On today's BradCast: Some maddening facts about what awaits when Robert Mueller's Special Counsel report is handed over to the Attorney General and what will and won't likely be in it. [Audio link to show follows below.]
But, first up today...in "lighter" news...some followup to our detailed coverage yesterday of the remarkable events leading up to the unanimous 5 to 0 vote by the North Carolina State Board of Elections for a new election in the state's 9th Congressional U.S. House District. The action was in response to what the board described as a "coordinated, unlawful, substantially resourced absentee ballot fraud scheme" in last November's election by the campaign of Trump-endorsed Baptist minister Mark Harris. The decision followed on stunning surprise testimony against Harris by his own son at the Board's public hearings on the matter this week.
Among our follow-up coverage today: the (not-at-all-shocking if wildly-hypocritical silence from GOP "voter fraud" fraudsters who've made their living for years lying about phony fraud to encourage laws that suppress the Democratic-leaning vote, while hoaxing Fox "News" brain-addled clowns like Donald Trump into believing there's an epidemic of Democratic voter fraud, rather than the insider election fraud which can easily flip the results of an entire election --- as seen in North Carolina. It was also nice to hear the NC Democratic Chairman finally explain the difference between "voter fraud" and "election fraud" to NPR's Steve Inskeep on today's Morning Edition. We'll see if NPR can remember that difference in the future.
And, speaking of GOP hypocrisy, long-time Trump-supporting billionaire and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged today by Florida police for two instances of soliciting prostitution, as he was caught amidst a probe into human sex trafficking. Ironically enough, human trafficking has long been disingenuously used by Trump to support his "National Emergency" declaration to steal money from the military for use in building his border wall with Mexico. The news of the warrant for Kraft's arrest today raises a panoply of interesting issues which Desi and I take a few minutes to discuss.
Then, with several media outlets reporting this week that a report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller may be coming as soon as next week (and, at least one outlet today reporting that's not so), the question of what happens whenever that report is finally delivered to the Attorney General is coming to the forefront.
My guest today, Professor STANLEY M. BRAND, Distinguished Fellow in Law and Government at Penn State University, recently argued in a column at The Conversation that those hoping the public may see this report after it's turned over, by statute, to Trump's newly-minted AG William Barr may be in for some disappointment. Brand, who formerly served for eight years as General Counsel to the U.S. House, now teaches a course on the Independent Counsel at Penn State, explains how it differs from the Special Counsel statute that replaced it after the Clinton era. He suggests the public may never see any of Mueller's "confidential" report.
More frustratingly, he tells me why he believes that Mueller is unlikely to indict the President or recommend such an indictment and how the by-the-book prosecutor is similarly unlikely to recommend impeachment in his report. Unlike the old Independent Counsel statute in effect under Nixon and Clinton, the new statute, he explains, as written by a Democrat, is limited to criminal matters only (not legislative matters such as impeachment) and requires Mueller largely to issue a "confidential" report with little more than details on who was prosecuted and who was not, and what, if any, actions were blocked by the Attorney General overseeing the probe. What Barr then does with that report, he explains, is a separate matter.
Brand, who says he has worked with both Mueller and Barr in the past, says "you may see portions of it, or you may see selected excerpts, or representations of what it contains, if Bill Barr --- and I take him at his word --- wants to be as transparent as he can within the rules and regulations."
In somewhat more comforting comments, he also contends, in response to my query about the curious timing of Barr being seated just days before news (accurate or not) of the report's imminent release: "I have no notion why it's wrapping up --- if it is --- at this particular point, but I have confidence that, if it is wrapping up, it's because Mueller has decided he's finished." He adds, "Nobody is going to push Bob Mueller around. So if there's a conclusion to this, it's because Mueller has determined in his judgment that it's time and he has no further actions to bring."
Brand also offers his insight on whether Mueller would testify to Congress, if subpoenaed, about what was in the report if it's not released to the public or even to Congress. The central frustration at the core of this conversation, at least for me, is that Brand essentially argues that Mueller can't indict Trump (thanks to very debatable, if long-held DoJ "guidelines") and wouldn't cite evidence of impeachable offensives in his report, since that is not part of the new statute's mandate, as written in the wake of "excesses" under the old statute.
"Leon Jaworski, who was the Independent Counsel in the Nixon case, decided that he had sufficient evidence to indict but determined it was not something he should do, given the ongoing investigation into impeachment by the House of Representatives," Brand explains. "Ken Starr, for his part, determined that he could indict a sitting President but determined as a matter of discretion not to do that, because the statute provided a specific mechanism for referring that type of evidence to the House for impeachment, which he did, and which resulted in an impeachment proceeding of President Clinton."
But now, If Mueller can't indict or recommend impeachment, how is this current process supposed to bring accountability for a scofflaw President? There is a lot more to dig into in our discussion, as maddening as it may be at times. It does, however, raise the clear need for a long-overdue Congressional Hearing in the U.S. House Judiciary Committee into whether a sitting President can, under the Constitution, be criminally indicted (a hearing that would, on its own, likely bring some accountability for our current Executive). It also raises the question of why the hell Democrats are waiting for the Mueller Report to be issued before taking action to bring accountability through impeachment, especially since even they may never see this report! If not this President, then what President would ever merit impeachment proceedings in Congress?!
Finally, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced that a vote will be held in the U.S. House on Tuesday to block Trump's "National Emergency" declaration under the National Emergency Act. It'll likely pass in the Democratic-controlled House, but what are its chances in the GOP Senate, which much also hold a vote within 18 days of a resolution being adopted by the House? And, will EITHER chamber be able to overcome an almost-certain veto by the President?
That all remains to be seen, but satirist Randy Rainbow has a few musical thoughts on Trump's "Border Lies" to play out us out today at the end of another impossible week...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)