In 9th grade I did not read Dickens’ “Great Expectations.” Instead, I read the Cliff Notes. Couldn’t get past Pip sounding like a Filipino name. But I did feel deprived knowing only through a secondary source about Miss Havisham’s wedding dress.
Sort of like I feel now after reading Attorney General William Barr’s summary of the Mueller Report.
We paid $25 million for that? I want more than four pages. I want that thick Dickens version, please.
What we got over the weekend is essentially kindling for the political fireplace.
Barr gave us all, especially AALDEF, the best gift imaginable in time for Wednesday’s AALDEF 45th anniversary celebration. Guaranteed table conversation. Especially among lawyers.
“Collusion”? Lawyers don’t get out of bed for collusion, not a statutory crime. So sure, there’s no “collusion.” And you don’t pay for a fancy law degree to speak in simplistic PR/journalese. “Conspiracy,” however, is another matter. That’s worth some billable hours.
Maybe that’s why Trump doesn’t say “No Conspiracy.” An actual crime in the same sentence with the name Trump is bad for the brand. Or maybe “collusion” just feels better on the Trump tongue.
Certainly, “collusion” has been manipulated to become part of a dog-whistle phrase that riles up his base.
But there wasn’t evidence that the Trump campaign “conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” according to Barr. But based on what? And what of that Trump Tower meeting with the Russians? The convictions of campaign chair Paul Manafort? He’s going to prison. We should see that full report.
As for obstruction, Mueller followed the “good people on both sides” theory of law. He laid out evidence for both, and even gave Democrats a little teaser, writing that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
And then Mueller let Barr, Trump’s handpicked pro-executive attorney general, decide whether to prosecute, which both Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein did.
Now, pro-Trump lawyers say there was no underlying crime, so of course obstruction was moot. If that’s correct, someone tell Martha Stewart she didn’t have to decorate her jail cell.
Or maybe Mueller passed the buck to Barr because he didn’t talk in person to the president. Do you need to interview someone in person to be able to recommend a prosecution on obstruction? Shouldn’t Mueller have tested his subpoena power?
Just basic questions after the Cliff Notes. But it means the president’s short-handed tweet, “No collusion. No obstruction. Complete and total exoneration,” has no logical basis.
“Robert Mueller did not exonerate Donald Trump on obstruction of justice,” Senator Mazie Hirono said in a statement. “Instead, Attorney General Bill Barr made his own determination consistent with his unsolicited 19-page memo arguing that the President cannot be charged with obstruction of justice. Congress needs to see the full report to assess the underlying evidence. The Senate Judiciary Committee must hear directly from Attorney General Barr and Robert Mueller on this matter as soon as possible.”
Trump should want it this way instead of taking a shortcut into the court of the Twittersphere.
He was big on transparency last week. He should be today.
In fact, this is an opportunity for the president to unite the country instead of talking about an “illegal takedown that failed,” and how “hopefully somebody’s going to be looking at the other side,” as if he’s prepping for an autocrat’s revenge.
Trump needs to see this as a real legal and constitutional question. This isn’t like his flogging of the divisive Obama birth certificate issue.
Trump could change the dynamic of this country by colluding with Congress to get at the truth. He can prove in a big way that he is a president for all of us, and not just himself.
That would send a message that our democracy is strong and that the president understands one of our Constitution’s basic principles — that he is not above the law.