AG Barr: Mueller Report Principal Conclusions Letter to Congress

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Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire.

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141 Responses

  1. Avatar Road Scholar says:

    Cripes. Really the worst possible outcome. Everyone is still just gonna believe whatever they already believe based on their priors. The next two years are going to be tedious as hell.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    If the media is reporting this, we’ve already established that we can’t trust them.Report

  3. Avatar Philip H says:

    On the one hand nothing here surprises me. I get the send that on the instruction issues Mueller was leaving it to Barr to do the right thing. Whether he did or not remains to be seen. I expect Mueller and Barr will now be both subpoenaed by the House as will all of Muellers evidence. And Barr does acknowledge that there are ongoing investigations so that Trump’s jeopardy is not yet settled.

    Unfortunately the lack of conspiracy fidnig is troubling. I leave it to our resident lawyers to parse, but from the “reasonable and prudent person” approach it begs credulity that indictments and convictions could be obtained for lying to the FBI about contact with Russia, along with indictments against Russian actors and there not have been something there that is worthy of further investigation.

    Now the play moves to the House and to the DNC.Report

  4. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    “Not enough evidence to indict” means exactly that.
    Meaning that if we were in a court of law Trump could skate.

    For the American citizens, we can just look at the known uncontested facts and decide which story is more believable.

    By the way, what IS the “Trump is innocent” story, anyway?Report

  5. Thanks for the update, Andrew. I wanted facts, now I have them. Although the SCO leaves room for debate, I’m satisfied with the counsel’s findings.

    Look for the president and his base to turn this into a talking point for 2020-Mueller will now be considered “legit”

    Go figure lol.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Tracy Downey says:

      Bumpersticker in MAGAland:
      “Trump 2020- Not Enough Evidence To Indict!”Report

    • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Tracy Downey says:

      Do you? What “facts” do you actually have? You have a summary, authored by an AG hand-picked by Trump, of a report by the SCO, that offers some legal opinions. WE don’t have the report. WE may very well never see that report. Any actual facts are contained within that report, therefore we don’t have facts.

      We actually “know” precisely as much as we “knew” yesterday.Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Road Scholar says:

        I’m surprised Road by your comment.

        We don’t know nothing… we know two things:
        1. The SC Report did not find Collusion. (Unless you are positing outright lies by the AG)
        2. The SC Report did not find clearly for criminal Obstruction, and left it to DOJ to determine.

        “In making this determination, we noted that the Special Counsel recognized that “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference,” and that, while not determinative, the absence of such evidence bears upon the President’s intent with respect to obstruction.”

        I expect this will become the focus of ire since the Obstruction charge was a jump-ball left to the AG. As I said before the report, I can see why Mueller didn’t force the issue; I can see why the AG wouldn’t force the issue; there’s nothing stopping Nancy Pelosi and the House from forcing the issue. Its a political loser, but go for it.

        Of course that leaves the question of making the report available, and I guess we need to start leaving markers on that one too.

        So… my marker on publishing the report: Yes to the full report, redacted as appropriate; No, not the undifferentiated raw data. The report presumably incorporates some appropriate supporting docs/testimony and that’s where I’d stop. For all of our benefits.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Marchmaine says:

          ‘Collusion’ isn’t a crime. The SC report couldn’t possibly find it.

          What they didn’t find was _conspiracy_ in the _election_.

          Which, honestly, I’m not that startled about. There’s actually all sorts of indications that Trump did not want to be elected in the first place, so the idea that he’d conspire to get elected was somewhat dubious. I think members of his team probably did, and others tried to but failed, and Roger Stone of course did (Stone’s involvement with Wikileaks has been extremely obvious from the very start), but it was never any sort of actual campaign thing. Thus ended Mueller’s mandate.

          However, things excluded from ‘conspiracy in election’ include many things. The biggest and most obvious is _quid quo pro_.

          I.e., if Trump promised to remove sanctions when elected (Even if he expected not to be), in exchange for getting permission to build his hotel, THAT WOULD NOT BE COVERED BY THIS. Even if Russia helped him along without his knowledge (or, at least, without any provable knowledge) or coordination.

          This entire report is literally just ‘How did the Russias impact the election and who were they working with?’, and we basically already had that answer: They hack the DNC, tried to work with some members of Trump’s campaign, and they probably worked with Roger Stone through Wikileaks.

          Other things, even other Russian things, were outside the scope of the report…or at least outside the scope of the summary we’ve been given.

          Which everyone is way too eager to accept as the entire report. For all we know it carefully documents crimes _besides_ conspiracy or obstruction of justice. I doubt it, but it could. But what I hope it does it provide is enough threads to pull at to peel back the quid quo pro.Report

          • Avatar Philip H in reply to DavidTC says:

            I think a lot of those other things have been referred to the SDNY and other appropriate US Attorneys. Hence the campaign finance and inaugural donations investigations. Those will still pose real problems for Trump and his minions, especially if Cohen has turned over all his records.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Philip H says:

              Having read other people’s takes on this, I’ve realized we’ve actually been parsing things way way way too narrowly: Barr’s summary specifically says ‘the Russian government’.

              Not only does this leave grounds that they conspired with _Wikileaks_ in the release of the emails (Which, again, I point out the release of was actually a crime separate from the theft, and thus conspiring to do it is a crime.)…

              …it also ignores the fact that literally none of the Russian contacts that we know the Trump universe interacted with were part of the ‘Russian government’.

              Konstantin Kilimnik, the person Manafort was in contact with and lied about, is not a member of the Russian government.

              Natalia Veselnitskaya, the person at the secret meeting that offered dirt on Hillary to Donald Jr, was also not a member of the Russian government.

              I’m not saying there actually was a conspiracy with either of them acting a cutouts to the Russian government, but the summary does not exclude it. The summary just excludes direct conspiracy with the Russia government….a situation which is actually almost inconceivable to be happening. The Russia government was not going to deal with Trump via official employees!

              On top of that, almost unnoticed, the summary hilariously reports there’s more obstruction. It says that ‘most’ of the evidence of obstruction has been reported in public…which rather requires there’s some instances we _don’t_ know about.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Here’s a take from a guy that I trust:

    Report

  7. Avatar greginak says:

    As was ineviatable this is just the start of figuring out what the heck the report found. It will be interesting to see what Mueller’s actual summary is and not Barr’s summary. I guess what we can take as established facts, since Barr states them, is that the russians did attempt to maniuplate the elctions through social media and stealing then releasing dem e-mails. That seems sort of bad but i know thinking that way is just evidence of how partisan i am. Also notable is that the russians tried multiple times to deal with the Trump campaign which they never reported to the FBI. I’m curious about Barr’s statement that there was no evidence of conspiracy with the Russian government. I wonder if that is carefully parsed to elide that Manafort admitted in his plea agreement that he gave private polling data to a russian who had worked with their GRU.

    But is was inevitable that this report would lead to hearings and ultimately be a political matter aside from the other various investigations going on.Report

  8. From the beginning, I said this was going to end up the way the Clinton investigations did — plenty of dirt, everyone around Trump destroyed, but he himself untouched.

    The thing of it is that by going all in on the Russia thing, the Dems sucked the oxygen out of the room, letting many other things Trump has done — some of which are criminal — get pushed to the sidelines. Now that this has fallen on its face, Trump and his minions will simply dismiss any other investigations.

    And it’s the Clintons you can thank for that. They were the ones who, on election night, decided to blame the loss on Russia, setting this entire national obsession in motion. Just one more way they screwed over the country.

    Taibi has a piece out on this. I’m not a big fan and think he goes too far. But his main point — that the media coverage of this issue was singularly awful — is well taken.

    https://taibbi.substack.com/p/russiagate-is-wmd-times-a-millionReport

  9. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Trump selected Barr because he wanted an AG that wouldn’t release a damaging report. My guess is that the only way a full report would have been released is if it stated Trunp is completely innocent. A summary, especially a very short summary line this, means that there is at least evidence that makes Trump appear not good if not criminal. I suspect Barr was in a tough place on how to minimize the damage without looking like a partisan hack.Report

    • Avatar Michael Siegel in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I don’t think we have nearly enough data to conclude that. There may be very good reasons to thoroughly vet the report before releasing. If it hasn’t been release in a couple of months, then I’ll start griping.Report

    • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to LeeEsq says:

      there is at least evidence that makes Trump appear not good if not criminal.

      Unfortunately this puts us into “Trump won’t release his tax returns” territory.

      He’s a Billionaire with complex taxes, so it’s trivial to spin his taxes into making him look awful (see also Romney). Ergo he’s better off not showing them no matter what happened.

      Putting a partisan microscope on his (disorganized, incompetent) campaign and first few months in office would be a nightmare for him no matter what happened. Part of his job is to deal with Russian, oh-no-he’s-dealing-with-the-Russians! He has land and deals everywhere, so oh-no-he’s-got-money-in-Russia.

      This is the problem with partisan witch hunts. They both condemn the innocent and protect the guilty because the truth obviously doesn’t matter.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter says:

        Do the facts that we have in front of us matter?

        Is there a way to state those facts together into a narrative in which Trump is innocent of corruption and self dealing?Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          Some combo of incompetence, ignorance, and forced-by-his-situation(*) comes pretty close.

          (*) Emoluments and his empire for example. He can’t sever himself from his empire. Not (just) doesn’t want to, not will not, but it’s literally impossible.Report

          • Avatar Philip H in reply to Dark Matter says:

            Bull pucky. Every other President with significant business holdings (read George W Bush) figured out how to do it. Sure, his name in on the brand, but that doesn’t mean its not severable. He just doesn’t care.

