Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Speaking The Unspeakable

Rod Rosenstein has submitted to President Trump his letter of resignation, concluding "America first," mimicking a successful campaign slogan. More significantly, he commented "I am grateful... for the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations," an odd remark for someone holding a position in which he should have no personal conversations at all with the President of the United States of America.

The letter itself may be a plea for a nomination to a federal judgeship.  Taking a different approach,
 CNN anchorperson Don Lemon asked colleague Chris Cuomo Monday night “I’ve been wanting to ask you this. There have been reports about him, right. Do you think he’s a double agent type?”

We don't know, and may never know, whether Rosenstein simply was able to see beyond the horizon by recognizing that he had in Robert Mueller a man with impeccable credentials who could be rolled. We may learn what Rosenstein was up to if House Democrats succeed in having the now ex-Special Counsel testify, under oath, in public, and in a manner to elicit the most information. 

That is the only way in which it will be even possible to determine what Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed by then-Acting Attorney General Rosenstein, was thinking as he conducted an investigation, prepared a report, and looked on as the report was delivered to Congress. For now,  unfortunately, we have to lean on those few individuals who will question conventional wisdom, recognize a sort of Republican version of bait-and-switch, and have the courage to be politically incorrect.

The latter brings us, as it often does, to Bill Maher, who Friday evening noted "if Dostoyevsky had written the  report, it would be called 'Crime and No Punishment.'" He continued

Mueller's report is full of buts:  Don Jr. met with the Russians, but; Manafort gave internal polling data to a Russian, but; Trump obstructed justice every day, but....

Throughout, pundits, lawyers, and Democratic politicians have lionized Mueller as the stern and objective tough-guy ex-Marine who has selflessly and tirelessly served the public interest in both Republican and Democratic administrations. The image, which somehow has largely persisted even following release of the report., has not escaped the attention of Maher, who stated

Just because you have a stone face, doesn't mean you belong on Mt. Rushmore....

And you, tough guy, couldn't get the the President's taxes. You couldn't "follow the money?" You couldn't interview Trump, we're told, because he couldn't testify under oath without perjuring himself?" And that's our problem? It's one feckless punt after another.

Although a memorandum from the Office of Special Counsel investigating Nixon and one from the Office of Independent Counsel investigating Clinton argued that an incumbent president could be indicted, lawyers (with journalists and others following their lead) have been arguing otherwise. Unsurprisingly, in 1973, the Office of Legal Counsel under President Nixon's Justice Department, as well as the same office under the Clinton Justice Department in 2000, contended that a sitting president could not be indicted.

Despite the conflicting legal history, it became accepted wisdom that a President while in office is immune to indictment. Though (or maybe because) he isn't a lawyer, Maher understands

For a guy who didn't want to break precedent by indicting a president, Mueller sure created a lot of new precedents. That's what law is- new precedents. It's always evolving. You can't indict  a sitting president? It's not in the Constitution. It's not even a law. It's a guideline, like drinking white wine with fish or f _ _ _ _ _ _ your cousin. It's a f_ _ _ _ _ _ memo.

In a passive-aggressive manner, the Special Counsel seemed to be urging impeachment proceedings.  "While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime," Mueller noted, "it also does not exonerate him." He acknowledged "if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state."  But Maher recognizes

The Attorney General is corrupt. The Congress is dysfunctional. What good is leaving a road map for impeachment if you know a tribal before party Republican Senate will never remove the President?.Bob, your trail of bread crumbs isn't good enough. We're not that smart anymore. America is an aging shortstop. You have to hit it right at us.

While the subject (Donald Trump) of the investigation was not interviewed in-person (and otherwise, only about collusion) and the President's taxes not requested (as far as is known)

To me, this report is summed up in the words "Donald Trump Jr. declined to be voluntarily interviewed." So make him. Was he too busy? You couldn't work around his tweeting schedule?

We don't know why Robert Mueller conducted a shoddy investigation, nor whether the apparent careerist Rod Rosenstein foresaw how it would play out or instead has some hidden interest in the rule of law or the quaint notion of equal standing under that law. However, it is clear that sworn testimony by Robert Mueller, though not sufficient, is necessary to determine what happened and why.

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