Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Something doesn't smell right about the Mueller report

Let me confess up front to having an enormous bias here: more than just about anything else in the world, I want to see Donald Trump go down in screaming flames, if for no other reason than that he is a colossal asshole and I hate seeing assholes win.  I also have more than a few policy disagreements with him, so even if he wasn't such an odious louse, I would still want him to go down in screaming flames.  And of course I am not alone in this.  A lot of people were hoping the Mueller report would be the beginning of Trump's undoing.  So I don't know how much of what I'm about to say is colored by my disappointment at how events have unravelled.  And yet... something's not right here.

For starters, our process for uncovering wrongdoing by the president is deeply flawed.  Despite the appearance that Robert Mueller was being objective and patriotic, the fact of the matter is that he was, notwithstanding Trump's occasional tweets to the contrary, a Republican, and so he could have a partisan bias.  There's no check-and-balance on Mueller.  If he decides to put his thumb on the scales in favor of the president there's no one who is going to stop him.  But even if Mueller is exactly what he appears to be, a professional doing his job fairly, objectively, and competently, there is still the problem that his work is being filtered by William Barr.  Remember, we don't know what the Mueller report says.  All we know is what William Barr says it says, and we know that Barr is strongly biased in favor of the president.

But even if Barr is being completely honest about the contents of the Mueller report, the process here is still deeply flawed.  If you want to uncover someone's wrong-doing, you don't give prosecutorial veto power to someone who was appointed by and is beholden to (indeed, works for) the subject of the investigation.  Congress is supposed to be the governmental body that keeps the president in check, but that only has a chance of working if Congress has some way of learning the actual underlying facts unfiltered by people with obvious conflicts of interest.  So there's that.

But even more troubling to me is that there's just something very fishy about the way things have gone down in the last two weeks.  Mueller seemed to be on a roll, racking up indictments and convictions, and closing in on the president's inner circle.  The entire time, Trump was acting like a cornered animal, tweeting non-stop criticism of Mueller, accusing him of hunting witches and being a (gasp!) Democrat (there is no more serious insult in the Republican lexicon).  I've long since lost count of the number of times Trump called for the investigation to be shut down.  Hell, he fired James Comey in a failed attempt to shut the investigation down!  And then, all of a sudden, before Mueller released his report, Trump suddenly changed his tune.  On March 20, Trump suddenly stopped the criticism and said that the report should be made public, that people should see it.  That was two days before Mueller delivered the report which -- surprise, surprise! -- "exonerated" Trump.

Why would Trump suddenly change his tune so radically in advance of the report?  I can think of only one possible explanation: he knew the fix was in.  Just as I can think of only one possible explanation for his announcement during the campaign, on June 7, 2016, that he was going to give a "major speech ... discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons...": he knew about the infamous Trump Tower meeting that was scheduled to take place on June 9, and he knew (or at least he thought he knew) that that meeting was supposed to yield dirt on Hillary.  If that's not collusion, I don't know what is.

To quote Baby Herman, notwithstanding Trump's claims of total vindication (which even William Barr doesn't actually agree with), the whole thing stinks like yesterday's diapers.

And that's the real problem here.  The country is divided.  One way or another, we really need to know the truth, and having a report about possible wrongdoing by the president released only after the president has had a chance to "review it for accuracy" is not going to give the skeptics a lot of confidence that we're getting the truth.

Our legal system is supposed to be, for better or worse, adversarial.  It doesn't work if the prosecutor is working for the accused.

32 comments:

Peter Donis said...

It seems obvious that the report should be released, or at least all of it that can be released without violating laws against releasing classified information or grand jury information.

But even without that, the Congressional committees have all the subpoena power they need to get not just the report (including the parts that can't be publicly released) but all of the investigative information that it's based on. I expect them to be doing exactly that, and that's what they're supposed to do in order to address the concerns you raise. I also expect them to continue getting testimony of their own, as they did with Cohen. We're probably going to spend most of the rest of this year watching all that play out.

Ron said...

> all of it that can be released without violating laws against releasing classified information or grand jury information

The problem with that is that as things currently stand, the White House is going to have the final say on what constitutes "classified information". How will we know whether the redacted parts of the report are legitimately redacted, or whether they are the parts that contain the damning evidence? The Trump administration has a history of overruling security experts for the personal benefit of the president's family members so I see no reason to think that they would not do the same for the benefit of the president.

