Opinion

Originally posted to Facebook on 19th April, 2019. Edited for clarity.

Previous comments:
Your Trump/Russia Briefing (January 2018)
Trump/Russia: The Michael Cohen Update (April 2018)

* Yeah, this report in absolutely no way exonerates Donald Trump. Indeed, it contains pretty clear, and substantiated, allegations of corruption, witness-tampering, obstruction, and pretty much everything that all of his subordinates are currently awaiting sentencing for. The only difference between them and him, however, is that he is the President, and thus cannot be indicted while in office. Mueller states that he decided from the outset that because of this, it would be unfair to Trump to announce he had committed a crime but could not be charged for it, as this would prevent him from clearing his name at a trial. It would also be unfair to create a sealed indictment because of the risk that it would become public anyway and the ‘”stigma and opprobium” imperil the President’s ability to govern.’

This is all the preamble to the more famous line, “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”. With such context, we can see that if Donald Trump were not the President, Mueller would absolutely be concluding that Donald Trump had committed a crime. Several. Many. Lots.

But Mueller makes it clear that the consequences of Donald Trump’s actions should be weighed and measured by Congress, and not the Executive Branch:

“A federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President’s capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct”.

In other words: Congress, I’ve done my job, now do yours.

Totally exonerated. Move along folks, nothing to see here.

* I have been arguing pretty much since the election that Julian Assange is not a journalist or a publisher but a non-state actor who was trying to influence the 2016 election in favour of Trump out of personal animus for Hilary Clinton and thus deserves no defence as a whistle-blower. Mueller proves this when he writes, and I shall quote this in full because I think it’s very important that people understand this:

“Shortly after the GRU’s first release of stolen documents through¬†dcleaks.com¬†in June 2016, GRU officers also used the DCLeads persona to contact Wikileaks about possible coordination in the future release of stolen emails. …On July 6, 2016, Wikileaks again contacted Guccifer 2.0 though Twitter’s private messaging function, writing “if you have anything hillary related, we want it in the next tweo [sic] days prefable [sic[ because the DNC is approaching and she will solidify bernie supporters behind her after.” The Guccifer 2.0 persona reponded, “ok…i see.” Wikileaks also explained, “we think trump has only 25% chance of winning against hillary…so conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting.”

And in full.

As far as I’m concerned, Assange can spend the rest of his life in a room with no windows. Much of the document is redacted in full here when discussing this, so expect more details of what a malicious actor Assange is to come out as the Stone and extradition cases move forward.

* OMG, that meeting in the Seychelles! Finally found out what that was – an effort of the Russians to get a direct back channel with the President with Putin via lower-level officials. Except that Erik Prince reported to actual America first nationalist Steve Bannon, who when Erik Prince told him about the meeting, told him to stop that and not go anywhere near it again, and all communications regarding his reaction have mysteriously vanished from both men’s phones. Possibly one of the only people associated with Trump to have meant what they said in public.

* The decision not to prosecute anyone for conspiracy, and especially for the Trump Tower meeting is based on Mueller’s conclusion that “the Office did not obtain admissable evidence likely to meet the government’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these individual’s acted “wilfully” ie with general knowledge of the illegality of their conduct”.

In other words, they engaged in conspiracy but were too stupid to realise it was, in fact, conspiracy, and thus cannot be prosecuted. Burn.

* “The President’s Counsel raises statutory and constitutional defenses to a possible obstruction-of-justice analysis of the conduct we investigated. We concluded that none of those legal defenses provided a basis for declining to investigate the facts”.

Or

‘There was no collusion’
‘Do you mind if we look tho.’
‘No-one knew anything about the Russians.’
‘You’re blocking the doorway.’
‘It’s legal when the President does it.’
‘If you could just step aside…’
‘You’re a Democratic supporter!’
‘Sir, do not make me subpoena you.’
‘But her emaaaaaaiiiiillllssss…’

* “Collusion” is a word that does not exist in the federal statute book as a crime. It is therefore not inaccurate to say that Mueller did not prove collusion – because technically, he didn’t. He also didn’t prove that Trump urinated on a bed while cavorting with prostitutes in a Russian hotel either – that just wasn’t the question that he was answering. He *did* publish a whole load of evidence which indicates that there was something to commonly understood public perceptions of “collusion” and “peetape and hookers” though. #peetape

* On that – Mueller’s reference to this is tasteful, but it’s unclear that #peetape is real. What is clear is that Trump thinks that it is, and that Cohen tried to get hold of it. I will take a mild leap here and say that the conduct which the alleged tape supposedly shows presumably happened, or Trump wouldn’t be terrified. Trump will do anything, anything to stop that possible tape getting out, up to and including selling out his entire country to Vladmir Putin when he says he might like some nice thing like the lifting of US sanctions. This is why you can and should judge politicians on their character rather than their policies.

