Streetwise Professor

April 20, 2019

Evidence of Absence Is Incompatible With Obstruction

Filed under: Politics,Russia — cpirrong @ 10:56 pm

The Mueller Report was released (with redactions) on Thursday. Although the “collusion” portion of the report is framed, as is the case with most decisions not to prosecute, in terms of absence of evidence to meet a burden of proof, the thoroughness of the investigation and the findings come as close to providing evidence of absence as one is ever likely to find. Most telling was the conclusion that although the Russians made numerous attempts at gaining access to Trump and Trump personnel, these attempts were uniformly rebuffed.

Yet like the dog returning to its vomit–again and again and again–the media cannot resist parts of the Mueller report that keep the collusion dream alive. Like this piece in Bloomberg (which has been particularly insane in its post-Mueller coverage). They fail to realize that this story (and others like it) completely demolishes the entire idea of pre-election collusion. If Putin was in cahoots with Trump or his minions before 8 November, he would have had no need to use oligarchs–or anybody else–to try to establish connections with Trump’s people after 8 November. Yet people who were (are!) willing to believe baroque and convoluted theories like the one in which Trump was communicating with the Russians via an Alfa Bank server (to name just one) don’t see how ludicrous these theories are in light of Putin’s obviously desperate attempts to make contact after Trump’s surprising election. So surprising that Putin was clearly caught off-guard and unprepared and completely without connections with the incoming administration.

It is particularly delicious that the Russian billionaire featured prominently in the report (and the Bloomberg article)–Petr Aven–controlled Alfa Bank. So Alfa Bank was supposedly the portal between Putin and Trump which they used to coordinate their dastardly deeds but months later Putin sent the man in charge of Alfa Bank to open communications with Trump–and he fails!

Yeah. Makes total sense!

One wonders when Mueller realized that there was no there there. None whatsoever. I suspect he realized it very early on, but was loath to admit it. If this is so, his extension of the investigation to this late date–and well past the midterm elections–inflicted grave injury on the country, and makes Mueller a figure of infamy deserving severe obloquy.

It is against background that one must evaluate the second portion of Mueller’s report, relating to obstruction. Put aside the Constitutional issues raised by the fact that several of the theories of obstruction involve Trump’s exercise of his presidential powers (firing Comey, requesting that Sessions unrecuse himself, discussing using the pardon power), and others involve the ability of the president to fire an inferior official (which just points out the Constitutional anomalies of special counsels): firing Mueller would have been a blunder, rather than a crime, and Trump was indeed fortunate that he was talked out of it.

No, think of how you would have reacted if you had been subjected to a Kafkaesque investigation into something that you knew was complete and utter bullshit–and bullshit that had been concocted by your political enemies who were dead set on rationalizing–and avenging–their loss to you. I think you would be outraged, and feel completely justified in fighting back by whatever means necessary. I think any normal person would be. And heaven knows, Donald Trump is not normal. If he were, he wouldn’t be president. So of course he said intemperate things and contemplated intemperate actions and no doubt felt perfectly justified in his intemperateness–yet in the end did not take these actions.

Anybody who harrumphs at this–and yeah, I’m looking at you, Mitt–is irredeemably partisan, or not a serious person, or is completely incapable of realistically appraising how he or she would react if in another’s shoes. There are those who attempt to obstruct investigations because they know they are guilty, and there are those who fight investigations that they believe to be unjust. Mueller strained every nerve, tried out every possible legal theory, and left no stone unturned in his attempt to demonstrate illicit dealings, and admitted abject failure. This failure validates Trumps belief that the investigation was a travesty that never should have taken place, and puts his reaction in the second category rather than the first. The excesses are typically Trumpian ones.

That is, the evidence of absence of collusion completely undermines assertions of obstruction, given that obstruction requires mens rea. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Finding Trump innocent (not just not guilty, but innocent) of collusion or conspiracy yet believing that he might have obstructed justice makes Mueller a genius, by the Fitzgerald standard. These are utterly opposed ideas.

Such geniuses the Republic can live without.

I would like to say that Mueller did Trump–and the country–a favor by proving him innocent of illicit dealings with Russia far more convincingly than Trump ever could have himself. To be found not culpable by people who are almost certainly your enemies and who desperately want to hang something on you is as close to vindication as you can get.

