Drama or Civility: The Mueller Hearings

From a Google image Search – Cassidy in The New Yorker

Mueller in the House

While the drama  we experienced in the Mueller Hearing on this Wednesday, July 24, 2019 appeals to our nature the civil approach of the Democrats was far more professional, Congressional, cognizant of the nature and the legal stance of Robert Mueller as a prosecutor and far more pertinent to the actual content of the Mueller report. 

Republican questioners, sticking to their elaborate conspiracy theories that implicate Hillary Clinton and clear Trump in the Russia matters, knew that their points had nothing to do with the Mueller report and were in fact intended to destroy the credibility of the entire Mueller investigation. 

But if we ignore the things we learned from the Mueller investigations then we will pay a price in terms of allowing the infiltration into our business by Russia and any other foreign nation that decides it can benefit from being able to interfere in our politics and stay under our radar. And we will turn our government into a seat for liars and manipulators and those who grasp power for whatever reasons they enjoy being in control, and that will end our republic.

Drama

Watching the Mueller Hearings today was an exercise in blood pressure control. Republicans are able to capture the attention of the Americans who are listening to these hearings in real time because they have some theories about how the President was supposedly railroaded and how the Republicans were shafted by a team assembled to conduct the investigation which was highly partisan. Mueller is a well-respected prosecutor who worked for Ronald Reagan and two Bushes. He reminded us all that good prosecutors never ask potential hires about their political affiliation and said that he has never asked for that information. He chooses mostly from people available in the Department of Justice who may have arrived during a number of administrations. Republicans continue to insist in that they were victimized.

In addition Republicans have a theory that Hillary Clinton got the Russians involved in the 2016 election and that she paid Fusion GPS to have Christopher Steele produce the Steele Dossier which contained “dirt” on Donald Trump. They kept pushing this unverified and thinly veiled piece of theory although they knew it was currently under investigation by the Department of Justice and that Mueller could not give testimony about it. They were talking through this hearing to their Fox “News” audience. Mueller’s answers suggest that he never even considered the Steele Dossier part of his investigation.

The Republicans said also that, since Trump denies any interactions on his part with the Russians, this investigation should never have been conducted. They ignored evidence that this President has so far lied over 3,000 times, both great big fat lies and tiny lies intended to confuse the records in the media over what is fact and what is fiction. Michael Cohen, the President’s lawyer, although admittedly tarnished by his own lies, tells us that Trump never does his own dirty work. He likes to have deniability. He tries not to ever be implicated in the things he orders his employees to do. That is why at least five of Trump’s campaign staff members are either in prison or under indictment.

Then there is the whole issue of why Mr. Joseph Mifsud was never indicted and the incredulity Republicans express, however disingenuously, that Mueller was never able to get him to testify although he was in and out of America a number of times during the pertinent time period. This whole issue of Mifsud and Papadopoulos and who Mifsud actually represented is another Republican conspiracy theory. 

In fact, especially in the afternoon session, Republicans claim there are many things Mueller should have investigated that he didn’t that would have been exculpatory to Trump. Well since these things were not investigated it is strictly a Republican theory that these things will fall out in Trump’s favor, but they are currently under investigation in the DOJ at Republican insistence. Given that Democrats consider William Barr, the Attorney General, a Trump toady it seems unlikely Dems will feel they can trust the outcome of the most recent investigations into Republican talking points.

Although Mueller was never able to tie Trump to the Russian intervention in the election, it is certainly interesting to note that his campaign had about 140 interactions with Russians which certainly seems excessive. 

Another Republican belittles Mueller’s accomplishments by saying that he cites the media over 200 times in his evidence so it appears that this report could have simply been compiled from what was in the media. However, we have a President who conducts his Presidency in the media, and who refused to testify before the Mueller investigation. Even when the President tries to keep secrets he is usually unsuccessful; someone leaks private discussions to the media either from the prodding of their conscience or perhaps even as directed by the President. The media used in the Mueller report consists of actual quotes of things Trump said either to the media or on Twitter (social media). Since these are direct quotes, things we all heard and know about, things the President owns as things he has said, they offered the only testimony from Trump that was available at the time. Although there is an Appendix that tells what the President said in his written statement with his lawyer, those answers were made after-the-fact and the President either could not remember or refused to answer many of the key questions put to him. 

