Summary of the Mueller Report Introduction, Volume I

Note: this is written in the voice of the SCO/America, but it is a summary based on their summary.

Introduction to Volume I: The Russian Attacks

The report meets what the regulations said we have to do now that we’re done. First off, the Russians messed with us in 2016. We picked up on it in June of 2016, around when the Democrats announced they got jacked by the Russians. The Russians began putting out the info they jacked that month, and then they switched to using WikiLeaks.

After WikiLeaks started pushing the stolen Democrats’ stuff, Australia called up the FBI about something they heard from a Trump campaign guy called Papadopoulos. Back in May 2016, that guy told an Aussie that the Trump campaign had been told by Russia that Russia would help by releasing dirt on Hillary Clinton. The FBI said, “What the fuck?!” and opened an investigation to see if anyone in Trump’s campaign was coordinating with the Russians on this illegal bit-jacking operation.

The report tells you the two main ways Russia screwed with us. They did a bunch of stuff on Facebook and Twitter, both with ads and with fake accounts. That stuff was all about helping Trump and hurting Clinton. But they also did this stolen document stuff with the Democrats and Clinton’s campaign. Both the Trump campaign and Russia knew what was up, but we couldn’t find enough evidence to decide that they were actually doing it in concert, live from Carnegie Hall.

Volume I Summary

The Russians have this group they call an Internet Research Agency, but it doesn’t do research, it does bullshit.

Social Bullshiting Campaign

In 2014 they sent people to the USA to lie about being not-Russian and to [Redacted]. But the main thing about them is the bullshit. Back in 2014 and 2015 they just shitpost to mess with America, but in 2016 they turned their bullshit cannon on the election.

You’d be having a discussion about which sports bra was the best, and then someone would say, “Fuck Hillary,” out of nowhere. And you never did find out which sports bra was the best, and it’s all Clinton’s fault because she pissed off someone to go on the forum to derail the conversation. But it wasn’t Clinton’s fault at all. It was this Internet Bullshit Agency, lying and spreading bullshit. And the sports bra companies didn’t even realize they missed out on sales thanks to these Russians.

They also used social bullshit to organize fake rallies for people to yell at each other so they wouldn’t buy sports bras in person.

Stealing Democrats’ Stuff Campaign

While they had huge dump trucks of bullshit pouring over the series of tubes, they were also crawling through those same bullshit-laden tubes to steal from the Democrats. In March 2016, the Russian army started working to break into the e-mail of Clinton campaign staff, including the bigwig John Podesta. In April 2016, they broke into the campaign arms of the Democrats in congress and they broke into the Democrats’ national organization.

They stole all sorts of stuff from those computers, and then in June 2016 they used fake personas of DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, in order to publish what they stole. And of course, they used that WikiLeaks crap too.

When they used WikiLeaks, a redacted person who is probably Roger Stone told the Trump campaign all about it. That’s around the time that Trump told Russia on national television that he wanted them to do crimes to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails from when she was Secretary of State, but he later said he was “jk jk lol.”

The Russians and the Trump campaign

There were a bunch of times that the Russians and the Trump campaign people met up. We found some evidence, including that they got drunk and watched Netflix, but not enough to say they actually chilled.

In 2015, Trump’s business wanted to build a tower in Moscow, Russia. He signed documents to do it, and his people talked with Russia about it a lot. They kept talking even through the campaign to at least June 2016.

In the spring of 2016, that Papadopoulos fellow talked with a guy named Misfud in London who was connected to Russia. That’s the guy who told Papadopoulos that Russia had dirt on Clinton. A week later is when Papadopoulos told the Aussie about it. Misfud and Papadopoulos wanted to have a meeting between the campaign and Russia, but there’s no known evidence it ever did.

In summer of 2016, Trump’s older son Donald, Jr., his son-in-law Kushner, and the head of his campaign named Manafort all met with Russians because the Russians were said to have “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton].” This was only five days before the Democrats announced the Russians had stolen from them. The next month the Russians put out the first dirt from their thefts.

There were other things that summer. One Trump campaign guy with a history with Russia went there, but he got pushed out over the summer because of media coverage of his associations with Russia. The Manafort guy worked on a plan to let Russia steal more of Ukraine. He did that in concert with a guy connected to Russia, and he gave the same guy Trump campaign polling data and other indications of how they wanted to handle the 2016 election.

After the 2016 election, the Russians got busy trying to influence the Trump transition. There was a meeting between a mercenary guy named Prince with a Russian bigwig named Dmitriev in a place called Seychelles. A friend of the son-in-law Kushner who worked with the Dmitriev fellow on a plan for US-Russian relations, and the friend delivered copies to Kushner, who passed them on to a guy named Bannon and a guy named Rex Tillerson.

There was also the stuff with a guy named Flynn. The outgoing administration had seen the bullshit that Russia had done, and they put sanctions on the Russians for doing it. But the Trump guys, including Flynn, didn’t want Russia to retaliate, and they told them that. Russia listened.

They did some other stuff not mentioned in the summary, like trespassing on Florida election servers in at least two counties, and attempting to do so in several other states. But that’s most of the big stuff, anyway.