            And lets be clear – He’s not actually dealing with the Russians. Dealing with the Russians would be decrying their meddling in the election that got him elected, instead of denying said meddling and then attacking the intelligence and law enforcement community that uncovered said meddling. Dealing with Russia would mean actually telling the truth about his business dealings with them, and not dictating a memo to his son that was a lie about said business dealings. And on and on.Report

            • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Philip H says:

              I’m mostly with Dark here. The Trump Organization is known to be something over 500 legal entities, mostly LLCs. LLCs get to set their own conditions on members leaving and how the assets are distributed. Many of the base assets are highly illiquid. Yes, it can be untangled. Some day his kids, or a managing trust, will get to do it. It’ll take a decade unless a bunch of other people agree to take large losses.Report

              • Avatar Philip H in reply to Michael Cain says:

                He doesn’t have to give it up – just put his portion in a blind trust or something similar. This is not that hard, and that he didn’t do it and no one seems to care is yet another sign that the Kleptocracy has won.Report

              • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Which really just wraps around to what, IIRC, @DavidTC was saying three years ago during the election.
                1. The emoluments clause is a real thing that exists and would seem to clearly apply here
                2. Trump couldn’t then disentangle himself from his foreign business holdings, including those in countries with questionable motives and interests vis a vis American foreign policy.
                3. QED, Trump couldn’t assume the Presidency without running afoul of the Constitution, therefore Trump was really Constitutionally ineligible to be President.

                The reason for this is the same as the requirement that the President be a “natural born” citizen, a stipulation not required for any other Federal office. It is crucial that the person most responsible for implementing our foreign policy, waging war, and negotiating treaties not be in a position of having divided loyalties or personal interests that might influence the performance of those duties.

                And this isn’t just a technical foul like many possible scenarios where an aspirant to the office might fail the natural born test while effectively living their entire life as a loyal citizen. This is very real and relevant to the current situation.

                Trump, or his “organization” at least, was actively negotiating with the Russian government to build a Trump hotel in Moscow well into the campaign season, apparently as late as that summer. Elements in Russia, some which appear to be connected to the government, actively interfered in the election to be benefit of Trump. And then Trump has been, overall, pretty damn chummy with Putin.

                It doesn’t even really matter if the Russian meddling was instrumental to his election or not. What matters is if Trump believes, rightly or wrongly, that said meddling was helpful to him and whether he acts accordingly quid pro quo. It sure looks like it, whether Mueller could prove it or not.

                All of which serves to undermine the public trust, which is the ultimate barometer of “high crimes and misdemeanors” for impeachment. Clinton was impeached over lying about an affair with an intern. A crime? Certainly. But one which undermined the public’s trust in his ability to faithfully execute the office of the presidency? Not really. Did Trump provably commit an indictable crime? Maybe not. Has his actions undermined the public trust in his ability to faithfully execute the duties of his office in the best interest of the country? Fuck yes.Report

              • @Philip H
                He doesn’t own shares or assets, he’s a member of a whole set of interlocking partnerships that own the stuff.

                It’s almost a certainty that in some cases his membership in the LLC will not be transferable. In some cases it will be transferable but only to a short list of possible people, none of whom are “blind trust.” In some cases it will be transferable but only with the approval of the other members. In some cases he can leave the LLC but will have to make large payments to the other members. In some cases the only way he can leave will be to dissolve the LLC and distribute the assets/debts according to a formula. In some cases the LLC will be a member of another LLC, so the first one can only be dissolved after dealing with its membership in the second, subject to all of the complications already mentioned.

                I worked for some years in the cable TV industry, which used to be rife with the same sort of arrangements. When John Malone’s wife convinced him to get out of all that stuff, what he said was, “If I unwind it over ten or twelve years, I come out as a billionaire; if I have to get out of it today, I’m bankrupt.”Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Hmm…@-ing seems to no longer work.

                @road-scholar

                therefore Trump was really Constitutionally ineligible to be President.

                I’m not sure about ‘constitutionally’ in the technical sense. However, he was, and is, _practically_ ineligible to be president and thus, I argue, he should have been impeached before taking office.

                It’s like if we elected someone who was dead…people who are dead can be legally be elected president. There’s no requirement that presidents be alive when running for, or taking office. (They _can’t_ take office, but that’s because they are physically unable to take the oath, not because of any rule.) They are removed automatically if they die in office, but not if they start out that way.

                But we shouldn’t _allow_ this nonsense! And we have a way to remove (or stop from taking power) people who legally can be president: impeachment (1)

                I further argue that Congress should actually make a standing Congressional rule that presidents must not have certain specific types of assets by early January before the president take office, or impeachment proceeding can be trivially triggered by any member of the House, with the goal of impeaching the president-elect before they take office. (Rules can’t make the House actually vote to impeach, but they can make it _start_ to impeach by lowering the threshold to a single member who can order a findings of facts and if those prove true, impeachment starts.)

                This would make things less political. There would be a list of types of assets that Congress allows, and candidates could even ask Congress to add to those, which it would do after consideration. But there would be ‘THE LIST’, and people would understand that if someone is elected president, they would only have assets on the list by the time they took office, or Congress has stated it ‘has to’ impeach them.

                1) If we fail to realize this, we’re going to get a weird constitutional position one day when a president-elect dies after the electoral college cast their ballots, and we don’t realize we’re going to have to impeach them…the only other possible thing to happen is that we have to try to swear them into office and only after they refuse to show up at their inauguration to take their oath of office, making the previous cabinet (Assuming it still exists enough) hurry up and meet to 25th amendment the dead person out. Which is just…utterly farcical.

                It is crucial that the person most responsible for implementing our foreign policy, waging war, and negotiating treaties not be in a position of having divided loyalties

                Slight correction: Trump does not have divided loyalties. His loyalties are singularly focused with a burning white passion.

                What matters is if Trump believes, rightly or wrongly, that said meddling was helpful to him and whether he acts accordingly quid pro quo. It sure looks like it, whether Mueller could prove it or not.

                Actually, Mueller’s job wasn’t to prove that. Mueller’s assignment was to get to the bottom of the Russian election meddling…and _just_ the meddling.

                If Trump and the Trump campaign believed Russia was helping them, and in return sorta helped them, that would not be covered by Mueller’s investigation, as far as I can tell. As long as the Trump campaign did not actively participate in the meddling or work with the Russians on it.

                I actually think Trump didn’t want to get elected anyway, and hence hardly would have been helping with that. I think there was quid quo pro, but it was Trump saying ‘Let me build my hotel and I’ll remove sanctions when I’m president (Ha, as if I’m going to be president.)’. I.e., none of the quid quo pro involved the election at all.Report

              • @davidtc
                The site rebuild resulted in losing the reply button when a comment thread reaches the maximum depth. People are using the @ notation not because it generates mail but in order to indicate who they are actually replying to.

                There are at least three ways to get the button back, but all three of them conflict with the maintenance goal of avoiding custom code.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Everyone knew Trump was who he is and had these conflicts, and he got elected anyway.

                The “emoluments” clause says “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

                There’s a very strong argument that Trump got the Consent of the American People.

                If the American people gave him a pass on this then I find it really hard to say he should be impeached for it anyway. That’s basically overturning the election because the wrong guy won.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Philip: He doesn’t have to give it up – just put his portion in a blind trust

                The idea behind a blind trust is the owner of the trust (i.e. Trump) won’t have any idea what the underlying assets are.

                That works great for stock which can be exchanged for other stock.

                It is totally unworkable with hotels which have Trump’s name and can’t be sold easily or maybe even at all.

                That also doesn’t even touch the problem of trying to unwind 500 LLCs bound to him personally. Saying he isn’t going to have any connection because of a blind trust is like you saying you’re married but you don’t know to whom and the two of you raise children but you’ve never met them.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Michael Cain says:

                @Dark Matter:
                “If the American people gave him a pass on this then I find it really hard to say he should be impeached for it anyway.”

                Jesus, this means, literally, that just because the American people vote for a guy, anything he does is unimpeachable.

                The American people ALSO voted for the Democrats who explicitly ran on a platform of “This Behavior Is Unacceptable”.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Chip: Jesus, this means, literally, that just because the American people vote for a guy, anything he does is unimpeachable.

                No, the usual illegal or banned things are still illegal or banned.

                However we’re talking about something which is a crime only for the President and only in the context of him not getting Congress’ consent.

                He informed everyone on the planet (loudly and constantly) and got consent. That’s absurd, but it’s also a fact.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Dark: He lied repeatedly about seperating from his business. How is that consent? How about jared’s mystery security clearance over the heads of the IC while Jared does family business? He and his family are doing business with china and getting favors from their gov. And that is ……?Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Michael Cain says:

                He informed everyone on the planet (loudly and constantly) and got consent. That’s absurd, but it’s also a fact.

                He repeatedly, during the campaign, lied about a deal he was currently structuring with Russia, which extended to at least the election, and perhaps even after. (We will know when the report is released.)

                And regardless of when active negotiation of the deal ended, the lies about trying to make that deal continued well after his election and taking office, and Micheal Cohen is going to jail for lying to Congress about them. I.e., this wasn’t just some ‘forgot to disclose’ thing, this was Trump apparently being aware the public knowledge of the deal would impact his election, with him repeatedly explicitly lying about it, and his own staff committing perjury about it, and him remaining silent on that perjury.(1)

                Even if you want to argue ‘If the American people want to elect people with unavoided conflicts to the Presidency, they have the right to do so’, that surely only applies to conflicts they know about and not ones that are actively being lied about and hidden by the candidate.

                1) As I have pointed out, having his personal employee repeatedly tell a lie under oath and Trump repeated that lie not-under-oath is not a crime per se without proof of direction by him, but it is certainly an impeachable offense. The head of the executive branch cannot his own employees to lie to the legislative branch without correcting the record, much less repeat said lies over and over.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Michael Cain says:

                @david tc

                A further layer of absurdity to the “but the American people elected a known criminal!” argument, is that the Constitution gives Congress the sweeping power to impeach and remove a sitting President for virtually anything they deem proper.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Michael Cain says:

                It makes you wonder if he was using the campaign as leverage with the deal and didn’t really expect to win. 🙂

                DavidTC: that surely only applies to conflicts they know about and not ones that are actively being lied about and hidden by the candidate.

