Seth Abramson @SethAbramson Lawyer. Professor @UofNH. Columnist @Newsweek. NYT bestselling author. Proof of Conspiracy, @StMartinsPress: t.co/iK2Sbuee4H. Analyses @BBC. Views mine. Apr. 17, 2019 10 min read

(THREAD) Media misreporting of the Mueller Report in the lead-up to its release has reached a fevered pitch—and could change the course of U.S. history by misstating the Report's significance. Please retweet widely this explanation of the five gravest errors U.S. media is making.

1/ ERROR: The media says the Obstruction part of the Report is what really matters, and the part Trump and his allies are most worried about.

REALITY: The part of the Report on Obstruction is of limited significance; the focus of media attention should be the rest of the Report.

2/ EXPLANATION: We already know the Obstruction portion of the Report is largely based on *public records and events*—meaning, most Americans who care about the Report at all are already familiar with the broad strokes of the Obstruction case. But the problem is bigger than that.

3/ Most attorneys of repute have said that even the public evidence of Obstruction would be enough to lead to the prosecution and conviction of a non-president—so while the Report could add even more damning evidence to an already damning stock of material, we're already "there."

4/ The Obstruction issue—which Mueller has passed on to Congress for consideration for impeachment, and which two irrelevant parties (for these purposes), Barr and Rosenstein, have opined on to no consequence whatsoever—was always going to be a political calculation by Democrats.

5/ Democrats must decide if they want to abide by the rule of law—which says Obstruction is an impeachable offense, that Trump committed it, and that impeachment is merely an indictment on the Obstruction issue, so that it can be litigated in the Senate—*or* the rule of politics.

6/ By wrongly stating that the focus of coverage for the Mueller Report should be the Obstruction issue, media has given Trump and his team a chance to prepare in advance for coverage of the Report—as they and we already know, more or less, what the Report will say on that issue.

7/ It's for this reason that we're getting all these articles saying that Trump's team is merely worried about being "embarrassed" by additional information in the Report on Obstruction—they don't have to prepare for anything devastating because the media is focusing on old news.

8/ By comparison, as *no one in the media ever accused Trump of executing a pre-hacking or pre-propaganda agreement—a conspiracy—with Russian military intelligence (GRU) or the Internet Research Agency, respectively, the idea that Mueller found *any* evidence of that is stunning.

9/ If AG Barr had said Mueller found "no evidence," or "only a scintilla of evidence," or even "probable cause but no more" on the possibility Trump conspired with the IRA or GRU—that'd be one thing. Instead, he said Mueller simply couldn't establish it beyond a reasonable doubt.

10/ So now you have Barr saying Mueller couldn't establish beyond a reasonable doubt a narrow and unlikely form of collusion that—in fact—neither the media nor average Americans ever really thought occurred. That means the real surprises may well come in that part of the Report.

11/ ERROR: Media is telling us that it's what's in the Report that matters.

REALITY: It's absolutely—and without question—what's *not* in the report that's going to matter. Almost nothing Americans really want or need to hear about is going to actually be *in* the Report itself.

12/ EXPLANATION: As I've noted, the Obstruction part of the Report will be largely public records and events plus—maybe—some surprises that make an already slam-dunk case on Obstruction (which Democrats will bring or not *for political reasons only*) even stronger. That's a yawn.

13/ Meanwhile, the Conspiracy part of the Report will—per Barr—deal with a narrow and unlikely investigative thread that is not only the barest portion of the collusion issue but *not* the thread anyone in media has followed or invested in. Any news there is just a cherry on top.

14/ Here's what reporters haven't told you: the nation can, does, and indeed must have a *very* different standard for impeachment than just whether a crime was committed. Impeaching a president for a felony—which we already know, per the SDNY, Trump committed—is the *easy* case.

15/ *Far more importantly*—and far more relevant to our present situation, as Democrats have already indicated that *even though we know Trump committed felonies*, they won't move to impeach him for it—is the fact that a president can be impeached *for national security reasons*.

16/ If there's a real possibility a president has been compromised by a foreign power—whether you set the possibility at a 25% likelihood, 51% likelihood, or 70% likelihood—that president *must* be impeached, for the nation's safety. That's *not* a criminal law standard of proof.

17/ We *know* that the FBI and CIA have been conducting counterintelligence investigations into the question of whether Trump has been compromised by Russia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Israel, Egypt, or others—and may well still be engaged in those counterintelligence investigations.

18/ If the result of those investigations is a real possibility Trump has been compromised—by blackmail, disloyalty, tradecraft, venality, or by some other means—the Democrats must move to protect the nation. But Barr is keeping all counterintelligence intel from us and Congress.

19/ By the same token, there are *twenty* pending federal and state criminal investigations looking into various felonies that would be impeachable offenses—many of them undergirded by "collusive" acts. And Barr has removed from the Report *any* evidence from these ongoing cases.

20/ So media tells us to focus on the SCO Report, when the sizzle is in the SDNY, EDNY, EDVA, CDCA, NYAG, NJAG, DCAG, MDAG, FBI, CIA, SSCI, NYCDA, and House committees (Ways/Means, Financial Services, Oversight, Judiciary, Intelligence). Some of these have multiple pending cases.