But facts don’t matter. Russia was just a pretext, a dog to tree Trump with. If that dog won’t hunt, his enemies will find another. And another. And another.

This is a power struggle, pure and simple. Meaning that Trump has to take that fight to his enemies. And the best way to do that is to attack legally the apparatchiks–the Brennans and Comeys and Clappers and those still in the bureaucracy–who unleashed the Russia collusion hound. And after that, to go after their political masters.

This is war to the knife. Trump has warded off the attacks so far, and almost miraculously survived. He can’t count on such luck continuing, especially since defeat will only spur his enemies to greater efforts. He has to be the attacker now.

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  1. If the people who perpetrated this coup attempt are not punished by legal means, the rule of law will be dead, and everyone will know it. Life in a banana republic will be entertaining, at least.

    Comment by Christopher L Hunt — April 21, 2019 @ 7:11 am

  2. Any excuse for Kipling, say I.

    As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
    There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
    That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
    And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

    And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
    When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
    As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
    The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

    Comment by dearieme — April 21, 2019 @ 8:42 am

  3. Relax, Trump will go for the throat, he practically tweets it ever day using the word “treason”

    The upcoming IG reports will show it, they have been going on for two years now, Trump’s turn at bat is about to begin.

    I will also predict Trump will toss VP Pence and replace him with Pompeo, Pence is swamp and was too close to Priebus and Spicer, Trump had to put him on the ticket for the convention.

    Comment by TomHend — April 21, 2019 @ 3:53 pm

  4. think of how you would have reacted if you had been subjected to a Kafkaesque investigation into something that you knew was complete and utter bullshit–and bullshit that had been concocted by your political enemies who were dead set on [destroying] you.

    As I read that, I thought of Brett Kavanaugh, what he went through, the utter BS of Christine Ford’s story, and the despicable behavior of Dianne Feinstein.

    The parallels with Trump are an almost perfect miniature. They reveal a common mode of attack. The only saving grace, seems to be the continuing civic culture of the rule of law. That probably stayed Mueller’s hand.

    The habit of law probably prevented Feinstein, et al., from going full Vyshinsky on Kavanaugh.

    Nevertheless, the Democrats seem to be attempting its destruction.

    Comment by Pat Frank — April 21, 2019 @ 10:16 pm

  5. “I will also predict Trump will toss VP Pence and replace him with Pompeo”: I’d rather he replaced him with Tulsi Gabbard.

    Comment by dearieme — April 22, 2019 @ 9:17 am

  6. Why cannot Trump order a full and complete release of the entire documentation generated by the Mueller’s team, including their internal communication, drafts, emails, text messages on their office phones, appointment records, handwritten notes, everything? The investigation is officially over, so it cannot be obstructed any longer in any imaginable way. All these documents are federal property, all within Trump’s power to declassify. I suspect this dossier will make a far more interesting reading.

    Comment by Boris Lvin — April 23, 2019 @ 10:04 pm

  7. The playbook of the Dems is never, ever going to change. Once Obama was elected through a platform of “hope and change”, the die was cast, and the rules of elections of merit were gone. It is, and always will be moving forward the politics of identity. Trump is a classic example of identity targeted politics at work. It’s so easy to anoint any negative inference to anything Trump says, or does. And the Dems are ruthless masters at the inference of negative stereotype. The example the media ran with on Trump mocking a disabled reporter. Anyone with 10 minutes to spare can find examples of Trump using the EXACT same caricature movements for dozens of responses to inanities from the press. It had nothing to do with the disability of the reporter, but was directed specifically at the inanity of the statement(not question) the reporter broached. And this plays out on a daily basis. Now, the media is on a tear with NK Un meeting with Putin. Two nuclear powers meet! Disaster for the US! Trump getting played by the two giants of the east! What hogwash. Un is simply going to try to get in the wallet of Russia, and Russia is ultimately going to say ‘no way, Jose. You get a few media pics, but not a dime of support’. Who thinks Russia has any financial interest in a BK country like NK? And, what if Russia does give Un some Rubles? So – what? It’s not more than 1/100th of the US economic power in SE Asia. The Dems/media love affair with TDS will likely assure a second term. Trump has made some bonehead mistakes, but as far as doing anything illegal, we are so far from that it’s not even on the national radar(except in Hollyweird, and inside the beltway).

    Comment by doc — April 24, 2019 @ 12:26 pm

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