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Prof Hadar Aviram’s close reading of Mueller, 2

Friday, April 19th, 2019

[ by Charles CameronHadar Aviram continues her distillation of the Mueller report, here providing us with the essence of volume 2 ]

Mueller Investigation Report, Volume II: Obstruction of Justice.

2. The report starts off with a decline of the “binary” decision to prosecute or decline, because of the DOJ’s opinion that indicting a sitting president would “impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.”

3. Despite Mueller’s opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted, they conducted the factual investigation “when memories were fresh and documentary materials were available.” The report EXPLICITLY states that “a president does not have immunity when he leaves office.”

4. They deliberately refrained from an ordinary determination whether crimes were committed because ordinary channels for clearing one’s name are unavailable in this case, and because the consequences of a recommendation would extend “beyond the realm of criminal justice.”

5. Most importantly: they did not find that the president did NOT obstruct justice and say so explicitly. The money shot is enclosed:

6. The report proceeds to review the efforts to cover up the contacts with Russia, which were reviewed in my previous thread. The chronology is as follows:

7. During the campaign, Trump repeatedly denied links to Russia, denied that the leaks were coming from Russia, and denied that he or other campaign officials sought any information from Russians. As my previous thread shows, the Mueller team found these denials to be false.

8. In Jan 2017, Flynn lied to Pence about meeting Kislyak. When Trump found out, he summoned Comey, then FBI director, and told him that he needed “loyalty.” He then proceeded to fire Flynn and commented to an outside advisor, “now that we fired Flynn, the Russia thing is over.”

9. Later that evening, Trump summoned Comey to a one-on-one meeting, telling Comey, “I hope you can see your way to letting this go.”

Trump proceeded to ask Deputy National Security Advisor McFarland for a letter saying that Trump did not order Flynn to meet Kislyak. McFarland declined because he did not know if it was true and didn’t want that to look like a quid-pro-quo favor for his Ambassadorship.

11. As Sessions began to consider recusing himself, Trump asked White House counsel McGahn to instruct Sessions not to recuse, and after Sessions’ recusal, took Sessions aside and asked him to “unrecuse.”

12. Later, when Comey admitted that there was an FBI investigation on Russia, Trump reached out to National Security Advisors asking them what they could do to dispel this suggestion. Despite McGahn’s advice to the contrary, he also reached out twice personally to Comey.

13. On May 3, Comey testified in a congressional hearing, refusing to say that Trump himself was under investigation. Within days, he was terminated. Trump claimed that the termination was unrelated to the testimony, but the timeline does not bear this out.

14. On May 17, Rosenstein appointed Mueller special counsel. Trump reacted by telling advisors that this was “the end of [his] presidency.” He first demanded that Sessions resign (but then did not accept his resignation.)

15. Trump then argued that Mueller had a conflict of interest, but his advisors told him that claim was meritless.

16. When Mueller announced that Trump was a target, the latter called McGahn at home and asked him to fire Mueller. Fearful of starting a Saturday Night Massacre, McGahn resigned, instead.

17. Two days after the convo w/McGahn, Trump met with Corey Lewandowski, asking him to relay a message to Sessions, who as you recall had recused himself.

18. Lewandowski was to instruct Sessions to issue a public announcement that, notwithstanding his recusal, Trump had done nothing wrong, and to instruct the Special Counsel to redirect the focus of the investigation toward “future elections.”

19. Lewandowski told Trump he understood the message, but did not want to relay it himself, so he asked senior White House official Rick Dearborn to do it. Dearborn didn’t want to do it either and did not relay the message.

20. In the meantime, while Trump was waiting for Lewandowski to relay the message to Sessions, Trump went on a twitter tirade, criticizing Sessions and implying that firing Sessions was imminent.

21. In the summer of 2017, news of the meeting at Trump Tower leaked to the press. On numerous occasions, Trump instructed aides not to reveal any information about the meeting and expressed confidence that the information would not leak on its own.

22. When Trump Jr. issued a statement about the meeting, Trump (the father) edited out what we know to be true: that the campaign was promised incriminatory information on Clinton. The edited statement stated that the meeting was about adoptions of Russian children.

23. Trump’s lawyer subsequently denied to the press that Trump played any role in crafting or editing Trump Jr.’s statement.

