Mueller investigation was no 'witch hunt'

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CNN's Shimon Prokupecz says President Trump could be considering pardons based on his statements in response to Attorney General William Barr's summary of special counsel Robert Mueller's report.

Posted: Mar 25, 2019 5:10 AM
Updated: Mar 25, 2019 5:10 AM

A witch hunt.

That's what President Donald Trump called the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation over 250 times, according to Factba.se. He attacked Mueller over 80 times on Twitter alone, trying to undercut the investigation, summoning up imagery of a "deep state" conspiracy, calling cooperating witnesses 'rats,' dismissing the special counsel's office as "13 angry democrats" and retweeted images of the special counsel in prison.

Now the report is in. A four-page summary has been released by Attorney General William Barr. Suddenly, the independence and integrity of Robert Mueller seems self-evident. He's being lauded by some Republicans while some Democrats are left feeling frustrated. We still need to see his full report. But despite all the unhinged attacks, the process appears to have moved ahead beyond partisan politics.

The president is vindicated on the question of Russian collusion. The special counsel "did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election inference activities." This is good news for our country.

The report does not backtrack on the fact that Russia did attempt to influence our elections, as the intelligence communities have long said and as the President repeatedly denied. Barr's letter does not begin to explain why so many members of the Trump orbit lied about contacts with the Russians or why the President is so reluctant to criticize Vladimir Putin. The role of Wikileaks or other third parties -- as indicted by the indictment of Roger Stone -- will still need to be seen when and if the full report is released.

On the question of obstruction, this is far less of a vindication for Team Trump. The attorney general quoted the special counsel's report saying that "while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him." Note that this is in direct conflict with the President and the White House's insistence after the topline results of the report were released that it represented a complete "exoneration."

It explicitly is not that. Instead, the special counsel essentially punted the question of obstruction of justice to the Justice Department. We'll need to see the full report to get a sense of what evidence led Mueller to say there may or may not have been obstruction. It's more than a little odd and might have been a very different conclusion if the independent counsel statute had not been allowed to expire.

But Mueller reports to the Trump justice department and Attorney General Barr and Rod Rosenstein seem to have quickly decided that it is not worth prosecuting, consistent with Barr's 19-page memo dismissing obstruction claims before he became AG. This is an especially impactful decision, because we know that obstruction of justice is an impeachable offense from Republicans who applied that standard to Bill Clinton.

For all the attacks on the Mueller investigation's duration and expense, we can now see that it was relatively brisk and efficient compared to previous presidential investigations.

The Mueller investigation lasted 22 months and cost some $25 million, resulting in criminal charges being brought against 30 defendants including six Trump associates.

By comparison, the Watergate investigation lasted four years and cost $26 million. It led to the imprisonment of senior Nixon aides and the resignation of the president.

The Reagan era Iran Contra investigation lasted seven years and cost $75 million resulting in indictments of senior administration aides and the conclusion that it could find no evidence that President Reagan had broken the law but found evidence that Reagan had "knowingly participated or at least acquiesced' in covering up the scandal.

And Ken Starr's Whitewater investigation lasted five years and cost $40 million producing a 300-page public report resulting in the impeachment of President Clinton for lying and obstruction of justice about an affair.

So let's put to bed the idea that the Mueller investigation was a waste of time and money. The questions it investigated could not be more serious to our sovereignty and national security.

What's next?

Given what we know now, cheerleaders for impeachment will find their wishes frustrated. Independent voices have been saying we need to see what the Mueller report said on collusion with Russia. Now we know. No one should be an impeachment enthusiast. Impeachment is a political, not a legal, process but it would be tremendously destructive for the country and only polarize us further. That seems off the table. That's a good thing for the country.

But while the question of collusion should now be considered clear, there are still some 17 other investigations and cases ongoing, including the Southern District of New York.

House Democrats will continue to follow the money between and look into questions of whether the Trump organization was laundering money for Russian oligarchs. We don't know yet whether the Mueller report looked into this or referred the matter to a different jurisdiction.