The Test of Congressional Oversight

People (such as the president) seem to think congressional oversight is all about finding witches, but in fact it’s not about finding witches at all! Oversight is the process whereby the congress reviews activities of the federal government, in order to improve the federal government.

It’s not only about when the executive breaks the law, taking funds that were appropriated for one purpose to use them for another purpose, or using a federal office to try to derail a properly-predicated federal investigation. It’s also for making sure that our laws work properly, that we appropriate funds where they’re needed, that we expand programs that work and curtail or rework those that don’t.

Oversight is a big deal. Think about kids in school. We could send all the kids to the library every day. It’s full of books, they could read them. We wouldn’t need teachers or tests or anything. Just stick them in a room with some books, right? Wrong. Doesn’t work out. The teachers and tests and principals provide oversight of the kids’ educations, so that if a kid doesn’t understand something, they can try again.

But as with a teacher in a school, oversight only works when there’s feedback. The teacher needs the kids to take tests and quizzes in order to see if they learned the material. If the kids all said, “We’re not doing it. We’re going to court so you can’t test us on this,” it wouldn’t work. So if the president says that congress can’t see some things, that’s a problem for oversight.

There are some things that congress can’t see. They don’t get to know what the president’s lawyer advised him about, because of one type of privilege. Another type of privilege means the president can get advice from staff. That’s called executive privilege. But these privileges are narrow. They’re like how teachers can’t ask what your religion is. Some stuff gets to stay private and can’t be used on the test.

But anyone who wants a kid to learn, or wants a government worth a damn, should favor reasonable and careful oversight. That’s one of the reasons people elected many Democrats to the House of Representatives in 2018: they felt that the Republicans were not doing enough oversight. The Democrats have to continue overseeing this presidency, as they’re bound to by their commitment to their voters.

And they will. They may impeach Mr. Trump, the equivalent of a detention in school, if he doesn’t take his tests. They won’t have a choice. You can’t run a school where a kid refuses to learn or to take tests.

Toward a Candidate Consensus on Climate

The climate is a foundational issue. Beto O’Rourke deserves praise for putting a policy out there. Jay Inslee deserves credit for making it the central issue of his campaign.

The basic problem isn’t hard to understand. We burn carbon fuels, and that releases CO₂. The carbon accumulates in the atmosphere, warming the planet. It accumulates in the oceans, making them more acidic. We have to burn less carbon.

Given we still want to have stuff from far away, and that transportation is one of the largest sources of pollution, transportation is a big target to change. Electrification of transport, coupled with renewable generation of electricity, is the logical step toward carbon neutrality.

But we also know that humans are stubborn, particularly wealthy humans that make a lot of money selling carbon. Economists recognized that getting them to go along is difficult because they can simply lie about the science, buy politicians (or even the whole Republican Party), and stall any real change. So, economists propose a variety of pricing systems, whereby carbon emissions are priced.

Think of it like a gold rush. Someone shouts, “There’s gold in them-thar hills,” everyone goes for it. Already there’s some gold in decarbonizing, but there’s less than there would be if the actual costs of carbon were recognized as part of the economy. By adopting some form of carbon pricing, the greed of man is leveraged to turn gas guzzlers into sippers or even into electrics or hydrogen fuelcells.

Think of it like a tower-building contest. Right now, the contestants are paid per foot, so if you have a tower that’s barely over one foot-mark, it would take more effort to get to the next one. By pricing carbon, it’s like changing it to being paid by the inch. If you can add six inches, it doesn’t make another foot, but it’s still worth it. And you add up all the six-inch additions that all the tower-builders can add, and it’s a lot more than if just a few of them could add a whole foot.

But the main thing is focus. We need leaders, both in the White House and in the congress, who will speak often about the need to address the issue. It’s time for legislation. It’s time to reject anyone who calls it a Chinese hoax.

The consensus is to make carbon more expensive, and in doing so to make alternatives, including reductions in use, clean energy, and carbon sequestration more attractive.

What Should Candidates Talk About?

With the 2020 primary campaign still new, recent newsworthy questions involved issues that, while possibly illuminating about how candidates feel, don’t really get at where they want to go. Questions of imprisoned felons voting and whether the president ought to be impeached don’t really speak to the purpose of a president.

On the other hand, promising to pardon those convicted of federal possession, while welcomed, only serves a small minority of drug offenses and doesn’t stop the flow of new cases and new convicts. Which is part of the whole problem with election coverage and candidacy—that a president’s power is what it is, doesn’t get at the legislative problems we have, doesn’t tackle the problems in the states.

Put another way, if we chose our congress and state governments like we do the president, by national vote, the rhetoric of campaigns and the questions often asked by cable news would make a lot more sense. But we do not.

A more realistic stump speech would be along the lines of revoking the global gag rule, cancel the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, end the ban on transgender service, and other such policy tweaks. But, important in their own right, none of them would solve our larger problems. Getting anywhere anymore will take legislative acts. That means finding some way to get Republicans’ heads dislodged from their hinds. At least enough of them to actually move the country forward, where they’re currently dragging us backward.