21/ ERROR: Media is treating Thursday's report as the end of Mueller's portion of the Trump-Russia story.

REALITY: The publication of a (heavily redacted) Mueller Report is the *beginning* of perhaps the longest stage of all in the two year-plus saga of the Trump-Russia scandal.

22/ EXPLANATION: The Special Counsel's Office (SCO) *isn't even done with its work yet*. It has sent its staff to other offices to prosecute certain cases or oversee its witnesses' participation in other cases, like the Roger Stone case this fall or the Bijan Kian case this July.

23/ But even beyond that, the SCO just told a federal judge that its grand jury was *still seated* and was doing "robust" work—a statement that's never been explained, but would seem to suggest that, Report notwithstanding, the SCO *may* not be done issuing indictments after all.

24/ Not only can a sitting grand jury hear new witnesses and issue new indictments, and not only can pending cases lead to surprising revelations, but *new cooperating witnesses* could emerge from such cases or grand jury queries that would change *dramatically* the SCO's Report.

25/ Then there's the fact that *Mueller's evidence* is fueling many of the twenty pending federal and state investigations of Trump, his family, his aides, his allies, his advisers and his associates—meaning that the *lawyer's names* have changed but *not* the legal work-product.

26/ Beyond this, there's the fact that Congress will go to court *almost immediately after the release of the Mueller Report* to make sure that it gets the full, unredacted version of it—meaning the bare-bones copy we get Thursday is just an opening sally in months of litigation.

27/ And once Congress gets the full, unredacted Mueller Report, *it* will then use the evidence that Mueller found to determine if there are *new investigative leads* that it needs to follow up on with new subpoenas for testimony and documents. And you can bet that *will* happen.

28/ On top of all that, members of Congress will, beginning Thursday, seek to access the *entire Mueller case file*—which is rumored to be over a *million pages*—to determine if there's any investigative thread that *Mueller* said was beyond his purview but *isn't* beyond theirs.

29/ Lest you think that's some sort of partisan act on Congress's part, realize that it was in fact anticipated from the jump: Mueller had a certain brief; he accumulated some evidence outside his brief; Congress's oversight role was always going to fill in and pursue those gaps.

30/ So in fact there's not a single element of the Trump-Russia timeline or investigative history that's going to end on Thursday—as all existing elements will either transform, be expanded upon, be the site of new litigation, or in some other way blossom into new event horizons.

31/ ERROR: By the way they're writing stories about the release of the Mueller Report—including inside-the-beltway puff pieces on how White House staffers are handling the pressure of its impending release—media tells you to care about internal White House drama.

REALITY: Don't.

32/ EXPLANATION: The White House—low-level staffers, mid-/upper-tier officials, Trump's legal team, members of Trump's inner circle inside the building and out—know this is a long-haul fight, but want you to believe, falsely, that they see this as a climactic moment. They don't.

33/ In fact, many Trump insiders likely believe the Democratic leadership is going to shoot for getting not one but *two* bites at the apple in terms of kicking Trump to the curb: first, an election; second, impeachment—with likely a better Senate—if Trump somehow gets reelected.

34/ In other words, people in the know on *both* sides of the aisle are treating Thursday as one of many, *many* milestones. It's only the *media* who seek to get *you*, the American voter, to see this as a major event. And that's because they want your eyeballs on their screens.

35/ Will Thursday be exciting? Sure. But there's little evidence that it will move the ball much in the larger Trump-Russia narrative—see everything I've said so far—and every reason to think that it's merely another in a long parade of *somewhat* consequential inflection-points.

36/ ERROR: Media frames the issue that imperils Trump's presidency as "Russian interference in the election"—and whether Trump was involved in it at all.

REALITY: We already know most of what we're going to know about Russian election interference—that's *not* the issue anymore.

37/ EXPLANATION: The question—frankly, since January 2017, when our intelligence agencies published a long report on what the Russians did and why and when—has been whether Trump sold U.S. foreign policy toward Russia and other nations for personal profit and election assistance.

38/ No one has accused Trump of knowing of Russian hacking or propaganda *in advance of* them being initiated—though of course it's a possibility. The question is if he induced continued crimes in part because he knew he was receiving election aid and in part due to his venality.

39/ The sorts of crimes that *those* accusations would show up as do *not* seem to be part of the Mueller Report, even though—and here's where American media *really* confuses us—*some* of the evidence Mueller compiled would also be *relevant* to those very different accusations.

40/ There are men—like Elliott Broidy, George Nader, Joel Zamel, Tom Barrack, "MBS", Dmitry Rybolovlev, "MBZ", George Birnbaum, Benjamin Netanyahu and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi—who are *critical* to the collusive acts that could bring Trump down but who may not be in Mueller's report.

CONCLUSION/ Thursday will be exciting—but it is decidedly unclear whether it'll be consequential. Do *not* let the media's excitement over higher ratings—or simply its own confusion about whether Thursday matters, and if so, why—to cause *you* to overestimate its importance. /end

NOTE/ AG Barr is a *political* actor; he appears to be synchronizing his rhetoric, terminology, and document production with Trump and his legal team. So there remains a possibility he has *misled us* about what Mueller will focus on in his report. I acknowledge that possibility.


You can follow @SethAbramson.



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