House Democrats may also seek to subpoena additional background information and testimony. Over the weekend, Doug Collins, ranking Republican on House Judiciary, argued that "it's not the Department of Justice's job" to turn over info to Congress to inform investigations. But back in the Obama administration, House Republicans successfully sued to get the Department of Justice to hand over documents after they ignored a congressional subpoena.

The biggest question will be when and if the full Mueller report will be released to Congress and the American people. Given that the White House is claiming complete vindication, there should be no partisan resistance to releasing the report. Attorney General Barr says that is his intention absent restrictions about grand juries and national security. But there's no reason to believe that anything will go smoothly where our polarized politics are involved.

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, President Trump's initial comments indicated no appreciation for the impartiality of the Mueller investigation. He called it an "illegal takedown that failed" -- and seemed to indicate that there may be pardons coming for some of his convicted aides.

Make no mistake, the Mueller investigation was the opposite of illegal. It was a triumph for the rule of law under extreme partisan pressure, especially from the President. And if anything we may find that Mueller's hands were tied because of his commitment to the letter of the law and the special counsel statutes.

But in the President's vindictive rather than vindicated response to the four-page summary, there is every sign that our civic stress test will continue. But despite all the political assaults, the rule of law proceeded on its own. To clear up the remaining questions -- and possibly to offer additional vindication for the President -- we will need to hope that the vote of 420 members of the House of Representatives to release the full report is respected. The American people deserve no less.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 515208

Reported Deaths: 10290
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34981557
DeSoto33342432
Hinds32718643
Jackson24896391
Rankin22553404
Lee16439245
Madison14949283
Jones14155248
Forrest13829260
Lauderdale12305324
Lowndes11348193
Lamar10687140
Pearl River9739244
Lafayette8867143
Hancock7847132
Washington7555169
Oktibbeha7228138
Monroe7055179
Pontotoc7026110
Warren6883178
Panola6783135
Neshoba6740210
Marshall6705142
Bolivar6468151
Union642898
Pike5941157
Alcorn5912107
Lincoln5539136
George510680
Prentiss507785
Tippah495483
Itawamba4877107
Scott478799
Adams4775125
Tate4774117
Leflore4747144
Copiah458095
Yazoo457892
Simpson4565117
Wayne443472
Covington434895
Sunflower4318106
Marion4295112
Coahoma4243109
Leake414090
Newton396082
Tishomingo386194
Grenada3786109
Stone365966
Jasper341266
Attala339590
Winston317992
Chickasaw317667
Clay312778
Clarke301695
Calhoun286349
Holmes272589
Smith269952
Yalobusha244647
Tallahatchie232353
Greene225149
Walthall222166
Lawrence220241
Perry214456
Amite210257
Webster206548
Noxubee188843
Montgomery182157
Carroll175241
Jefferson Davis174043
Tunica163539
Benton153239
Kemper145441
Choctaw137027
Claiborne134639
Humphreys132239
Franklin126430
Quitman107828
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson96934
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 847064

Reported Deaths: 16157
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1163702006
Mobile743001381
Madison53394737
Shelby38395371
Baldwin38140589
Tuscaloosa36096642
Montgomery34535782
Lee25639264
Calhoun22620519
Morgan22503408
Etowah20043520
Marshall18812317
Houston17754425
St. Clair16928358
Limestone16178220
Cullman16113304
Elmore15927295
Lauderdale15042307
Talladega14234301
DeKalb13033270
Walker12119380
Blount10756193
Autauga10531157
Jackson10191195
Coffee9431192
Colbert9356210
Dale9035192
Tallapoosa7283202
Russell709665
Chilton7077170
Escambia6961144
Covington6956195
Franklin6355108
Chambers5791142
Marion5428130
Dallas5299210
Pike5124109
Clarke485586
Lawrence4841130
Winston4784110
Geneva4649136
Bibb435294
Barbour370080
Butler3445101
Marengo342793
Monroe338066
Randolph337367
Pickens334689
Fayette331385
Henry320866
Cherokee319563
Hale318589
Crenshaw261577
Washington256852
Cleburne255460
Lamar253355
Clay251669
Macon245465
Conecuh193262
Coosa185647
Lowndes178268
Wilcox178138
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Perry141840
Sumter139741
Greene130245
Choctaw93328
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