Civility

The Democrats, on the other hand, appeared dry as paper, but that was because they stuck to what was in the report instead of constantly trying to criticize what was not in the report that they thought should be in the report as the Republicans did all day. The Democrats understood what Mueller would be willing to say and what he wouldn’t be able to say. The Democrats treated Robert Mueller with the respect he deserved. Clearly, the Dems would have liked Mueller to be even more definitive than he was about whether Trump stepped over the line with Russia and moved into the area of treason, which many of us believe he did. However Mueller insists that he could not make such a judgment based on the evidence, but he also said that the fact that so many of the witnesses lied to the investigators and even the Grand Jury did hurt the investigation. Mueller does say that there is clear evidence of Russian interference in our election and he does not soft pedal the seriousness of this nor the fear that this interference has not ended and probably will be a factor in the 2020 election.

What the Democrats tried to do is go over the most egregious examples of obstruction in Part II of the report and show how each met the three requirements of the Obstruction charge. They looked at the firing of James Comey, which the President admitted to Lester Holt was because of the investigation into Trump and Russia before the American people in a television interview, very publicly. We heard the things that Trump said to Cohen and Manafort and Flynn and Roger Stone which alternatively hinted at future pardons or issued veiled threats that harm might come to their families. These things are in the public record, the videos are out there and can be searched. Trump may think he speaks in code, but his coded statements are crude and easy to decode by even the least educated among us. We cannot help but wonder how it is that the only people unable to get Trump’s thinly veiled points are the Republicans and Americans who get their news from the Fox channel. We have physical evidence of the checks Trump wrote to pay off women he had affairs with who he feared would add to the flames of the “pussy” incident aired during his campaign. This President, for some reason, can convince people to deny the evidence that they can see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears. 

Whether or not one person’s mind was changed relative to the findings of the Mueller report by today’s hearings is going to vary once again by the party you give your allegiance to. This should not be true but it is. I doubt that people who pledge allegiance to Donald Trump will be swayed by such wonky legal evidence or such a respectfully conducted set of questions as the Democrats offered. This will most likely be the end of the Mueller report, but the proceedings did nothing to overturn the historical moments documented in the report. Trump may be reelected and may run out the legal clock and thereby escape indictment or conviction for his crimes, but what our historical documents say about Trump and his Presidency will not be kind or in any way respectful, if our historical record is allowed to say anything honest at all. This President likes to rewrite history to erase the negative things he does. What version of history survives will tell us whether our democracy made it through the Trump years.

Rachel Maddow

I will remind anyone who watches Rachel Maddow on MSNBC that she taught us what we needed to know to understand the Mueller Report before it was ever completed. She did not have spies on the Special Prosecutor’s investigation; she put everything together with journalistic talent and meticulous attention to detail. She always knew the current target of the investigation and with the help of her staff was aware of all the relevant news reports and articles by reputable news writers. She was apprised of all Trump’s many statements and all his tweets and offered us quotes that were also echoed in the press. She read us transcripts of trials, showed us footage of arrests, kept us informed of future court appearances and speculated about the identity of witnesses mentioned only by monikers like Individual 1 or 2. If anyone should get an award for coverage of the Mueller Investigation it should be Rachel Maddow. It is small wonder that Democrats who watched MSNBC knew immediately that Bill Barr (AG) was lying about the conclusions Mueller reached in his report and American’s who watched Fox News were unprepared to accept this reality. 

The Mueller Report: Game Over: Not So Fast

Mueller Report game over NJ.com

Everything we thought was true, that which we have seen exposed over and over again (in some of our news) turns out to be true. The Mueller Report tells us this. Game Over – I think not. There is little in there that we did not already know. We have a President who will do anything to stay in power, although he was quite surprised when he won it. Was his surprise genuine? I doubt it. This is not a man who cares a hoot about being genuine. He had his guys put the fix in and they are all in jail for it. But he kept this hands clean, no paper trail to him, no tapes, just word-of-mouth. What people say is easily challenged, easily turned into a personal attack, slander, their-word-against-mine. Our laws will never get closer to this guy than what the Mueller Report managed to seek out and tell us. Our President is friends with mobsters and knows better than to leave evidence behind of his misdeeds.

How near crisis are we in America and in the world? How near a critical point in the transformation of our democracy/republic into an authoritarian state? How close to coastal flooding and weather too violent to ignore? How close to the death of our oceans? Whether or not we can afford to take our sweet time and make sure we have the goods on this man while he tramples our laws and our values and our institutions is not a question to be taken lightly. Trump proves through the testimony of his familiars that he would do anything to get his way, anything to protect himself, and anything to get reelected to an office that he disrespects, and does not comprehend or honor.