                Hidden? You’re trying to apply a micro level to what is a macro problem. My understanding during the campaign was Trump had contacts, assets, and ongoing deals in every 1st and 2nd world nation and was hopelessly compromised from that perspective. This was blatantly obvious.

                Him lying about one deal out of the hundreds he’s done and the hundreds he’s working on doesn’t change the problem or the conclusion. What you’re really pointing out is Trump lies constantly about everything. That’s a different, but related, reason why he shouldn’t be President and you’re changing the conversation from emoluments (which he got a pass on) to other reasons why he could/should be impeached.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Michael Cain says:

                greginak: He lied repeatedly about separating from his business. How is that consent?

                “Consent” means they knew the situation and agreed anyway. Anyone who was paying even a little bit of attention should have known his kids running the business was as close to “separating” as he could get. Further it’s not his supporters who are talking about this, it’s the people who didn’t vote for him and who never wanted him in office.

                The people who gave him a pass are still fine with giving him a pass. If that ever changes then there are lots of reasons to impeach him which aren’t “only applies to Trump” crimes.

                greginak: How about jared’s mystery security clearance over the heads of the IC while Jared does family business? He and his family are doing business with china and getting favors from their gov. And that is ……?

                What part of “he gets a pass on emoluments” was unclear?

                Yes, this is every bit as corrupting as it looks. Yes, it’s a bad idea. Yes, it’s why this was written into the Constitution as something not to do. And Yes, the Trump Empire is well situated to take advantage of this situation and given the ethics of the people involved, I’m sure it is.

                However none of that changes that Trump winning the election meant we were going to have to grandfather in The Trump Empire (TTE), which breaks the system. The problem was obvious, it was explained, he won anyway.

                Constitutionally I view TTE as a very short term problem. In order for us to be in this situation we needed a Billionaire with a successful international real estate empire that long predated his Presidential attempts who successfully gets everyone to look past his flaws. That’s a bar so high that after Trump leaves we will never have to worry about this again. Trump is unique even by Billionaire standards. A President Bill Gates or Bezos could put assets into a blind trust and that would be that.

                In terms of problems IMHO TTE is less of an issue than The Clinton Foundation, so we were going to have fun with this issue no matter who won.Report

              • Avatar Bill Stephenson in reply to Michael Cain says:

                “I find it charmingly ironic that Dems are pretending to care about this. If we’re going to talk about “being surrounded by sleazy people” then Harvey Weinstein raises the bar so high that I doubt even Trump can exceed it.”

                That’s true of diehard Dems, but not at all true of progressives. We did not vote for Hillary, and I didn’t vote for Obama in `12.

                We are funding our own candidates and refusing to vote for any politician that takes corporate money.

                You can be a conservative and do that too, and you should. I got to vote for a fiscal conservative for congress here in Missouri in the primary last year who refused to take corporate money (Jim Evans). He got 17% of the vote in the primary and I was impressed to see that because that’s a 17% gain from the previous election cycle.

                We’re working hard on getting those old corporate lackey Dems out, and if we must we’ll take the hit when a corporate lackey GOP gets the seat instead. That’s still a “win” for us because those corporate donors lost all their money on the Dem and that weakens the corporate lackey leaders in the DNC.

                My take on it is that if you’re voting for a corporate funded candidate in either party you’ve got no high ground to stand on to either cheer or complain.

                And it’s very easy to find out if you are at opensecrets.org.Report

              • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Michael Cain says:

                @Dark Matter said,

                The “emoluments” clause says “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

                There’s a very strong argument that Trump got the Consent of the American People.

                I’m not sure that the argument is as strong as you want to paint it. You’re making two moves here which are questionable. The first is equating “Congress” with “the American People”. We don’t live in a direct democracy (for good or ill); Congress has powers and responsibilities as the representatives of the people that the people don’t and really can’t exercise themselves. Specifically, “the People” don’t vote to pass legislation. In order to satisfy the Emoluments Clause Congress, not “the People”, would need to pass a piece of legislation specifically consenting to the President accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” I’m not aware of any such legislation being passed by Congress and the election that put Trump in office was precisely that, an election to put him in office, not specifically to permit him to accept a present, etc.

                Now Congress can and does delegate authority, generally to the Executive Branch, but that requires enabling legislation. Again, where is that legislation? This isn’t just a theoretical question. When, IIRC Arizona, passed a ballot initiative establishing an independent redistricting commission this very question was put before the courts. The Constitution grants the legislatures of the States the power to establish Congressional Districts. One way those legislatures could do so would be to pass legislation the creates a redistricting commission and specifies that the work product of that commission would constitute the district boundaries. The question before the court was whether the vote of the residents in the ballot initiative the same as a vote of the legislature. The court answered that in the affirmative.

                Now before you go, “See? That’s what I’m saying!” note that the ballot initiative process of that state created law in the same way as legislative action would. It’s specific to the resulting law. I’m aware of no such national referendum, specific to allowing the President to accept presents, etc covered in the Emoluments Clause. The national election in Nov. 2016 was asking and answered a completely different question.

                And that’s before you consider that Trump didn’t win a majority of the votes cast. He didn’t even win a plurality of the votes of “the People”.

                I just have to reject your logic.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Michael Cain says:

                The President doesn’t hold an office of profit or trust under the United States, and thus is not subject to the emoluments clause.

                In the Constitution, there are “officers of the United States”, who are executive and judicial appointees. All are granted a Presidential commission, so no elected official is an “officer of the United States.”

                A broader category is an officer “under” the United States, which also includes legislative branch appointees and those appointed to government positions created by legislation. That comes from centuries of British usage of “office under the crown”.

                The President is not included in the above formulations, as Justice Joseph Story discussed in his commentaries.

                Then there is “office under the authority of the United States”, which is even broader, encompassing positions granted by the government but not necessarily within the government, but also not including any elected positions.

                Then there is “office or public trust under the United States”, which includes the above but also adds elected officials. That grouping is only used for the provision of no religious tests.

                Washington and Jefferson both graciously accepted gifts from foreign governments without seeking Congressional approval, and without any record of any objections by anyone.

                Alexander Hamilton was asked by the Senate, using the same wording as the emoluments clause, to list everyone in government who held such an office, and he did not list any elected officials.

                The first Congress passed legislation saying that anyone who was convicted of bribery cannot hold an “office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States”, which had to exclude the Presidency, House, and Senate because Congress doesn’t have the power to put additional conditions on eligibility for those offices.

                So, to put it simply, the Emoluments Clause doesn’t apply to the President or other elected officials.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Michael Cain says:

                @george-turner
                The President doesn’t hold an office of profit or trust under the United States, and thus is not subject to the emoluments clause.

                Uh, no. While the first three examples of this are correct (As Justice Joseph Story pointed out), you then wander off the deep end.

                Then there is “office or public trust under the United States”, which includes the above but also adds elected officials. That grouping is only used for the provision of no religious tests.

                You are now asserting that ‘office or public trust under the United States’ includes more people than ‘office under the United States’, and those people are elected officals?

                Ha. You just amazingly disproved your own point. You’re entirely right. Elected offices are, indeed, ‘the public trust’ as referred to there.

                Or, as the constitution calls them in other places, people who hold ‘offices of trust’. Which, uh, is literally in the emoluments clause.

                And there’s an easy way to prove this: The impeachment power is intended to be absolute. It is clearly intended to include _literally everyone_ in the government. (Yes, Congress can even impeach its own members.) Elected or otherwise. Correct?

                What does that power list as removable? ‘any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States’.

                And if the emoluments applies to people holding an ‘Office of Profit or Trust under the United States’, then you’re left with the fact the only sort of office it doesn’t apply to is ‘Office of Honor under the United States’.

                Note there’s no possible parsing of ‘of’ vs. ‘under’ here, or ‘office’ vs. ‘officer’. The clauses are literally: ‘ And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States]’ and ‘disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States’. Both of them refer to ‘office of X under the United States’.

                So, in conclusion, under your theory, the president, and all elected officers, must therefore hold positions of _Honor_?

                Except that it’s very clear that ‘offices of honor’ are, duh, honorary offices. Like the Poet Laureate or whatever. They are not paid anything, they have no power, and we don’t bother to amply the emoluments clause to them, or really _any_ restrictions to them. There’s plenty of founding father evidence about this.

                Meanwhile, all appointed or civil-service-hired paid positions (Of any branch) are ‘offices of profit’. And, yes, there are parts of the Constitution that only apply to them.

                Which means, tada, all _elected_ positions are ‘offices are trust’. And thus both impeachment and emoluments applies to them.

                I also point out that this premise is inherently silly as a mere concept. The emoluments clause not only bans gifts, it how _titles of nobility_ are banned. Under your logic, they’d have no problem with the British Crown making the President a Duke or something. I assure you, they’d have a _huge_ problem with that, probably more than _we’d_ have with it in the modern day!


                Washington and Jefferson both graciously accepted gifts from foreign governments without seeking Congressional approval, and without any record of any objections by anyone.

                Two gifts, one of which Washington probably thought of as a personal gift from his very good friend and former aide Lafayette, and the other which he treated generally as owned by the US and displayed in his official residence, but never officially turned over to the US government because there wasn’t a process to do so. All that proves is that the interpretation of ‘consent of Congress’, at the time, was more understood to be them not objecting.

                For the record, _they have since objected_. With legislation requiring approval. And set up a process.

                Interpreting what the founding fathers said is a reasonable way to look at the constitution. Looking at two vague examples of how Washington personally behaved with basically no textual evidence of anything is not that reasonable.

                Alexander Hamilton was asked by the Senate, using the same wording as the emoluments clause, to list everyone in government who held such an office, and he did not list any elected officials.

                By ‘same wording’, you mean ‘entirely different wording’. The wording to Alexander was ‘any civil office or employment under the United States (except the judges).’. This is…nothing whatsoever like the emoluments clause is phrased. Also, uh, Congress presumably knew who was elected anyway.

