Trump Says Mueller "Totally Exonerated" Him of Collusion and Obstruction. Is That True??
The Mueller Report Has Been Submitted
But you get only a 4-page summary.
At least so far. And what does the summary say about the conclusions from the Special Counsel's 4-part probe titled "Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election."
Did Russia Interfere with the 2016 Presidential Election?
The answer is unequivocally YES. The report determined that the Russians used two primary modes of attack. One was hacking the DNC and Clinton campaign emails and releasing them in such a manner as to have the most impact. The other was to mastermind a massive, social media disinformation campaign to split Americans into two warring factions.
Did the Russians Intend the Interference to Help One Candidate?
Again, the answer is YES; and the person they wanted to win was Donald Trump. Clearly, the release of damaging emails was intended to hurt Secretary Hillary Clinton. While not part of the Summary (but probably the Report), the American Intelligence Agencies have concluded the Russian effort was on behalf of Donald Trump.
Did Donald Trump or Anyone from His Campaign Conspire With Russia in Their Interference?
Here, the answer is "Not to Beyond a Reasonable Doubt". The term of art used in the Report was "did not establish". The whole sentence is "[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."1 It is interesting to note that in legal terms "did not establish" means there is greater than 0% but less than 100% chance that conspiracy or coordination did occur beyond a reasonable doubt - the threshold needed to go to trial.
This is what Donald Trump calls Total Exoneration - Part 1
1 The [T] means there where words before this that A.G. Barr did not include in the quote.
Did Donald Trump Obstruct Justice?
Maybe? Robert Mueller apparently punted this one - many think to Congress since Barr's position is already known (presidents can't obstruct justice). I must give Barr credit however because, even though Mueller didn't appear to be asking him to yet he nevertheless restated his anti-obstruction of justice position, Barr DID include the following important Mueller quote,
"while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."2
Whoa - "it also does not exonerate him". What does that mean? To me it means Mueller had hard evidence on Trump for obstruction of justice (Barr says as much a sentence or so earlier) but, for whatever reason (and there are many possibilities, which only the Report will tell us) Mueller decided not to draw a conclusion.
This, of course, leaves us with another Trump lie and what he calls "Total Exoneration - Part 2"
2 There should have been eclipses before the word "while" to indicate words were left out.
Conspiracy vs Collusion
Black's Law Dictionary defines collusion as "a deceitful agreement or compact between two or more persons, for the one party to bring an action against the other for some evil purpose, as to defraud a third party..."
Black's Law Dictionary defines conspiracy, on the other hand, as "a combination or confederacy between two or more persons formed for the purposes of committing, by their joint efforts, some unlawful or criminal act, or some act which is innocent in itself, but becomes unlawful when done by the concerted action of the conspirators."
What does that mean? You can have collusion without having a criminal conspiracy, BUT you can't have a criminal conspiracy without some sort of collusion.
The Barr memo also mentions "Coordinate" in conjunction with "Conspiracy" and it means: "the process of organizing people or groups so that they work together properly and well"
Was Donald Trump and His Administration Cleared of Collusion?
No they weren't, far from it. Instead, nobody was charged with the crime of "conspiracy". Because Mueller used the term of art "did not establish", it implies there was some evidence of conspiracy, but not enough to go to trial.
But was there collusion? Clearly! Consider the following publicly known events:
- Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn colluded with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak about removing sanctions on December 29, 2016 - before Trump was sworn in as president. That was potentially illegal.
- Donald Trump Jr., on June 9, 2016, met with Russians intending on receiving "dirt" on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government (or so he thought). That is collusion. With him were Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, both expecting the same information.
- Jared Kushner, besides meeting with Russians for dirt on Clinton, he also met with numerous foreign officials, including Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak as well as Sergey Gorkov, the head of the Russian state-owned bank Vnesheconombank; Russian banker Sergey N. Gorkov, "whose financial institution was deeply intertwined with Russian intelligence" and is "under sanction by the United States" and "it may have been part of an effort by Mr. Kushner to establish a direct line to Mr. Putin outside established diplomatic channels".
- Paul Manafort, besides meeting with Russians for dirt on Clinton, Konstantin Kilimnik, who is believed to be linked to Russian intelligence and gave him polling data related to the 2016 campaign (illegal) and discussed a Ukrainian peace plan with him.
- Carter Page first lied about and then "did not deny" meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 Republican National Convention
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions first lied about and then admitted to meeting with Russian ambassador Kislyak twice outside his duties as Senator.
- George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents relating to contacts he had with agents of the Russian government while working for the Trump campaign.
- Roger Stone has been indicted in connection with coordinating with Julian Assuage as well as Russian intelligence about the hacking of the DNC and Clinton campaign emails.
There are others as well.
Why No Obstruction of Justice Recommendation?
Only Robert Mueller knows. It is unknown to all except Rod Rosenstein and Bill Barr if Mueller states why in his report; maybe the public will find out in time. Clearly, Mueller's team had collected evidence of it - he said as much with his cryptic partial comment
"... while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."
