What if Bill Barr’s notification letter summarizing the Mueller Report was not terrible news for America, but actually was brilliant, glorious and exciting?
Here is page 2 of Barr’s letter. Now here is why I think it is actually wonderful.
- “During the course of his investigation, the Special Counsel also referred several matters to other offices for further action.”
That line confirms our report of yesterday – Mueller handed off prosecutions to main Justice divisions as he went along.
2. “The report does not recommend any further indictments, nor did the Special Counsel obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public.”
That is entirely compatible with dozens of sealed indictments sitting at the branches of main Justice, sealed indictments obtained as Mueller went along, referring out his cases.
Next, in a section which describes how Mueller defines collusion with Russia, we have these sentences.
3. “The report further explains that a primary consideration for the Special Counsel’s investigation was whether any Americans — including individuals associated with the Trump campaign — joined the Russian conspiracies to influence the election, which would be a federal crime. The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As the report states: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
Now, here is where I think the letter actually gets brilliant. AG Barr points out that any American joining in the Russian conspiracies would be committing a federal crime. And what do people who have committed crimes have the right to?
Why, fair trials – and due process. You see, I believe that this means Mueller’s report will lay out the evidence he has found, or some of it, and then state that he has referred the criminal matters for trial.
Barr’s letter carefully states that “the Special Counsel’s office did not find”…. and Mueller uses the even more careful words “The investigation did not establish…”
“Establish” is a nice legal word. It means, in this context, “prove definitively”. And of course Mueller could not in fact “establish” this – he could not “find” this – because that is the job of a jury!
How could Mueller say Donald J Trump Jr committed treason when the man hasn’t even seen the inside of a courtroom? In fact, were Mueller to say anything of the sort, the defense could claim their trials were prejudiced! Mueller’s conclusions before a trial would be a functional grant of immunity!
4. “As noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that any U.S. person or Trump campaign official or associate conspired or knowingly coordinated with the IRA in its efforts, although the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian nationals and entities in connection with these activities.”
Again, all that is happening here is Barr is telling Americans what categories of crimes the probe is going charge these domestic traitors with. The Special Counsel indicted Russians who will never see an American courtroom, to serve his overall investigation; note the “did not find that any U.S. person” – because a U.S. person, (such as this reporter) is entitled to a fair trial. It is not for Mueller to “find” they conspired before a jury of their peers does the same.
5. “The second element involved the Russian government’s efforts to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons associated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks. Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for the purposes of influencing the election. But as noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”
If you are reading the tea leaves the way I am, this is the paragraph you love most of all. From here we lack the generic “US persons” that might describe somebody outside the Trump campaign, like Cassandra Fairbanks. This paragraph on hacking is limited in it’s “did not find” to the Trump campaign and associates. If I am correct, that means that Mueller will allege, but will not “find”, the actual Trump campaign helped Russia hack the DNC and worked with Wikileaks.
Then there is the boring bit on obstruction, which I will leave to others to analyze and debate. Sometimes it is good that a journalist should be somewhat of an ornery person. Tonight, on March 24th, I write this blog knowing that the entire American press corps takes a different view. And it is certainly possible – it is statistically probable – that they are right. But grammatically, they are not right.
“Report declares Trump didn’t coordinate” “Mueller finds no conspiracy” “Mueller report says no collusion” – all of those characterizations are flat wrong. What the letter says is a negative, not a positive. Mueller’s report does not find a crime of collusion, does not establish Trump campaign personnel joining with Russians; Mueller did not find that Trump’s campaign staff helped Russia and Wikileaks hack. At the risk of sound like your second grade English teacher, “did not establish conspiracy” is not the same as “established there was no conspiracy”; “did not find collusion” is not the same as “found no collusion”.
Am I parsing words? No. I’m not. Because “found no collusion” means Mueller declared the President innocent. “Did not find collusion” means, in my opinion, that Bob Mueller is likely to deliver a report like an Exocet missile, a report that reads like an indictment – and an indictment is not a conviction. At the same time, the prosecutions sent out to main US attorney’s offices will start to be revealed. Because, as Tom Cruise says of Jack Nicholson at the end of “A Few Good Men” – “The witness has rights”.
And the much reviled Bill Barr, along with Rod Rosenstein, drafted a letter that, over and over, emphasized that Mueller had not found, established, or proved, guilt. Because to say otherwise would be to prejudice the trials of the loathsome batch of traitors who are laughing tonight, as I write this piece, but whom, I hope and expect, will be crying tomorrow – or on one tomorrow in the very near future.
Update: an eagle-eyed reader spots an important footnote that confirms that the report contains Grand Jury material that needs redacting:
- Mueller’s Magical Mistake: Wikileaks Links to Russia
- Mueller Hearing: What to Ask the Special Counsel
- Australia Backs Britain on Assange
- Chelsea Manning’s Case Is Wikileaks
- Did Mueller Report Trump Will Be Found Guilty?