The only thing I would add is that this has *always* been the question. Trump has never stood accused of signing a before-the-fact agreement with the IRA or the GRU. His critics have always said that he traded policy for financial gain. So this is not in any sense a new argument.
1/ Flynn, Barrack, Gates, Broidy, Nader, and others are under investigation in the EDNY, CDCA, and elsewhere in what amounts to bribery investigations. These bribes were on behalf of Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Who the heck do people think was being bribed? Only one answer.
2/ Russia never needed or sought Trump's agreement to hack or spread disinformation, just as Trump's campaign didn't need to sign a form to encourage, profit from, and spread any hacking and disinformation. But *buying a foreign policy* costs money—and *multiple* nations *spent*.
3/ What Trump critics were excited about with the Mueller Report was it promised to resolve the *money-for-foreign policy* issue. If—as Barr claims—Mueller only looked at whether Trump had an agreement with the IRA or GRU, and farmed everything else out, that's a different story.
4/ Since reading Barr's letter, my opinion has been that Mueller rightly referred Obstruction to Congress for consideration for possible impeachment proceedings, and resolved—by saying it can't be proven beyond a reasonable doubt—a *narrow* allegation *no one* made against Trump.
5/ So when people asked if I'm disappointed in what [Barr says] is in Mueller's report, my answer is that on Obstruction what happened is exactly what most people expected—a Congressional referral—and the report appears not to address the collusion issue *as it has been alleged*.
6/ When media was wrongly predicting the date Mueller's report would come out—something it did for *18 months*—it *routinely* said Mueller farming out cases was a sign he was almost done. *Now* we're told, "Ignore those farmed-out cases!" Uh, *no*—that's where the action will be.
7/ Do I disagree with Mueller's [apparent] assessment that his brief was narrow—i.e., he could only look at a single charge (conspiracy) with two entities (the IRA and GRU)? Yes and no. Yes—inasmuch as his appointment letter didn't say that; no—inasmuch as his strategy was sound.
8/ By "farming out" the *actual* allegations of collusion Trump is facing—not the ones he *fantasized* he'd face because he knew he was not guilty of *those*—Mueller has ensured that the *real* collusion investigations (the ones fitting the facts) are protected from interference.
9/ As a lawyer, I don't romanticize lawyers—I'm not interested in the Mueller-as-superhero narrative or Mueller-as-mastermind narrative. I'm saying—on a mundane point—that Mueller faced *serious* challenges as an investigator, and he simply responded as a good investigator would.
10/ Look at it this way: Mueller put every investigation where it *belongs*:
(A) OBSTRUCTION, with Congress for impeachment consideration;
(B) CONSPIRACY, to bed (as no one was alleging it on the terms investigated);
(C) COLLUSION (besides conspiracy), well out of Trump's reach.
CONCLUSION/ Media—and Trumpists—want a unified narrative: Trump wins, his critics whine. That's fun for media—or Trumpists—but bears no relation to reality. Reality: Obstruction is in Congress for impeachment consideration; 20 ongoing investigations are looking at collusive acts.
PS/ There *is* a thread whose resolution is unclear, that being a charge that straddles conspiracy (lay: collusion) and bribery (lay: collusion)—aiding and abetting after the fact. Did Mueller resolve *that* issue? And the most important date on that question is: August 17, 2016.
PS2/ *Any* resolution of the pending "aiding and abetting" issue, which is certainly one I *have* addressed—and credit to @DavidCornDC for being all over it also—has to wrestle with how Trump's legal status with respect to Russian crimes *changed dramatically* on August 17, 2016.
PS3/ And *that's* why Trump's chief Senate ally—Lindsey Graham—*and* his chief executive-branch ally—William Barr—tag-teamed with one another at Barr's recent Congressional hearing to *lie* about August 17, 2016 and say that "Trump's campaign was never told" about Russian crimes.
PS4/ When you realize that not only was Trump told *explicitly* about Russian crimes but *explicitly* that his presidential campaign was being infiltrated, and he then did *nothing* but double down on all he'd been doing, you understand *exactly* what Barr and Graham were up to.
PS5/ Graham and Barr tried—and failed—to keep Obstruction from Congress; tried—and succeeded—at quashing as insufficient in evidence (merely as falling short of the highest standard) a "conspiracy" claim no one ever actually made; and now they're going to work on the *big* stuff.
PS6/ *Every* newspaper and media outlet should've led with Barr and Graham deliberately misleading the nation—we could call it lying—about what Trump knew of Russian crimes and campaign infiltration and when, as that's the *only* game that matters at the moment, but they blew it.
PS7/ So right now, here are the grades for MUELLER, MEDIA, and TRUMPISTS:
MUELLER: B+. He did everything he set out to do, but interpreted his mandate more narrowly than even safeguarding his cases would've required, and let those seeking to undermine his work set the narrative.
PS8/ And as for MEDIA:
MEDIA: D+. It doesn't even know what the story it's reporting on is—or who its final arbiters are. So it misreported Barr opining on obstruction as significant—it's meaningless—and misreported "conspiracy" as an issue we'd all been waiting to see resolved.
PS9/ TRUMPISTS: C+. They're winning the media war, but not because they know what they're doing—rather, because media is inadvertently assisting them. They set the narrative on obstruction but couldn't block it from Congress, and their "conspiracy" bait-and-switch is on a timer.
PS10/ So what does this all add up to? Pretty simple: media and Trumpists want you to think a *lot* has happened lately—but the fact is, *almost nothing has*. Obstruction is headed where it always was; collusion is being investigated outside the public eye in ongoing probes. /end
You can follow @SethAbramson.
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