* It’s also evident that the failure of the Trump administration to do anything about the Russian interference in the election, and more specifically the conduct of Donald Trump himself in reference to it, is not because of the #peetape but because Donald Trump thinks it undermines his election victory, and he finds that thought upsetting. Mueller outlines that Trump specifically said this to Hope Hicks, Sean Spicer, and Rience Priebus on more than one occasion. Like, no wonder Mueller couldn’t prosecute that kind of behaviour, I’m not sure I even have the words to describe the all kinds of wrong it is WHEN YOU’RE THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND ALL YOU CARE ABOUT IS HOW AWESOME YOUR ELECTION VICTORY WAS. I think we’re all quite tired of winning now.

Aw, look how cute they were while they were trying to influence the American election to benefit Donald Trump. So cute.

* “Priebus recalled that before the dinner [with Comey], he told the President something like, ‘don’t talk about Russia, whatever you do.’ and the President promised he would not talk about Russia. McGahn had previously advised the President that he should not communicate directly with the Department of Justice … When Bannon learned about the President’s planned dinner with Comey, he suggested that he or Priebus also attend, but the President stated that he wanted to dine with Comey alone. Comey said that when he arrived for the dinner that evening, he was surprised and concerned to see that no one else had been invited.”

Honestly, what do you do when the President thinks he’s some of mob boss taking care of business?

* President Trump complained that he had no good lawyers and that former Attorney General Eric “Holder had been willing to take a contempt-of-Congress charge for President Obama” – of course, notwithstanding the fact that Obama was actually being targetted by a Republican Congress in that episode, let us all remember that President Obama was the kind of President people were willing to take bullets for.

* Trump repeatedly told his intelligence officials while they were briefing him that they needed to “get it out” that he was not personally under investigation and “lift the cloud” – “These requests, while significant enough that [the NSA director] thought it important to document the encounter in a written memorandum, were not interpreted by the officials who received them as directives to improperly interfere with the investigation”. In other words, they were so accustomed to just ignoring everything he said, they didn’t take his orders seriously and thus an obstruction charge cannot be brought. Certainly an, ah, unusual exoneration.

* “Bannon also told the President that firing Comey was not going to stop the investigation, cautioning him that he could fire the FBI director but could not fire the FBI.” The patriot strikes again.

* “Firing Comey would qualify as an obstructive act if it had the natural and probably effect of interfering with or impeding the investigation … The anticipated effect of removing the FBI director, however, would not necessarily be to prevent of impede the FBI from continuing its investigation. As a general matter, FBI investigations run under the operational direction of FBI personnels levels below the FBI director”.

In other words, Trump *thought* by firing Comey he could end the investigation, but it actually didn’t, so it may not count as obstruction. Another case of too stupid to be criminal. My god.

* “Bannon recalled telling the President that the purported conflicts [of the Special Counsel] were “ridiculous” and that none of them was real or could come close to justifying precluding Mueller from serving as Special Counsel. …Bannon told the President that the golf course dispute did not rise to the label of a conflict and claiming one was ‘ridiculous and petty.’ The President did not respond”.

Steve “Two shirts” Bannon just telling it like it is.

* I don’t want to quote all of it, and of course you will be reading the Mueller report yourself in full, won’t you, but probably the most dramatic-but-stupid described in this report is that Donald Trump ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to remove the Special Counsel, Don McGahn decided he was being asked to enact a Saturday Night Massacre, so he called his lawyer, prepared a letter of resignation and informed Priebus and Bannon he was leaving, went to work on Monday ready for the showdown – and Trump never mentioned it again, and apparently forgot the conversation ever happened until it hit the press seven months later.

* Donald Trump Jr actually comes out of this as a half-intelligent man who realised his dad was going to get him into a lot of trouble, and did his best to mitigate the inevitable leaks and negative news stories regarding the Trump Tower meeting with actual honest disclosure. Unexpected.

* “The President the asked [McGahn], ‘What about these notes? Why do you take notes? Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who takes notes.’ McGahn responded that he keeps notes because he is a ‘real lawyer'”. OOOOF.

* Mueller rather conclusively establishes that Trump tried to influence the testimony of Flynn, Manafort, [Redacted – it’s Roger Stone], and Michael Cohen by offering the possibility of pardons, and only Manafort was stupid enough, or guilty enough, to believe him.