                The first Congress passed legislation saying that anyone who was convicted of bribery cannot hold an “office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States”, which had to exclude the Presidency, House, and Senate because Congress doesn’t have the power to put additional conditions on eligibility for those offices.

                This is nonsensical. Yes, Congress cannot put extra restriction on some elected offices. This does not have anything to do with what sort of offices they are, and merely is due to the fact their requirements are laid out in the Constitution and no ability to change them is given.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Road: The first is equating “Congress” with “the American People”.

                Very true. In theory if the Dems take over Congress they can point to any rented overseas hotel room or any overseas land purchase and claim they don’t consent to that and impeach him. However that’s going to (correctly imho) look like a naked political power grab where he’s impeached “because he’s Trump”.

                And then that becomes the new normal.

                Road: In order to satisfy the Emoluments Clause Congress, not “the People”, would need to pass a piece of legislation specifically consenting to the President accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

                I doubt Congress passes a law every time any President accepts a donut from a foreign dignitary. Dignitaries making gifts is normal in various cultures so this must have come up with every previous President and probably even every month.

                There are going to be established rules, probably gifts over a certain value become property of the office and Congress is always informed of everything from a donut on up. And the Trump Empire is totally outside of the scope of all of that so we’re in undiscovered territory.

                Or maybe we’re not. The weird part of these sorts of conversations is afaict the serious players don’t take it seriously. We have the odd congressman mention it but what’s missing is Nancy or any/some of the big players pointing this out or even the GOP trying to use Congress to shield Trump by passing a law.

                Passing a law giving Trump a pass for his Empire would have been easy back when the GOP controlled both houses. If it happened I didn’t hear about it. Afaict it was never even attempted or even suggested. If emoluments are a serious thing then that’s weird. My expectation is this whole line of thought isn’t really a thing.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Michael Cain says:

                David TC, I’m just relaying the analysis that two federal courts found compelling when presented as amicus briefs on suits brought against Trump.

                Either the emoluments clause doesn’t apply to elected officials or the people who wrote the Constitution didn’t know what they were writing, which is not an acceptable legal position.

                When the Constitution uses the phrase “Office under the United States, it refers only to holders of appointed federal statutory offices, not elected or Constitutionally created positions”. The Framers could have trivially done so by referring to the President, Vice President, and members of the House and Senate, or to elected offices, but they did not.

                And Washington didn’t just accept two gifts. He and other early Presidents accepted a lot of gifts.

                Washington even bought multiple tracts of federal land at auction while he was President in 1793, which would be a gross violation of the emoluments clause – if it applied to the President.

                Letter from Washington on buy DC real estate.

                He was probably buying up tracts of federal land in Washington so he could built Trump hotels. It’s perfectly legal for a President to do that.Report

              • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Michael Cain says:

                @Dark – I doubt Congress passes a law every time any President accepts a donut from a foreign dignitary. Dignitaries making gifts is normal in various cultures so this must have come up with every previous President and probably even every month.

                Indeed. And there’s a well-established procedure for all that outlined here: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42662.pdf

                The Congress has consented generally, in the Foreign Gifts and
                Decorations Act, to the acceptance of gifts of “minimal value” from foreign governments offered
                as souvenirs or marks of courtesy, and the acceptance of other gifts when a refusal of the gift may cause “offense or embarrassment” or otherwise harm the foreign relations of the United States. A tangible gift of more than minimal value accepted for reasons of protocol or courtesy may not be kept as a personal gift, however, but is considered accepted on behalf of and property of the United States, and in the case of such a gift for the President or the President’s family, is handled by the National Archives and Records Administration.

                A few weeks ago I heard an interviews on the POTUS channel (XM) with an archivist in that department. The collection there is amazing. Some really cool stuff. Swords, booze, you name it.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Michael Cain says:

                @Road,

                If we’re serious about trying to prevent this emoluments situation in the future, the way to do so it NOT by passing a law saying “if the Prez own overseas businesses he is impeached right after he enters the office, at the peak of his popularity and power”.

                The solution is to say “these types of assets are taxed at 10x for the President because of emoluments”.

                That makes it so painful they either sell the assets or don’t run.Report

              • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Michael Cain says:

                @Dark
                Amazingly, we seem to be converging on some kind of agreement here. I’m not arguing in favor of impeachment over this issue so much as I’m arguing against your argument against this situation being a potential violation of that constitutional provision. And even then it’s more of a general principles thing than pointing to a specific violation.

                The general principle here is that the President should be acting only on the basis of the best interests of the country. Example: Trump decided (stupidly, but whatever) to engage in a trade war with China. This action was undertaken in what he argued as being the best interest of the U.S. Subsequently, Ivanka receives approval from the Chinese government for sixteen trademarks. Can we agree that those trademarks are worth a hell of a lot more than the $20 limit on casual gifts from foreign governments? Was it intended to influence the trade negotiations? Has it, in fact, influenced the trade negotiations? Is there any possible way to know one way or the other absent some smoking gun recording or something? This isn’t the sort of “gift” that can be turned over to the National Archives is it?

                You can easily imagine any number of other scenarios where presidential decision-making could potentially be influenced by his foreign business interests. And this objection isn’t about Trump the person; he’s just the current exemplar of a type. I recall (dimly, admittedly) having a very similar conversation here in 2016. David was making very similar arguments at the time and your objection was along the lines of, “Are you saying that a businessman can’t be President?”

                Well, no, a businessman can be President, he’s not the first after all. But a businessman with extensive foreign interests is extremely problematic vis-a-vis the potential for divided loyalties, if not outright corruption. One of his primary duties, and the one where the President has the free-est hand is in the area of foreign policy — diplomacy, trade, prosecution of war, etc. Any hint of divided loyalties or personal influence over those decisions seriously undermines the public trust.

                So as to your suggestion; yeah, make it too painful. I would suggest a relatively simple law that would require the President and Vice to divest themselves of any foreign financial interests* prior to taking office. Failure to do so probably couldn’t prevent him from being sworn into office but it would be clear, objective, and defensible grounds for immediate impeachment.

                * Other than, say a Developing Markets index fund in a blind trust or something similar. Perhaps an exception for a vacation home in Cancun.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Michael Cain says:

                @george-turner
                David TC, I’m just relaying the analysis that two federal courts found compelling when presented as amicus briefs on suits brought against Trump.

                No they didn’t. No court has ever been confused over whether the Emoluments clause _itself_ applies to the President. Please point to a single statement by any judge thinking that logic makes sense.

                While the courts have indeed been fairly skeptical of some of the cases, the disagreements are over whether certain things count as ’emoluments’ and (most importantly) if existing law applies or if there’s any remedy at all. Just because something appears to violate the constitution doesn’t mean the plaintiffs can actually sue over it. If the president refuses to give a State of the Union I presumably can’t sue him over that, but it doesn’t mean that’s constitutional.

                When the Constitution uses the phrase “Office under the United States, it refers only to holders of appointed federal statutory offices, not elected or Constitutionally created positions”. The Framers could have trivially done so by referring to the President, Vice President, and members of the House and Senate, or to elected offices, but they did not.

                I repeat, again: The Impeachment clause uses literally the same wording as the Emoluments clause, minus the ‘Honor’ type of office.

                No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall…

                Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States…

                Please explain, under your theory, how the President may be impeached.

                Wait, let me guess: You want to argue that ‘Office’ in the first part is somehow different from ‘Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States’, and Congress can remove people from ‘Offices’ but only bar them from ‘Offices under the United States’?

                Nope. Federalist #56 talks about impeachment a lot as way to keep the executive in check, and seems to think disqualification for future office is possible with all impeachments. Literally, no one seems to have said ‘Of course we’ll let people elect impeached people to the Presidency, we’re just barring them from other stuff’. You’d think that would have been relevant for someone to mention at some point, no one did, and in fact everyone seemed to think the presidency is one of the Offices (aka, Offices of Honor, Trust or Profit under the United States) that impeached people would be barred from.

                But maybe you think it’s an Office of Honor?’

                But let’s leave that there, because I’d like you to explain what you think an ‘Office of Trust’ is.

                Again, I remind you that your own logic says that elected officials have a ‘public trust under the United States’. Because you asserted that ‘office under the United States’ does not include elected officials(1) and ‘office or public trust under the United States’ does include them, hence the elected officials must be the ‘public trust under the United States’.

                It is very simple: People who hold ‘Offices of Trust under the United States’ are people with _undelegatable authority_ under the law. In fact, the person whose argument you’re making, Professor Tillman, literally argues this. This is exactly his position.

                And Tillman is entirely correct that in England elected officials are not Officers, so Congress is not. (I was half asleep last night.). He’s right that England doesn’t consider elected people ‘Officers’…

                …and then he entirely fails to notice in England they don’t elect any of the executive! The people with the actual authority. But here, we do, and the president has undelegatable authority under the law. (And I’m not sure why we’re restricting this to ‘the law’ and not the constitution also. But regardless, the president has powers granted to him by Congress via laws which he cannot delegate.)

                1) This is not actually correct, incidentally. I fell for that logic last night, but rereading, no, it’s not. ‘Office under the United States’ is clearly intended to include the president, or someone could be elected to President who is already a member of Congress, and continue to serve in Congress! (The reason it says ‘Office or public trust under the United States’ is that it’s including Congress also, who hold positions of trust that are not offices.)

                Tillman’s entire argument is really dumb, and requires reading phrases out of context. Different parts of the constitution do indeed refer to different groups of people as ‘Officers’, but it has nothing to do with whether they’re Officers ‘under the United States’ or ‘of the United States’ or just Officers’ by itself. Any bare use of those means literally everyone working for the government. (‘civil Office under the Authority of the United States’ is indeed a wider thing than ‘Office’, but there’s no indication isn’t meant to also include elected officials.)

