the Attorney General’s letter fairly represents Mueller’s principal findings. But the fact that they did not find sufficient evidence to warrant charging Trump or his top advisors with conspiracy or the President with obstruction of justice by no means exculpates them. We must, after all, hold our leaders to a higher standard than not having committed provable felonies. What we already know about Team Trump’s interactions with Russian sources and attempts to hinder and derail the investigation into same are damning. It’s likely, indeed, given all of the indictments, convictions, and spin-off investigations that Mueller and company spawned that the details of the full report will provide more grist for that mill.

Even so, I fully agree with those who argue that the 2020 campaign has to be about more than what an awful human being Donald Trump is. That was rather well established long before Election Day 2016 and it wasn’t enough. And our default position as a country is to re-elect the President, especially if the economy is strong. So, the Democratic nominee will have an uphill fight and will need to present a positive vision for the future.

UPDATE: I see that Steven Taylor has independently reached a similar conclusion.

FILED UNDER: Russia Investigation
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. SenyorDave says:

    Then there is the matter of Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. He was forced from the administration and into a legal nightmare after his monitored conversations with Russia’s ambassador to Washington leaked a few weeks before Trump’s inauguration. It’s true that Flynn failed to file as a foreign agent for Turkey, a crime that is normally punished as a slap on the wrist.

    Maybe failing to file as foreign agent for a normal person isn’t normally that big a deal, but for the National Security Advisor? That seems like a pretty BFD!

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  2. Mikey says:

    Mueller’s mea culpa is warranted. As I’ve argued repeatedly, his over-the-top rants have been damaging to the ability of the intelligence community to do its job.

    I’m assuming “Mueller’s” should read “Brennan’s?”

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  3. James Joyner says:

    @Mikey: Yes, fixed by the time I saw your comment.

  4. charon says:

    I have encountered some very very different takes on the Barr letter than what is expressed in this main post. Here is just one example of several that I have seen:

    https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/03/mueller-report-barr-summary-obstruction-conspiracy-close-reading.html
    The headline/sub-headline:
    ” … Bill Barr’s Weasel Words
    All the ways the attorney general is spinning the Mueller report to protect Trump
    … ”

    One main point is Barr emphazing stuff that is not in the report (or was not part of Mueller’s remit) but not mentioning stuff that might be. Also, careful cutesy wording like Russian Government” instead of a more broad term like “Russians” that could apply to oligarchs etc.

    Also you have Barr presenting Barr’s ostensible conclusions but not Mueller’s.

    We need to see the report, not Barr’s spin.

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  5. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Day three of everyone assuming Baghdad Barr’s summation of the Mueller report is what Mueller actually reported.
    Day three of the 4th Estate failing this nation. Again.
    If Baghdad Barr’s press release is accurate, and I seriously doubt that it is, then the POTUS is not a traitor…he is the unwitting dupe of Russia and Saudi Arabia. I ask you all…isn’t that actually worse?

    Dennison is a fraud, a con-man, a grifter. He is incompetent. He is the most mendacious person to ever hold the office. He is divisive; a bigot, a misogynist, and a thin-skinned puerile man suffering from dementia and waving an enemies list in his tiny orange hand. He is dazzingly easy to manipulate, as Putin, Kim, MBS, and Xi, have all shown. At his core, he is just not a very smart person.
    Donnie Dennison is unfit to hold the office; that was true before the Mueller investigation, and it is still true today…on day three of everyone pretending that Baghdad Barr’s summation of the Mueller Report is accurate.

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  6. charon says:

    @charon:

    “Set the narrative early on” has been GOP standard practice at least since the 2000 election recount. That’s what Barr is doing here.

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  7. SenyorDave says:

    @charon: Bottom line is that it is not surprising that the Barr, who supported pardons in Iran-Contra, is providing cover to Trump. He interviewed for the job, I assume this possible situation was covered.

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  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    If there was obstruction of justice then Trump hasn’t been cleared of anything.

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  9. charon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Here’s the conclusion at the end of my link.

    For now, all we have is the letter. And it doesn’t show that Trump is innocent of collusion or obstruction. It shows that collusion and obstruction were defined to exclude what he did.

    Lot’s of good stuff at the link, worth a read.

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  10. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    To have a President that’s not a willing agent for a foreign power is a pretty low bar. Imagine having to commemorate this type of s*.

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  11. Teve says:

    Even so, I fully agree with those who argue that the 2020 campaign has to be about more than what an awful human being Donald Trump is.

    I haven’t seen any of the democratic candidates make Trump’s awfulness the centerpiece of their campaign. What I have seen is mostly talking about jobs and health care, and if the horrible rumors are true that the Trump administration is now going to try to completely destroy the ACA through judicial means,….