– Pg 156-158 of Vol II, “Overarching Factual Issues” considering all of the obstruction episodes, is basically the most blatant If I Did It since OJ.

* “The President’s effort to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the person who surrounded the President declines to carry out orders or accede to his requests”.

If Trump doesn’t ever face consequences for his behaviour, it’s actually because his staff treated him like a toddler. Remember that.

* The final part of the report is a slapping down of Guliani’s legal defenses against the obstruction charges and basically lays out the legal basis on which Congress should be prosecuting President Trump for all of those crimes he blatently committed in the preceding 300 pages.

* Mueller gave Trump’s open book exam an F- and asked for a follow-up in-person interview but Trump said no. They decided they had enough evidence from everything else to go ahead with the report anyway. One of the questions: “Did you have any discussions prior to January 20, 2017 regarding a potential pardon or other action to benefit Julian Assange? If yes, describe who you had discussions with, when, and the content of those discussions.”

* Donald Trump’s signature looks like a snake fell in some ink and then went for a slither to get its head together.

Setting aside the partisanship of the American politics today – Donald Trump should, objectively, be impeached. The behaviour outlined in the Mueller report, whether it meets the threshold for criminal prosecution or not, is corrupt, venal, self-serving, and utterly unbecoming of the conduct of a head of state holding the highest public office in the land.

This man should never have been elected President, nor should he be continuing as President, because he is an international disgrace in his leadership, his care for US national interests, his ability to govern, and his management of crises. He will of course continue as President, because the Republican Party have completely lost sight of the public good, but whatever happens, I think it will be clear that Donald Trump is going down in the history books as one of the worst Presidents, and that as a result of his actions, future Presidents are going to be subject to a lot more rules and a lot less leeway.

The final point to make is that the Mueller Investigation is and was entirely about Russian interference in the election and associated crimes. Trump’s legal woes are not even slightly over. There are ongoing investigations by other parts of the government into nearly every aspect of his public life, and they rumble on. Stay tuned for the next episode of Trump, exclusively available on America…

Mueller report, annotated by the Washington Post.
Searchable PDF
Just give me the Mueller Report in full already.

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Originally posted to Facebook in April 2018.

This is what the news feels like every day atm.

1. Yesterday morning, Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen was raided by the FBI on orders from the South New York U.S. attorney’s office and made off with all kinds of documentation including attorney-client privileged communications. In retaliation, Donald Trump has threatened to fire the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and complained bitterly in a White House press junket that this raid is “an attack on the country” and a “witch-hunt”.

2. It’s very difficult to begin to comprehend just how serious this is. Obtaining a warrant for privileged attorney-client communications requires the prosecutor to show probable cause to suspect that a crime has been committed *by the attorney* and that there is a risk that the subject of the warrant would attempt to destroy evidence if they were simply subpoenaed, and requires the sign-offs of a federal judge and the US Attorney General himself. Various Republican and Trump appointees agreed that whatever they submitted was compelling enough that they were willing to face the public humiliation of Trump’s wrath and the ending of their careers for the sake of justice. Whatever the FBI are looking for, it is really, really serious.

3. Whatever happens to Donald Trump, Michael Cohen’s been heading for a fall for a long time, ever since he issued a public statement that out of the goodness of his heart and touching concern for his client, he remortgaged his house to pay off Stormy Daniels $130,000 without Donald Trump’s knowledge, or consent. One has to assume that’s not true, both because that’s utterly stupid, and also there’s an email floating around in which Michael Cohen complains about Trump not giving him the money afterwards. If it isn’t true, then Michael Cohen made an undeclared monetary expenditure on behalf of the Trump campaign, which is a breach of campaign finance regulations. If it *is* true, then he made an undeclared in-kind donation to the Trump campaign – which is a breach of campaign finance regulations. Also, making a non-disclosure agreement on behalf of your client without telling them is a breach of the ethics rules of the New York State Bar Association and can get you disbarred from legal practice altogether. Michael Cohen was in big trouble the minute he issued that statement and now we are seeing the first signs of it.

4. Amid all the headlines of Stormy Daniels and other women Donald Trump has philandered with, it’s easy to forget that Michael Cohen is *also* a subject of the Russia investigation, and although the details are vague, appears to have had some kind of involvement with what appears to be suspicious overseas activity on behalf of the Trump Organisation in Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Russia. Something something proposed Trump hotel in Moscow. Although the warrant was obtained by the US Attorney’s office, whatever information they find in Michael Cohen’s documents that has any relationship to that aspect of the FBI investigation, they can hand right over with no further scrutiny. This means that Michael Cohen and Donald Trump now have no idea what Mueller does and does not know about their dealings for the last thirty years.