                For example, Tillman tries to use as an argument that the president must appoint all Officers of the United State, so obviously, no one not so appointed is an Officer. Except that clause then says ‘whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law’. There’s nothing saying that those are the only sort of Officers, just if they _are_ that sort, the President appoints them. Much like the fact the president shall ‘commission’ all the Officers of the United States. Obviously, that just means military Officers. As basically no one is both appointed and commissioned (I think maybe the Joint Chiefs?), if we took the way Tillman wanted, that would essentially mean _no one_ was an Officer.

                For another dumb result of his interpretation: In addition to a current Congressman serve as president, it lets the serving President serve as a presidential Elector! Oh, and here’s a fun silliness from the aftermath of the Civil War: ‘No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who…[swore an oath to the Confederacy unless Congress allows it]‘ Heh. So, apparently, they constitutionally barred people on the other side of the Civil War from literally any government position, including elected ones…except the President and Vice President? Wow, weird interpretation there.

                The ways of classifying Offices in the constitution is fairly clear: There are Offices of Trust, Honor, and Profit of the United States, and there are also some Offices that exist ‘under the authority’ of the United States but are not actually an Office _of_ the United States and generally aren’t included when we talk about them.

                Nothing is classified by dumb prepositions.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Michael Cain says:

                I would suggest a relatively simple law that would require the President and Vice to divest themselves of any foreign financial interests* prior to taking office. Failure to do so probably couldn’t prevent him from being sworn into office but it would be clear, objective, and defensible grounds for immediate impeachment.

                I think the “impeachment” approach is impossible to implement. Rewind history and replay Trump taking office with this law in place. How many members of the GOP vote to impeach the freshly sitting, popular with the base, President who doesn’t have a history of corruption because he’s never had a gov office to abuse? They’re supposed to vote him out of office because he’s the successful owner of a successful business?

                That’s not a difficult vote, it’s impossible. If impeachment were easy and reasonable then he would have already been impeached.Report

            • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Philip H says:

              Bull pucky. Every other President with significant business holdings (read George W Bush) figured out how to do it. Sure, his name in on the brand, but that doesn’t mean its not severable. He just doesn’t care.

              A CEO can resign and be replaced. Ownership of a publicly traded company can be sold.

              Trump has 500+ Real Estate LLCs, many/most of which are bound to him personally. An LLC is basically the business equiv of a marriage.

              So in order to back out of ONE of these 500 contracts, he’d need to negotiate with everyone involved and get them to agree to let him off… which probably means coming to some meeting of the minds for the value of the underlying Real Estate and getting someone else to purchase it.

              Think of 500 divorces where the parents fight over the children and you have an idea on how ugly this would be. Some of those assets are going to be fiscally underwater where the partner (and/or Trump) lose massive amounts of money by doing this. Some of those assets are going to be multiparty LLCs where some of the partners want to do X and the others want to do Y, and everyone is strongly motivated by money.

              It would be easier if he just had 500 ugly divorces. That would only take years because the system is setup to deal with it. If Trump spent all day every day trying to remove himself from his empire then with a great deal of luck it might take only a decade or two.

              We’ve never had a President in this situation before. So, again, it’s impossible for him to step down. Not hard, not difficult, it’s actually impossible. What he did (i.e. putting his children in charge) is as good as it could possibly get on this issue.Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter says:

            @dark matter
            You are trying strenuously to avoid saying “Trump is innocent of corruption and self dealing”.
            “Its really complicated” is utter nonsense.

            He isn’t innocently doing things which coincidentally benefit him. Virtually every action he takes is to that end.

            And yes, the known facts can be grounds for impeachment, and IMO, should be.Report

            • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              I’m not calling him innocent because I don’t think he is. However that wasn’t the question asked, nor is “I think” the standard of proof.

              What I think happened/happens is…
              Step 1) Trump hires a scumbag/unethical lawyer (fixer) and tasks him with dealing with things to dirty for him to touch.
              Step 2) Eventually Trump needs to throw the lawyer under the bus because he’s dirty.
              Go back to step 1.

              Presumably this is a habit Trump got from being a NY real estate guy who needs to deal with crooked politicians, unions, and the mob.

              Applying that to a political campaign where everyone expected to lose and everyone was new at this resulted in mistakes being made and lines being crossed… and the lawyer got dirty, was proven to have been dirty before, and needed to be thrown under the bus.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter says:

                Well, at least this is progress, that we agree Trump is corrupt and knowingly hires corrupt people.Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to Dark Matter says:

                @chip-daniels Actually the two of you have agreed on that for like 3 years at this point.

                Where you differ is whether that is disqualifying or not.

                (Personally i agree that it should be disqualifying. I’m just saying, that’s where you differ, not on whether he’s a corrupt hirer of corrupticons.)Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter says:

                I guess this is why we liberals sometimes get pessimistic and apocolyptic about the future.

                When so many citizens openly acknowledge that the President is corrupt and has no other loyalty than his own bank account, and yet refuse to rise up and condemn him, it becomes dispiriting.

                That’s why I brought up the image of a lesser failed state, like some petty banana republic where everyone knows the awful truth but just shrugs in defeat and helpless passivity.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Dark Matter says:

                Maribou: Where you differ is whether that is disqualifying or not.

                It’s supposed to be disqualifying in the sense that people aren’t supposed to vote for him when they realize that… however if they know that and vote for him anyway, then presumably there are good reasons.

                In terms of “good reasons” a big part of that is Trump ginning up the media. However it’s also worth mentioning that we were going to be dealing with someone really good at corruptly using the system no matter who won.

                Before we go too far in clutching pearls in outrage over Trump’s lawyer, we’ve had multiple people claim HRC knew darn well about Harvey Weinstein’s hobby while she was working with him and presenting herself as being in it for women.

                There is a lot to be said for throwing the rascals out every now and then, even if they’re being replaced by other rascals.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter says:

                @dark mattter
                Would it be unfair of me to characterize your argument as a shruggy face emoji, a posture of passive resignation and indifference?Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Dark Matter says:

                Chip: Would it be unfair of me to characterize your argument as a shruggy face emoji, a posture of passive resignation and indifference?

                I find it charmingly ironic that Dems are pretending to care about this. If we’re going to talk about “being surrounded by sleazy people” then Harvey Weinstein raises the bar so high that I doubt even Trump can exceed it. If we’re going to talk about corruption then we’ve already seen a dance where one Clinton collects money and the other Clinton hands out influence but there’s no legal connection even though everyone knows there is.

                Harvey makes even Trump’s people look good, The Clinton Foundation makes even The Trump Empire look acceptable. Attempting to put a sleazy politician in charge insulates the other side from needing to defend doing the same thing and makes it a lot harder to claim this isn’t merely about politics.

                This is VERY MUCH not where I want the gov to be, but until people are willing to admit it’s a problem with their own team then it’s just signalling and a club to beat the other team.

                With grandfathering of The Trump Empire and the absurd pass he’s been given, there is no solution for TTE short of him losing the election or being forced out of office for other reasons.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter says:

                @dark
                I know that “Everyone is corrupt so whaddya gonna do?” is the fallback excuse for every apologist but have you stopped to consider that you have, in your own argument, stripped your future self of every having any standing to criticize corruption in future?

                I mean, what could a President Kamala Harris or any future President do that would cause you to say she should be impeached?

                Your argument has forced you into a corner where by your own words, America is hopelessly broken and corrupt, on par with Nigeria or Haiti.

                Is that actually your posture?Report

            • Avatar greginak in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              Dark: So in 2020 will it be time to through out the rascal Trump for a cleaner D. Somehow i doubt it. I don’t think it will matter how squeaky clean whichever D it is, it will be bring back the rascal.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to greginak says:

                They are, at this moment, desperately searching for a ButterEmails excuse.

                Did you know that Kamala Harris’ proposal for teachers may… increase the budget deficit?
                *audible gasps of horror*Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to greginak says:

                greginak: So in 2020 will it be time to through out the rascal Trump for a cleaner D. Somehow i doubt it. I don’t think it will matter how squeaky clean whichever D it is, it will be bring back the rascal.

                This is why we have term limits, it’s very hard to unseat a sitting President, more than it should be, and throwing them out every 8 years is probably acceptable. (Although yes, Trump is so intrinsically corrupt 4 would probably be better).

                My expectation is the Dems’ primaries will select someone so far to the left that he’s unelectable, and not only will Trump win but he’ll win the popular vote too. So Pence will fail to get a 3rd term for Trump, just like HRC failed to get a 3rd (5th?) term.Report

              • Avatar Philip H in reply to greginak says:

                @ Dark,

                The democratic primary is likely to select a candidate who is to the left – which is to say back to where democrats used to be. The Republican party has lurched to far right that democrats – foolishly IMHO – followed and are now the centerist party. Thus selecting a progressive candidate simply takes them back to their roots, and that doesn’t historically make them unelectable.

                That aside, you and so many others conclude that because the electorate “should” have passed but didn’t on Trump they are fine with him and thus he can’t violate this or that no matter what evidence we see that he has violated this or that. The problem with your approach, bluntly, is that “Should” is predicated on rational analysis and a whole host of other assumptions that simply don’t play out in real life. Like how companies who recieve massive and structurally permanent tax breaks should reward their employees with raises; or how Republicans should champion the ACA since its built on the foundation of their own Heritage Foundation, or conservative politicians who claim to be prolife should adequately fund early childhood development programs, reduce air pollution and increases access to healthcare. Voters didn’t expect him to win either (and he has as much as said himself he didn’t expect to win) so they didn’t really rationally analyze his negatives, and so many of them have been turned off of rational analysis from the media thanks to Fox News and Infowars that the rational analysis that was done was ignored. Voters make emotion based decisions, which is why farmers are now getting squeezed by bad trade policies, coal is still a dying industry, and auto makers are still taking jobs over seas.

                Over her eon the left we are trying to deal with what is, not what should be.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to greginak says:

                Philip: That aside, you and so many others conclude that because the electorate “should” have passed but didn’t on Trump they are fine with him and thus he can’t violate this or that no matter what evidence we see that he has violated this or that.