> the Congressional committees have all the subpoena power they need

Yeah, that's the theory. But in practice it's not working out that way

Ron said...

Also:

> Congressional committees have all the subpoena power they need

That only matters because the Dems happened to take the House. If the Republicans still controlled the House (which is not unlikely in the future because gerrymandering) no evidence of wrong-doing by this president would ever see the light of day.

Don Geddis said...

I feel like you're asking for too much. You basically want parties and politics not to matter, and to have some powerful institution that is apart from politics. I agree that "in theory", the rule of law should ideally be such an objective thing. But at some level you're really talking about the theory of good governance. We should all be led by Plato's benevolent philosopher-king. But if you set up that government, you find that tyrants make their way to the top. You try some kind of government by the educated elite, but you find that over time they exploit those who can't vote (women, minorities, non-landowners). Sometimes you set up an institution like the Federal Reserve or the Supreme Court, where you eliminate direct oversight by elected politicians. But over time, politics always plays a role in the long run, even in those institutions.

You lament that congressional oversight "only" matters because the Democrats happened to win. But what else could you possibly expect? The US is set up with checks and balances, with the hope that individual ambition and power would cause actual oversight. But then Nunes runs the House Intelligence Committee for the benefit of Trump: the opposite of providing oversight. That is putting party above country, and arguably is a form of treason.

And yet. If you run as a politician outside of party loyalty, you don't get elected and you acquire no power at all. Political parties are not in the US Constitution, and yet are among the most powerful political forces in the country. Most voters spend a lifetime with their "tribe", voting the party ticket. Very very few voters actually evaluate individuals (or policies), and go back and forth from party to party, across different elections.

With that voting behavior, in a democracy, it's hardly a surprise that the President can only be investigated by people that report to him. He wouldn't have that power if the voters were opposed. But if the voters support him (and thus the Representatives and Senators), then there really isn't much of a "governance" solution to that problem. There isn't much you can do, if "the people" are ok with what is going on.

Ron said...

@Don:

No, I'm not asking for politics not to matter. I'm asking for a system that has a mechanism for exposing corruption that cannot be nullified by a political party that holds both congress and the presidency. We have actually fixed this before with the independent council law put in place after Watergate (which has now expired). Another possibility is to change the rules in Congress so that the minority party has subpoena power. (I would also like to see the minority party have the ability to force votes on legislation, but that's a different matter.)

The real problem is that the political dynamic has evolved in a way that gives more power to political parties. (George Washington both anticipated and feared this.) So if a single party manages to control Congress and the White House, and that party is run by corrupt leadership, the system of checks and balances breaks down. That's a *systemic* problem, not a political one, and I don't think it's too much to ask to at least put some thought into how to fix it.

BTW, I don't think it's fair to say that "the people are OK with what's going on." Polls show that an overwhelming majority favor the release of the Mueller report. But William Barr is not beholden to the people, he is beholden to the president, who also happens to be the accused. That's a serious problem.

Peter Donis said...

The problem with that is that as things currently stand, the White House is going to have the final say on what constitutes "classified information".

I don't see that there is any decision that needs to be made on this. Whatever information is in the report is either marked classified or not, and that marking was done by Mueller's team. Whatever is marked classified just needs to be removed from the part that gets released to the public. That's an administrative task, not requiring any decisions.

Peter Donis said...

The real problem is that the political dynamic has evolved in a way that gives more power to political parties. (George Washington both anticipated and feared this.)

I agree that the United States over the years would have done well to pay a lot more attention to Washington's farewell address. But fixing that is a monumental task, because the problem goes back a lot farther than the Trump presidency. Arguably it goes back to the first Adams administration.

One idea I have had for a while is that there ought to be a Constitutional amendment to raise the majority required in order to pass laws. Say, for example, a two-thirds majority was required in each house to pass a bill and send it to the President for signature, and a three-fourths majority was required to override a Presidential veto. That would force a lot more bipartisanship and would greatly reduce the risks of one-party rule as far as legislation is concerned. I realize it wouldn't directly fix the issue of checks and balances on corruption, but one of the key motivators for corruption is the huge value of capturing even the slimmest of majorities.

Don Geddis said...

