Wednesday, June 05, 2019
Now that Robert Mueller has closed up shop as special counsel and shot off fireworks at his final press conference, the country can step back and assess the job he did. The results are decidedly mixed.
Mueller made two vital contributions. The first was an in-depth investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. He concluded it was systematic and favored Donald Trump. The second was an intensive examination of possible coordination between the Russians and the Trump campaign. He concluded that no charges were warranted against any Americans.
The country needed those investigations and Mueller deserves praise for conducting them...[snip]...
How do these issues affect Mueller's reputation? First, his entire investigation was based on two fragile pillars, which Mueller never questioned. If they collapse, Mueller is buried in the rubble. The first pillar is the FBI's dubious "origin story." The bureau states, and Mueller explicitly accepts, that its Trump investigation began in late-July 2016 after a low-level campaign volunteer, George Papadopoulos, spoke about Russia to an Australian diplomat in a London bar. Apparently, Papadopoulos also made exculpatory comments, which were not included (as legally required) in a subsequent search-warrant application.
But there is mounting evidence that Papadopoulos was not the first target and July 2016 was not the real starting date. Counter-intelligence investigations of Trump and his associates apparently began earlier and were never disclosed. Neither was widespread illegal spying on Americans by intelligence agencies and their private contractors. Still more surveillance was outsourced to friendly foreign intelligence agencies, which relayed their findings to Washington. Mueller never mentioned these problems -- and possible crimes.
These omissions matter. They illustrate bias against Trump and suggest the report's evidence may be tainted by omission and commission. [snip]
Perhaps the worst self-inflicted damage was Mueller's "not not guilty" statement about Trump. His exact quote: "If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so." That statement is a frontal assault on the oldest, deepest principles of Western law:
*No one has to prove their innocence; everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and that includes the president, Supreme Court nominees, and anyone else; and *Prosecutors should never pronounce guilt before a verdict or assert someone committed crimes or "bad acts" without charging them. Either charge a crime or shut up. Mueller missed an excellent opportunity to shut up.
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