Weekend Open Thread: A More Readable Commentary on the Mueller Report

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This leaves open the question, of course, of who is whom — but then Neo-Confederates aren’t going to be quoting Grant.

I haven’t generally followed the blog “Lawfare” — a bit centrist for my taste, being allied with the Brookings Institution — but it seems to be becoming one of the best sources of reader-friendly understanding of the Mueller support in particular.  But Benjamin Wittes of that site has taken the time to do what I haven’t had the time to do — read the Mueller Report from top to bottom and take extensive notes on what it shows.  It’s about 18,000 words, but that’s a lot less than reading 488 pages, and what he finds withing the report is stunning.  (It also justifies calls for William Barr to resign right now for malicious obfuscation.)

Here is a link to his commentary.  And I include some quotes below from the beginnings of the first two sections, just to whet your appetite:

Introduction to Volume I

This is a short little section, barely two pages, but it has several interesting items in it, starting with Mueller’s almost casual endorsement of the FBI’s historical account of the Russia investigation’s origins. In the middle of page 1, Mueller describes the investigation as beginning when “a foreign government contacted the FBI about a May 2016 encounter with Trump Campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos.” Papadopoulos, Mueller writes, had “suggested to a representative of that 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 damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.” It was that information, the paragraph concludes, that “prompted the FBI on July 31, 2016, to open an investigation into whether individuals associated with the Trump Campaign were coordinating with the Russian government in its interference activities.”

Sorry, Devin Nunes. There’s no mention of the Steele Dossier.

The Special Counsel Investigation

The first notable thing about this section is that it very clearly lays out how Mueller understood and operationalized his jurisdiction—which was both quite limited and which Mueller largely did not seek to expand. This makes the Mueller investigation highly unusual in the history of special counsel investigations, which we normally think of as hoarding jurisdiction and as ever-expanding in their scope.

Mueller, by contrast, makes clear that his jurisdiction was narrow. It was defined by a series of orders and clarifications from Rod Rosenstein, the first of which defined three elements: (1) “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” (2) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation, and (3) “any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a)”—which covers efforts to obstruct special counsel investigations. To this basic mandate, Rosenstein later clarified two points in a separate letter: He made clear that it included allegations involving Carter Page, Paul Manafort and George Papadopoulos in their possible “collusion” with Russia, and he made clear that it included as well allegations about Manafort’s dealings with Ukraine and another corruption matter. Rosenstein later wrote an additional letter clarifying that the original order also applied to Michael Cohen, Richard Gates, Roger Stone and two other names that are redacted for privacy reasons.

Mueller has hewed closely to this original mandate. Unlike prior special counsel’s offices, as matters came to him that pushed the edges of his jurisdiction, he referred them to other Justice Department components. He also referred matters at the end of his investigation that were ongoing. A list of all of the referrals appears in Appendix D of the report, which lists 10 transfers of cases begun by the special counsel’s office and an additional 14 “referrals,” which Mueller describes as covering “evidence of potential criminal activity that was outside the scope of the Special Counsel’s jurisdiction.” These referrals are, with the exception of the Michael Cohen campaign finance matters and the Greg Craig Foreign Agents Registration Act matter, all redacted.

Call them children of the Mueller investigation—and keep a close eye on them.

If you’ve been getting information from Attorney General Barr, or from Donald Trump, or from anyone who told you that the investigation was commenced in response to the Steele Dossier, or from anyone who told you that Trump has been exonerated of any wrongdoing — then you really need to read this.

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I’m working on a big piece on Farrah’s vote in Irvine’s City Council meeting — for starters, early in the meeting she was voted to become Chair of the Great Park and later she did provide the critical vote in favor of a system that will probably lead to a Republican appointment into the tie-breaking seat — but that’s going to take a lot more time.  I wish that other sources were covering it clearly, but from what I can tell they aren’t, so you’ll just have to wait for me to catch up with that task.

This is your Weekend Open Thread.  Talk about that or whatever else you’d like, within reasonable bounds of discretion, decorum, and decency.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 (in violation of Roberts Rules) when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Expelled from DPOC in October 2018 (in violation of Roberts Rules) for having endorsed Spitzer over Rackauckas -- which needed to be done. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. One of his daughters co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)