Summary of the Mueller Report Introduction, Volume II

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

Introduction to Volume II: The President’s Actions

OK. Remember Volume I was all about the stuff that Russia pulled on the USA during the 2016 election and thereabouts. Some before, some after, but centered around that election, in which the president got elected at the same time the Russians were helping him get elected.

Here in Volume II, it’s all about once how things went down around the investigation because the president and his campaign were being investigated for possibly helping the Russians to help him.

[Now, since the report has come out, the Attorney General and the Deputy (since-resigned) decided that they should make a determination on whether the president obstructed, which our report doesn’t do. But they haven’t released hundreds of pages of analysis or reasoning, which seems damned odd. Where’s their analysis? Anyway…]

A prosecutor usually looks at the evidence available, looks at the law, and decides one way or the other if e thinks e should bring charges. But there’s this Office of Legal Counsel piece of paper that says, ‘Thou shalt not charge the president while e’s president.’ Total bummer, right? I mean, what if e shoots someone on some street in NY? Also, we thought about it and said, ‘If we charge him, it would be really divisive and such. We can’t be the ones to make it all divisive, that’s Congress’ job if they want it.’ But, we wanted to get everything down on paper while everything was still fresh, and investigating is completely what we do, so we did.

But we were investigating, and then we were like, ‘Hmm.’ It occurred to us that if we can’t charge the president, it wouldn’t be right to say, ‘You took the cookies, but we can’t charge you yet.’ I mean, even if we could prove it, we can’t charge on it. So really we just have to get the evidence down, and then it’s up to Congress, or maybe up to the next Attorney General after the president isn’t president. But it’s not up to us! So there!

But by the way, even though we can’t charge him and don’t make an analysis under the usual rules, if we were sure the president was innocent we would say that. We do NOT say that the president is innocent. We can’t say that, based on the very thorough evidence in this volume. But we can’t charge him, or accuse him. It might be a good idea for Congress to read this and possibly think about it (not as hard as they should really think about what to do about all the crap that Russia pulled, as documented in Volume I, but still very hard).

Volume II Summary

Trump lied about his Russian connections

Trump’s response to the fact that Russia messed with America in 2016 was to act like they didn’t. He also lied about not having any business or connections to Russia, despite the fact he had just been trying to build a tower in Moscow (which is in Russia).

Trump was weird as fuck about Flynn and firing Comey

Michael Flynn lied to the FBI, to Pence, and to other officials about talking to the Russian Ambassador about America’s sanctions meant to punish Russia for their efforts to sabotage the 2016 elections in favor of Donald Trump. Right after Trump was told that Flynn lied, he goes to FBI Director Comey and tells him he needs loyalty. And then on Valentine’s Day, one day after firing Flynn, he tells an advisor that firing Flynn would end the investigation.

Also on Valentine’s Day, he tells James Comey that he hopes Comey will let Flynn go. Not to the Lonely Heart’s Club dance, but to let him go scot-free despite lying loudly and proudly. He tried to get a deputy national security advisor to write down that Trump never told Flynn to talk to the Russian ambassador—the deputy declined, because she didn’t know if it was the truth.

Trump didn’t want the investigation to be very independent

Around that time, Attorney General Sessions was mulling over whether he should recuse himself, and Trump told While House Counsel McGahn to tell Sessions not to recuse (which isn’t how recusal decisions work). Trump was pissed when Sessions recused, and he told advisors that he should have an AG that would protect him (which isn’t how attorneys general work). He talked to Sessions that weekend and told him to unrecuse.

After Comey told Congress that the FBI was investigating Russia’s 2016 attacks, Trump called on the intelligence community, asking them to shout from the rooftops that Trump was innocent of any wrongdoing in the 2016 attacks (not how the intelligence community works). He called Comey and asked him to shout from rooftops the same way (not how the director of the FBI works).

Trump fired Comey because Comey wouldn’t be a lackey

In May, after Comey refused to tell Congress that Trump wasn’t under investigation, Trump fired Comey. He made them include in the termination letter that Comey said he wasn’t under investigation. The White House lied and said Comey was fired for other reasons, and they had had Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein write a memo to justify it, but Trump had decided to fire him before that. Trump told the Russians that firing Comey had taken pressure off him.

The appointment of Special Counsel and Trump trying to fire him

That’s when we came in. In order to insulate the investigation from interference or potential conflicts, the special counsel is a step-removed investigatory office. Trump, upon hearing that we were investigating, told advisors it was the end of his presidency. He demanded that Attorney General Sessions resign, but when Sessions submitted a letter of resignation, Trump did not accept it. He claimed our office had conflicts of interest, but his own advisors told him such claims were wrong and that the office had been cleared by the Department of Justice.