                No, “this or that” is limited to his existence. By all means, go after him for actual crimes in office. But going after him because he owns a business he can’t walk away from is basically saying “because Trump”.

                Philip: Over here on the left we are trying to deal with what is, not what should be.

                My typical disagreement with the Left (or the Right for that matter) is when this doesn’t happen. If it helps, mostly I agree with your examples.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              If we’re going to talk about “being surrounded by sleazy people” then Harvey Weinstein raises the bar so high that I doubt even Trump can exceed it.

              Harvey Weinstein basically was nothing but a wealthy donor to Democrats. There’s a rather large difference between donors and people hire, or you go into business with, or use as lawyers, or the giant web of corruption that Trump has around him.

              Harvey Weinstein wasn’t really known to be doing what he was doing outside of a few select rumors in Hollywood. A lot of directors like Peter Jackson and whatnot have stepped forward and said ‘Yes, Weinstein ruined your career, and I inadvertantly was part of that.’ Sometimes even the _actresses_ didn’t know. If the people it was happening to didn’t know, then it seems unlikely that J Random Democratic Politician who got a check from him knew what was happening.

              Whereas the people Trump surrounded himself with…Trump hilariously just recently asserted that Micheal Cohen’s father-in-law should be investigated, apparently as payback against Cohen. His father-in-law is, indeed, an incredibly shady character. The thing is: Cohen’s father-in-law is actually how Trump _met_ Cohen.

              There is basically no part of any of Trump’s businesses at all that do not involve partnerships with very iffy characters, except a few people who could be described as ‘his proteges’. But any business relationships not built in-house are with incredibly shady people. In fact, this is his _second_ go-around at that…this time, they’re all shady characters somehow related to Russia plutocrats…last time, they were all shady characters related to the New York mafia.

              If we’re going to talk about corruption then we’ve already seen a dance where one Clinton collects money and the other Clinton hands out influence but there’s no legal connection even though everyone knows there is.

              The Clinton Foundation money is not ‘theirs’, as has been explained many times before. You know this. We’ve talked about it. And then you slip back into talking about the Clintons ‘collecting money’. The Clintons do not, and never have, collected any money from the Clinton Foundation, at least not in total. (They have occassionally had expenses paid for by it when they’re travelling on its business, but the entire Clinton Foundation was started with money from them and there’s no possible way they’ve made a net income from it, even including tax deductions.)

              Thus leaving you with ‘They get good PR from it, so people donate to it to give the Clinton’s PR in exchange for favors’.

              Which, okay, that theory at least makes logical sense. But it has two gaping holes. First, this is an utterly stupid method of bribery when it is legal to donate to campaigns or hire ex-politicans for speaking fees. The idea that someone would donate hundreds thousands of dollars to the Clinton Foundation and the Clintons would…count that as, what, a few dozen dollars of eventual PR. (When did you even _hear_ about the Clinton Foundation doing anything in the media?) Instead of just…the Clintons being handed a thousand dollar campaign contribution directly, which is basically spendable money by them? Or getting hired to give a speech? This entire premise of using non-profits this way is utterly idiotic. The entire point of non-profits is you can’t make a profit form them. (Unless, apparently, you use them to buy stuff from your own businesses.)

              Second, no one’s every been able to demonstrate what sort of favors this would be traded for, or produce anyone who says ‘They asked me to donate to the Clinton Foundation before they would consider something’. There is a sketchy claim that three occassions someone traded donations to the Foundation for access to Sec of State in her offical capacity, but every one of those people is someone Clinton would have met with anyway and she didn’t appear to do anything for them. (Hey, remember when an elected official hypothetically selling access to herself was a scandal?)

              The actual most workable sleaze allegations against the Clinton Foundation appear to be: The Clintons used it for connections and PR, and you can become their friend by donating to it, and…perhaps being a friend of the Clintons can get you somewhere that not being their friend can. And, again, there’s no indication this has ever impacted any offical government policy-making by Hillary Clinton whatsoever. If donating to the Clinton Foundation gets you an in at, I dunno, a job interview with a friend of the Clinton…that, uh, isn’t illegal, or any sort of ‘corruption’ at all.

              However, you’re actually right, in that what the Republicans _pretend_ happened with the Clinton Foundation has made it harder to go after Trump. That does not, in fact, prove anything except ‘Making up scandals deadens the public to real scandals’.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DavidTC says:

                If you want to flash back to 2017 and see what the conversation was like then, click the link!Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to DavidTC says:

                DavidTC: Harvey Weinstein wasn’t really known to be doing what he was doing outside of a few select rumors in Hollywood.

                HRC warned in 2008 and 2016 about Harvey from multiple people.

                https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/12/06/hillary-clintons-harvey-weinstein-problem-detailed-in-new-report/

                HRC being friends with Harvey and working with him to create a documentary about her loss to Trump.

                https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/jul/25/hillary-clinton-cozies-up-to-harvey-weinstein-remi/

                Harvey was an “informal adviser during Mrs. Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign, a guest in her hotel suite when she won and a host of an A-list victory party. He was an early backer of both her presidential bids.” Mr. Weinstein’s political activity — he provided consistent support for Mr. Obama as well — boosted his image as a man with friends in high places and close ties to the country’s leading female politician.

                https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/05/us/harvey-weinstein-complicity.html

                Harvey has been her friend and supporter since at least Monica Lewinsky.

                DavidTC:But any business relationships not built in-house are with incredibly shady people.

                Yes, we all know Trump is a total scumbag. And this might have been important if he’d been running against someone else.

                The Clinton Foundation money is not ‘theirs’, as has been explained many times before. You know this. We’ve talked about it.

                Yes, and as I’ve pointed out many times, the money doesn’t go into their pockets, the money is used as funding similar to how a Billionaire buys influence. It’s a parking spot for Clinton insiders. It’s a funding source for leftist causes.

                Thus leaving you with ‘They get good PR from it…

                Why does Blackwater care about “good PR”? The Saudi Gov? Russian mineral companies? Do these groups fund things “for good PR” in other situations or is it just when the husband of the SoS comes calling? Are these companies still funding TCF now that they’re both out of power? Wait, they had to shut down that section because of lack of donations, right?

                …this is an utterly stupid method of bribery when it is legal to donate to campaigns or hire ex-politicans for speaking fees…

                You’ll notice how their “speaking fees” go up and down depending on how much political power they have. You’ll also notice the Clintons collect millions of dollars this way but got control of Billions via TCF. Granted, that’s not money they can spend on their lifestyle (that’s what speaking fees are for) but that it has limited applications doesn’t mean it can’t be spent for influence. That’s what money is for after all, buying influence.

                Second, no one’s every been able to demonstrate what sort of favors this would be traded for…

                Under this level of “proof” they’re not guilty of selling pardons. And if memory serves there was a billion dollar uranium deal that was pretty smelly, and the foundation was pretty opaque and criticized for having unusual funding structures right up until just before she decided to run for Prez. However yes, “no can demonstrate” that giving money to one Clinton gets the other to do things for you. People as far to the Right as Jimmy Carter have pointed out there’s clearly a connection between the money and the results, but we can’t prove it.

                Of course you’re applying one standard of proof for the Clintons and another to Trump.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Dark Matter says:

        Barr’s letter found that this “witch hunt” found that Mueller discovered the russians did try to manipulate the election through fomenting chaos on social media, made multiple attempts with teh campaign and be stealing and disseminating Dem emails. And somehow it’s a “witch hunt”?!?! Nonsense.Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to greginak says:

          You’re confusing the Russians screwing with stuff with Trump stealing the election and/or Trump should be impeached.

          For a lot of “Resist” fokes, Mueller was “this is the way we will impeach Trump”.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Dark Matter says:

            Nobody was ever arguing that Trump should be impeached. They were just arguing that he was breaking norms and he needed to be replaced by being tossed out in 2020.

            Hell, nobody was arguing that he’s broken norms. He’s just tacky.

            Nobody is even arguing that he’s tacky. He’s just a Republican.

            Nobody is arguing that he’s a Republican.

            Nobody is arguing.

            Nobody.Report

            • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Jaybird says:

              I realize you’re kidding, however…

              “Talk of impeachment began before Trump took office”

              “Immediately after his inauguration, The Independent and The Washington Post each reported on efforts already underway to impeach Trump”

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Efforts_to_impeach_Donald_Trump

              So there was no need for a trial, the outcome had already been determined. To be fair, the part that impresses me from that link is “At the end of 2017, polls showed that roughly 40 percent of Americans wanted Trump impeached”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Dark Matter says:

                Anybody can edit Wikipedia.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Dark Matter says:

                Those early impeachment efforts had nothing to do with Russia. They were, in fact, centered on the fact that Trump had _blindingly obvious_ conflicts of interest(1) and astonishing levels of corruption, including using the office of president for his own personal profit.

                Granted, it is hard to keep track of the number of various reasons that Trump should be impeached, including a lot that have never made the public consciousness.

                For example, I would argue that a president should be impeached if his personal lawyer blatantly and repeatedly lied to Congress about the actions of the president, and the president _doesn’t_ step forward to correct these lies. Not even ‘suborns perjury’, but merely fails to correct perjury to Congress that he is aware of. And then repeats those lies on Twitter. That is not, technically speaking, illegal, but it would be an impeachable offense in any sane universe.

                1) As has been pointed out ‘conflicts of interest’ is technically the wrong term. A conflict of interest is when someone with power has a conflict between doing what their job requires and doing something to benefit him. Two competing interests in conflict with each other. As Trump does not even slightly have an interest in ‘doing what his job requires’, he does not have any actual ‘conflicts of interest’. He has one interest, and that interest is him.

