Thursday, July 25, 2019

Semper Fidelis, Mr. President

There are a few exchanges which took place on Wednesday before former Special Counsel Robert Mueller and two congressional committees which are emblematic of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. They include the following:

MUELLER: I was going to say, the expectation was, if we did subpoena the president, he would fight the subpoena and we would be in the midst of the investigation for a substantial period of time.

MALONEY: Right, but as we sit here, you’ve never had an opportunity to ask the president, in person, questions under oath, and so obviously that must have been a difficult decision. And you’re right, appendix C lays that out, and indeed, I believe you describe the in-person interview as vital. That’s you word.

And of course, you make clear, you had the authority and the legal justification to do it, as you point out. You waited a year, you put up with a lot of negotiations, you made numerous accommodations, which you lay out, so that he could prepare and not be surprised. I take it you were trying to be fair to the president. And, by the way, you were going to limit the questions, when you got to written question, to Russia only.

And, in fact, you did go with written questions after about nine months, sir, right? And the president responded to those and you have some hard language for what you thought of those responses. What did you think of the president’s written responses Mr. Mueller?

MUELLER: It was certainly not as useful as the interview would be.

MALONEY: In fact -- in fact, you pointed out, and by my count, there were more than 30 times when the president said he didn’t recall, he didn’t remember, no independent recollection, no current recollection and I take it by your answer that it wasn’t as helpful, that’s why you used words like incomplete, imprecise, inadequate, insufficient. Is that a fair summary of what you thought of those written answers?

MUELLER: That is a fair summary. And I presume that comes from the report.

Mueller "put up with a lot of negotiations" and made "numerous accommodations," yet did not issue a subpoena. However, it's easy to miss the red flag when Democrats spent yesterday (and the prior two years) touting the personal and professional resume of the ex-Marine. Continuing:

MALONEY: And yet, sir, and I ask this respectfully -- by the way, the president didn’t ever claim the Fifth Amendment, did he?

MUELLER: I’m not going to talk to that.

Mueller wouldn't talk about that because Mueller spent the day refusing to answer questions, over 200 times in all. Please continue, Representative Maloney:

MALONEY: Well I -- from what I can tell sir, at one point it was vital and then at another point it wasn’t vital. And my question to you is, why did it stop being vital, and I can only think of three explanations. One is, that somebody told you couldn’t do it, but nobody told you couldn’t subpoena the president, is that right?

MUELLER: No, we understood we could subpoena the president.

MALONEY: Rosenstein didn’t tell you, Whitaker didn’t tell you, Barr didn’t tell you, you couldn’t ...

MUELLER: We could serve a subpoena.

Of course, Mueller could serve a subpoena. Neither the Attorney General nor the Assistant Attorney General stood by the employee, waiting to snatch out of his hands any subpoena he might obtain. However, in the same manner, you could walk into your boss' office tomorrow, call him or her a bumbling fool and even accuse the latter of having an affair with your spouse. You could, and you'd be fired. Mueller did not have to be explicitly told. Barr did not explicitly prohibit a subpoena, thus the congressman continued:

MALONEY: So, the only other explanation -- well, there’s two others I guess, one, that you just flinched. That you had the opportunity to do it and you didn’t do it. But sir, you don’t strike me as the kind of guy who flinches.

MUELLER: I’d hope not.

If ever there were an investigation which featured flinching as its animating characteristic, this was it. Nevertheless

MALONEY: Well then the third explanation -- I hope not too sir. And the third explanation I can think of is that -- is that you didn’t think you needed it. And in fact, what caught my eye was page 13 in volume 2, where you said, in fact, you had a substantial body of evidence and you sight a bunch of cases there don’t you, about how you often have to prove intent to obstruct justice without an in-person interview, that’s the kind of nature of it, and you used terms like a substantial body of evidence, significant evidence of the president’s intent.

So, my question sir is, did you have sufficient evidence of the president’s intent to obstruct justice and is that why you didn’t do the interview.

Robert Mueller pointedly refused in his report to state that the President attempted to commit obstruction of justice or any other crime. Yet he did not interview Trump because, we are to believe, he had sufficient evidence of the President's intent to obstruct justice. This makes a great deal of sense, in some alternate universe.

MUELLER: No, there’s a balance. In other words, how much evidence you have that would satisfy the last element, against how much time are you willing to spend in the courts litigating a -- the -- interviewing the president?

MALONEY: In this case, you felt that you had enough evidence of the president’s intent?

MUELLER: We had to make a balanced decision in terms of how much evidence we had, compared to length of time it would take...

It seems from the testimony above that it would have taken too darned long for the Special Counsel's office to obtain a subpoena to ascertain the truth in the most important investigation of a President in United States history.

It would have taken a minimum of time for the Special Counsel to request a subpoena and the Office of the President to tell said lawyer to go suck an egg. Mueller then would have had additional evidence of obstruction of justice while the American people would have more clearly understood that the President was not cooperating with the investigation and had much to hide. But, "the length of time it would take."

There are several possible reasons that no subpoena for a personal interview was pursued with the guy who said "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing."

Both Mueller's report and testimony elicited Wednesday established that President Trump asked White House Counsel Don McGhan to fire the Special Counsel, then asked him to create a false report to cover it up.  Moreover, there was widespread and intense speculation during most of the investigation that the President either would have fired Mueller (directly or indirectly) or replaced Assistant Attorney General Rosenstein with someone who would do so.

Given that neither the Special Counsel nor his staff was hermetically sealed, walled off from all news media and gossip surrounding the investigation, it is virtually certain that Robert Mueller understood throughout that his days might be numbered. It was widely- including, probably, by Trump's personal attorneys- that the President could not make it through an interview without telling a whopper or two or three, thereby obviously committing perjury.

Obtaining a subpoena mandating the President's appearance would have set the President off.  TheRubicon would have been crossed and Special Counsel Mueller fired.

All that work he and his staff had done, Mueller realized, would have gone for naught. Except, of course, that it wouldn't have, inasmuch as even Nancy Pelosi at that point probably would have realized that impeachment proceedings were inevitable.

Whatever would have transpired in the Senate, a President of the United States of America would have been impeached. The loyal and decorated Marine would have let his Commander-in-Chief (not constitutionally, but still) down.  And maybe that is what Robert Mueller has been trying to avoid all along.

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