It’s time to Break It Down!
Long awaited, and at least once delayed, today is D-Day for Robert Mueller’s hearings before the House of Representatives’ House Intelligence Committee and House Judiciary Committee. Millions of Americans will tune in to their favorite viewing platform to listen for the juiciest details. At the same time, millions of others will be totally oblivious to the next episode of As The Political World Turns. Perhaps, even more important, you can rest assured that of those who do watch, the vast majority of them have already made up their minds.
By one estimate, only 3% of the American people have read the Mueller Report. Of the remaining 97%, it’s fair to say, most have a fully formed, though insufficiently informed opinion. Tomorrow’s hearings is unlikely to alter the trajectory of that calculus.
The President of the United States maintains the Mueller investigation was a Democratic-led witch-hunt led by angry partisans, whose primary mission was presidential harassment. The Attorney general of the United States assures us the Report found no collusion. The President’s closing argument claims he was exonerated by the Mueller Report’s findings.
The Report, by most accounts is a dense document; 448 pages long. At this point, several months after the Report was released, not only have the vast majority of Americans not read the document, neither have most members of the U.S. Congress. As the hearing approaches this morning, it’s safe to presume most of the members on the two committees referenced above have read the report, if for no other reason, to ensure that they (both sides) can adroitly navigate the document with pointedly appropriate questions.
This post is not intended to shape opinion, and is certainly not designed to change minds. Rather it is to stake out a few facts for your consideration. What you choose to do with them is up to you.
With the rest of this missive, I will leave you with 10 instances the Mueller Report cited as evidence of Donald Trump potentially obstructing justice. They are enumerated herewith:
- Pressured Comey to end the probe of Michael Flynn. (“I hope you can see your way to letting this go.”)
- Trump’s reaction to the continuing investigation. (Trump telling White House Counsel Don McGahn to stop then Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia Investigation; Trump’s subsequent anger at Sessions, and Trump’s contacting Comey and other Intelligence agency leaders to ask them to push back publicly on the suggestion that he had any connection to the Russian election interference effort.)
- Firing of Comey and aftermath (Mueller’s Report says “substantial evidence” indicates Trump’s decision to fire Comey in May 2017 was the result of the FBI Director’s unwillingness to say publicly that Trump was not under investigation. On the day after Trump fired Comey, he told Russian officials that he had “faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s off now.”)
- Appointment of Special Counsel and efforts to remove him. (Trump reacted to news of Mueller’s appointment by telling advisers that it was “the end of his presidency.” Trump told aides that Mueller had conflicts of interest and should have to step aside. His aides told him his asserted conflicts were meritless. Following media reports that Mueller’s team was investigating whether Trump had obstructed justice; Trump called then White House Counsel McGahn at home and directed him to have Mueller removed. McGahn refused.)
- Further efforts to curtail the Special Counsel’s investigation. (Trump instructed former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to have Sessions publicly announce that, notwithstanding his recusal from the Russia investigation, the investigation was very unfair to Trump, that Trump had done nothing wrong, and Sessions planned to meet with Mueller to limit him to investigating election meddling for future elections.)
- Efforts to prevent public disclosure of evidence. (In the summer of 2017, Trump learned that the news media planned to report on the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between senior campaign officials and Russians offering derogatory information about Hillary Clinton. Trump directed aides not to publicly disclose the emails setting up the meeting. Before the emails became public, Trump also edited a press statement for Don, Jr. by deleting a line that acknowledged that the meeting was “with an individual who (Don, Jr.) was told might have information helpful to the campaign.”)
- Additional efforts to have Sessions take control of the investigation. (At several points between July 2017 and December 2017, Trump tried to get Sessions to declare that he was no longer recused from the Russia investigation and would assert control over it. The report says there’s evidence that one purpose of asking Sessions to step in was so that the Attorney General would restrict the investigation’s scope.)
- Trump orders White House Counsel to deny that he’d tried to fire Mueller. (In an Oval Office Meeting in 2018, Trump told McGahn to “correct” a New York Times story that reported that Trump had earlier instructed McGahn to fire Mueller. Trump also asked why McGahn had told Mueller’s investigators about the directive to remove Mueller. McGahn told Trump he had to tell the truth.)
- Trump’s actions toward Flynn, Manafort and other possible witnesses. (Mueller looked at whether Trump’s sympathetic messages to Flynn, former campaign manager Paul Manafort and others were intended to limit their cooperation with Mueller’s investigation. When Flynn began cooperating with prosecutors, Trump passed word through his lawyer that he still had warm feelings for Flynn, and asked for a “heads up” if Flynn knew of information implicating Trump. Trump praised Manafort during and after his criminal convictions, and refused to rule out a pardon for his former campaign chairman.)
- Trump’s actions toward Michael Cohen. (Mueller noted that Trump’s actions toward Cohen, a former Trump Organization executive, changed from praise to castigation after Cohen began cooperating with prosecutors. The evidence could “support an inference that Trump used inducements in the form of positive messages in an effort to get Cohen not to cooperate, and then turned to attacks and intimidation to deter” cooperation and undermine Cohen’s credibility, Mueller wrote.)
All indications are during the course of today’s hearing, Democrats will endeavor to engineer responses to questions of Mueller that deepen the public’s knowledge and understanding of the extent to which Trump may have obstructed justice, while Republicans will make every effort to paint Mueller, and his entire investigative team as tainted, while also attempting to inject a host of other narratives that embellish Trump, and diminish Mueller.
If you take nothing else from the Report, which Trump touted as exonerating a few months ago, but now disparages, take time to allow the 10 items above to simmer and percolate. As you watch the hearings, if you watch the hearings, recall that the Report, contrary to Trump’s boisterous and frequently made claim, simply does not validate his assertion of exoneration. “What Time Is It? It’s Mueller Time!”
I’m done; holla back!
Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.
To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.
Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post: