The Bob Mueller hearing gives lawmakers a chance to ask the special counsel the right questions. Mueller’s answers could help impeach Trump, if he can get the Democrats to follow the roadmap he patiently laid out for them. Having previously sat on a Parliamentary select committee, here’s what I hope Democrats from the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees ask Bob Mueller.
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Ask Questions Mueller Can Answer
Here are specific questions, arranged by topic. Lawmakers on the committees should coordinate. No single Democrat will have enough time to get it all out of the Special Counsel. A successful Democratic grilling session will look like a relay race. ‘Swalwell asks about Barr, Schiff asks about Wikileaks’.
“Special Counsel Mueller, thank you for being here and for your service, in our military, in our intelligence community and as Special Counsel. Forgive me, sir, if I get right to it; our time is short.
Questions to Bury Bill Barr
- Appendix D contains dozens of sealed cases that you referred out to other prosecutors, and one sealed case that remains at Grand Jury stage – the unredacted description says ‘under investigation’, meaning the case has not yet been charged, is that correct?
- Let’s talk about the cases you can discuss that were referred for prosecution. There are over two dozen. None of these have been unsealed; your report was released in April. Why the delay?
- On March 5th, you met with the Attorney General and DAG Rod Rosenstein to preview your report. At that meeting, you gave them an overview of the conclusions you had reached, correct?
- Special Counsel regulations required you to seek the AG’s permission to depart from the DoJ policy not to indict a sitting President. On March 5th, sir, did you ask the Attorney General if he would grant you permission to indict the President for obstruction were you to seek it?
- Did Mr. Barr either prevaricate or lead you to believe he would not have granted the permission? Did he tell you, in effect, to make a charging decision and then see what his thoughts were?
- Mr. Barr said that he was ‘surprised’ that you had not come to a charging decision. The only way he could be ‘surprised’ about that would be if you had already discussed it at the earlier meeting, and you had indicated a wish to indict the President. Is that what happened, sir?
- Did you seek Mr. Barr’s permission to indict or to refer for indictment any of the President’s adult children?
- In his testimony before the Senate, Mr. Barr said that he had spoken to the President about one of the sealed cases. Did you advise him to do that, sir?
- Mr. Barr testified that he had given “no substantial information” about the sealed case to President Trump, but then said he “may have told him the name of the case.” Special Counsel Mueller, might the name of a sealed case be significant?
- Thank you. For example, if the name of the sealed case were “United States vs Donald J Trump, Jr” and Mr. Barr disclosed that to the subject’s father, would that be significant?
- If the Attorney General disclosed a case under seal, referred by your office for Prosecution, affecting the President’s family, or close friends or associates, to the President, is that not obstruction of justice?
- Does the Attorney General have a right to leak the name of sealed cases to the relatives of the suspects?
- Mr. Barr seemed very upset at his press conference when asked why nobody from your office was attending. Were you invited?
- Why did you refuse?
- And did all your staffers feel the same way?
- Why did you also refuse to be involved with his letters to Congress?
Questions on Wikileaks, (Which Will Prove Collusion)
- In questioning Mr. Barr, Senator Cruz repeatedly stated that “every word” “every single word” of the Executive Summaries you had asked to be released came out in the public version of the report, and Mr. Barr did not correct him. But Senator Cruz was wrong, was he not? Mr. Barr redacted extra material that you did not think needed redacting?
- And that material related to Wikileaks?
- Mr Barr testified that the Executive Summaries you sent him “needed” extra redactions because the intelligence community had asked for them. To your knowledge, is that true?
- In his press conference describing the report, Mr. Barr said that you also investigated whether the Trump Team coordinated the release of these materials with Wikileaks. This would only be criminal if Wikileaks were involved with the hack itself, therefore, the Trump Team’s coordination with Wikileaks was not criminal. If it could not have been criminal, why were you investigating it?
- Is the converse true – that if Wikileaks were involved with the hack itself, coordinating with them would be criminal?
- Sir, you said your office had no further indictments on the matter of Trump and Russia coming on Americans, sealed or unsealed. Do you consider Wikileaks to be American?
