Mueller Report: Obstruction is Food for Trump Foes to Feed On
Early reads of The Mueller Report are providing foes of the president plenty to chew on … as predicted. Yes, in the legal sense, Trump was cleared with flying colors of colluding with the Russians in the 2016 elections. (In other words, what this whole thing was supposed to be about.) Yes, Mueller’s prosecutors were unable to conclude Trump obstructed justice and the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General and DOJ lawyers said there was no crime.
However, since Washington has as much use for justice as L.A. does for snow shovels, we have to look at the political ammo Mueller’s team has handed the president’s critics on a $35 million platter.
The 10 Potential Instances of Obstruction of Justice
The big issue is the charge President Trump tried to obstruct justice. Mueller’s team laid out 10 actions by Trump they found suspicious. You can find them in volume 2, pages 3-6.
- The Campaign’s response to reports about Russian support for Trump.
- Conduct involving FBI Director Comey and Michael Flynn.
- The President’s reaction to the continuing Russia investigation.
- The President’s termination of Comey.
- The appointment of a Special Counsel and efforts to remove him.
- Efforts to curtail the Special Counsel’s investigation.
- Efforts to prevent public disclosure of evidence.
- Further efforts to have the Attorney General take control of the investigation.
- Efforts to have McGahn deny that the President had ordered him to have the Special Counsel removed.
- Conduct towards Flynn, Manafort, [REDACTED – HARM TO ONGOING MATTER].
- Conduct involving Michael Cohen.
The Mueller squad’s conclusion. They couldn’t make the case … but.
Throwing the Dems a Bone
“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. However, we are unable to reach that judgement.” That is not a legal statement. That is a political one. Note how the phrase “clearly did not” puts the burden of proof on Trump.
Translated: “We cannot show he committed obstruction of justice, hard as we tried. And we’re supposed to shut-up at this point, but we can’t help ourselves.”
Instead, Mueller’s team suggests Congress take a whack at it.
“We concluded that Congress can validly make obstruction-of-justice statutes applicable to corruptly motivated official acts of the President without impermissibly undermining his Article II functions.”
Will non-partisan Justice Department lawyers agree with that conclusion? That’s hardly the point. Will Congress bother to take into consideration the fact that the “we” includes prosecutor Andrew Weissman? With his history of stretching laws past the breaking point in order to land convictions? That’s moot. You know they won’t. Mueller has given them a bone and House Democrats and their media allies are running with it.
Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy has now published a column on just “how blithely” Mueller “reversed the burden of proof on the issue of obstruction.” Innocent until proven guilty isn’t a fad. It’s an American foundation.
Said McCarthy, “Since he wasn’t convinced there was enough evidence to charge, he should have said he wasn’t recommending charges. Period. Anything else was — and is — a smear. Worse than that, it flouts the Constitution.”
So What About Obstruction?
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Fox News that underlying each of the ten potential obstruction of justice incidents is “intent.” Trump believed he was innocent — which the Mueller Report bears out — and he was getting frustrated and angry.
For example, the desire to remove the Special Counsel. Former White House Counsel Don McGahn testified Trump at one point wanted Mueller fired. That’s not too good. But what was Trump’s beef? Mueller’s assorted conflicts of interest. Mueller’s a pal of Comey’s. Mueller and Trump had some business tangles in the past. And most shocking of all, Mueller had hired Jeannie Rhee for his team. A former lawyer for the Clinton Foundation. Underling of Eric Holder. What sane person wouldn’t cry foul?
(Also, keep in mind that McGahn’s exchanges with Trump could be privileged. Trump let him gab. That alone argues against obstruction.)
Those Funny Double Standards
For example, the firing of James Comey. Of the multitude of reasons Comey deserved to be fired, what was Trump’s main beef? Comey had told him repeatedly he wasn’t under investigation. Trump wanted Comey to say that publicly so the cloud would be lifted off the president. Makes sense, right? Comey refused. Insubordination. Funny, exactly what the DOJ Inspector General concluded in his examination of Comey’s handling of the Hillary investigation.
Curious how when Comey was insubordinate in the Hillary investigation, Democrats wanted him fired. He is insubordinate to Trump, Trump fires him, and Democrats call it obstruction.
For example, “Efforts to Prevent Public Disclosure of Evidence.” This refers to “The President’s Efforts to Prevent Disclosure of Emails about the June 9, 2016 Meeting Between Russians and Senior Campaign Officials.” That was only about keeping emails from the press, not Congress or investigators, Mueller concluded. So that isn’t obstruction of justice.
At the end of the day, Trump didn’t do anything to get in the way of the FBI investigation — led by Trump-hating Peter Strzok. Or of the Special Counsel investigation — featuring a Hillary-loving, Resistance-backing Andrew Weissman.
But again, this is Washington … the only place where actions speak softer than words. And the President’s words are already used against him by Democrats and their media allies. Let the hearings begin.
Still, President Trump doesn’t seem too worried. “I’m having a good day.”