Still Waiting for Mueller to Testify to Congress

The Trump extravaganza of issues keeps expanding exponentially, but short of a noteworthy military conflict, I’m still most concerned if and when Special Counsel Robert Mueller will testify to Congress.  I’ve heard May 15 bandied about for a testimony date, but nothing from Mueller about that.

At the moment, my sense is Trump is winning the message game, asserting that the report’s lack of indictments clear the president.  From what I’ve gleaned from many who have read the report, the actual picture is much less flattering.  Even incriminating if you believe over 700 federal prosecutors who have signed a joint letter to that effect.

But we need Mueller to testify in order to substantiate that, as well as showing Attorney General Barr has misinterpreted the findings to the public.  Which in turn has allowed Republicans to parrot it’s a done deal.  Let’s move on.

Linked here is a story from CBS news that delve’s into the question of whether Trump can stop Mueller from testifying once he leaves office (no public date set yet).

I would say the basic conclusion is that while Trump might be able to limit Mueller’s comments to only what he said in the report on the basis of executive privilege, even that argument might not prevail.  In any case, it looks like it comes down to Mueller’s willingness to testify and I can only hope he wants to set the record straight enough to overcome his preference to remain out of the public eye.

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Will McGahn and Mueller Testify Before the House?

Trump loves walls, so now he is trying to build another one sealing off his office from Congress.   He has told his people to ignore subpoenas from the committees in the House that are trying to fulfill their constitutional role of oversight, a role the previous Republican controlled House thought was optional.

Of course the Trumpeters are arguing that this is old news made ancient by the completion of the Mueller report, but there is a problem there:  The Mueller report does not come up with the clear cut conclusions the Trumpsters assert.   It is more complicated than that, requiring Mueller to clarify a number of things to Congress.

My first question would be:  Did you believe that you could not actually indict Trump because of a Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president?  If Mueller did feel constrained it sheds much light on why no obstruction of justice charges were filed.  Not because Trump was innocent, but because Mueller believed department policy prohibited indictments of the president.

I do not know if Mueller is willing, but I certainly hope he is.  Otherwise the summation of the report made by Trump’s disappointing pick for AG, Robert Barr, may be allowed to stand in many a voter’s mind.  “No Collusion.”  “No Obstruction.”

The report is much more nuanced than that, but those nuances must be fought for in order to survive in a Trumptopia where nuances are ignored or blurred or lied about and in the process critical thinking deformed.  Despite all that he lacks, Trump has proved himself a genius at sloganeering and other tricks to fabricate a false world of “alternative facts.”  He has already gotten the jump on the latest Dem presidential candidate, Joe Biden, labeling him “sleepy Joe,” a guy who lacks the smarts to be president.

The Dems should hold a contest for just the right  label to nail Trumpty Dumpty with.   “Deranged Donald” isn’t bad, borrowed from tweets of conservative George Conway, once a backer of Trump and now one of his harshest critics and, YES!, also the husband of Trump’s Queen of Spin, Kelly Anne.  The perfect couple for a Loony Tune Land (see bottom).

Anyway, I’ve Googled around looking for an indication that 1) Mueller and/or former White House counsel Don McGahn are willing to testify before the House and 2) whether Trump can prevent them from doing so.  I can’t find anything clear cut about that.  However, since neither work for the president anymore and he has already allowed McGahn to testify fully to Mueller (without claiming executive privilege),  I’m thinking both will eventually testify to Congress.

Or should I say I hope to high heavens that is the case.   Ah, but yesterday I heard that Trump helped make McGahn’s testimony more likely, as the Trumpster has accused McGahn of lying to Mueller………..which would be a crime, so I would think McGahn would want to testify again under oath refuting Trump’s claims to the public at large.

Thanks for your help on this Mr. president.


P. S. – By now I would think most if not all of you are aware of how the Trump presidency has placed a lot of stress on the family life of George and Kellyanne Conway.   Both were Trump supporters at the beginning of his presidency, but while Kellyanne defends Trump’s actions daily, George has turned completely against the president, skewering him often on Twitter, even calling for his impeachment.  Want to know more?  Check out this piece from the BBC.

The Report is Out but I’m Still Waiting for Mueller to Speak

…..  Because I want him to clarify what some of his statements mean.  The 400+ page report is divided into two sections, one on “conspiracy” and the other on “obstruction of justice”. The Trump narrative reduces the report to “no collusion”, “no obstruction.”  But as with everything Trump, his depiction vacillates between being not quite true, to just plain false.  This is especially true as to the second section on obstruction.