The Senate will not impeach. We know this. Trumpists around the country believe the new AG when he says that Trump is in the clear. But these are people who have taken us a long way down the road to destruction both at home and abroad, people who only seem to care that the economy seems temporarily improved. When America is finally ruined who will we blame, the people who didn’t see through Trump, or the people who did who did not do enough to stop the desecration of our nation? Will impeachment from only the House of Representatives wake up the bewitched? Impeachment doesn’t mean that a President has to give up his/her office. I don’t know if impeachment will work.

I thought the law was a muscular thing; that there was power and justice in the law. But when it comes to the powerful and the wealthy the law seems quite “dainty”. Lawyers intone on our television sets all day long. One day they find that Trump is despicable and bad for America. But then they equivocate, because we have written America into a corner where a sitting President cannot be indicted. Today the same lawyer who spoke with some passion yesterday now is pontificating about using our powers of reason, and is rationalizing inaction.

If any person without power or wealth in America did the things this President has done or tried to do s/he would be in jail. If we have a Constitution that does not allow us to protect our nation against a scheming President, a President who cares more about what he personally can “win”, not for the nation but for himself, and the adulation of his deluded followers, what loyalty he can command through fear, not through worth; when our Constitution does not protect us from such a person then that document is no longer enough to provide a government that works for we the people.

Our Constitution assumes that we will elect someone with integrity and a broad philosophical view which will keep our nation safe from plunder and dismantlement, or from weakness that allows a foreign power to exploit us. We have let a person with no integrity, no depth of view, a destroyer into our government instead. And now we find ourselves with no way to free ourselves that does not further the destruction of our freedoms and rights and the apparatus that allows us to keep these abstract and hard-won values. If the election doesn’t work, only mass demonstrations and chaos will offer any hope of restoring our nation to the framework provided and maintained by our ancestors. We also cannot stop governing for elections. There is always an election on the horizon.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – NJ.com

Mueller Report-Trump, an Escape Artist

Escape artist Time Magazine

The Mueller Report – what a mess. Many of us knew as soon as we watched the hearings on the appointment of William Barr to take over as AG that two years of hard work was about to disappear in a puff of smoke, or a summary in four very expensive pages of a document that is most likely longer than most books. We now know we were right in deciding that Barr was appointed as just another Trump stooge. Today he declared that the ACA is unconstitutional. There is chaos ahead.

However, as to what Trump did or did not do, we know what we saw. We saw a candidate for the American office of President flippantly request that a leader of a foreign nation, who often is seen as our adversary, and who governs by fear, find the emails his opponent had deleted from her server. He now says this was a joke but I never found it at all funny and many Americans agree. It is also beside the point to wonder whether he was joking or not. He said it and it seems to have been a request that was taken seriously as we then got a document dump from Wikileaks and the DNC was hacked. I have never seen a candidate on network television appeal for help from Russia.

We know what we saw when Lester Holt interviewed Trump and he said that he fired FBI head, James Comey, because the Russia investigation was a ‘witch hunt’ and he wanted to stop it. He also fired Andrew McCabe who took over at the FBI for James Comey. This was public evidence of obstruction. Who even needs a Special Investigator to determine that this President tried to obstruct any investigation into his business. The passion with which he pursued maintaining secrecy about his taxes and his business dealings looks pretty damning also. What does he have to hide? Well I contend that his business dealing are transparently crooked. However, Trump has found ways to make sure that his transgressions don’t accrue to him.

Donald J. Trump is a slippery man. He is always accused and almost never convicted. This is because he has others do his dirty work. He understands deniability probably better than anyone we have ever experienced. He inspires loyalty in his cohorts but why is difficult to understand. He abandons them to bear the consequences of the underhanded tasks he signals them to take on for him. Despite the evidence we have of what happens to his hapless lieutenants he maintains an army of loyal souls who continue to do his bidding. Incomprehensible and frightening. Small wonder that Mueller was unable to get through this man’s cluster of protectors and defenders to connect Trump to anything. He’s an escape artist.

 

It seems that being President of the United States offers Donald Trump some big perks. He still needs a few fixers in the Justice Department, the courts (the 9th circuit he is always going on about), and the Supreme Court, but he no longer needs his old cronies, his henchmen. Good thing since they are all in prison or under indictment.

Turns out the guy he put in charge of “his” Justice Department, the new AG, William Barr, does not believe we can indict a sitting President and he also believes the President has powers that are just about unlimited. From Trump’s point of view the Office of the President of the United States is a perfect spot to land in if you have cheated and lied in business, in life, and in an election campaign. Now he is free to act alone, to sign all the executive actions he pleases and there are no consequences if he is wrong. Of course he has to get reelected. But for now this is the greatest achievement of all time for an escape artist. It is the Great Escape.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Time Magazine