                Trump has _malfeasances_, not conflicts of interest.Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to Dark Matter says:

            No. What i said was accurate. Barr said it and he is giving a Trump friendly spin. Taking aim at all the hyperbole, like jay is also doing, is a way to avoid dealing with the things like all the guilty pleas or on going cases or the corruption and working with the russians that campaign officials admitted to. It’s a tap dance to avoid all the known and admitted things right in front of you. Attack the person and ignore the info.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

              Would you say that what we know about the Mueller investigation points to there being enough evidence to indict Trump himself?Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’ll say what i said last week before the report came out. We know with with good certainty that the russians messed with our elections through social media and stole emails. Trump campaign officials have admitted in plea agreements and in publicly available email strings that they gave or asked the russians for things of value. All this was true on friday and remains true. We also know of various things trump has done that the russians wanted. All that is very suggestive. I want to know what Mueller thought of that and the conclusions he drew because what we know is bad bad for Trump and the US.

                Indictment? That is actually a sort of complicated legal question based on what Mueller’s brief was which was a counter intell operation. He has a rep as a very small c conservative prosecutor. This is pretty much how Ken White described him in the Atlantic today. His piece about the Barr letter and the investigation is good. Link below.
                https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/03/barr-mueller/585628/

                I don’t know if there is enough to indict Trump. Given how i’ve outlined the openly known evidence above i think the campaign was in bed to some degree with the russians. It wouldn’t surprise me, and i said this at some point in the last couple weeks, that Trump was kept far enough away to not be indictable. In any case we need to see the full report.

                Edit: Mueller , regarding obstruction, laid out a pro and against case. That is the kind of thing we should see. Is the against case solely that DOJ says a prez can’t be indicted and the pro case a butt load of evidence.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                hrmmm i had a reply here that the deep state must have stolen.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                Oh well here it goes again. With out a doubt the first try was better.
                I’ll say what i said on Friday. Based on what is known in plea agreements and openly available email’s the Trump campaign asked for help and gave things of value to the Russians. The campaign knew about stolen information and did nothing about it. In fact Barr says the russians tried to get the campaign to deal but they didn’t. They also never reported it to the FBI. All of this which we know is highly suggestive of a compromised or criminal campaign. This is just based on public info.

                We need to see the full report to know if there is more or if some of the words have been carefully parsed to avoid a worse look for trump.

                I’ve also said it wouldn’t surprise me if trump wasn’t directly involved with the russians or was kept out of it to avoid being implicated. Certainly possible though it still would mean his campaign was guilty. There just may not be proof he knew enough to indict him.

                Regarding obstruction the Barr letter said Mueller laid out a pro and anti argument. I’d love to see that. DOJ guidance says a sitting prez can’t be indicted and Barr is on record saying he doesn’t think a sitting prez can be and that the entire Mueller investigation is improper. So his judgement is really biased here. Lets see Mueller’s arguments on each side and whether the entire anti argument is just that a prez cant’ be indicted.

                As Ken White said in the Atlantic Mueller is a small c conservative prosecutor so he is staying within his brief of a counter intll investigation. Yeah that Ken White is at the Atlantic. He must be a liberal now i guess. He has a good piece in general on this. Link below.

                https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/03/barr-mueller/585628/

                So i don’t know if there is enough to indict Trump. There are lot of things i want to know. And the fact that a prez election was tampered with should be a giant fricking issue we need to deal with and protect ourselves against. Those that are making this all about Trump are missing a small flotila of boats.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                Here’s Jonathan Chait:

                If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide, from what I understand.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

                –>Mueller , regarding obstruction, laid out a pro and against case. That is the kind of thing we should see. Is the against case solely that DOJ says a prez can’t be indicted and the pro case a butt load of evidence:

                “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president.

                As we’re discussing downthread… pretty sure the pro/con argument hinges on discerning intent and how that does or doesn’t impinge on constitutionally granted powers.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                {{Jaybird, I’m baffled why you think responding to greg – a comment he specifically wrote in answer to a question you posed to him btw – with a Jonathon Chait tweet is useful…}}Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                (Because I’m trying to demonstrate what the baseline for expectations was prior to finding out that the investigation might not have been as meaty as hoped. The whole “well, you know, sure, it wasn’t a grand slam but the point that it was a ground-rule double should not be undersold…” makes sense if the baseline was “we’re expecting a double”.)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                (Why do you think everyone shares the same baseline? Why is Chait’s baseline relevant to what greg said?)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                (Because the political world we inhabit is a function of the political narrative forged by CNN/MSNBC/Fox and when you’ve got Big Name going on the news show and making Grand Pronouncements and then going back later and saying “well, maybe we should have expected a double” then the narrative takes a hit even if there were moderate voices saying “let’s face it, this was never going to be that interesting and I would have mentioned that before the release had I thought it interesting enough to point that out”.)Report

  10. Avatar greginak says:

    You’re doing a great job of responding the stupidest takes on Trump. Everybody needs a hobby but it doesn’t really show much.

    The fact that Trump’s campaign did not call the FBI despite multiple approaches by the russians and having knowledge of the stolen emails are actual misdeeds. Trump’s various lies about all this do indict of him of being a serial liar but it seems since we already know that it’s fine. But i’m sure if you search twitter you can find other bad takes.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

      I won’t link to Louise Mensch’s takes, then.

      I imagine that the best response is something in the ballpark of “look, we still don’t know… there are a lot of things up in the air and the best case/worst case scenario was that Mueller would find a slam dunk and indict Don Jr. and Eric and Ivanka and probably Meliana too. We didn’t get that. We don’t know how good/bad it is and how happy/sad Trump should be. That said, there were a lot of bad takes that got us here and now we’re stuck with the fact that a lot of people wrote checks that the Mueller Report doesn’t seem to be able to cash (even though it looks like it’d have been able to cash less scorching takes). I kinda wish that we’d spent the last two years hoping for a good candidate instead of hoping for a good Mueller investigation, though.”

      But that doesn’t seem to include enough hope for a happy ending. (Well, one that doesn’t involve nominating Andrew Yang.)Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        You know it is possible to try for a good take or try to thoughtfully examine evidence to come up with good conclusions or at least questions that lead to insight. At least those are possibilities. There have been good pieces over the last couple years and facts to ponder. But it’s easier to moan about everything being crap while rubbernecking all the crap and getting all dissatisfied there is to much crap while just crapping about all the crap. I even linked to a ken white take that is a start.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

          The weird thing is that what would have been a good, if exuberant, take in January is now an example of some of the things that we shouldn’t be looking at as representative at all.

          I mean, let’s say that the Democrats, who control Congress, look at the available evidence and say “we need to go for impeachment!”

          Not one of the shriveled up old fogies, but one of the new and exciting moral leaders like AOC, say.

          The takes that talk about how Trump is obviously impeachable become a lot more reasonable and a lot less crappy!

          Overnight.

          As it is, where we are now, we’re stuck wondering if Mueller has been compromised by the Russians.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to greginak says:

      It was actually the duty of the FBI to approach the Trump campaign and warn them that the Russians were trying to infiltrate them. That’s not just duty, that’s actual FBI policy. They either didn’t do that because the Russian’s weren’t trying to infiltrate the Trump campaign, or because the FBI was in on it. It seems that both are the case, based on all the testimony of all the fired FBI personnel.

      Sadly, the result is that the entire mainstream media is less reliable than Alex Jones, and should be scrubbed from most of the Internet.Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to greginak says:

      Dude come on.

      I’ve clashed a ton with the guy but you’re being a complete asshole here.Report

  11. Avatar Bill Stephenson says:

    The thing that stands out to me is that after almost two years and all the evidence was collected Mueller said “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

    Are we to believe that Barr could conclude, without prejudice, there was no crime committed in the short time he spent reviewing the evidence?

    That’s a pretty long leap.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Bill Stephenson says:

      The full quotation is, “The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.'” Here the AG report is quoting the SC report – as far as we know.

      So the question is whether we believe Mueller in the 18 months he spent investigating could conclude, without prejudice, that the President committed a crime. Specifically Obstruction of Justice… it seems Mueller was more clear that there was no conspiracy but had more doubts about Obstruction.

      Which, per my comments in another thread, we mostly borne out by the fact that absent the underlying crime of Collusion, then the corrupt intent of firing Comey to obstruct an investigation that wasn’t subsequently obstructed and which found no criminal collusion… was going to run headlong into Executive Powers.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Marchmaine says:

        What “Executive Power” allows a President to fire someone for the purpose of obstructing an investigation?Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          What “Executive Power” allows a President to fire someone?

          Congress has the Power to impeach for any Presidential overreach; they don’t even have to prove the purpose to anyone other than themselves.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Marchmaine says:

            I just want to get clear on this March (no gotcha!): do you think the president has the constitutional authority to obstruct investigations into potential malfeasance, his own or others, within the executive branch? I mean, that’s what Chip is referring to here, yes?Report

            • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Stillwater says:

              The President also does not have constitutional authority to beat his wife, so asking if he’s stopped beating his wife isn’t the right question.

              You all believe that he did, so you’re leading with the conclusion; the SC Report does not find he did, but also does not exonerate him… My point, which I’ve elucidated previously is that absent the finding of Collusion, there was going to be sufficient cover for the exercise of Presidential powers.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

              March, the question was about the limits of presidential power, not Trump. If you don’t want to answer it, that’s OK, but that’s where the discussion is located. Seems like an easy enough question to answer on the merits.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Stillwater says:

                I did, the President can’t obstruct justice.

                The open question is whether firing Comey was obstruction.

                The Special Counsel investigated and acknowledged that its not clear that the firing was obstruction. I also fully acknowledged that the Presidential limit of power is circumscribed by Congress’ power to impeach if it feels the firing exceeded his powers. Congress chose, instead, to appoint a Special Counsel. To whit, see sentence one.

                A more fuller answer one could not give.

                You say it wasn’t a Gotcha question, but you asked me if the President can obstruct justice… that’s the literary equivalent of “have you stopped beating your wife?” 🙂Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Stillwater says:

                I think this is exactly why Mueller punted the issue, in effect, back to Congress. The act that might be considered obstruction of justice falls clearly within presidential powers. It’d be hard to come up with a better ‘separation of powers’ hypothetical for a con law exam.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                I did, the President can’t obstruct justice.