- You have one ongoing matter on the substance of Russian collusion. Can you confirm for us that this is the Grand Jury that is ‘ongoing robustly’?
- Then Director Pompeo of the CIA called Wikileaks a non-state Foreign hostile intelligence agency. There is recent reporting indicating that Julian Assange and Wikileaks coordinated with Russian intelligence from the Ecuadorean Embassy. If they were knowingly working together, does that not make them co-conspirators in the GRU’s work?
Obstruction of Justice
- There is a line in your report that many have seized on – it is a little obscure and I invite you to clear it up with me, as it relates to whether the President obstructed justice. You wrote: “The evidence does indicate that a thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would give rise to personal and political concerns“. You are a former Director of the FBI; you are not accusing the FBI of not being thorough?
- You’re not saying ‘If only the gosh-darned FBI would have done their jobs’?
- Your job in the report was not to speculate, so this sentence does not represent speculation – am I correct?
- When you say ‘the evidence does indicate a thorough FBI investigation would uncover’ – sir, are you referring here to the one matter that you say you have ongoing on possible Russian collusion by the Trump campaign, Appendix D (A) 11, which is sealed, but which the unredacted text says is “under investigation”?
Questions to End the ‘No Collusion’ Mantra
- Sir, as a lawyer you will be aware of the phrase ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’. Your report says ‘the evidence does not establish’….. collusion by the Trump team with Russia, but you also state that evidence may be revealed in the future that could change this finding, is that right?
- Many of the President’s supporters, and the Attorney General, have put your finding in the affirmative and I would like to clear that up right now. The report says ‘the evidence does not establish’ collusion. Is that the same as saying ‘the evidence establishes that there was no collusion’?
- Thank you. Candidly, sir, the word that I have inferred from your report, but that is missing, is “yet”; ‘the evidence does not yet establish’. Appendix D states “Certain matters assigned to the Office by the Acting Attorney General” – that means, matters on the substance, Trump Campaign and possible Russian collusion, does it not? You distinguish DAG Rosenstein’s ‘scope’ from matters thrown up by the investigation that were not part of that scope – Appendix D (A) is on your remit, and Appendix D (B) in cases arising that were not part of the original remit, yes?
- Thank you. So, Appendix D tells us although your office has finished investigating, the investigation itself is not finished because certain matters that fell within your scope from DAG Rosenstein “have not fully concluded as of the date of this report.” Do I understand your introduction to Appendix D (A) correctly?
- That is fairly crucial information is it not? The Special Counsel’s Office finished its investigation into coordination between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, but the investigation is not finished – because it was not concluded when the report was released?
- Would you describe the investigation into coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government as “continuing robustly”, sir*?
Coda: Busting Bill Barr Some More Just For Fun
- Mr. Bill Barr has said to Congress that he is unaware of whether there was a ‘proper predicate’ for the FBI to begin its investigation. On page 89 of your report, sir, there is a footnote which I will read aloud along with the sentence to which it refers. The report says “On May 6th, 2016, 10 days after that meeting with Mifsud, Papadopoulos suggested to a representative of a foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton.” Then there is a footnote which reads “This information is contained in the FBI case-opening document”.
- Your report therefore establishes that the FBI’s predicate for opening an investigation was a report by our close ally Australia, a partner in the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance that a Trump campaign staffer was saying that Russia had offered to help them hurt Hillary Clinton. Do you or do you not establish the predicate of the FBI’s investigation there?
Defending the Intelligence Community from Bill Barr
- Thank you sir. Special Counsel Mueller, I could address you as Director Mueller; you are in a unique position as you have not only represented the Department of Justice but have also headed the FBI. Mr. Barr has taken it upon himself not only to question the predicate of the investigation which you establish in your report, but actually to question the United States Intelligence Community report provided to President Obama in 2016. That report, even in its unclassified version, stated clearly that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election aiming to hurt Secretary Clinton’s campaign. Director Mueller, does the Attorney General’s office have an intelligence function?
- Is the Attorney General’s office the same as the Inspectors’ General Offices that are established to oversee the intelligence agencies?