24. In Summer 2017, Trump made several efforts to reach out to Sessions and convince him to “unrecuse” himself. Trump met with Sessions at the Oval Office and asked him to “take [a] look” at investigating Clinton.

25. When Flynn pleaded guilty and collaborated with the Mueller investigation, Trump called Sessions again and told him that, if he “unrecused” himself, he would be “a hero”. Sessions did not “unrecuse” himself.

26. In early 2018, the media revealed the story behind McGahn’s resignation. Trump directed White House officials to tell McGahn to publicly deny that Trump had ordered McGahn to sack Mueller. McGahn refused to publicly deny this, saying that the reports were factually accurate.

27. Subsequently, Trump summoned McGahn to the Oval Office and pressured him to deny the reports, interrogating him about what he had told Mueller. McGahn told the investigation team later that he got a sense that the President was “testing his mettle.”

28. When Flynn started to collaborate with the Government, Trump reached out to him and asked him for a “heads up” if he learned “information that implicates the President.”

29. Flynn informed Trump that he was unable to cooperate with this request. Trump’s personal counsel said he would make sure that the President knew that Flynn expressed “hostility” toward the President.

30. During Manafort’s trial, Trump praised Manafort for not “flipping” (pleading guilty and cooperating with the investigation team), saying among other things that “flipping” “ought to be illegal.”

31. In 2017, as explained in Vol. 1, Michael Cohen falsely testified before Congress that Trump’s involvement in the Trump Tower Moscow project ended long before the campaign (when in fact it continued well into 2016.) Trump praised Cohen for his testimony.

32. In April 2018 the FBI raided Cohen’s home. Trump encouraged him to “stay strong” and relayed messages of support. Cohen reached out to Rudy Giuliani to discuss the possibility of a pardon.

33. When Cohen started cooperating with the investigation in Summer 2018, Trump turned on him, called him a “rat”, and suggested that his family members had committed crimes.

34. We now turn to how the Mueller team analyzed whether these facts constitute Obstruction of Justice.

35. Obstruction of Justice has three elements: [1] an obstructive act [2] a nexus between the obstructive act and an official proceeding and [3] a corrupt intent.

36. The offense covers both successful endeavors and attempts to obstruct justice.

37. The report enumerates the people they questioned in connection with the report. It explicitly says that “The President declined to be interviewed” and there are redacted bits around this statement.

38. The Mueller team had the power to subpoena Trump and refrained “in view of the substantial delay that such an investigative step would likely produce at a late stage in our investigation.” Also, even w/o his testimony, they had enough evidence “to understand relevant events.”

39. In deciding whose version was credible, they relied on general principles, including reasons to lie, good memory, opportunity to observe events, corroboration, and contradictions.

40. The part of the report that discusses Trump’s reaction to the Russian hacks and his instructions to Cohen and Manafort in this respect is heavily redacted.

41. Trump reached out to the intelligence community asking them to publicly deny the Steele Memo after it leaked through Buzzfeed.

42. We now move on to the Mueller team’s conclusions about whether Trump’s behavior constituted obstruction of justice.

43. Regarding Flynn’s resignation and pressure on Comey: Trump’s effort to procure false reports about Flynn, and especially the 1-on-1 convos w/Comey, count as “obstructive acts”.

44. This was directly related to concerns about criminal exposure for Flynn (=”official proceeding.”)

45. Corrupt intent: Trump’s demeanor in pressuring Comey suggests he knew he was not doing something that was above board. => OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE.

46. Regarding the pressure on Comey and others in the intelligence community to end the investigation: Trump’s convos about this, through McGahn and others, were not interpreted as inappropriate efforts to end the investigation.

47. There was a nexus to official proceedings that would follow disclosures about the involvement with Russia.

48. The nature of the pressure on intelligence officials does not clearly reveal corrupt intent. => NO CONCLUSIVE OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE. Read on.

49. Re firing Comey and claiming it was unrelated to Russia: This would qualify as an obstructive act if the anticipated effect was ending the investigation, which is unclear here.

50. Nexus: There is some connection this is related to the proceedings against Flynn.

51. Corrupt intent: The evidence supports the idea that the firing was aimed at protecting the president and that the other reasons were merely pretextual. => IF NOT “OBSTRUCTIVE ACT” THEN DOESN’T RISE TO LEVEL OF OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE.