Upon hearing reports that our office was charged with investigating obstruction, Trump told McGahn to call Rod Rosenstein and have the Special Counsel removed. McGahn refused, prepared to resign if it came to it.

Trump tried to curtail the independent investigation

Trump met with his former campaign manager, Lewandowski, later in June and dictated a message to be delivered to Attorney General Sessions. That message would have ordered Sessions to publicly shout from the rooftops that our investigation was very unfair, that Trump hadn’t done anything wrong, and that Sessions would meet with us and restrict our investigation to future elections only. How or where Sessions would procure said time machine was not included in said memo. But, for the record, none of that would be kosher for any attorney general to do under orders from any president.

A month later, Trump asked Lewandowski about the status of the message, and he was told it would be delivered soon. The message was then passed-on to a senior White House official, but that official also did not want to deliver the message, so it was never delivered.

Trump tried to have people hide evidence

Once the media started asking about the Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and agents of the Russian government, Trump ordered aides not to disclose e-mails that set up the meeting and personally edited a press statement by Trump Jr. to obfuscate the context and purpose of the meeting. When asked by the press, Trump’s personal attorney lied about Trump’s role in editing the statement (not how attorneys are supposed to work).

Trump tried to have Sessions take over the independent investigation

Trump called Sessions at home during early summer of 2017 to again press him to take charge of the investigation. In October, he asked Sessions to investigate Hillary Clinton. Again, neither are lawful things for any president to ask nor would it be cool for attorneys general to act on such orders. In December, Trump told Sessions that if he took over the investigation, he would be a hero. Sessions held firm on his recusal.

Trump tried to have evidence falsified about his attempt to fire the Special Counsel

Upon press reports in early 2018 that Trump had ordered McGahn to fire the special counsel, Trump told his officials to forge a record, that is, to fabricate a document that would serve as an official lie. He also pressured McGahn to publicly lie. He questioned McGahn as to why he had been forthcoming with the investigation on these facts. This shit is fucked up.

Trump acted cagey as fuck about the various cases (Flynn, Manafort, and redacted but you know it’s Roger Stone)

Upon Michael Flynn’s withdrawal from cooperation with the president’s lawyers, said lawyers left voicemail for Flynn seeming to request cooperation and a heads up if Flynn became aware of incriminating evidence against Trump. During Paul Manafort’s trial, the president sang his praises, and upon his conviction, stated a belief that testifying against coconspirators should be outlawed. No, no, no, no, no.

Trump did not react well to Cohen cooperating

That pattern of anti-lawful rhetoric continued with Michael Cohen, to whom the president was nasty when he found out that Cohen had become a cooperating witness. Cohen had lied to the United States Congress about the timeline regarding the Trump Tower Moscow project, and Moscow is in Russia. According to Cohen, during preparation to lie before Congress, Trump’s personal attorney told him to stay on message and not contradict Trump about the project. He also discussed pardons with Trump’s personal attorney. Once Cohen began cooperating, Trump called him a rat. Can this be real?

While the office is prevented from indicting, and for that and other reasons cannot conclude whether the above offenses constitute crimes, we can say a few things about all of it.

For one thing, a few of the actions Trump took are normally okay, but he did them in ways or under circumstances that call them into serious question. Also, we didn’t find the president was involved in any underlying crimes specific to the Russian election interference (but we didn’t rule it out, either). Also, we are carefully making no comment about underlying crimes not related to that specific set of events. Finally, a lot of the stuff Trump did that we can’t outright call obstruction, but it’s very potentially obstruction (if we had an obstruction detector, it would be beeping and we’d have to pretend that the beeping wasn’t annoying us), happened in plain view. It doesn’t really change anything, but it’s weird that he was basically wearing a T-shirt that said “crime in progress” on it.

There was a pattern here. Phase I was Trump trying to pretend he wasn’t under investigation, up until he fired Comey and we got here, at which point (phase II) it was more run-of-the-mill obstruction-but-for-it-being-the-president.

It’s 73 weeks until the 2020 election. Will the House start an impeachment inquiry? I think of that question like a chart, where the horizontal is time and the vertical is probability of impeachment.

From early in the administration, it was already pegged to say, 20% chance, which is way higher than the average president, especially as the House was controlled by Republicans. With the 2018 elections, it jumped to maybe 40%, just because the party in control changed. With the closure of the Mueller investigation into Russian interference, it jumped to right around 60%, maybe a little higher.

