“The Special Counsel states that ‘while the report does not conclude that the President has committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’” ~ Attorney General William Barr’s letter summarizing the Mueller Report’s findings to congress.
If we can draw no conclusions on Trump’s “alleged” crimes of obstruction of justice, then what was the fucking point? The entire premise of the 22 month investigation was to answer the question of whether Trump attempted to cover-up efforts between his campaign and Russian government officials to illegally seize the U.S election. While it is unfair to draw a false binary between “Lock him up” and “exonarated,” it’s also true that there should be a conclusion of some sort. Friend of the Blog™ James Comey went so far as to suggest “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring a case against Hillary Clinton. He also went out of his way to critique her conduct, calling it “reckless.” Most people, including Comey himself, have since argued that he went too far into inserting his own opinion into his findings, and the most generous interpretation of Mueller’s non-statement is that it is an overcorrection to Comey’s mistakes.
However, the idea that a prosecutor can carry out their basic functions without human bias or perspective is ludicrous. For example, Mueller chose to give Michael Flynn plea deal in exchange for his testimony even after the federal judge at his hearing accused him of “selling his country out,” (i.e: treason). This is a human judgment with several factors:
- How valuable is the information Flynn provides to the investigation?
- How much can we trust what Flynn says?
- How legitimate would a grand jury find his testimony to be?
- How severe were Flynn’s crimes?
In this case, it appears on the surface to be a massive mistake. Why give a traitor lenience when your report is incapable of drawing any conclusions with or without Flynn’s testimony.
Mueller’s report, or at least the Barr provided summary of that report, is essentially “The washcloth is not soaking wet, but we cannot conclude it is dry.” There are degrees of difference in between soaking wet and dry, but the implication Barr (and possibly Mueller) makes that no conclusion can be drawn is ridiculous.
From what we know so far, there are several conclusions that we can come to from the Mueller report and none of them are particularly optimistic:
Conclusion 1: Barr is grossly misrepresenting what is in the Mueller report.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is impossible, but it seems unlikely. Certainly, Barr’s interpretation probably has some level of curtailing to Trump’s narrative, but seeing as Mueller and his team presumably still have copies of the report, it would seem nigh impossible for Barr to get away with any sort of real obfuscation of the report.
If this is true and Mueller and the FBI haven’t gone through back-channels to correct this for the general public, then that, at the very least, is worrisome. It paints Mueller as a spineless Bearucrat trying to get through to the next day at his gruelling capitalistic grind like everyone else which, hey, I totally relate, but you’d hope the appointed defender of democracy would maybe be a little more enthusiastic than the rest of us normies.
Conclusion 2: Mueller wants Trump, or at least the GOP, to remain in power while also maintaining the illusion of accountability and neutrality.
The precedent for this is James Comey, who, as indicated above, injected his personal opinion as much as possible into legal analysis in order to maximize the damage to Clinton’s campaign while maintaining “neutrality” and a reputation as an honorable and effective investigator. Comey then decided to double down on this by disclosing an unrelated reopening of the investigation to Congress for an unrelated incident, thereby assuring it would get leaked when it was completely ethically and legally unnecssary for Comey to do so.
I’m making the case here that Comey intentionally tried to swing the election for Trump (and, to his credit, seems to have regretted that decision sincerely) to point out that Mueller, a registered Republican, could feasibly do the same if he wanted to.
That said, I think this is also pretty unlikely. Trump seemed to want to fire Mueller really really badly, which would indicate that if there is a sort of effort by the FBI to maintain the GOP’s political control, Trump’s not in on it. It’s not completely impossible that Rod Rosenstein hired Mueller knowing he would get this result but also knowing Trump is too dumb to keep a secret, but this line of thought strays into conspiracy theory territory.
Conclusion 3: Mueller doesn’t want to draw any conclusions so he can continue to do his job, and instead will allow Congress/the public to draw their own conclusions from the evidence he presents.
This is the more generous interpretation of the similar first conclusion I drew. The problem is, of course, that Mueller knows a debate about his findings in the public statosphere without his own conclusions attached will devolve into another cog in the partisan divide.
Still, there is some honor, as naive as it might be, in punting the decision to America’s elected officials.
Conclusion 4: There is little to no evidence of wrong-doing by Trump and Mueller is trying to save-face for himself and-or liberals.
This can be either saving face for himself and his team because despite the fact Trump has literally committed obstruciton of justice on twitter, they couldn’t find a prosecutable offense. Or it could he doesn’t want to validate what he sees as as an invalid presidency but is unable to prosecute or pursue further due to the constraints around him set by the justice department.
My conclusion: Probably some combination of the above, to what degree, I don’t know.
I do think Mueller would be more inclined towards harsher conclusions with a Democrat president, both because of his own likely biases and because Republicans are much more skilled at controlling the national narrative. I also think, like many liberals, his inability to fight fire with fire and inability to bend the rules in a state of crisis has crippled his ability to act effectively. The liberal problem for the last 40 years has been that they will follow not just the actual rules, but the spirit of those rules, to a T even as disingenous actors continue to exploit a flawed system that for centuries largely relied on its players agreeing upon rules official and unofficial.
I think that, more than anything, publishing a conclusion of non-conclusion was the path of least resistance. By publishing a non-conclusion, Mueller doesn’t have to destabilize a ruling party he more or less agrees with anyway, doesn’t have to worry about getting fired, doesn’t have to have to spend another 16 months investigating because the evidence matters less, and doesn’t have to bear the responsibility, as Comey does, of making a politically decisive decision.
And that’s the beauty of the American system of corruption, it is inherent in its design that the vast majority of people, even as they get their lunch money taken by billionares, find the path of least resistance to be to fight with each other for the scraps. The legal system is fundamentally broken, but it is also designed to shed responsibility on the other 11 jurors in that room.
The ironic thing is, in the end, the Mueller report doesn’t matter. What matters is we have a president who is a rapist, murderer and thief. Whether he did those things by the letter of the law or not is completely irrelevant.
Arguing whether despicable human rights abuses were legal or not is exactly what Republicans, champion defenders of the system, have always wanted us to do. Arguing about the Mueller report is a red-herring, and falling right into their trap.