52. Re the efforts to remove Mueller through McGahn and others: This is clearly an “obstructive act” to terminate Muller.

53. Nexus: There is a clear nexus between the effort to remove Mueller and the desire to end the investigation.

54. Corrupt intent: Substantive evidence links this to an effort to end the investigation and not to aboveboard behavior. => OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

55. Efforts to curtail the investigation through Lewandowski, Sessions, etc: Obstructive acts: Trump’s directives show that he was trying to push Sessions to deviate the Mueller investigation.

56. Nexus: This was directly related to the Mueller grand jury.

57. Corrupt intent: Provable through Trump’s 1-on-1 meeting with Lewandowski. => OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

58. Trump’s efforts to cover up the Trump Tower meeting: Obstructive act – there’s no strong evidence that this was more than a press strategy.

59. Nexus: unclear.

60. Corrupt intent: Unclear from these facts if it’s merely a press strategy. => NO SUFFICIENT PROOF OF OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE.

61. Trump’s efforts to “unrecuse” Sessions and have him take control of the investigation: Obstructive act b/c clearly aimed at terminating the Russia investigation.

62. Nexus to the Russia investigation is clear.

63. Corrupt intent: “a reasonable inference” on Trump’s side was that Sessions would “play a protective role.” => OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

64. Trump tries to get McGahn to lie that he wasn’t ordered to fire Mueller. Obstructive intent: Duh – he’s trying to get McGahn to create a false record.

65. Nexus: It was foreseeable that McGann would testify about these matters, so there’s a connection to the Russia investigation.

66. Corrupt intent: an effort to influence McGahn’s account in order to deflect or prevent further scrutiny of Trump. => OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

67. Trump’s statements to Flynn and Manafort in the context of the criminal proceedings against them: Obstructive act in the sense that his statements could influence the jury.

68. Nexus to both trials.

69. Intent: because of Atty-client privilege issues, we don’t exactly know what Giuliani did when threatening Flynn and whether he properly represented Trump’s opinion. => NOT ENOUGH FOR OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

70. Trump’s about-face toward Cohen (praise then excoriation when Cohen cooperated w/the Feds.) Obstructive act: Trump knew that Cohen provided false testimony but no proof that he procured said false testimony.

71. Proceeding: Cohen’s testimony at investigations.

72: Intent: There’s evidence to support the inference that he hoped Cohen would falsely testify. => BUT NOT ENOUGH TO SUGGEST HE PROCURED THE FALSE TESTIMONY.

73: Now the report looks at these instances as a whole. The report cautiously suggests that Trump might have just been upset because the Russia investigation (which, as per Part I, stops short of arguing conspiracy) cast doubt on his legitimacy as president.

74. There were multiple efforts to exert undue influence, but they were largely unsuccessful (this, I think, is a legal mistake, because obstruction of justice does not require success, merely an attempt.)

75. In general, federal law advances a broad definition of obstruction.

76. Also, other obstruction statutes might be relevant to Trump’s conduct, including tampering with witnesses.

77. This speaks for itself – no criminal charges against a sitting president, but there are other avenues (“I won’t indict, but you can impeach”):

78. More “I won’t indict, but you can impeach” statements:

79. I’ll let the parting shot speak for itself:

80. Thank you all for reading along. I hope this was helpful to you. Please tweet and share in case others find this useful.


Note from Charles Cameron:

I’m grateful to Thread Reader, the application which makes extensive Twitter threads like this one available in easily readable, sequential form, and which was used to reformat Hadar’s threads before posting them here on ZP.

Sports metaphors, metaphors, 30, & happy / unhappy phrasings

Friday, March 29th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — including an intermezzo with Bach’s links with Mendelssohn — as usual, quite a diverse haul ]


There are cracks in the frenzied spin from the White House around the Barr summary of the as-yet-unreleased Mueller report. As the President tracks down axes to grind, consensus is building around Robert Mueller’s refused to exonerate the President in the obstruction of justice investigation ..

Joyce Vance:

We’ve seen all these dots out in the pubic domain, indications of obstruction, and apparently Mueller wasn’t able to connect them, and the question is, Why?


You just can’t write a book-report for a book you haven’t read ..

Disclosure: You can. I have.