While we do not know yet what came before the eclipses, it is obvious Mueller thought Trump might be guilty of Obstruction of Justice.
My guess is this. The Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opined years ago that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Ostensibly the reason is, although America’s constitution is silent on the question, a president subjected to an indictment would trigger “a traumatic event” both “politically and constitutionally”. It would “interfere with the president's unique official duties”, too. The OLC argued that Congress’s impeachment power was the sole legitimate way to discipline presidents for bad behaviour. To indict a president via “an unelected grand jury and prosecutor” is “inconsistent” with the framers’ “carefully considered judgment” that it is impeachment or bust.
There is no question the first line of reasoning is correct, but is that enough to turn the President into an inflatable Pope? The second line, however, flies in the face of what was said in the Constitutional Convention on a couple of points. One is most of the framers were very fearful of an unaccountable Executive. The other is that nowhere in their deliberations did they ever hint at "impeachment or bust". While they did make that avenue available for political "crimes", they were never considered that a president could not be held accountable for his or her actions.
Robert Mueller is nothing if not a stickler for the rules. I could easily see him reasoning this way.
"OK, I have enough evidence to indict Donald Trump (not exonerated) but I can't indict him according to the OLC. If I can't indict him, then why would I conclude that he should be indicted. There, I will not conclude such and leave it to the politicos, the AG or Congress, to decide once they have considered my evidence."
Was that his rational?? Who knows. Maybe some day we will find out.
Are the Legal Troubles Over for Donald Trump?
I seriously doubt it and here is why.
The Roger Stone Indictment
Roger Stone was part of Donald Trump's election campaign until sometime in 2015. After that, he was an outside adviser in constant contact with the campaign as well as Donald Trump directly.
Stone is being charged with:
- Obstruction of Proceedings by lying to Congress, not providing requested documents, causing others to obstruct the proceedings, and providing false or misleading documents
- Lying to Congress (5 counts) where he said he did not have communications (colluding) with Russian intelligence and Wikileaks about the stolen DNC and Clinton campaign emails.
- Witness tampering by influencing, delaying, and preventing another from testifying.
Compounding this is testimony by Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen that he was in the oval office when Stone called Trump to tell him about the soon to be released emails. Trump denies this took place so one or the other is lying about it. My bet is on Cohen being the one telling the truth.
In any case, much damaging testimony to Trump may come out of the November 2019 trial.
Investigation into the Trump Inaugural Committee
The FBI, the Southern District of New York (SDNY), is said to be interested in the inaugural committee’s spending, its donations, whether any donations came from illegal foreign sources, and potential corruption involving favors for donors, many of whom were foreign. Rick Gates, who ran the effort, and Michael Cohen, who fund raised, are cooperating.
The Eastern District of New York (EDNY) is also investigating whether foreign donations to the committee made their way into the Trump campaign.
Investigation into The Trump Foundation
The New York Attorney General is investigating whether the Trump Foundation, now dissolved, broke the law by coordinating with Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and whether it was truly functioning as a charitable organization or functioning was little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump's business and political interests.
Investigation into the Trump Organization
The New York Attorney General is investigating several aspects of the Trump Organization.
- Fraudulent real estate deals
- Fraudulent bank loans with the only banks who still lend to Trump, Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank
- Insurance fraud
- The SDNY is looking into the organizations role in the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels
Hush Money Payments
In August of 2018, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and other financial crimes, admitting he made payments to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels to keep them quiet in the run up the 2016 election. In December, he was sentenced to three years in prison. Donald Trump was an unindicted co-conspirator. That is still being investigated by the SDNY.
Investigation into Pro-Trump Super PAC, Rebuilding America
The Southern District of New York is looking into potential wrongdoing to see if Paul Manafort illegally coordinated with the group while he was running Trump’s campaign, and whether the super PAC had taken in donations from people in Qatar or other Middle Eastern countries.
Investigation into Donald Trump's Taxes
The New York state tax department is looking into allegations brought up in a New York Times investigation into decades of Trump’s “tax schemes.” New York City officials have also said they are examining Trump’s tax history.
Investigation into Trump's Golf Clubs
The FBI and the New Jersey attorney general’s office are examining allegations that the Trump golf club hired workers using fraudulent papers. Democrats in Congress also called for the FBI to fully investigate the situation which developed after two undocumented immigrants lodged a complaint.
The Attorney's General of Maryland and Washington D.C. are suing Donald Trump on the grounds that he violated the Emoluments Clause in the United States Constitution by profiting from his D.C. Trump hotel because of excess sales generated because he is president.
Summer Zorvos Defamation Lawsuit
Zervos was a contestant on the Apprentice and said in 2016 that Trump had sexually assaulted her in 2007. After Trump called her a liar on the campaign trial Zervos filed a defamation lawsuit against him.
These are just the more famous ones.
© 2019 Scott Belford