                This is still ambiguous, but I take it to mean that the president does not have the constitutional authority to obstruct justice.

                OK. First, we don’t know what the SC concluded re: the obstruction issue. All we know is what Barr wrote about it. Second, we don’t know to what extent Mueller’s conclusions rely in existing DOJ policy re: indicting sitting presidents. Third, it’s not a gotcha because there are *a lot* of people who disagree about that, some formally (FBI director serves at the pleasure of POTUS ) but others substantively, ie., that even if Comey was investigating Trump the firing was justified because he politicized the DOJ.

                That you continue to think liberals are front loading the discussion indicates, to me anyway, that you’re not willing look at the reasoning Barr employed on the merits (which are at a minimum unde-rargued) and distinguish *his* conclusions about the Mueller report from Mueller’s own. The most obvious example of the potential disconnect is exactly the topic we’re talking about: that Barr (in conjunction with Rosenstein) determined that Mueller concluded that Trump’s obstruction didn’t rise to the level of being prosecutable. We do not know that, and even the little bit of language Barr quotes from Mueller’s report suggests the opposite.

                (I could say the same wrt Barr’s statement about the conspiracy aspect of the investigation as well: that he narrows the claim to a “criminal conspiracy” with the “Russian government” proven by “tacit or express agreement” between “individuals in Trump’s campaign.” I mean, in one pretty obvious sense we know that’s false: Paul Manafort.)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                I think this is exactly why Mueller punted the issue, in effect, back to Congress.

                Yet, Barr took it upon himself to intercede.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Stillwater says:

                I thought it was the responsibility of Barr under the regulations to bring a summary back to Congress?Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Stillwater says:

                “the President can’t obstruct justice”

                Sorry, that one’s on me… I realize this can be read two ways; I meant it in the sense that there isn’t a constitutional power to obstruct justice.

                I’ve quoted Barr specifically on the reasoning… I even *predicted* that Mueller/Barr would reason thus… and as InMD says, it is precisely the nexus between presidential power and possible overeach.

                I’m in favor of releasing the full Report (properly redacted) and as I’ve previously written I expect we’ll find exactly what it says we’ll find… reasons for why it could be obstruction, but then reasons for why it isn’t obstruction.

                That’s why absent Collusion and criminal findings, the tie will go to the President. But Congress is not bound by Mueller’s reasoning, nor Barr’s. That’s the situation as clearly laid out as I think it can be.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                Ahh, maybe I misunderstood you. Yes, he has to provide a report to congress. I thought you meant that Mueller punted the issue to Congress *because* DOJ guidelines prevent him from bringing charges against POTUS. I mean, impeachment is a political process in any event, regardless of his conclusions. No punting required *unless* he viewed the issue as irresolvable within DOJ, no?

                Of course, that assumes he punted at all, something which we have yet to determine.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                March, thanks for clarifying. I’d only add that even in your account, the reasons why it’s obstruction and why it isn’t are what’s interesting here. Ie, the stuff that’s actually *in* the report.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Stillwater says:

                Sure, I bet historians and legal scholars will be looking over the report for years… I’m personally curious if Mueller discusses Tweets and how they weigh as political utterances… I have a vague recollection that Presidential Tweets are already in the court system(?).

                Plus, I’m sure that there are plenty of things that would provide solid campaign issues – even without overblown hot-takes. As others have said on the intertubes, I think this is fortuitous for the D’s that it landed now and not right before the election so that there’s time for y’all to move on and put forward a winning political strategy. I mean, I’ll still be sad if you win, but not sad that Trump lost.Report

  12. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    OT, but on topic:
    Russian air force planes land in Venezuela carrying troops, ostensibly to support President Maduro.
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-idUSKCN1R50NB

    National Security Advisor John Bolton has forcefully warned Venezuela of military intervention if Maduro does not step down.

    Quick, can anyone say with assurance whose side Trump is on, in this dispute?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Are we rooting for war? It’s been a while since we’ve had a good one, after all.

      And if Venezuela isn’t worth killing 50% of all humans for, I don’t know what would be.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Which side should he be on? Can I be on the side that thinks John Bolton shouldn’t be allowed to DJ a Wedding much less have a hand in US foreign policy?

      If I were to devise a Grand Strategy to overextend Russia well beyond her power and financial means, I’d invite her to take on Syria, Venezuela, her old friend Libya, and a few other vexing conflicts without resolution.

      Is that a pro-Russia position? Is it better policy for the US to invade? Are we going to do Imperialism for Real this time?Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Marchmaine says:

        March and Jaybird-
        You’re answering a question I never asked.

        Trump’s National Security Director says one thing. Can anyone here state affirmatively that he is speaking for Trump, and that Trump will support that position?

        The answer is pretty clear that no, no one knows if this is Trump’s position, because no one knows if Trump is willing to take an opposite side of Putin.

        Which is the entire point. Trump’s first loyalty is not to the American people, but to his own interests.Report

        • Avatar InMD in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          His administration has authorized selling weapons to Ukraine and conducted attacks on Syrian government targets. Is that not the opposite side to Putin?Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to InMD says:

            Those are just more of the same.
            The administration says one thing, then is contradicted by Trump himself.
            Trump pushed to soften the GOP opposition to the annexation of Crimea, and stated his desire to withdraw from Syria in opposition to his own national security team.

            Now we have the National Security Director making threats against Venezuela. So which position will Trump take? With his National Security team, or against it?

            Again, my point here is that no one knows.Report

            • Avatar InMD in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              Personally I hope he decides against his advisors.

              At some point it’s necessary to look at outcomes, and the rationality of these types of entanglements on their own merits.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to InMD says:

                I hope so too, but the motives are what is damning.

                He never places the interests of the American people above his own interest.

                Avoiding a showdown with Russia because it might damage his financial interest is even more devastating to America than a poorly thought out war.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to InMD says:

                Avoiding a showdown with Russia because it might damage his financial interest is even more devastating to America than a poorly thought out war.

                A “poorly thought out war” could go all the way up to nuclear war. Even short of that we’re probably looking at tens of Billions of dollars. That’s a very high bar to cross and a nuclear war is probably impossible to exceed.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          I don’t know if it’s Trump’s position because I know that Bolton was one of the guys who thought that the problem with Iraq was that we didn’t kill enough Brown People.

          Are you hoping that we kill more Brown People in Venezuela, Chip?

          It will certainly demonstrate that Trump isn’t Putin’s (homosexual innuendo that is okay because we’re using it against Trump)!Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          “Trump’s National Security Director says one thing. Can anyone here state affirmatively that he is speaking for Trump, and that Trump will support that position?”

          When Trump says he’s exiting Syria, can anyone here state affirmatively that his National Security Director will support that position?Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Marchmaine says:

            If it was merely chaotic disarray between President and his staff, that would be merely troubling incompetence.

            But the pattern is clear. In every instance, Trump works to the benefit of Russia, never against it.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              (Making exceptions, of course, for the stuff that qualifies as “more of the same”.)Report

            • Avatar George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              Except when he tells the military to go ahead and kill lots of them, which he’s done in Syria. Their surviving mercenaries couldn’t believe how easily we could slaughter them.

              And except when he withdraws from major arms control agreements, which he’s done.

              And except when he enacted a major sanctions bill to hit Russia, Iran, and North Korea, and put export restrictions on Russian companies,

              And except when he’s had our diplomats condemn the seizing of Ukrainian ships.

              And except when he’s had Russian GRU agents indicted for interfering in Olympic doping investigations.

              And except when he put sanctions on lots of Russian officials for election meddling and interfering in Syria and Ukraine.

              And except when he signed an executive order putting sanctions on any foreign person or entity that meddles in US elections, including freezing their assets and locking them out of the banking system.

              And except when he rejected the Russian annexation of Crimea.

              And except when he took actions over Russia’s use of nerve gas on people in Great Britain, which included expelling 48 Russians in DC.

              And except when he expelled a dozen Russian agents from New York.

              And except when he continues to push US oil expansion that has collapsed Russia’s income stream.

              And except when he’s opening up Europe to US LNG shipments to cut their dependence on Russian natural gas, thus breaking Russia’s leverage over them.

              And except when he condemns Germany and other European nations for being too dependent on Russian energy supplies.

              He views them as a direct threat to the US.

              Remember when Democrats made fun of Republicans for that? “Hey, the 80’s called and they want their foreign policy back!”Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to George Turner says:

                1. Those were not Russian troops, they were Russian mercs disavowed by Russia.
                2. Russia wanted us to withdraw from that agreement, so they were not bound by it.
                3. The sanctions were already in place. He hasn’t applied any new ones.
                4. He hasn’t made any vocal condemnation about Crimea.
                5. Gazprom still is selling more gas to Europe, and their leverage is untouched.
                6. The rest of these items were things that the administration – the Deep State, if you will- pushed, and Trump didn’t overrule. Yet.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to Marchmaine says:

        The one thing never permitted under any circumstances is rational, cost-benefit discussion of US foreign policy.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I can say with assurance Chip. Trump is on Trumps’ side. In the case of Venezuela he has no personal interests as far as I can see so he lets barking mad dog Bolton flail about but has evidently has little to no intention of actually militarily intervening.
      Ironically in the case of Venezuela that’s probably not the worst policy stance to be taking. Maybe something in the c- to b- range?Report

  13. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Fake News Network CNN showed this today:

    Lucky for us, nobody watches CNN.Report

  14. Avatar Jaybird says:

    From what I understand, the hopes have unofficially shifted to the SDNY and what they’re going to start investigating.

    Fingers are crossed, of course.Report

    • Avatar Philip H in reply to Jaybird says:

      They have been investigating for a while. They got Mr. Cohen’s guilty pleas. And they are specifically investigating issues uncovered by the Special Counsel but not within his brief.Report

  15. Avatar Jaybird says:

    If CNN is an indicator:

    Report

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