5. Trump appears to believe that if he could just fire Robert Mueller, the investigation would just go away. In reality, the FBI opened the investigation before a Special Counsel was appointed and it will continue if he is fired. The purpose of Robert Mueller is about the efficient and effective use of resources and not that he personally embodies the investigation and it would die with him. Even if Trump fired Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein, and Robert Mueller’s entire legal team along with Robert Mueller himself today, the FBI would simply assign more lawyers to the case and keep digging. That is literally their job.

6. Donald Trump keeps plaintively whining that there was no collusion and that this is all a witch-hunt against him. This may be what he imagined himself doing to Hilary Clinton, investigating, investigating and never concluding, but the reality of the situation is that Alex Van Der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer and the son-in-law of one of Russia’s wealthiest men has already been convicted of misleading the FBI about Rick Gates and is currently sitting in a U.S. jail *right now*. Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager is indicted on 30 charges and heading to trial this autumn, and has been put under full house arrest because a federal judge ruled it was very possible he was going to be spending the rest of his life in prison and poses a flight risk. Michael Flynn has already pled guilty to lying to the FBI in order to avoid charges relating to his ridiculous plan to secretly kidnap and rendition a Turkish opposition leader for $15 million. Even if the Mueller investigation stopped tomorrow, it would already have been worth it.

7. Except that it’s not going to stop tomorrow. 288 people have now been caught up in this investigation and despite my daily consumption of this serial teledrama, I still do not know what is coming down the line for Donald Trump. I’m not sure he knows anymore. We still don’t know why his campaign had over 70 documented contacts with Russian representatives. We don’t know why Donald Trump refuses to hear a bad word about Vladimir Putin. But so many other threads to this investigation have come and fallen beneath the weight of everything else, it’s just crazy – why did the founder of the Blackwater black ops private security firm Erik Prince have a secret meeting brokered by the UAE with a Russian representative to try to establish a back-channel with Putin for Trump 9 days after Trump’s inauguration? Why did Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner take a summer cruise and then inexplicably end up in Dubrovnik, Croatia with Rupert Murdoch’s wife Wendy Deng, who’s since been outed as a Chinese spy? We just don’t know why these things are happening or what’s important and what’s not. But Mueller knows.

8. Donald Trump literally can’t stop putting himself in legal jeopardy. He sat in the White House in front of rolling cameras and freely complained that Jeff Session had made a tragic mistake in recusing himself from the investigation and that if he’d known he was going to do so he would have nominated another attorney general, with the clear implication that he thinks the Attorney General’s responsibility should be getting him out of this mess rather than the impartial delivery of justice. Like, he just said that. Where people could hear him. On TV. Even though he knows he’s being investigated for a federal crime for saying stuff exactly like that. Like, I wouldn’t want to be his lawyer, especially as at least one of them now appears to be heading to jail himself.

9. Because of this, Trump cannot hire lawyers for love nor money. He should have a team of a dozen attorneys at the ready and instead he’s got two. Ty Cobb, who clearly thinks that Donald Trump is heading straight to jail, do not pass GO, do not collect $200 and is just trying to mitigate the damage, and Jay Sekulow, who until he joined Trump’s team specialised in representing Christian fundamentalist religious freedom cases. Everyone else has been fired, quit, or simply refused to represent him. I read an absolutely hilarious news story that pointed out that although a lot of lawyers just don’t want the taint, the more banal reality is that Trump has forced so many people who work with or under him to retain legal counsel, there simply aren’t that many more law firms who don’t have already have clients who represent a conflict of interest. Washington D.C., *Washington D.C.* has literally run out of lawyers. At this rate, he’ll end up with Lionel Hutz.

10. Stormy Daniels is an absolute trooper who has played Donald Trump at his own game and smashed him into fuming, impotent bits. He appears to have coerced her into sex and then Michael Cohen threatened her and allegedly had a thug intimidate her in a car park. They forced her into private arbitration to keep her quiet while they slurred her on national media, then when she sued for defamation countersued for $20 million to try to intimidate her. She’s now going to at the very least see Michael Cohen disbarred and possibly bring down the President of the United States for his bullying boorish behaviour. Apparently her fee for public appearances at strip clubs is now $20,000 and she’s booked through to next year. She’s a 40 year old sex worker who has spent her entire adult life being exploited by men for money and now she wants to cash in on the way Donald Trump has treated her I wish her all the luck in the world.

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