july4th76 / Flickr Constitution...
july4th76 / Flickr

If the Mueller report exonerates Trump, why are Republicans so desperate to prevent anyone from seeing it? If media outlets are so determined to opine on the Mueller report’s meaning, why don’t they tell us how much of the report they’ve actually seen? If some reporters and pundits want to cite the Mueller report as a condemnation of the work of those who assiduously reported on the Trump-Russia scandal, why don’t they specify what Mueller proved they got wrong?

The single most important publicly known fact about the Mueller report is that we haven’t seen the Mueller report. Congress hasn’t seen the Mueller report. Those members of Congress who have the absolute highest security clearances (and didn’t get them because their daddy or daddy-in-law overruled career security specialists to procure them) haven’t seen the Mueller report. Every media source citing the Mueller report as proof of anything hasn’t seen the Mueller report.

All we have on the Mueller report is Trump-appointed Attorney General William Barr’s word about the Mueller report, and there is not a less credible source anywhere on the Mueller report than William Barr.

In fact, Barr’s confirmation as attorney general left right wing fulminators openly glowing with glee, for Trump finally had a man in place who understood his job to be, first and foremost, the protection of Trump.

And it’s not just that Barr owed Trump a debt of gratitude for Trump having hired Barr’s son-in-law as a legal adviser, it’s that Barr has a long history as a Republican scandal fixer, dating back to Iran/Contra and Iraqgate. And fix he did.

As noted by Marcy Wheeler:

Here’s the thing, though: at least given what they lay out here, they only considered whether Trump was covering up his involvement in the hack-and-leak operation. It doesn’t consider whether Trump was covering up a quid pro quo, which is what there is abundant evidence of.

They didn’t consider whether Trump obstructed the crime that he appears to have obstructed. They considered whether he obstructed a different crime. And having considered whether Trump obstructed the crime he didn’t commit, rather than considering whether he obstructed the crime he did commit, they decided not to charge him with a crime.

William Saletan takes Barr’s attempted cover-up apart, in detail, piece by piece:

Special counsel Robert Mueller has submitted his report on the Russia investigation, and Republicans are gloating. They claim a four-page letter from Attorney General William Barr, purporting to summarize the report, exonerates President Donald Trump. They’re wrong. The letter says the Justice Department won’t prosecute Trump, but it reaches that conclusion by tailoring legal standards to protect the president. Here’s a list of Barr’s weasel words and what they’re hiding.

To summarize:

When we get our hands on Mueller’s report—and ultimately, Mueller’s evidence—we’ll have a fuller picture of what he found. We know from Barr’s letter that in the report, Mueller “sets out evidence on both sides” of the obstruction question—and that Mueller says his report “does not exonerate” Trump. 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.

And Barr’s contortions also were noted by other security experts and legal analysts:

Neal Katyal, who actually drafted the special counsel regulations, wrote a detailed op-ed that must be read in full:

The special counsel regulations were written to provide the public with confidence that justice was done. It is impossible for the public to reach that determination without knowing two things. First, what did the Mueller report conclude, and what was the evidence on obstruction of justice? And second, how could Mr. Barr have reached his conclusion so quickly?

Mr. Barr’s letter raises far more questions than it answers, both on the facts and the law.

He concludes:

No one wants a president to be guilty of obstruction of justice. The only thing worse than that is a guilty president who goes without punishment. The Barr letter raises the specter that we are living in such times.

Indeed. Why did Barr quote Mueller to the extent of less than 100 words, and not one complete sentence? Why did he go so far as to chop up sentences, in order to cherry-pick only the words that obviously best served his goal of pretending Trump is exonerated? For that matter, if the Mueller report is so exculpatory, why didn’t Barr simply release it as is, at least to Congress, or to those congressional committees that have those highest-level security clearances? Why did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell kill the effort passed unanimously by the House of Representatives to have the full report presented to the public? In fact, reports soon began circulating that Barr will present to the public his version of the Mueller report, which will be as credible as Nixon’s redacted version of his White House tapes transcripts.

The truth is that, even on its own terms, the Barr cover-up doesn’t exonerate Trump.

It explicitly doesn’t exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice. Not charging Trump was Barr’s very personal decision.

It’s a decision that was not properly Barr’s to make.

And a close reading of Barr’s letter shows Mueller doesn’t actually exonerate Trump on collusion or conspiracy, either.

It’s a cover-up, taking place in real time, in plain sight, and as with almost everything Trump, so many in the media did not rise to the moment. Their response to Barr’s cover-up was perfectly summarized by one of the handful of credible New York Times columnists, Michelle Goldberg:

Overall, the Times proudly did what it usually does, which is to misreport, distort, undermine the public’s ability to understand a critically important historic moment, and thus make everything much worse—dangerously worse.