- What, if any, direct intelligence expertise does the office of the Attorney General, any Attorney General, possess?
- Is it within the scope of the Attorney General’s duties, according to your understanding as a former Director of the FBI, to ‘do over’ intelligence assessments assessments and reports made by the constituent agencies of our intelligence community?
- Can an Attorney General be prosecuted for obstruction of justice?
…And That’s A Wrap
Thank you, Special Counsel Mueller and please thank your dedicated team on behalf of this committee and the nation.”
< sound of hundreds of mics being dropped all over the committee floor>
Having taken my own advice and proceeded straight to the meat of the matter, I am listing some general advice for Democrats under the questions, here:
How to Ask
First, don’t waste your precious time making speeches about how bad it is to collude with Russia. You have limited opportunity to nail Mueller down, and he is, first and foremost, a counterintelligence agent. Nobody wants to see Democrats play to the gallery. What they want to see is questioning rather like Katie Porter’s; tight questions that get actual answers and advance America’s knowledge. If the headline is “We learned little new from the Special Counsel” after the hearings, Democrats will have failed.
Second, don’t ask questions you know Mueller cannot answer, because of Justice Department rules or because the answers are classified. He wanted a closed session; you wanted an open one; as a result, you can ask less pertinent questions. But you can still make them count.
Third, keep your individual questions short and keep them on one thread.
Fourth, LISTEN to the answer. At one point when Bill Barr was being questioned, he admitted that he had told Donald Trump the name of a sealed case. There was no follow-up. However good your prepared set of questions are, if Mueller throws you a plum, change course and ask about that.
What to Ask
If Mueller’s ‘deal’ with Congress is to talk about obstruction, stick to that. However, the ‘obstruction’ part of the report also covers the collusion part of the report. There are non-classified things about the report that have been said by Bill Barr that cast light on the substance.
Wikileaks + Russia = Collusion
Having laid out the specific examples I’d love to see lawmakers put to Mueller, let me remind Patribotics readers of this website’s reporting; that Mueller said he had one case that was ongoing (Appendix D (A) (11) and that this case is “United States vs Wikileaks, et al”. As a refresher, the ‘Louise Mensch theory of Collusion” goes like this:
- Bill Barr said the SCO investigated whether the Trump campaign colluded with Wikileaks
- Barr said this would only be a crime if Wikileaks was involved with the hacking (not a mere publisher)
- The “ongoing case” is “United States vs Wikileaks, et al” at Grand Jury stage
- That case is Chelsea Manning’s Grand Jury, and the “Mystery Witness” Grand Jury, they are one and the same
- The United States intends to prove that Wikileaks has always been a co-conspirator with the GRU, since at least 2010 (and almost certainly earlier)
- If Wikileaks is convicted, they become ‘one unit’ with the GRU and – as Barr said himself – the Trump campaign’s collusion with Wikileaks/GRU, proved by Mueller, all becomes chargeable collusion
- It is the Patribotics theory that Bill Barr’s ‘extra redactions’ to Mueller’s summaries involve Wikileaks, because Barr knows the facts I lay out in these bullet points
- The Wikileaks case remains at Grand Jury level because the entire Trump Campaign collusion prosecution rests upon it. Mueller does not want Trump to pardon them; while Democrats do not start impeachment, they hamstring Mueller’s prosecutors by giving Trump an opening to try pardons and cause a constitutional crisis
Other Headline-Grabbing Questions
Lawmakers are only human and they would like good publicity. So, take it from me, Donald J Trump Jr and the Trump kids are indicted at SDNY. I do not know if they are all indicted in the same case, and I suspect that Don Jr is indicted alone in at least one case.
Since Bill Barr admitted that he leaked the name of a sealed case to Trump, “what case did Barr leak” “what if it involved the name of one of his kids” “is that obstruction” all of those types of questions, should Mueller be tempted, would usefully gather headlines. ‘I would not have told the President the name of a sealed case’ ‘Yes, the name of a sealed case might be significant’ – there is an easy win for some Democrat that is not ‘on the substance’ (these are the sealed cases of Appendix D (B), those that are not on the substance of whether or not the Trump team colluded with Russia).
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