So what did you think we'd be talking about on today's BradCast? [Audio link to full program is posted below.]
On Sunday, Donald Trump's new Attorney General William Barr issued a four-page letter [PDF] summarizing the long-awaited, nearly two-year Special Counsel investigation by Robert Mueller into Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 Presidential election, Team Trump's cooperation in that effort, and Donald Trump's attempts to obstruct the probe. Mueller's effort resulted in some 35 indictments, including more than 20 Russian individuals and entities, as well as indictments, convictions or guilty pleas from six top Trump associates and staffers. It has also spawned a number of other probes and indictments, including what Barr describes as "several matters" referred "to other offices for further action."
Nonetheless, based on Barr's summary report, issued less than 48 hours after receiving what is likely to have been tens of thousands of pages from the Special Counsel, the White House, the President and his fellow GOPers are falsely characterizing the terse summary as reflecting Mueller's "complete and total vindication" of Trump. That, despite Mueller's express and specific finding (according to one of the very few passages directly quoted by Barr) that the Special Counsel's report "does not exonerate" Trump of obstruction of justice crimes. That did not prevent the White House from falsely describing Mueller's findings as "a total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States." That is the opposite of what little we know the report to have found.
If fact, while Barr claims Mueller's "investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities" (the matter which media, Democrats and Trump alike have long described as "collusion"), Mueller left the decision on whether to prosecute Trump on obstruction up to the Attorney General, according to Barr, for reasons that still remain unknown and will likely stay unknown until and if Mueller's report is actually publicly released. Congressional Democrats are justifiably demanding as much.
While we've shared no small measure of healthy skepticism over the years about what Russia did or didn't do during the 2016 election, along with what Team Trump's involvement with it may or may not have been, there is no legitimate question about Trump's attempt to obstruct Mueller's investigation of it, beyond whether or not the obstruction rose to something that was prosecutable or impeachable and whether a sitting President can be indicted under the DoJ's dubious guidelines which say he or she may not.
Of course, just about everyone seems to have an opinion about Barr's report on Mueller's report. But it should be made clear that everything we currently know is based only on Barr's own summary, compiled in less than 48 hours. It should also be made clear that Barr is wildly conflicted in this matter, as he "auditioned" for the job as Trump's new AG by sending an unsolicited 19-page memo [PDF] to DoJ last year explaining why he believed Mueller's probe was "fatally misconceived" and that, essentially, a President cannot be held criminally accountable for any "exercise of core discretionary powers within the executive branch." (That would include, for example, Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey due to "the Russia thing," as he admitted out loud.)
That Barr and similarly-conflicted Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein were left to determine Trump's fate on this point --- and did so in less than 48 hours after a two year investigation --- is anything but what any American should consider to be "justice". But, as Mark Joseph Stern argues today at Slate, "William Barr Did What Donald Trump Hired Him to Do".
Today, we focus on the very few FACTS revealed by Barr's memo and open up our phone lines for listeners to offer a bunch of interesting takes on the events of the past 24 hours...and, as you might have guessed...even of the past three years...
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(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)