Digesting the Barr Summary

It’s safe to say that William Barr’s summary of the Mueller report laid nothing to rest. It’s likely Barr will be invited to testify to both the House and Senate judiciary committees about what he wrote. People with better understanding of the law than I have say they are troubled about the summary and believe it leaves out too much. In short, the call to release the entire report is just getting started.

It’s my understanding that Mueller gave Barr his findings and left decisions on indictments to Barr and Rod Rosenstein. And Barr is declinging to issue indictments. But what was his reasoning?

Joe Conason:

Barr’s letter says that his decision on an obstruction charge was not based on his views about the presidency, but on Mueller’s finding that Trump did not commit the underlying crime of conspiring with the Russians to interfere with the 2016 election. The absence of sufficient evidence to charge on obstruction thus “bears on the President’s intent with respect to obstruction.” According to Barr, the Mueller report “identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent…”

But there are huge holes in that justification. Without interviewing the president, it seems impossible for either Mueller or Barr to determine his intent. And the president, despite his personal promise to submit to a Mueller interview, instead evaded it. And that leaves aside the glaring fact that the president himself declared he fired James Comey as FBI director to kill the Russia probe — a declaration of corrupt intent uttered in public more than once.

Even more telling is Barr’s attempt to brush aside Trump’s dangling of a pardon before Paul Manafort and other defendants. That hinted favor appears to have had an enormous impact on the Russia investigation, because the Office of Special Counsel indicated as much in its sentencing memorandum on Manafort.

So, the argument is that since Mueller was able to conduct an investigation, there was no obstruction? Not acceptable.

At the New Yorker, John Cassidy accused Mueller of punting.

The special counsel’s decision not to reach a conclusion, or render any opinion at all, about whether Trump obstructed justice will also have been a source of great relief at the White House. In the first place, it allowed Barr, a conservative lawyer whom Trump handpicked to replace Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, to claim that the President is in the clear.

Robert Litt at Lawfare adds,

This conclusion must be read in coordination with Barr’s 2018 memo arguing that acts within the president’s constitutional authority over law enforcement, including firing the director of the FBI, cannot constitute obstruction of justice—at least if they do not “impair[] the integrity or availability of evidence.”

For that matter, the collusion charge wasn’t really laid to rest, either. Robert Litt continues:

The prevailing take on Attorney General William Barr’s letter to Congress on the Mueller report is summed up in the New York Times: “The investigation . . . found no evidence that President Trump or any of his aides coordinated with the Russian government’s 2016 election interference.” But a careful reading of Barr’s letter suggests that that may be wrong.

In fact, Barr’s letter quotes Special Counsel Robert Mueller as stating that the investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Saying that the investigation did not establish that there was collusion is not the same thing as saying that the investigation established that there was no collusion.  …

…  as quoted by Barr, Mueller used the words “conspired” and “coordinated.” Unlike the colloquial term “colluded,” these terms have legal significance. “Coordination” with a foreign government would be a basis for a finding of criminal liability under the election laws, and “conspiracy” would be a criminal agreement to violate those laws. This language suggests that Mueller’s report viewed the conduct through the lens of a criminal investigative process—that is, whether the evidence met the Department of Justice standards for prosecution, including the ability to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there was intent to violate the law.

In other words, there was collusion, but the evidence didn’t support criminal conspiricy or coordination.

Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, “Mueller’s inability to prove conspiracy does not mean, however, that he failed to uncover evidence that would be troubling to many Americans.” Release the full report.

What is of most concern to me is that there is no indication from the Barr summary whether Mueller delved into the question of whether Trump is compromised, in particular through old business ties to foreign entities like Vladimir Putin or the Saudis.

Martin Longman:

Going back to Rod Rosenstein’s 2017 “Scope of Investigation” memo, he declared that the original order had been “written categorically in order to permit its public release without confirming specific investigations involving specific individuals.” My interpretation of that is that he was envisioning a counterintelligence report where sources and methods have to be protected and prosecutorial decisions are not the focus. There is no mention from Barr of any counterintelligence assessment on whether the president is or has been the subject of blackmail or external control. That is the most important thing that Congress and the American people need to understand, and Barr is silent about it. In Rosenstein’s original authorizing memo from May 2017, he asked for “any linksand/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.” Where is the report on the links?