Given the quandary, what should candidates talk about?

Talk about unions. Tell the people that rulings like the one the SCOTUS just handed down against class arbitration require employees of firms big and small to join together so that the fact of the strike can overcome the myth of judicial economy.

Talk about climate. Tell the people that driving costs more than the $3 they pay per gallon, and that the most valuable thing in the world is the world itself. That if meaningful progress toward carbon reduction is stalled by the oil trusts, the oil trusts get busted.

Talk about science. What’s a recent study, finding, discovery that made you worried or excited or anything at all? What has science done in your own life, be it technology, medicine, or even just plain old hope?

Talk about people. We’re living our lives spinning through space, and to make it all work out we need government and we need better government. What does that look like? Not sticking it to corporations or more regulation, but how to we make the process better? Talk it up, because government is one of those giant leaps for mankind that seems to get trashed a lot by the Republicans. Governments are people, my friend. They need to be properly cared for, watered, etc.

Talk about progress. What are the outcomes we should expect if the government works for the people. What are the numbers that show we’re not improving and what are the ones that show we are, and what’s the difference in government between how we handle those things.

In other words, talk about the fabric of humanity. Stop focusing on these silly short-sighted news cycle issues. Talk about the stuff that’ll still matter in a post-Trump world. Those are our gravest challenges. Those are the things most worth our time.

Impeachment: Let the Record Develop

Having read most of the Mueller Report, the facts in Volume II are quite damning, and they point toward impeachment. But not right away. The proper course is for Congress to further develop their record of the events presented in the report (and to consider other matters not part of the report). Once the record is developed, it may confirm the need to impeach.

There’re political risks with impeachment for both sides. But there’s also a question of whether Trump might actually benefit from impeachment—if not politically, then at least in terms of criminal liability.

The Senate, a majority-Republican body, is unlikely to convict even though the facts be plain. That public airing of facts, along with a false dawn of a Republican jury acquittal, could protect him from prosecution once he is no longer president. Not directly, of course. Double jeopardy analyses would not apply to a Senate trial. But the publicity and opportunity to tune a legal defense might be in his favor.

What’s more, Trump’s personal liabilities aside, he probably doesn’t suffer a greater political cost from impeachment than he will already suffer from the report per se. It’s damning as is.

That’s not to say that anyone can expect Trump to welcome or to call for his own impeachment. There are reasons against. For one, the proposition of Trump testifying—given his fraught relationship with the truth. A Senate trial might just be another perjury trap for the man. Another being the precious Senate time taken up on the matter when they could be confirming more William Barr types.

The Republicans, not Trump, probably run the greater risk from a Senate trial. If the case is made and they acquit, that will not look good for a party that wants to claim the mantle of justice. Particularly, the firing of James Comey with the timeline from the report makes the case bad for Republicans. The fact that Trump was wrestling with his own appointed, party-confirmed Republicans to curtail the investigation only makes it a harder charge to dismiss. This is a historically weak position to defend—dead simple in terms of actually whipping the votes for acquittal, but with no ammunition to back it up on the stump.

The Democrats’ risk is merely looking like they are bringing a political action—a brush Trump has tarred them with for over two years now. They’d like a fig leaf of bipartisanship in voting to impeach. But if the record is strong enough, they don’t need it. The self-evincing weakness of no Republicans joining a motion to impeach on damning evidence will only play against the Republicans in the Senate all the more.

If there’s a bipartisan bone in a Republican representative’s body, they should join the call when the time comes.

To be clear, that evidence is in hand.

And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.

So sayeth Attorney General Barr, in an attempt to excuse the attempts at obstruction by Trump. As I read it, Barr makes the case of corrupt motive right there. Acting out of frustration and anger to try to lift the cloud of an investigation is exactly intentionally corrupt obstruction. Sincerity does not lessen the intent, but only sharpens it.

If Trump’s opponents were behind the investigation, that does not allow obstruction. If an investigation is undermining, the courts are there. To circumvent the courts and dispense with an investigation through firings is corrupt! If there are illegal leaks, they are to be investigated and dealt with appropriately. None of what Barr says lifts an ounce of guilt off the president’s head.

Trump had every opportunity to voice and tweet his concerns to the people and to Congress. He chose, instead, to seek the firing of the special counsel, only to be rebuffed. He could have been empathetic to the investigation’s founding, but he fired FBI Director Comey in a particularly—and intentionally—disruptive manner.

The report makes the case of intentionally corrupt attempts to obstruct. Barr himself betrayed an alternative, but equally damning, theory of Trump’s intent. There is no clean reason Trump could have to undertake the actions documented in the report.

Let the record develop. There is a case for impeachment, but there’s equally a case to push for real reforms now and let the next president’s attorney general make the call on an indictment. Real justice will always be about more than cells and shackles. It requires more than trials and investigations can give us. It demands we change the conditions that allow or promote crime.

In the case of obstruction, that might include reporting requirements in the Department of Justice and the White House. It might include changes to the Vacancy Reform Act. A new Special Prosecutor law.

But impeachment is always on the table. It’s in the Constitution for a reason.

The 2020 election will take place in 80 weeks.