Saturday, April 20, 2019

WSJ: Obstruction Of Nothing

It goes without saying that the WSJ editorial page has a significant right lean. But I found it worth reading. Unless/until somebody I trust gives a careful analysis of the report, I'm withholding judgment on obstruction. I might break down and read the damn thing this summer, but I'm trying to resist the urge. I spent way too much time on Bush v. Gore, and all it got me was crazy pissed off. Also too much time on the WMD / aluminum tubes case. Though at least I got a couple of grants for wasn't a complete and total waste of time.
   This non-collusion is the backdrop for the other half of Mr. Mueller’s report, which concerns whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice by interfering in the Russia probe as President. The special counsel devotes another 182 pages to rehearsing every detail of Mr. Trump’s decision to fire James Comey as FBI director, his well publicized comments (thanks to Mr. Comey’s leaks) to Mr. Comey in private, and his raging about the Mueller probe.
   Mr. Mueller makes no “prosecutorial judgment” about obstruction, though he conspicuously says that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
   This is Mr. Mueller’s cheapest shot because the standard for a special prosecutor is not exoneration, whether or not Mr. Trump claims it. The standard is whether there is sufficient evidence to charge a crime. Mr. Mueller concedes he lacks enough evidence to know what Mr. Trump’s motives were in firing Mr. Comey or asking him to go easy on Mr. Flynn, so he should have left it there.
   The factual “analysis” about obstruction that Mr. Mueller does offer is hardly persuasive, even if Mr. Trump often behaves badly. Were his public and private comments praising Messrs. Flynn and Manafort and (for a while) Michael Cohen attempts to dangle pardons so they wouldn’t cooperate? Well, all three have been convicted of crimes and no pardons have been offered.
  Mr. Trump was dumb to ask White House counsel Don McGahn to ask Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mr. Mueller. But Mr. McGahn refused to do it and was prepared to resign over the matter before the President dropped the subject.
   Mr. Mueller essentially reveals a President behaving in predictable Trumpian fashion at being investigated for a crime he didn’t believe he committed—and which even Mr. Mueller now concedes he didn’t commit. There was no underlying crime, and the investigation continued with full White House cooperation. Mr. Mueller knows about these Trumpian eruptions because the White House turned over mountains of documents and allowed him to interview anyone he wanted except the President.
   Nothing in the end was obstructed. The FBI probe continued after Mr. Comey was fired, and Mr. Mueller wasn’t interfered with. Mr. Mueller prosecuted those he could find enough evidence to try to turn for state’s evidence, but there was no coverup because there was no collusion with Russia to cover up.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do wonder if Trump didn't use executive privilege nor resist subpoena but still is guilty of obstruction of justice, what were the previous Presidents and lesser politicians who did use them guilty of? Double-plus-obstruction?

At the risk of being somewhat cheeky, what if Trump had wiped the contents of an email server subject to Federal investigation? I suppose if he didn't tweet about it we'd let it slide.

4:45 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Good point, Anon.

10:50 AM  

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