The links are important because they inform any counterintelligence assessment….

… the president is obviously compromised in some ways, as is evident from virtually everything he says and does with respect to Vladimir Putin and Russia. This situation didn’t suddenly become acceptable because Mueller did not find prosecutable evidence of a conspiracy. It didn’t go away because Barr unilaterally did what he auditioned to do and cleared the president of obstruction of justice charges.

In short, nothing is resolved, and this ain’t over.

19 thoughts on “Digesting the Barr Summary

  1. " In short, nothing is resolved, and this ain’t over "

    I would like to agree but my gut tells me this thing is over. Mueller uses the words "Russian Government" so to me that suggests that yeah there was collusion / conspiracy but the tRumpers and more likely the Ruskies knew to use cutouts not actual Russian agents. I'm all for the House looking into the fake presidents past actions, finances, etc. but I think this whole Russia thing is over and the Democrats would do well to move on. Press for the release of the entire report, but move on.

    •  I think this whole Russia thing is over and the Democrats would do well to move on. 

       I think that would be a big mistake. Maybe Mueller couldn't prove a conspiracy to the satisfy legal requirements to bring charges,but the mountain of lies told by the Trump and his campaign confederates to cover up any interactions with Russians speaks volumes to the fact that there was a connection. Maybe everybody indicted was running their own game independently driven by their own motives, all of them through their lies showed that their primary allegiance wasn't to the United States. And for whatever reason and whatever method, it was Russia that provided the lure.

      We should never walk away from an adversary without knowing how they accomplished the damage to our internal discourse just because it's too frustrating to deal with or price we pay might seem too great.



      • I agree with everything you say, my point is that Barr is going to white-wash and slow walk this thing so that the repugs have cover to support the fake president. Without 10-15 repugs in the senate the whole thing is a waste of time from an impeachment perspective. I'm all for getting all the details of the report and pursuing things that appear illegal but I've seen this movie before, the country has scandal fatigue. Trump and Barr have designed this thing so they have a few weeks to waive the "Exoneration Report" all the while the Democrats have nothing to refute it with, this is Trumps game and he plays it well. The only solution I see is beating Trump in 2020 and then go after him, without the cover from the senate and the AG he is powerless, right now he holds all the cards?

  2. There is no point in discussing the Mueller Report until someone other than Barr has read it.  It needs to be made available to Congress at a minimum.  And, to save myself from all of these ridiculous discussions about the Barr memo, I will not be watching any TV news or news programs; and, may limit internet consumption to cat videos only.  It also is going to make an already insufferable boob of a president* even more insufferable.

    • Bonnie is on the money here. We have only seen the Barr report. Barr is corrupt that is why tRump hired him, he's going to do whatever it takes to keep congress and the public from seeing the bad stuff in the Mueller report. My point is as usual tRump controls the media narrative, once he's out there saying he's exonerated, waving the four page Barr memo, it's going to be hard to turn it around again. Trump only does one thing really well, he knows how to spin like nobody's business.

      Also sorry about your cat Bonnie, I've been through that with dogs and cats, it aint easy.

  3. When Kenneth Starr delivered his 336 page report (Amazon), Janet Reno did not release a four page letter about its contents.


    And when the FBI decided that there was insufficient evidence to charge Hillary Clinton with a crime, that did not stop Trump and the dimwits at his rallies from chanting "lock her up." 


    I have not heard the talking heads on teevee mention either of these points. Then again, I do not have cable, so no  doubt they are mentioning them somewhere.


    And the Dems running for President are not talking about Mueller; this is a smart move. Pete Buttigieg has no need to talk about it in order to be the perfect antithesis of DJT. We can only  hope that he will order his AG to prosecute Hillary and also the members of Congress who investigated him, making this the main theme of his campaign for reelection. 

  4. All these arguments are interesting and important  but you aren't going to get much traction with them with the average voter on the street, let alone the average Trump supporter.  There needs to be a simple, bumper sticker sized slogan that can sum up the whole twisted affair for easy consumption.  It probably doesn't have to be  quite as dumbed down as "Lock him up!" But something like that.