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  12. grumpy realist says:

    Someone over at The Guardian pointed out what we really ended up with is the equivalent of the Scottish legal “Not Proven.” (Which boils down to “yeah, you did it, but we can’t prove it sufficiently for convicting. Just don’t do it again.”)

    Trump, of course, will blare everywhere that he’s been “totally vindicated.” Given that that ass claims victory and “success” where everyone else realises he’s been totally taken to the cleaners, it’s only the already-believing who will take Trump’s comments as gospel.

    In other words, we’re still being managed by the sort of idiots who would believe in Nigerian spam letters.

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  13. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @grumpy realist:

    yeah, you did it, but we can’t prove it sufficiently for convicting.

    Yup…kinda feels like OJ. Or Cheney after outing the CIA covert operative.

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  14. drj says:

    I will believe until and unless proven wrong that the Attorney General’s letter fairly represents Mueller’s principal findings.

    Knowing what we do about Barr specifically (and about basically every Trump appointee ever generally), I find this a truly baffling statement.

    Reserving judgment I can understand. But this is siding with an utterly mendacious administration based on nothing much besides good faith.

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  15. James Joyner says:

    @drj:

    Knowing what we do about Barr specifically (and about basically every Trump appointee ever generally), I find this a truly baffling statement.

    Reserving judgment I can understand. But this is siding with an utterly mendacious administration based on nothing much besides good faith.

    Barr is a proponent of the Unified Executive theory. I think he goes too far but it’s an intellectually defensible position.

    I take virtually nothing coming from this administration at face value. The reason I think this is likely an accurate but incomplete summary is that the truth will come out sooner rather than later. I’d be shocked if Barr stakes his reputation of a provable lie.

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  16. gVOR08 says:

    The Barr letter actually changes nothing. But it will change everything.

    The reporting on this was not really all that bad, top of the head:
    Does Trump have longstanding ties to people connected to the Russian government and Russian mobs or does he not?
    Did Trump pursue a Trump Tower deal and lie about it or did he not?
    Is there abundant reason to believe a great deal of Russian money was laundered through Trump properties or is there not?
    Did Russian actors use social media to influence the election or did they not?
    Did Russian actors hack the DNC AND RNC servers and selectively leak, using WikiLeaks as a front, only from the DNC or did they not?
    Did Mitch McConnell obstruct efforts to counter the Russians or did he not?
    Did Roger Stone have advance knowledge of at least one WikiLeaks dump or did he not?
    Did Manafort give polling data to Kilimnik or did he not?
    Did Russian actors give money to the NRA or did they not?
    Did the Trump Tower meeting occur or did it not?
    Did Trump resist imposing sanctions on Russia or did he not?
    Did someone change the Republican platform on Ukraine in Russia’s favor or not?
    Did Trump fire Comey and then tell the Russian ambassador it was because of Russia or not?

    The whole report may or may not be released, but Barr has given the GOPs a chance to get ahead of it. They’re already selling this as exoneration for everything, that it was all nothing but a fake news Dem plot, none of the above actually happened. And the supposedly liberal MSM will let them. Barr may use this to shut down SDNY and as cover for pardons.

    Barr is doing what he told us he’d do.

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  17. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    The reason I think this is likely an accurate but incomplete summary is that the truth will come out sooner rather than later. I’d be shocked if Barr stakes his reputation of a provable lie.

    I remember thinking the exact same thing watching Colin Powell lay out his evidence for Iraq’s WMD program at the UN.

    Also, Fox News and the GOP establishment will continue to defend Barr regardless. So I’m not exactly sure there is even a price to be paid for outright lying.

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  18. Mikey says:

    @drj:

    So I’m not exactly sure there is even a price to be paid for outright lying.

    Shit. Trump rode outright lying straight to the Oval Office.

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  19. Dave Schuler says:

    I think we need to be cautious about trying to drag a pound of conclusions from an ounce of information. I agree with James’s assessment of AG Barr’s letter

    Even though I’m a staunch critic of this President and his appointees, I will believe until and unless proven wrong that the Attorney General’s letter fairly represents Mueller’s principal findings.

    but we can’t really conclude a lot more from it.

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  20. Jay L Gischer says:

    One small quibble. Barr does not say that there was insufficient evidence for obstruction of justice. He said no determination about obstruction was made. Those are quite different statements, particularly when coming from someone who believes the President is incapable of obstructing justice.

    On a more upbeat note – Paul Manafort has already spent some time in jail. And Roger Stone very likely will do the same, and that pleases me. I never thought I’d see the day.

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  21. Guarneri says:

    The perpetrators of the hoax understand the jig is up.