Ron: "I'm asking for a system that has a mechanism for exposing corruption that cannot be nullified by a political party that holds both congress and the presidency."

This seems too specific to our particular historical contingency of the moment. Imagine you're part of the founding of the US, writing the Constitution. You already have a mechanism for accountability: the Congress can investigate, and impeach, a sitting President. There is your mechanism.

Now, today, you don't like this, because it can be "nullified" in the situation where "a political party holds both congress and the presidency". OK, make the argument. You apparently want some other investigation entity. That answers to neither Congress, nor the President? To whom does it answer? Does it have a politically elected leader? If so, why isn't there an analogous scenario where the same party controls the Presidency, and also the head of this new agency? If the agency is appointed by a President, then why couldn't the President appoint his friend? If the agency is led by some other, non-democratic structure, then why doesn't it suffer from the governance of the elites, not accountable to the people it ostensibly is designed to serve? How do you avoid a J. Edgar Hoover running the "oversight" committee, perhaps for life, and eventually dominating all the rest of politics, indirectly?

"We have actually fixed this before with the independent council law ... Another possibility is to change the rules in Congress so that the minority party has subpoena power. ... the minority party have the ability to force votes on legislation"

I appreciate the concrete proposals. I suspect you're suffering from the "fallacy of the last move". You see a current failure, today, and wish for a change of structure that would allow the outcome you want for today's failure. But that's not how government structure works. You have to set up the structure first. And only then, the "bad actors" get to look for weaknesses, and find a way to exploit whatever structure you have put in place. It's basically like an encryption problem. I strongly suspect that your proposals, while perhaps fixing today, would have new weaknesses that could be exploited in similarly negative ways in the future. I don't have much confidence that, on net, they would be expected to improve things.

"So if a single party manages to control Congress and the White House, and that party is run by corrupt leadership, the system of checks and balances breaks down."

I agree with you completely. At the same time, I'm not sure that the abstract theory of political governance offers any possible solution.

"That's a *systemic* problem, not a political one, and I don't think it's too much to ask to at least put some thought into how to fix it."

Again, I agree. But I don't think there is any easy answer, and I'm very wary of overconfidence on this topic.

" an overwhelming majority favor the release of the Mueller report. But William Barr is not beholden to the people"

But the Democrats did win the House, and have subpoena power, so doesn't it seem likely that the final outcome is not up to Barr?

Ron said...

@Peter:

> Whatever information is in the report is either marked classified or not, and that marking was done by Mueller's team.

But the White House is going to get a chance to make additional redactions of their own. I see no reason to believe they won't simply redact the most damning passages.

@Don:

> I appreciate the concrete proposals. I suspect you're suffering from the "fallacy of the last move".

Why is that a fallacy? I thought the independent council law worked pretty well while it was in effect. I don't understand why you don't consider reinstating it to be a legitimate proposal.

> doesn't it seem likely that the final outcome is not up to Barr?

No, the content of the redacted report will be up to someone in the White House. Whoever it is, it will be someone who works for and is beholden to Trump.

Peter Donis said...

the White House is going to get a chance to make additional redactions of their own

Not as I understand it; Trump has already said he's fine with Barr just releasing the report.

Don Geddis said...

Ron: "I thought the independent council law worked pretty well while it was in effect. I don't understand why you don't consider reinstating it to be a legitimate proposal."

Ken Starr showed how political opposition can inappropriately use the original independent council law for partisan purposes. Starr spent tens of millions of dollars, and years, harassing Clinton to only discover a consensual sexual relationship that Clinton lied about for the obvious adultery and marriage reasons. Prior to Starr's investigation, there was no crime at all. And this led to a partisan House impeachment, again for purely political reasons.

That is not "working well". A hostile Congress would appoint a sequence of such investigators, in order to bog down and distract an opposition party President.

"the content of the redacted report will be up to someone in the White House"

Classification is about what the public can see. Members of Congress oversight have the authority to confidentially read the entire report, with no redactions at all. There's a question whether the public will be permitted to read "the bad stuff". But there shouldn't be any question at all whether the House Intelligence Committee can see the unredacted report. That isn't up to the White House (as I understand it).

Ron said...

@Peter:

> > the White House is going to get a chance to make additional redactions of their own

> Not as I understand it;

https://www.businessinsider.com/barr-mueller-report-white-house-executive-privilege-2019-3

> Trump has already said he's fine with Barr just releasing the report.