Here’s a weird sequence..

And if that isn’t weird enough..

Okay, a twinning once I get the transcript: chyrons “Dem grills” / “bip[artisan rebuke”


A move I want to watch, and you may too: Hotel Mumbai:

Well, you know, ads intervene in even the best paid programming of mice and men .. and, you know, trailers are ads..

And BTW, the Roger Ebert reviewer wrote:

I watched and wrestled with Anthony Maras’ searing, startlingly confident debut “Hotel Mumbai,” where every fatal bullet fired out of the ruthless terrorists’ semi-automatic weapons hit me at my core.

That’s screen-to-viewer violence, as when the heaalights of a car sweeping up thr movie drive suddenly swerve and blind you..

Back to Hardball:

Regarding his work as a speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, Chris Matthews describes

The most honest and moral man, who honored the call of the prophet

Matthews opening clip:

Jumping over the Barr — let’splay Hardball


Chris Matthews, quoting him:

.. all the smoke, if you will, of a deal between the President’s people and the Russians, all the interactions between them, he said — imagine if Obama, in a parallel universe, had those kinds of relationships with the Iranians, would you think they might have investigated it?


Trump, a brief essay in turning the other cheek hitting back:

One of the things you should do in terms of success: If somebody hits you, you’ve got to hit ’em back five times harder than they ever thought possible. You’ve got to get even. Get even. And the reason, the reason you do, is so important…The reason you do, you have to do it, because if they do that to you, you have to leave a telltale sign that they just can’t take advantage of you. It’s not so much for the person, which does make you feel good, to be honest with you, I’ve done it many times. But other people watch and you know they say, “Well, let’s leave Trump alone,” or “Let’s leave this one,” or “Doris, let’s leave her alone. They fight too hard.” I say it, and it’s so important. You have to, you have to hit back. You have to hit back.

Times two:

Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it.

As a motto:

My motto is: Always get even. When somebody screws you, screw them back in spades.

Chris M:

He [DJT] goes after Adam Schiff .. says, He couldn’t hit a drive 50 yards..

I’m not sure, but today’s [3/29] DJT quote, “he’s not a long ball hitter” may belong here as a second shoe dropping? — or is it a different aport and different target?

Matthews, on healthcare:

Trump is walking right into that Gatling gun***** of defeat — why is he doing this?


Okay game of glass beads players, HipBone-style — here’s the Bach-Mendelssohn graph for your consideration:

And –I’m missing one name, which may be in the video — Bach, Mendelssohn and the Saint Matthew Passion:

— a direct line, as I understand it, of teachers and pupils from Bach to Mendelssohn..

Fox inserts:


My morning doppelgänger Joe Scarborough ..


Ok, a few loose quotes. I’m looking for Elizabeth Warren using the phrase “war of ideas” but the closest I could find was:

This is the fight of our lives. The fight to build an America that works for everyone, not just the wealthy and the well-connected. It won’t be easy. But united by our values, we can make big, structural change. We can raise our voices together until this fight is won.

Fight of our lives is as strong as fight metaphors get without adding details — Queensbury Rules boxing, Mixed Martial Arts in the Hexagon, a Jagger-style street-fighting man?

This one has been quoted often enough to fade into the woodwork:

The budget is a moral document.

A missing chyron — when people post videos of MSNBC shows, and probably other news channels too, they often leave off the last 5 minutes [sad face] — Green New Deal ignites firestorm ..

O’Donnell 3/28/2019:

.. the suspended animation as we wait for the actual Mueller report ..

Good one: suspended animation*****.

Unknown, 3/28 at 10.17:

Go to present day baseball, stay on the sidelines, stay out of it ..


This is an oldie, but I saw it today and it’s a matter of concern for me as I deal with pain from amputations & neuropathy:

  • Patrick Radden Keefe, The Family That Built an Empire of Pain
  • **

    I’ll close with this tweet —

    — and this speech in response to DJT’s attack by Adam Schiff —

    — plus this in commentary, from Lawrence O’Donnell:

    This is just Kabuki theater, they have no power to remove Adam Schiff from his position ..