    The beclowned hopeful are still dazed and confused.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yO2n7QoyieM

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  22. Kathy says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    On a more upbeat note

    Yes, but Dennison now can use the “no collusion found” thing to issue multiple pardons to all his minions.

    If he does, they should all be dragged into Congress and grilled exhaustively. Since they can no longer claim 5th amendment issues, they may sing a different tune.

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  23. Kylopod says:

    @James Joyner:

    The reason I think this is likely an accurate but incomplete summary is that the truth will come out sooner rather than later. I’d be shocked if Barr stakes his reputation of a provable lie.

    In other words, you’d be shocked if Barr behaved exactly like all other Trump appointees have behaved.

    What this episode reminds me of most is Dr. Ronny Jackson’s “report” on Trump’s health. Like Barr, Jackson has a history doing legitimate work for past presidents and not acting like the propaganda minister for a tinpot dictator. (Actually, given Barr’s involvement in the Iran-Contra pardons, I’d say his pre-Trump career is if anything more checkered than Jackson’s–even knowing what we now know about the circumstances that led to Jackson’s withdrawal from VA Secretary nomination.) Yet that’s essentially what Jackson became when he issued Trump’s clean bill of health, gushing over the president’s “good genes” and giving a height for the president that is very likely false. But who could prove it? He did what he was called upon to do, which was issue a public proclamation that just happened to say exactly what Trump wanted to hear, while keeping the confirming details out of sight.

    It is very hard to argue with a straight face that Barr’s summary sounds like a neutral reading of Mueller’s findings. The only way the summary would have sounded more Trumpese were if the title were “No Collusion and No Obstruction!!!!” He’s got enough sense not to use those exact words, but the entire language of the summary is practically dripping with that implication–and it’s how most news organizations have interpreted it too (NBC’s headline: “Mueller finds no proof of Trump collusion with Russia”).

    There are, of course, several gray areas in which Barr could have avoided an outright, provable lie while still succeeding in the basic goal of covering up real crimes committed by Trump. If we take the summary at face value–which I don’t–then at best all we know is that Mueller didn’t prove criminal conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt and obstruction is an open question. Everything else is spin, plain and simple.

    And that’s not even getting into the very real possibility (and I’m surprised so few have brought this up) that Barr prematurely ended the investigation before Mueller had an opportunity to fully explore these questions.

    What you should be asking is how you’d expect the Trump Administration to behave if they knew the Mueller probe found–or was close to finding–evidence of criminality on Trump’s part. I don’t know about you, but I think they’d behave just as they’re behaving now. They’d make a concerted effort to get in front of the narrative before all the facts are on the table, so that by the the time the details do come to light–and they’ll do everything they can to stop that from happening–the media will have moved on. If there are damning facts in the report that Trump doesn’t want to see the light of day, Barr has done exactly what would have been expected by someone intent on blunting their impact when and if they do emerge.

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  24. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Guarneri:

    The perpetrators of the hoax

    Which hoax?
    Paying off porn stars?
    Mexico paying for the wall?
    NoKo denuclearization?
    The Moscow Tower?
    MAGA hats being made in China?
    You can’t be talking about the Russia Conspiracy, because the Mueller Report isn’t out and you have no idea what it says.
    You dupes should try to be more clear…

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  25. Guarneri says:

    Wait for Mueller !! We don’t know what he’s got !? Don’t let Trump fire him !! Clapton, er Mueller is God !!

    What?? Oh, Mueller’s got nothing?? Mueller is incompetent !! He’s a stooge ! That report means nothing !!

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  26. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Guarneri:

    What?? Oh, Mueller’s got nothing?? Mueller is incompetent !! He’s a stooge ! That report means nothing !!

    So you’ve read the report?
    Of course not.
    You’re simply full of shit.
    Same ol’ Drew…the world’s greatest businessman…pffft…nothing new under the sun.

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  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Considering that nearly everyone and his pet dog (and the horse they rode in on) is contextualizing the reports of the letter about the report to mean what they want those reports to mean, I can’t resist welcoming you all to Post-Modern America. Enjoy your stay; you have a minimum sentence of 17 months here.

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  28. Gustopher says:

    One of the quoted articles:

    “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” That single sentence, taken from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, calls for a reckoning.

    Did members of the campaign conspire or coordinate with third parties (Wikileaks, Oleg the Oligarch, etc.) who then conspired or coordinated with the Russian government?

    I think we know the answer there is yes. There is certainly the appearance that the answer is yes. Is the reporting false? Is there no evidence that they knew the third party was acting on behalf of the Russian government?

    We know the Trump team lied to the American people about the Trump Tower meeting. Did they lie to investigators?