Which was reminiscent of its front-page spread on the concocted scandal about Hillary Clinton’s emails, right before the election, a concocted scandal which it had done so much to help concoct in the first place. And perhaps desperately seeking vindication for its disastrous claim, also right before the election, that the FBI saw no clear link between Trump and Russia, the Times took Barr at face value and bizarrely discussed what it described as the media’s apparent need to defend itself after the Mueller report, even though no one in the media has even seen the Mueller report! Times reporter Peter Baker, not surprisingly, concluded not only that a Trump impeachment had been undercut, but that the rest of his term in office had been given a boost, the first polls released after Barr’s cover-up letter notwithstanding. And the same paper’s case study in access “journalism” incompetence and complicity, Maggie Haberman, did exactly what she was expected to do, apparently misunderstanding the meaning of the word exoneration.

But the Times wasn’t the only media outlet to go all in. CNN’s Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb wrote that “Special counsel Robert Mueller found that no one in the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government in 2016,” even though they also have no idea what Mueller actually found. Onetime Trump sycophant and supposedly turned independent critic Joe Scarborough was openly gleeful that it had supposedly been proven Trump didn’t conspire with Russia. And NBC’s Ken Dilanian somehow managed to write something that was titled, “A Cloud Over Trump’s Presidency Is Lifted”—the cloud apparently having been the previous inability of Trump’s most enabling media chumps to find a pretext to pretend Trump had been cleared. And the dumbest man in punditry, Chris Cillizza, claimed the report credibly concluded “that neither Trump nor his campaign colluded with the Russians,” even though it actually didn’t. Taking it even a step farther, the great Mario Cuomo’s other incompetent son, Chris, suggested Trump had been “found not guilty.”

It was a real-time coalescence of a false media narrative, the finest display of village idiocy since the obsession with Hillary Clinton’s emails or Iraq’s supposed WMDs or Al Gore’s supposed dishonesty. Of course, right-wing media turned reality upside down, with the assertion that Barr’s brief summary of the Mueller report called Shame! Shame! on the competent reporters and news outlets who had accurately followed the unfolding scandal all along. But all the media complicity and idiocy, witting or not, was dismantled in one simple tweet, many versions of which circulated widely online and off, by those still capable of honesty and even basic levels of rational thought.

The only people more giddy over Barr’s cover-up than those in Trumpworld and its enabling media were those in Putinworld, who having so stunningly succeeded are ecstatically look forward to more. They were all but openly mocking the degree to which the American media swallowed the Barr cover-up whole.

And why shouldn’t they gloat? The day after the Barr cover-up was released, public attention in America had turned to the arrest of a celebrity lawyer who, as further proof of the degradation of the American political system, had been touted as a potential presidential candidate mere months before. But this story is not over. Democrats will ensure that this story is not over.

It is the widest, deepest, most dangerous political scandal in American history, and the most thorough investigation of it is being whitewashed, misrepresented, and ignored. This is a threat to the rule of law and the continued existence of the American republic as a republic. It is a threat to national security.

The threat is not gone, and if this cover-up succeeds it will only get worse. As the intrepid Natasha Bertrand explained:

It would once have been unthinkable to even contemplate that a sitting president was putting the interests of a hostile foreign power above those of the United States. But Trump’s consistent praise of Putin, his pursuit of a massive real-estate deal in Moscow while Russia was waging a hacking and disinformation campaign against the United States in 2016, and the secrecy that continues to surround his conversations with his Russian counterpart have given some in the national-security community, including many leading Democrats, pause.

Trump took the extraordinary step of confiscating his interpreter’s notes after his first private meeting with Putin in Hamburg, Germany, in 2017, according to The Washington Post, and demanded that the interpreter refrain from discussing the meeting with members of his own administration. In Helsinki, Finland, one year later, Trump insisted on meeting with Putin with no American advisers or aides present.

Frank Figliuzzi, a former assistant director for counterintelligence at the FBI, said he “never envisioned” that Mueller would bring a conspiracy charge—and that focusing on the absence of criminal indictments for conspiracy is unproductive. “If all we do is apply criminal standards to investigative findings, we are missing the point,” Figliuzzi told me. He noted that the vast majority of counterintelligence cases never result in criminal prosecution. Instead, he said, “they’re about determining the degree to which a foreign power has targeted, compromised, or recruited” the subject. “This thing started as a counterintelligence investigation,” Figliuzzi said, “and it needs to end as a counterintelligence investigation.”

That includes making the Mueller report public. It includes making all of Mueller’s accumulated evidence available to Congress. It includes finding out what Barr is covering up, and why. And most particularly, it includes finding out why the Republicans are so desperate to ensure that the truth never be publicly known. To them it is about politics, but to all who care about democracy and our republic and protecting the United States from a hostile foreign power, it is about incalculably so much more.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


  1. Barr shut Mueller down and got out his nonsense lies ahead of the actual report being released to buy themselves time and get the idiot club all riled up.


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