    The importance and impotence of language, #28 in the series

    Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameronmetaphor, that Owen Barfield thing that undergirds Tolkien, who gives us our hero myth at highest, truest pitch — see final section ]

    One for the arc archive:

    There is not a word in the American lexicon for such gatherings—the semi-spontaneous assembly of people in the wake of tragedy, who are united by both grief and by anger, and whose public mourning serves to reaffirm their civic bond to one another. But we need such a word..

    That’s an important point.


    Look, large events have — what do events do, transpired? no — eventuated, actuellement, actually, which is to say, right about now..

    From MTP 3/25/2019:

    Chuck Todd:

    At this point it seems pretty clear that, while politically Democrats have been perhaps, if not check-mated, a pretty touch check on the chess board here, politically..

    Chuck Todd:

    None of us have read the Mueller report. None of us have got a single complete sentence of the Mueller report.

    Jake Sherman:

    It’s certain that Democrats run the risk of beating this drum too loud collusion on the collusion thing. The collusion angle, politically, was the singular focus of this investigation. That’s why it started.

    Is this going to be like the last scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, buried in some warehouse in New Mexico?

    If they find something, a hundred of them jump on it — it’s the bandwagon effect ..

    The Beat, Ari Melber:

    Ari: Is Barr departing from those preedents?


    He [Mueller] punts to Congress, and then Bill Barr runs on the field, takes the ball, runa in for a touchdown for the President..\


    I think Preet was wrong there..


    Using a football analogy, that’s what Preet did, I want to use a basketball analogy. We have a jump-ball, we’re giving it to Bill Barr, who’s taking the ball, he already decided the possession arrow..

    Preet, Holder, Rossi — a touch of Calvinball, one game becoming another?


    Let’s take a break:

    Malcolm Gladwell, Thresholds of Violence

    Thresholds are — in Latin — limina. Here a shooter threshold, a limen — a red line which, having been crossed, now shifts towards the susceptible:

    The kid .. requires a finely elaborated script in order to carry out his attack .. : the effect of Harris and Klebold’s example was to make it possible for people with far higher thresholds — boys who would ordinarily never think of firing a weapon at their classmates — to join in the riot.

    The caption to the illustration heading Gladwell‘s piece reads:

    In the years since Columbine, school shootings changed; they became ritualized

    That’s what my piece on Tarrant as a follower of Breivik was about.

    Here too, from Gladwell, is a serpent that turns to bite its tail when SWAT arrives:

    I would detonate when people were fleeing, just like the Boston bombings, and blow them up too. Then my plans were to enter and throw Molotov cocktails and pipe bombs and destroy everyone and then when the swat comes I would destroy myself.


    And serpentine sinuosity in the Mississippi at English Bend, the great river’s tail not quite bitten? Another border blurred, line receding…

    The plane took off to the north, over Lake Pontchartrain, and looped back toward New Orleans. We picked up the Mississippi at English Turn, the sharp bend that brings the river almost full circle. Then we continued to follow the water as it wound its way into Plaquemines Parish.


    The control of nature? Good luck with that.


    Back to business — a rush of chyrons, with a couple of texts:

    Booker to Ari:

    I have had you on background in many of the rooms I’ve been in

    There must be a lot of thoughts about who the umpire should be ..
    the letter came from somebody who was already suspect and should have recused himself ..


    We’re seeing a lot of dots that seem to be directing us toward a real problem, a potential collusion that continues to seem tom be smoldering and that might result in a real fire..

    Let’s look at the fact pattern ..

    — that last is an interesting phrase —

    Just a couple more from Sen Cory Booker to Ari Melber, then we’ll take a break.

    Sen Booker:

    This is a sacred constitutional moment for us ..

    That’s an excellent quote***** for USian civil religion ..

    A call to creaate what King calls “a more beloved community”


    Barfield on metaphor

    At a later stage in the evolution of consciousness, we find [the principle of living unity] operative in individual poets, enabling them . . . to intuit relationships which their fellows have forgotten-relationships which they must now express as metaphor. Reality, once self-evident, and therefore not conceptually experienced, but which can now only be reached by an effort of individual mind–this is what is contained in a true poetic metaphor; and every metaphor is “true” only in so far as it contains such a reality, or hints at it. The world, like Dionysus, is torn to pieces by pure intellect, but the poet is Zeus; he has swallowed the heart of the world; and he can reproduce it in a living body.

    See here the relationship with Tolkien? with poetry, with HipBone Games?



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