Of late I’ve compared Russiagate to a baseball game. Following along with that metaphor Thursday was the bottom of the second inning, albeit a wild half frame. Let’s explore.
The day started off with Attorney General Bill Barr holding a “press conference” that was basically one big lie. (You have to remember that sycophant Barr was playing to an audience of one and Don Trump loved the performance.) Depending on how you want to view it Barr was either performing the fourth sequel to his book report or a prequel to the unveiling of the condensed version of the Mueller Report. Barr stated the report confirmed there was no collusion on at least four occasions in his brief speech. That is false! In fact the condensed version of the report specifically disparages the non-legal term.
Barr praised the access and cooperation of President Trump and the Executive Branch. The condensed version of the report cites their lack of cooperation, candor and honesty as one of his challenges. Trump himself, who likes to brag of his genius and world class memory, resorted to answers along the lines of “I don’t remember” in 37 of his written answers.
Barr took eight questions during the press Q&A. He dodged answering four (numbers 1, 3, 6 and 7); walked out in lieu of answering number 8; and flat out lied in response to another. He was asked if the Justice Department’s policy of not indicting a sitting president affected Mueller and answered in the negative. Even in its redacted form the condensed version of the report emphatically contradicts his statement.
Barr wasn’t playing to me or the American people; his only audience was Trump. In fact, that appears to be the AG’s root problem – he has a client identification issue. He thinks he works for Trump with a mission to defend him. His job is to work for the American people by defending the United States Constitution and federal statutes.
Trump has often stated he wanted a Roy Cohn as AG to defend him. In Bill Barr he appears to have finally gotten his wish. Sticking with that theme for a moment, America need a Joe McCarthy in the sense of someone investigating and highlighting un-American activities. (We just need one sans the lies and drinking problems.) Many of Trump’s activities don’t appear to be in the best interest of the United States.
By the afternoon Americans were engrossed in the redacted report. Page one of volume one establishes that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election. Something Trump is yet to accept. In fact he has gone further and disavowed that fact in front of the world in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin at his side taking Putin’s word over that of his combined intelligence agencies aided by the intelligence agencies of several allies. Do you really think that Robert Mueller will change that?
The condensed version of the report clearly states that the Justice Department’s policy of not charging a sitting president dictated Mueller’s path. It is fair to conclude that if any other individual (like you or me) had committed the same acts as Trump did we would have been in federal court by now.
Conspiracy is difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt because both Trump and the Russians used third parties (cutouts) to communicate. It’s kind of like the shell game of money laundering except in this case we move the message through various channels.
It seems Trump and his minions’ best defenses are ignorance and incompetence. I will stipulate that in most cases they are both but that does not change any of the underlying facts and to my knowledge neither are valid defenses in American courts. Tell the judge that you didn’t see the stop sign and besides even if you did you are too stupid to read it and see what happens.
I am writing this late Friday morning or, sticking to the metaphor, early in the top of the third which House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler started by issuing a subpoena for the unredacted report. The Justice Department will run out the clock as much as possible and then refuse to comply which will lead to a court fight. Initially the Trump administration wins since the goal of that organized criminal enterprise is to keep the clock running as long as possible.
The dilemma facing Democrats is how to proceed. 2020 has the potential to be a good year for them at the polls if they don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory again. The report, even in its condensed version, is a roadmap to impeachment. (Many analysts feel that was Mueller’s intent.) Conviction in the Senate remains a huge question mark; in fact I’d say it is currently unlikely. Therefore impeachment without removal from office could actually boomerang and hurt the Democrats at the polls in 2020. The most practical political course may well be to investigate while feigning impeachment all the while keeping the honesty issues alive and kill Trump with a steady drip, drip, drip of negative news.
For several reasons this is far from over – my top of the third analogy might not be that far off. For those disappointed that the released version wasn’t even more damning consider this: there are at least 14 known cases still in process that are offshoots of the Mueller investigation.
Here is a scary thought: If the sanitized and condensed version of the Mueller Report is so damning for Trump, how bad is the unedited version?
I’m glad we have a seasoned and savvy skipper in Nancy Pelosi to lead us through the interceding innings until we hand it over to the closer – the American voters.
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