And yet, Barr is not releasing the report. Gee, I wonder why. Is it possible, do you think, that Donald Trump could have said something that is not 100% true?

@Don:

> Ken Starr showed how political opposition can inappropriately use the original independent council law for partisan purposes.

This will probably come as a surprise to you, but I actually don't think that Ken Starr's investigation was inappropriate. Clinton's affair with Lewinsky was wildly inappropriate at best. This sort of conduct on the part of the President has been dismissed with a wink and a nod for most of the history of the nation, but it shouldn't be. Any senior executive in a private company would be fired for having sex with a subordinate in company offices, and Clinton should have been removed from office for that reason. (To say nothing of the fact that trying to keep the affair a secret opened him up to potential blackmail.) But, of course, this was before the me-too era, so the idea that a president should be removed for having an affair with an intern was a non-starter back then.

But even accepting your premise, I much prefer that kind of systemic failure to what we're seeing now. In the end, the Starr investigation just wasted a lot of time and money. It did not ultimately pose an existential threat to democracy. If Trump (and Russia -- let's not forget Russia) get away with what they did in 2016 that will set an incredibly dangerous precedent. We very narrowly dodged this bullet in 1974 (if Nixon hadn't been so stupid as to record his incriminating conversations he almost certainly would have gotten away with it). This time it looks like we're about to take a direct hit. It's far from clear that we will survive it in the long run.

Peter Donis said...

And yet, Barr is not releasing the report.

No, he has not *yet* released the report. And that's because, as he's already said, he needs to go through it and filter out classified information and grand jury information. He's already said he will release it when that's done; he just doesn't think those things will be done by next Tuesday as House Democrats have requested. But it will be "weeks not months":

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/justice-department/ag-barr-release-mueller-report-weeks-not-months-n987646

Peter Donis said...

If Trump (and Russia -- let's not forget Russia) get away with what they did in 2016 that will set an incredibly dangerous precedent. We very narrowly dodged this bullet in 1974 (if Nixon hadn't been so stupid as to record his incriminating conversations he almost certainly would have gotten away with it). This time it looks like we're about to take a direct hit.

In your post, you said "we really need to know the truth". But now you're saying you already know the truth: you know Trump colluded with Russia. So you're not waiting to see the Mueller report to find out the truth. You're just waiting to see if it will reflect what you already know is true. Correct?

Ron said...

@Peter:

Here is what we know:

1. The election turned on less than 80,000 votes in three key states.

2. The Russians did meddle in the election.

3. Trump's campaign staffers, including his campaign manager, met with Russians during the campaign and shared polling data with them.

4. Trump was trying to negotiate a deal to build a hotel in Moscow, and these negotiations were still going on during the campaign.

5. Trump and/or his lawyers knowingly lied on the record about #3 and #4.

6. Trump fired James Comey because he wanted to shut down the investigation into all of the above.

7. Trump has been unusually deferential (by the historical standards of U.S. foreign policy) to Russia and Vladimir Putin, even going so far as to rhetorically undermine the mutual defense clause of the NATO treaty. He has also removed sanctions from Russian oligarchs on very flimsy and questionable rationales.

8. He has met personally with Vladimir Putin without any records being kept. He has even kept the content of those meetings secret from his own administration.

9. He has engaged in some very questionable real estate transactions with Russians, and his campaign chairman was convicted of money laundering.

That's an awful lot of smoke. And that is just what is on the public record. (And that's not even an exhaustive list.)

So yes, it seems extremely unlikely to me that Donald Trump is innocent of any wrongdoing. In fact, I can't imagine any even remotely plausible scenario where Trump is innocent that accounts for the data in the public record. The idea that we should just let the whole thing drop because one of Trump's lackey's repeats the "no collusion" mantra is risibly naive.

Ron said...

Oh, I almost forgot:

2.5 The Russian meddling was effective and very plausibly swung the <80k votes needed to swing election.

Peter Donis said...

Here is what we know

Some of these are things we know. Some of them are things the media would like to be true, but that's not the same as knowing them.

That's an awful lot of smoke

We have a standard for convicting people of crimes or impeaching Presidents, and it's not "where there's smoke there's fire".

IMO, the widespread failure in our society to observe the distinction between what is known, and to what standard of proof, and what particular partisans would like to be true, is a bigger threat to our democracy than any single politician, including Trump.