First, on the “collusion” aspect, Mueller does not use that word, but instead “criminal conspiracy”.   The former is not a legal term, despite its constant use by Trump and the media;  the latter is a legal term with several hurdles to overcome in order to indict.  Therefore, one could collude quite a bit without actually committing the crime of conspiracy.

There is plenty of evidence that the Trump team and the Russians played off each other in ways that may not be judged criminal conspiracy, but still were improper, especially for a presidential candidate.  Trump’s team clearly welcomed Russian efforts that would help him, even if they did not exactly “conspire” with them.

Still, Mueller states at the end of the first section that he could not find sufficient evidence to indict………..points for the Trump team.  But of key significance, Mueller does not make the same claim in the second section on the obstruction of justice.  Instead, he states clearly that a lack of indictments here should not be seen as an “exoneration” of the president, listing 10 episodes that could be seen as obstruction.  The AP has summed up this aspect so well I will quote them at length:

“THE FACTS: The special counsel’s 400-plus-page report specifically does not exonerate Trump, leaving open the question of whether the president obstructed justice.

“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” Mueller wrote. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

The report identifies 10 instances of possible obstruction by Trump and said he might have “had a motive” to impede the investigation because of what it could find on a variety of personal matters, such as his proposal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

“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,” the report states.

In explaining its decision, Mueller’s team said reaching a conclusion on whether Trump committed crimes would be inappropriate because of a Justice Department legal opinion indicating that a sitting president should not be prosecuted.  It nevertheless left open at least the theoretical possibility that Trump could be charged after he leaves office, noting that its factual investigation was conducted “in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary material were available.”

“Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” the report states.”

I highlighted that section above in blue because it raises a curious, likely confusing point that has not been dwelt upon in the media for the most part.  Mueller seems to be saying that the Justice Department’s rule against indicting a president while still in office prevented him from making a decision on obstruction indictments, as that would exceed his mandate.  But he could preserve evidence for possible future investigations, such as the House is undertaking now.

Mueller has been or will be invited to speak to House committees.  I expect him to attend willingly and figure he will be asked to clarify points I have just raised.  I’m looking forward to it.


P. S.  Michael Smerconish, one of my favorite TV political hosts, did concentrate on this very issue this morning, so if you want to know more about this, go to his website and look for a picture of Trump on the top right:   https://www.smerconish.com/home

Or, if you already have had enough of this, just wait for Mueller to testify in a couple of weeks or so, because he will likely clear up many questions the report raises.

Theatre of the Absurd: The Trumped Up Border Crisis

It’s a new year but the only thing new about the president is his willingness to place even more weight on the phony facts he and his rabid right wing cohorts, like Anne Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, have made up.

Some of these “alternative facts” support the idea that we now need a southern border wall so much that Trump has been willing to shut down much of the federal government for weeks, displacing hundreds of thousands of workers and weakening key services in hopes the Democrats will submit to his demands for wall funding.

That’s Trump’s idea of deal making:  You succumb to his demands or get blamed for an unwillingness to negotiate.

Trump hasn’t acted like the wall was an emergency through his first two years in office.  It’s an emergency now because the likes of Limbaugh and Coulter are calling him a phony for failing to act.  Since he can’t get his way with Congress,  calling the building of a wall an emergency may be his only way to escape the box he has placed himself in.

The matter would likely head straight to the courts, the government could be reopened and Trump can tell Rush and Anne and his base in general he really tried.

We don’t need a southern wall.  Trump needs one to quiet his critical supporters.  The Democrats are right to refuse to succumb, for the wall makes no sense.

Here are a few of facts from government sources that undermine his arguments for a wall:

1)  The overwhelming quantity of drugs come across the border at points of entry not through the wilderness that Trump wants to fence off.  Better search methods are needed, not a fence.

2)   Despite Trump’s claim of thousands of terrorist suspects coming across the southern border, federal government reports suggest it was more like six in the first half of 2018.  Yes, six.  Forty-some came across the northern border that nobody talks about.   Should we build a wall there, too?  And first?

3)  Most foreign terrorist suspects come into the country legally and then just overstay their visas.

4)  Since 9/11, the large majority of terrorists attacks in the U. S. have come from home grown types who have become radicalized not from foreigners infiltrating our borders.

Certainly we could use better border security, not to mention a more humane way of treating  the large increase of those simply seeking political asylum, but Trump’s wall seems to address none of these issues.  It is a fake answer to our real border problems, not only a wasted effort but one that distracts from real needs to be addressed.

The five billion or so dollars he is demanding to start the wall is really, just a start.  Estimates from 40 to 80 billion or more have been made for the total cost.  So, this fake answer to a phony problem is also going to cost us a fortune.

