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Response to hedda_foil (Reply #1)

Wed Sep 18, 2019, 03:21 PM

3. How Bill Barr Is Helping Trump Escape the Russia Scandal

The White House would rather have a fight over contempt than betrayal.

by David Corn
Mother Jones, May 12019

On Wednesday, the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee voted to proceed with a contempt resolution against Attorney General Bill Barr. The man installed as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer by President Donald Trump—who had been looking for his own Roy Cohn—had refused to hand over an unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report and had ducked a committee hearing the previous week because Democrats had insisted on allowing the committee’s counsel to question Barr. The contempt vote, committee Democrats say, was a demonstration of Democratic unity (among a caucus divided on the question of impeaching Trump) and a signal to the party’s base and others that the Dems, as they face an obdurate Trump administration bent on stymying congressional investigations, are willing to punch back. But they may be punching in the wrong direction and, consequently, helping Trump escape the Russia scandal.

Barr is a convenient target for the Democrats. He misled the public about Mueller’s report—twice: with the four-page letter he wrote purportedly summarizing the report’s conclusions, and the press conference he held before the report was released. Barr downplayed the evidence related to the question of whether Trump had committed obstruction of justice and said Mueller had handed him the decision on whether Trump had committed this crime. (Mueller’s report said that was a matter for Congress to handle.) Barr said Trump had cooperated fully. (Trump had refused to be interviewed.) He echoed Trump’s mantra of “no collusion.” (Mueller had investigated whether there had been any criminal conspiracy related to the Russian attack on the 2016 election and found nothing to prosecute—and rendered no judgment on “collusion.”) And Barr, unsurprisingly, had not mentioned that Mueller’s report cited numerous lies from Trump and his crew about their interactions with Russia and Moscow’s assault on the United States.

An attorney general spinning for a president who might have criminally obstructed justice is important. But, arguably, it is not as important as what has prompted all this hubbub: the Trump-Russia scandal itself.

The Mueller report reaffirms the core elements of what is probably the most consequential political scandal in American history. Russia, it notes, waged a “sweeping and systematic” attack on a US presidential election. And, Mueller notes, Trump and his campaign, while publicly denying this attack was underway, sought to benefit from it. As the report states, during the campaign, Trump called “this whole thing with Russia” a “total deflection” and said that the notion Moscow was intervening in the election was “farfetched” and “ridiculous”—which is precisely what Russia was claiming at the time. Trump’s embrace and promotion of Moscow disinformation was not a crime—but Mueller included it in his narrative.

Mueller’s report lays out the curious series of interactions between Trump associates and Russia throughout the 2016 contest—showing that the campaign even attempted to establish a back-channel connection to Putin’s office after public reports that Moscow was behind the hack-and-dump attacks mounted against Democrats and the Hillary Clinton campaign. Additionally, the report details how Trump lied to the public about his secret efforts during the campaign to develop a Trump tower project in Moscow. (After 10 months of negotiations, the project fizzled out once Trump essentially secured the Republican presidential nomination in June 2016.) The report points out that Trump continued to lie about this deal after he won the election. It cites a remark he made at a press conference days before moving into the White House: “I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away…We could make deals in Russia very easily if we wanted to, I just don’t want to because I think that would be a conflict.”



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