Ron said...

> things the media would like to be true

Which items in particular are you referring to here?

> We have a standard for convicting people of crimes or impeaching Presidents

Have I even once said that Trump should be impeached? Seriously, do a search for the word "impeach". The search box is in the upper-left corner. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Peter Donis said...

Which items in particular are you referring to here?

#6 is the one that struck me initially. #2.5 is another one.

In #5 you said "and/or" and Cohen has admitted to lying about #4, so technically it's true as you state it, at least with regard to lying about #4, but it would still be true if instead of "Trump and/or his lawyers" you had just said "one Trump lawyer".

With regard to lying about #3, the link you gave in #5 doesn't say what particular statement the January letter to Mueller from Trump's lawyers was referring to when it said Trump "dictated a short but accurate response". The article certainly invites the inference that this reference was to the June 8, 2017 statement mentioned later in the article, but it doesn't say so. This sort of ambiguity is typical when a media outlet wants to get me to believe what they want to be true but can't prove. So I don't accept this as supporting your claim.

Have I even once said that Trump should be impeached?

No, but plenty of Democrats have, and that is at least one of the key reasons they have given for the Congressional committees to pursue their own investigations, over and above whatever Mueller's team has already done. If your position is that no decision on impeachment should be made until all of that has played out, that's fine; I wish everyone would show that kind of restraint.

Don Geddis said...

Peter: "If your position is that no decision on impeachment should be made until all of that has played out, that's fine; I wish everyone would show that kind of restraint."

I just want to point out that this is the exact explicit position of Nancy Pelosi, Democrat and Speaker of the House of the US House of Representatives. She has stated (despite angering some Democrats) many times that impeachment should be off the table, unless and until sufficient evidence is uncovered that the action enjoys bipartisan support.

Ron said...

> #6 is the one that struck me initially.

i.e.

> 6. Trump fired James Comey because he wanted to shut down the investigation into all of the above.

This is what Trump himself said in a video taped interview with Lester Holt on May 11, 2017.

> #2.5 is another one.

i.e.

> 2.5 The Russian meddling was effective and very plausibly swung the <80k votes needed to swing election.

OK, this is one where we can never know for certain. However, there is no question that Russia did engage in social media campaigns, and it's at least *plausible* that these swung the 80k critical votes.

> In #5 you said "and/or" and Cohen has admitted to lying about #4

i.e.

> 4. Trump was trying to negotiate a deal to build a hotel in Moscow, and these negotiations were still going on during the campaign.

On Jan 11, 2017 Trump tweeted:

"I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA - NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!"

On October 26, 2016 Trump said:

"[I] have no business whatsoever with Russia, have nothing to do with Russia."

But the fact of the matter is that Trump signed a letter of intent to build a hotel in Moscow on October 28, 2015, four months after he announced his bid for the presidency.

Finally, Michael Cohen testified under oath that the deal was still being actively negotiated as late as June of 2017. (I think there might be documentary evidence to back this up too. I couldn't find any, but I didn't look very hard either.)

> With regard to lying about #3...

i.e.

> 3. Trump's campaign staffers, including his campaign manager, met with Russians during the campaign and shared polling data with them.

I was referring to the memo that Trump wrote falsely stating that the infamous Trump Tower meeting was about adoptions. That was a lie.

> > Have I even once said that Trump should be impeached?

> No, but plenty of Democrats have

But you're not talking to "plenty of Democrats" here, you're talking to *me*. In particular:

> > That's an awful lot of smoke

> We have a standard for convicting people of crimes or impeaching Presidents, and it's not "where there's smoke there's fire".

I'm not saying Trump should be *impeached* on the evidence we have, I'm saying he should be *investigated* on the evidence we have, and the results of the investigation should be made public *without* giving the president or his people the opportunity to edit them.

I would be quite pleased to be convinced that Trump did absolutely nothing wrong, and that he is not in fact beholden to Vladimir Putin. But that's going to take more than William Barr's say-so or a report that has been redacted by all the president's men.

Peter Donis said...

I'm not saying Trump should be *impeached* on the evidence we have, I'm saying he should be *investigated* on the evidence we have, and the results of the investigation should be made public *without* giving the president or his people the opportunity to edit them.