By the way, I watched a clip of Trump at the border being given a briefing by border security.  The officer was showing slides of a tunnel they recently discovered under a section of the wall already built.  Trump just sat there nodding as if unaware the border agent had just provided one more tunnel undermining his argument for a wall.

No matter to him.  It is all a Trump fabrication to shore up his base with a false solution to a mischaracterized problem.

 

 

Thankful for a House Controlled by Democrats

I haven’t posted for about a month, not because I have had nothing I wanted to say but I have had too much.  Too many things happening, too much speculation, too many falsehoods by the president.   But I have been paying attention.

If I were content to just make up things like the resident of the oval office does so often, it would be a lot easier.   Paying attention to facts while trying to say something about them is much harder.  Especially when the president does his best daily to obscure the truth through his twisted portrayals of what is happening and what a wonderful job he has done.

In his view, he led his party to a great victory this fall because they captured a couple of new seats in the Senate, which is a plus for their side I admit.   But he ignores inconvenient facts like the nearly 40 seats in the House of Representatives lost by Republicans, which has caused them to lose control of that body.  Of course, he blames those House members that lost, not the fact that in their districts he had lost popularity.

Today I simply want to  say how relieved I am that the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives.   For starters, the Mueller investigation seems likely to be much better protected from the president.  Come January Democrats will have the power of the subpoena as well as the ability to pass laws in the House.  They won’t continue to be voices in the wilderness.

Of course, the Republican controlled Senate and the president will be able to put checks on those efforts, but it will be a more fair fight.  We could call it a victory for our system of checks and balances, which in itself figures to halt some of the president’s worst instincts, half-baked plans and political stunts.

I breathe a deep sigh of gratitude at the thought.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Overwhelmed by Trump’s Unfettered Lying and Worried About the Election

“People will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; repeat it frequently enough people will believe it.”

Adolph Hitler

Yes, it is time to bring out the risky Hitler card.  No.  I don’t see Trump as a budding mass murderer, but when it comes to unfettered lying the comparison seems more than fair, especially in recent days.   Trump is in overdrive to produce that big lie by election day.

I haven’t written since my failed judgement that Judge Kavanaugh would lose his battle for confirmation, not because that devastated me – I figured my prediction was chancy – but because I have been overwhelmed by the wave of subsequent events and Trump’s misleading statements and lies about them.

The issue these days is often not really what occurred, but the ability of one side or the other to shape the narrative.   In the Kavanaugh hearing the Democrats saw Blasey Ford as the victim, and her testimony was very convincing, but by the end Republicans had made Kavanaugh the victim of a sneaky last minute attack.   The odd situation made it seem like a trial of Kavanaugh, and as such one is innocent until proven guilty.

That wins the narrative battle, as indicated by Trump often sighting Kavanaugh and the Democrats not mentioning Blasey Ford.  That event seems to have revved up more Republicans and those “tweeners” than those of us who are already never Trumpers.  We just became sicker and angrier.

But what is most striking at the moment is the untethered flourish of hyperbole, fabrications and distortions – yes, even more than usual – that Trump is churning out now.  He just makes things up by the hour, such as the middle class tax cut his team is hoping to pass before the election, with no evidence of that, perhaps because there are not enough days before the election to pass anything.  It just sounds good.

The lie provides one more mental sugar plum for voters heading to the poles.  There is no stated progress with North Korea on denuclearization, either, but he keeps acting as if there were and its better than his ranting.   So, one more sugar plum….

Trump creates problems and then boasts about fixing them.  But it is the image of his fixing the problem that sticks in our minds.  He says we should pull out of a missile deal we have with Russia, so now his Security Adviser Bolton is there talking with them.  My guess is he’ll come back with good news, promises of working together.  Another sugar plum.

It is the latest flurry of outright lies that is most Hitleresque, though, such as the image he has created of the caravan of refugees heading here from Central America, an image of terrorists and MS13  and rapists (and lions and tiger and bears, oh my!).  No matter he has no evidence for any of this according to several sources, including Fox News.

Shepard Smith, the director of news there (real news as opposed to the opinion misshapers headed up by Hannity) examined the situation and reported:  “Fox News knows of no evidence to suggest the president is accurate on that matter.”

In doing so, he contradicted the theory of the evil invasion cooked up on Fox and Friends that morning, which quite likely was Trump’s “news source”.   (Read this for some details.)  In case you don’t know, Trump calls the Friends often giving the impression many of his spur of the moment  “insights” originate there.

Over the next two weeks or so Trump will say and do anything to make his administration look good, including more baseless promises and warrant-less accusations.  A recent poll shows Trump with a 47% approval rating and reports of early voting suggest Republicans are off to a better start.

So frankly I am scared that too much of the big lie will be bought by too many.