The Mueller Report Un-Barred (Or Trump has gone off a Legal) Cliff Notes
By Patrick Welle, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Economics and Environmental Studies, Bemidji State University, Bemidji MN – May 3, 2019
The Special Counsel Office (Mueller) Report is downloadable as a pdf at multiple sites online such as news outlets. etc. Here is the link posted by the Department of Justice. https://www.justice.gov/storage/report.pdf
In testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1st, 2019, Attorney General William Barr claimed he did not exonerate Donald Trump, but instead that judgment is up to the American people. As engaged citizens, let’s meet the challenge to get informed.
Volume 1 addresses the Special Counsel’s charge to investigate Russian interference and “coordination” between Russians and people associated with the Trump Campaign. Note the term “collusion” is not part of the directive and the report points out that this term is not the legal standard. Conspiracy is the criminal offense. The purposes of the Mueller investigation are not limited to identifying crimes, but also to inform the American people.
Despite Trump’s claims ad nauseum of “no collusion” the report provides evidence of hundreds of instances of contact between people affiliated with Trump and the Russians. Numerous lies were told to hide these “links” and convictions have resulted. The report notes how these lies and other behaviors impaired the investigators’ ability to assemble evidence and concludes that the evidence is insufficient to find that Trump committed conspiracy with the Russians who have been indicted for hacking of e-mails and mounting disinformation campaigns on social media. Other crimes such as trafficking in stolen property and accepting campaign assistance from a foreign entity are ill defined for electronic data in outdated laws making it difficult to establish key aspects such as anticipated value of the property. While the evidence falls short of these criminal standards, there is appalling evidence of wrongdoing and inappropriate conduct by Trump and his associates.
Volume 2 investigates behavior by Trump that could be construed as obstruction of justice. Section II of Volume 2 addresses ten instances of Trump behavior against the three required elements of obstruction of justice: a. an obstructive act, b. nexus to a proceeding and c. corrupt intent. Item A sets the context of the Trump Campaign’s Response to reports of Russian interference and B – K cover the 10 possible obstructive acts. Item L. “Overarching Factual Issues” ties this section together by citing patterns of obstructive actions by Trump and tellingly describes two phases in time (before and after the appointment of the Special Counsel). Before the Special Counsel’s appointment, analysis of nexus to a proceeding and intent are weaker as Trump was not under investigation himself. The authors’ choices of words and writing style in Part II.L point to the desire to convey that despite technicalities on “discrete acts”, the “totality” of the conduct infers obstruction.
* To get to the essence of the evidence, readers should go to the “Analysis” sections at the end of each of the 10 instances. Each analysis section goes methodically thru the three elements required for obstruction of justice and states whether the evidence is insufficient to make the case, but in the majority of instances it does not state that evidence is inadequate. Rather the evidence is synthesized to indicate that each of the three elements of obstruction are present. While Mueller chose not to state explicitly that the evidence makes the case that Trump committed obstruction of justice multiple times, the report demonstrates that the three elements are present with the logical implication that obstruction occurred.
In Phase One (before Mueller’s appointment) actions B, C and D come up short on one or more of the three required elements for obstruction. Verbiage to describe that the evidence comes up short are phrases such as “the evidence does not resolve whether”, “evidence available to us does not establish” or “did not produce evidence that established”. These definitive statements are conspicuous in their absence from six of the actions that occurred after the Special Counsel was appointed (Phase Two.)
Titles in Phase One are as follows: B. The President’s Conduct Concerning the Investigation of Michael Flynn, C. The President’s Reaction to Public Confirmation of the FBl’s Russia Investigation and D. Events Leading Up To and Surrounding the Termination of FBI Director Comey.
In Phase Two, only item G. The President’s Efforts to Prevent Disclosure of Emails About the June 9, 2016 Meeting Between Russians and Senior Campaign Officials is described as coming up short on the three elements. (Trump composed a false statement and misled in other ways but allowed the e-mails to be disclosed once he realized they would be made public anyway.) In contrast six items E, F, H, I, J and K lack statements that evidence is insufficient and demonstrate that the three requirements are met. The expository style in presenting the evidence invites the conclusion that Trump obstructed justice.
** So the quickest way to learn the crucial substance of the Mueller report showing multiple ways that Trump obstructed justice is to read the “Analysis” sections at the end of these six parts. The analysis sections are found on the following pages in Volume II:
E. The President’s Efforts to Remove the Special Counsel (pages 87-90)
F. The President’s Efforts to Curtail the Special Counsel Investigation (pages 97 & 98)
H. The President’s Further Efforts to Have the Attorney General Take Over the Investigation (pages 111-113)
I. The President Orders McGahn to Deny that the President Tried to Fire the Special Counsel (pages 118-120)
J. The President’s Conduct Towards Flynn, Manafort, [Harm to Ongoing Matter] (pages 131-133)
K. The President’s Conduct Involving Michael Cohen (pages 153-156)