    The Barr letter leaves a lot of things unanswered. I’m not willing to say that even Brennan’s over-the-top claims of collusion with the Russian government are wrong, per say, as it looks like there was just a middleman.

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  29. john430 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: If Trump has committed no crime then what is he “obstructing”?

    You gotta luv how Dems can change horses in midstream when the narrative doesn’t confirm their belief system.

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  30. Kylopod says:

    @john430:

    If Trump has committed no crime then what is he “obstructing”?

    Nixon was never found to have been involved in the Watergate break-in. Interfering with an investigation is itself a crime and doesn’t require that the person be culpable in what was being investigated.

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  31. Scott F. says:

    @john430:

    If Trump hands were clean and exoneration was a given from the beginning, what was he so vociferously protesting for the full duration of Mueller’s probe?

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  32. Scott F. says:

    Even so, I fully agree with those who argue that the 2020 campaign has to be about more than what an awful human being Donald Trump is. That was rather well established long before Election Day 2016 and it wasn’t enough.

    I fully agree that 2020 can’t only be about how awful Donald Trump is, but all the same, just how unfit for office Donald Trump is should still be featured front and center in the Democrat’s campaign.

    Even if Mueller’s report says everything the Trumpkins are claiming now, Trump has not been exonerated of being a racist, and a liar, and a conman, and a foreign policy dupe, etc. Money laundering, tax fraud, bribery, etc. were not in scope for his probe.

    A positive vision of the future of our country would include the removal of this blight called Donald Trump.

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  33. Gustopher says:

    @Scott F.:

    A positive vision of the future of our country would include the removal of this blight called Donald Trump.

    “If elected, I shall endeavor to insure that my sordid and disgusting scandals, along with the malfeasance, incompetence and corruption in my cabinet, will proceed in a more orderly fashion and at a more reasonable rate, so you are able to keep up.”

  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “You gotta luv how Dems people in general and of any political persuasion can change horses in midstream when the narrative doesn’t confirm their belief system.

    Thought I’d clear up what I’m sure that you really meant to say (and help you become a more honest person, if only toward others–feel free to delude yourself whatever ways you feel you need to :-)).

  35. Gustopher says:

    @john430:

    If Trump has committed no crime then what is he “obstructing”?

    Justice.

    The name of the crime is Obstruction Of Justice. Do try to keep up.

    If you want to make a case that lying to investigators, or attempting to close down an investigation in which you are implicated is fine and shouldn’t be illegal, then do so.

  36. Kathy says:

    Somewhat related, Dr. Novella at Nuerologica has a succinct explanation of what is a witch hunt , and what isn’t.

  37. john430 says:

    @Scott F.: Because it was, as he said, a witch hunt. Dems just can’t get over the fact that they lost to him.

  38. john430 says:

    @Gustopher: Get a life, ding-dong. Mueller made no such claim either way. Get some treatment for your Trump Derangement Syndrome.

  39. Barry says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “If there was obstruction of justice then Trump hasn’t been cleared of anything.”

    He fired Comey, and *confessed* that it was over the investigation.

    Obstruction of justice, pure and simple

  40. Barry says:

    @James Joyner:
    @drj: “Knowing what we do about Barr specifically (and about basically every Trump appointee ever generally), I find this a truly baffling statement.

    Reserving judgment I can understand. But this is siding with an utterly mendacious administration based on nothing much besides good faith.”

    James: “Barr is a proponent of the Unified Executive theory. I think he goes too far but it’s an intellectually defensible position.”

    The ‘Unified Executive Theory’ was best put by Nixon: ‘when the President does it, it’s no illegal’.

    That never was, is not and never shall be US law, either by statute or by court decision. And the GOP turns that on and off like a light switch depending on the party in the White House.

    It is not intellectually defensible, and is rather a incriminating thing by Barr against his character.

    “I take virtually nothing coming from this administration at face value.”

    You just did.

    ” The reason I think this is likely an accurate but incomplete summary is that the truth will come out sooner rather than later. I’d be shocked if Barr stakes his reputation of a provable lie.”

    First, getting the story set now can help a lot if the truth trickles out over months, and you know that.

    Second, Barr has been involved in dirty matter before (Iran-Contra), and is now Attorney General.

    Third, and I’m asking you seriously, what horrors could be in that report such that Barr laying a squid ink cloud would not be in his career best interests?

  41. Barry says:

    @SenyorDave: “It’s true that Flynn failed to file as a foreign agent for Turkey, a crime that is normally punished as a slap on the wrist.

    Maybe failing to file as foreign agent for a normal person isn’t normally that big a deal, but for the National Security Advisor? That seems like a pretty BFD!”

    Yes. If I or you fail to register, the damage in miniscule.
    The man assembling the President’s Daily Briefing? Priceless.