I agree (with the proviso that classified and grand jury information should not be released, since that's prohibited by law).

Publius said...

Walking the Talk

>Trump has been unusually deferential (by the historical standards of U.S. foreign policy) to Russia and Vladimir Putin,

Deferential? Not at all. Trump is or has:
1) Gotten NATO members to increase their defense spending -- the amount of the increase being larger than the entire defense budget of Russia.
2) Re-arming Ukraine with advanced weaponry, such as anti-tank missiles.
3) Withdrew from the INF Treaty, which will lead to the US deploying short and intermediate range nuclear missiles against Russia.
4) US forces in Syria annihilated 200 Russian mercenaries.
5) Attacking the German-Russia natural gas pipeline as being contrary to the interest of the western powers.
6) Signed a $717 billion defense bill, starting an arms build-up during his administration - for F-35 fighters, Black Hawk helicopters, fully funds the B-21 bomber, 3 littoral combat ships, a fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier, a Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine, nine more warships beyond that, 135 M1 Abrams tanks, 60 bradley fighting vehicles, $140 million for the Missile Defense Agency, $248 million for THAAD missile defense systems, and $22 billion for DOE nuclear weapons programs.

>I thought the independent council law worked pretty well while it was in effect.

It was a disaster. Hence neither political party supported its renewal.

>My ontological position is not based on trust at all, it is based on skepticism. I can't believe anything without evidence. And I use the word "can't" instead of "don't" deliberately. It's not that I choose to believe things only on evidence, it's that I am incapable of making myself believe things without evidence. My beliefs are not something I decide on, they are something that happens to me.

An investigation was performed by a Special Council:

"In the report, the Special Counsel noted that, in completing his investigation, he employed 19 lawyers who were assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence forensic accountants, and other professional staff. The Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, issued almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers, made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses."

A finding of fact was made that no collusion occurred.

> I can't believe anything without evidence.

Time to put up or shut up.








Ron said...

@Publius:

> It was a disaster. Hence neither political party supported its renewal.

I think the reason neither party supported it was because it worked a little too well.

> A finding of fact was made that no collusion occurred.

No, that's not true, not even according to Barr's letter. There were no "findings of fact" at all with regards to Russian election interference. The actual conclusion was:

"... the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign."

That's not a "finding of fact", that's a failure to find evidence. Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence, though in this case I'm perfectly willing to believe that the campaign didn't actively conspire with the Russians, that the Trump Tower meeting was the end of it. But then I really want to know: why did Trump try so hard to shut down the investigation? Why did he lie about the purpose of the Trump Tower meeting? In other words, I want to know about the obstruction charge, because that too is an impeachable offense. So even if Trump is innocent of conspiracy, that doesn't mean he's innocent.

There's also the question of bank fraud and money laundering.

> Time to put up or shut up.

What exactly is it you want me to put up?

Peter Donis said...

This is what Trump himself said in a video taped interview with Lester Holt on May 11, 2017.

No, that's not what he said. It's what Lester Holt and CNN and most of the rest of the media would like him to have said, and have tried repeatedly to spin that he said, but it's not what he actually said. What he actually said, in response to a direct question from Holt, was that he expected the Russia investigation to continue:

"LESTER HOLT: And, and will you expect that they would, they would continue on with this investigation?

"DONALD TRUMP: Oh yea sure I expect that."

He also said that he wanted to get to the bottom of it, and that if Russia hacked our election he wanted to know about it.

Transcript here:

https://www.cnn.com/2017/05/11/politics/transcript-donald-trump-nbc-news/index.html

Ron said...

@Peter:

> it's not what he actually said

You're referencing the wrong quote. I was referring to this:

"...regardless of [Rod Rosenstein's] recommendation I was going to fire Comey knowing, there was no good time to do it. And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story..." [Emphasis added.]

It is not unreasonable to paraphrase this as: "I fired Comey to shut down the investigation, and I believe it was the right decision because it was a waste of resources to continue to look into this made-up story."

> He also said that he wanted to get to the bottom of it, and that if Russia hacked our election he wanted to know about it.

Yes. Donald Trump says a lot of things. Not all of them are true.

Peter Donis said...

It is not unreasonable to paraphrase this as: "I fired Comey to shut down the investigation, and I believe it was the right decision because it was a waste of resources to continue to look into this made-up story."