      • Bumper Stickers don't work on Liberals do they? If Barr didn't release any nasty bits in the Summary, why would he release the bad stuff ever? Barr will stall for a week or so, release another white-wash and we will all demand to see more………………..two months Barr will go to court claim some sort of privilege, next thing you know it's November 2020. If I ran the party I would find five freshman congress-critters (AOC could be Team Leader) and put them in charge of chasing the Trump. The rest of the Party could try to get someone sain elected President.


  5. After the 187th Benghazi Investigation, the Republicans in Congress accepted there was a tragedy, but no cover-up and no culpability beyond the fact the US Embassy was insufficntly fortified. I was particularly gratified by the apology issued by the GOP en masse to Secretary Clinton for the personal anguish repeated groundless accusations had caused her. Trey Gowdy resigned over the personal animus he displayed.

    You don't remember that? That's because it didn't happen, but the GOP is demanding the equivilent from Democrats.

    • Trey is on deck for a supreme court nomination when it becomes available. Not a bad deal for services rendered.

  6. Just great!

    So in arguably our nation's most volatile political circumstances since the Civil War, Mueller left his team's report with GOP AG Barr to do with what he wants, and leaves the Democrats looking like they're stalking the POTUS as they try to get the report, and then study the report to see what Mueller found that might be actionable or not.

    Yeah, that'll calm shit down, pronto!

    Thanks, Uncle Bob!

    Fer nuttin…

  7. We all watched obstruction every day. The incessant attacks on Mueller, on DOJ,on FB I on cia on individuals and their spouses. Attacks on witnesses, attacks on witnesses relatives. Witness tampering. Dangling pardons. No individuals associated with the campaign  had contact had conspired. Really? I have two words: Paul Manafort. Kilimnick  voter data. No coordination: access Hollywood. 

    The Barr gloss over states there was no proof of intent as there was no underlying crime. Obstruction  does not require underlying crime. That argument is totally false. He broadcast his intent.

    What is really bad is this puts a seal of approval on the executive  attacking the DOJ FBI, politicizing both for personal gain. The cruelty of personal attacks on federal employees doing their jobs. Wacky unitary executive garbage being enshrined as precedent for dictatorship. 

  8. Now we have the hit list or enemies list but not the Muller report. It was made up in the form of NCAA brackets.  Steven Colbert was happy to be on the list, and ranked as a number 3 seed,  This was one higher than John Oliver, who seems to get all the Emmy Awards Steven covets , who ranked as # 4.  Colbert took joy in this tiny victory, and continues to do a fine job of shining the light on our executive den of cockroaches.  

    I am taking some tiny joy in noting the increasing similarities between Trump and Nixon.  I would not buy a used car or anything else from either of them or their ilk. 

    My guess is that Manafort was the key link, but knew well the long deadly reach of the Russians.  Oh the work the historians have heaped upon them.  At least we recently finally found out that Nixon scuttled peace talks and extended the war in Viet Nam to foster his election. (Oh yes, that was at the cost of many lives). That reveal took quite a few years but was not shocking.  I can still hear the ring of "I am not a crook" in my ears. It has the same pitch as "No collusion". 

  9. First the crime. "Russia, if you're listening…"

    Then the obstruction. "Comey, you're fired."

    Then the cover-up; a 4-page summary by a hand-picked AG.

    Then the lies, "Complete exoneration."

    All 100% predictable. Next up: drip… drip… drip…

    • I had a flash back where I felt I've been through this before. It dawned on me that experience I was having was of the same dynamic as in the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing where at the last moment the repugs agreed to delay the vote to allow for a comprehensive FBI inquiry into allegations that hadn't been thoroughly investigated. Only to find out in the end that it was nothing more than a ruse to put a cover of sincerity and honesty on the face of an objective that they had predetermined to arrive at.

      When Barr was confirmed there was a false hope of him being an honest broker introduced into the mix that disarmed many people into thinking he wouldn't be the political hack that they suspected he would be. Not that in either case anything could be done to change the outcome due to the Senate numbers. But in both cases it did alter the public perception to some degree to impart trust in the Repug agenda,

      I know for myself I was hoping that Barr would do the right thing..it seems my hopes were in vain. 


Comments are closed.