But with each further attempt to forestall Congress’ investigations, it inches a little higher. (There’s a similar chart for Senate removal if he were impeached; it’s around 10% and hasn’t moved significantly either way.)

In text form, the chart of likelihood of impeachment:

100 |                                    
 90 |                                    
 80 |                                    
 70 |                                    
 60 |                              ,---^`
 50 |                             /      
 40 |                     ,------'       
 30 |                    /               
 20 |-------------------'                
 10 |                                    
 00 |                                    

Too Many News

It’s obvious why everyone’s gone so existential of late, from Hope Hicks to Attorney General Barr. With Brexit entering its 50th season and Israel having to repeat elections, it feels like deja vu all over again. Is this real? How can this be real?

And nobody won the spelling bee and Game of Thrones is gone and Calvin ate all that cereal just to get the stupid beanie that broke! Ugh!

Not to mention New Hampshire banning the death penalty while a myriad of conservative states pass new and decayed attempts to ban abortion. The existence of so many problems does (or does it not?) amount to an existential problem.

That we can’t even deal with climate change, is mine, I think. That day by month by year by decade, the politicians admit it exists (the sane ones, anyway), but we don’t actually do anything much. The news media runs stories, here and there, but it’s too much of a creeper to sustain its rightful place in the news cycle, so it gets washed over.

I mean, the White House tried to make a whole Navy vessel, the USS John S. McCain, perform the old Monty Python skit, “How Not to be Seen.” And Mueller finally quit while saying, ‘Look the Russians screwed with us, maybe do something about that.’ But the Republicans only heard, ‘Trump maybe or didn’t obstruct but I can’t tell you so you figure it out.’ Which is important in its own right, but the headline of that story is really still about the damned Kremlin.

But the president wants everything to be about him, so of course he keeps bringing up impeachment. And yeah, we know that you were promised the full presidential experience, Donnie, but there’s a lot going on right now so maybe just chill out? Dude has no chill. Turns around and says, ‘Pass my trade deal with Mexico,’ right before he turns around again and says, ‘Also, tariffs on Mexico until they solve the Reimann hypothesis.’

Meanwhile, more carbon goes up in the air, more infrared light gets hugged back to the earth by it, the earth traps a little more heat, the ice melts a little more, the ocean gets a little more acidic, the storms get a little stronger, the future coast gets a little bit smaller.

Just too many news.

The Two Sides of the Assange Indictment

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been re-indicted with violations of the Espionage Act. Journalists reacted to this, predictably, with worry that it will portend more charges against journalists for publishing classified information that it’s in the public’s interest to know. The intelligence community and state department types reacted, again predictably, pointing out that WikiLeaks was willfully negligent in publishing, failing to protect sources and methods at all.

The answer lies in the middle, of course. Assange is utterly condemnable. WikiLeaks beside him. Both for their poor showing of integrity, and for their assistances of foreign governments to the detriment of reason and democracy. Meanwhile, the long-standing traditions of the First Amendment are not so easily abandoned. Bad actors, acting in bad faith, to do bad things, are still afforded the protection of that hallowed law.

While there should be obvious civil liabilities for publishers that do real harm to individuals, the bar for criminality must remain set at active participation in the illicit gathering of classified or otherwise private materials. While the indictment of Assange indicates the prosecutors believe there are instances of that, and they should be able to seek to convict on those counts, the acts of mere publication, however unwise, should be protected.

The fact of a despicable individual not having a book to be thrown at them does not grant them even a modicum of redemption. However much one may hold bloodlust for the deserts menu to be trotted out, however vengeful the public attitude, and however blueballed it may find itself, the facts of a person’s character remain unchanged. A scoundrel is not more so for wearing an orange jumpsuit, and many innocents have worn them or the stripes.

The integrity of Julian Assange depends upon him alone. The integrity of the First Amendment, infinitely more important and more valuable than Assange, depends on the collective effort to see it used as wisely as possible, but to see it defended against the overreach of prosecutors under any and all circumstances.

The governments of the world, employing confidential and covert sources and methods, would do well to properly compartmentalize that information so that no organization or individual could meaningfully corrupt their capabilities. The technical capabilities to mask documents and databases, to keep informants and operatives safe, must be taken as seriously as possible (including against the corrupt interests of a lunatical president and a pliant attorney general).

As damaging as the WikiLeaks releases have been (alongside other acts of espionage against the nation), they could have been far less so if the government and military did more to protect identities.

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.