If you only look at exactly what you quoted, this would be one reasonable interpretation (though not the only possible one). But there are other places in the transcript where Trump says things that do not support this interpretation. For example:

"LESTER HOLT: About the Russia investigation and possible links [OVER TALK]

DONALD TRUMP: Look, look, let me tell you. As far as I'm concerned, I want the thing to be absolutely done properly. When I did this now I said, I probably, maybe will confuse people, maybe I'll expand that, you know, lengthen the time because it should be over with, in my opinion, it should have been over with a long time ago. Cause it all is, it's an excuse but I said to myself, I might even lengthen out the investigation but I have to do the right thing for the American people. He's the wrong man for that position."

This says that what Trump was worried about was that firing Comey might *lengthen* the Russia investigation. But he felt he had to fire Comey because he was the wrong man for the job, and the investigation needed to be completed with someone better in charge.

And later on, he says more that supports that view:

"LESTER HOLT: Did anyone from the White House ask him [Comey] to, end the investigation?

DONALD TRUMP: [OVER TALK] No. No. Why would we do that? [OVER TALK]

LESTER HOLT: [OVER TALK] Any surrogates on behalf of the White House

DONALD TRUMP: Not that I know of. Look, I want to find out if there was a problem with an election having to do with Russia. Or by the way, anyb- anybody else. Any other country. And I want that to be so strong and so good. And I want it to happen. I also want to have a really competent, capable director. He's not. He's a showboat. He's not my man or not my man. I didn't appoint him. He was appointed long before me. But I want somebody who's going to do a great job. And I will tell you we're looking at candidates right now who could be spectacular. And that's what I want for the FBI."

Donald Trump says a lot of things. Not all of them are true.

You're the one who brought up the Lester Holt interview. If you don't believe what Trump said in it, why did you bring it up? And if you only believe the things Trump said in that interview that support your view, and choose not to believe other things Trump said in the same interview that do not support your view, on what basis are you making those choices?

Ron said...

[Re-posted to correct a typo]

> You're the one who brought up the Lester Holt interview. If you don't believe what Trump said in it, why did you bring it up?

Trump lies a lot, but he doesn't lie about *everything*, and the lies are not *arbitrary*. Trump lies in service of an agenda, and that agenda is almost always the advancement and promotion of his own interests. When he lies about, say, immigrants pouring over the southern border, it is easy to see *why* he is lying about that: he wants to stir up fear and loathing among his supporters because that is the foundation of his influence and power. What possible purpose would it serve to lie about firing Comey to shut down the Russia investigation?

Furthermore, that statement was not made in isolation. It was made in a context where Trump had already asked Comey for "loyalty", which Comey refused. Also, Trump has spent two years ranting and raving about the Mueller investigation, calling it a "witch hunt", saying it should be shut down, lamenting the fact that Jeff Sessions recused himself, etc. etc. Trump also has a history of saying whatever pops into his head without giving it a lot of thought. In that context, a spontaneous confession that he fired Comey in the hopes that this would end the investigation seems likely to me to be true.

Peter Donis said...

What possible purpose would it serve to lie about firing Comey to shut down the Russia investigation?

You're missing my point. Based on looking at all of what Trump said during the Lester Holt interview, I don't think Trump was saying there that he fired Comey to shut down the Russia investigation. So your question here is based on a false premise.

Ron said...

Or, possibly, he realized after saying it that he had fucked up and was furiously backpedalling the rest of the time.

There is a lot of additional evidence to support the TFCBR (Trump Fired Comey Because Russia) theory:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/19/us/politics/trump-russia-comey.html

https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/30/politics/andrew-mccabe-rod-rosenstein-memo/index.html (3rd paragraph)

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/29/us/politics/rod-rosenstein-comey-firing.html

Publius said...

Finding your level

@Ron:
>Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence

Now that's something I've only ever heard from "UFO investigators" or "UFO enthusiasts". Congratulations, your conspiracy theories now have as much support as flying saucer crashing at Roswell NM with alien bodies inside.

Ron said...

@Publius:

Slow day on the trolling circuit, eh?

> Now that's something I've only ever heard from "UFO investigators" or "UFO enthusiasts".

The UFOlogists say that because they believe there has been a cover-up. Sometimes cover-ups really do happen, but they rarely succeed for very long though.