The very air is giddy with the sense of release from Friday’s news-drop announcement that Robert Mueller has forwarded his report to Attorney General William Barr. The media are universally reporting that Mueller has no new indictments up his sleeve at this point. Which means that his special counsel probe is done. The report is the final work-product.
As we noted earlier, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has already issued a threat to subpoena Mueller. He’s threatening to subpoena Barr as well, for good measure.
Although some of the left-wing media have been halfheartedly preparing us for days to get a Mueller report with no “collusion” in it (Politico was still at it less than 24 hours ago), the cable news folks, other than Fox, have been pretty glum this evening (Friday).
Several top Democratic lawmakers and aides tell us privately that they are certain the report will be a dud https://t.co/WrB80mNtxs
— POLITICO (@politico) March 22, 2019
That characterization comports with the first observation about the Mueller report. Mueller was appointed in May 2017, just about 22 months ago. And after all this time, he has produced only what we already know about: indictments and pleas for process crimes; indictments of Russian nationals on Internet fraud crimes that had nothing to do with the Trump campaign; banking and tax fraud crimes by Paul Manafort that had nothing to do with the Russia probe; and referrals for banking and tax crimes by Michael Cohen, which also had nothing to do with the Russia probe.
The one thing we have heard next to nothing about in the last 22 months is counterintelligence relating to Russia — originally the pretext for the whole probe narrative. We know Mueller has questioned a few people, such as Russian “gun rights advocate” and alleged agent of influence Maria Butina. But his team didn’t go anywhere with it; when charges against Butina were eventually brought, it was by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. James Bamford makes a good case that the brief against Butina looks thin. Mueller seemingly didn’t find it to be of counterintelligence significance.
Nor, apparently, did he find the endlessly-flogged saga of Natalia Veselnitskaya to be so; i.e., the Russian lawyer at the Trump Tower meeting on 9 June 2016. Russians and/or others with Russian ties have wandered around on the edges of the drama the whole time – Oleg Deripaska, Felix Sater – but nothing comes of it.
Well, nothing except the revelation that central figures in the narrative, such as Christopher Steele, have much closer connections to some of the Russians (in Steele’s case, Deripaska) than Trump ever had. Hillary Clinton and lobbyist Tony Podesta, brother of Hillary/Obama crony John Podesta, are others in this category.
That’s the second observation about the Mueller probe. I’ve made it before. The probe has served far more to reveal the skulduggery of the people behind the Steele dossier than to reveal anything about Trump. Were it not for the Mueller probe, and the congressional probes that were launched because of the same player-piano narrative tinkling along in the media, there’s a raft of things we wouldn’t know today, from the DNC’s and Hillary’s complicity in the creation of the Steele dossier to the astonishing pervasiveness of the same complicity in the Justice Department, FBI, and State Department (at a minimum).
We also wouldn’t know how all of the individuals involved fit together with the bizarre “DNC hacking” episode, among other events. Look under rocks and you don’t find hide or hair of Trump – but you do find an awful lot of the Democratic and DOJ/FBI characters in the dossier drama.
Nor would we be aware of how many of the same people were involved in both gun-decking the Hillary Clinton emails “matter” and running what amounted to a takedown operation against Trump.
In fact, the list of things we know now, but wouldn’t have without the unintentional clue-machine the Mueller probe turned into, is far too long to tick off here.
Yet there are two additional observations we must make about the real function of the Mueller probe, which has been to expose the people who were colluding against Trump. One is that the impetus for it also sparked the congressional investigations – and it’s because of those investigations, begun in 2017 by Republican-run committees, that we know as much as we do today.
If the public didn’t have so very much information about who did what since early 2016, I’m not so sure we’d be seeing Mueller wrap things up this week. To keep a probe going if he’s got nothing, Mueller would need a lingering air of portentous secrecy. But he has no such thing, because we, the public, simply know too much about what is and isn’t there.
For that, we must thank two members of Congress in particular: Rep. Devin Nunes (D-CA), and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA).
If @DevinNunes didn’t do the digging and release the memo, we wouldn’t have been able to figure out the extent of DOJ and fbi abuse.
— Margot Cleveland (@ProfMJCleveland) March 23, 2019
Nunes has come in for a lot of ridicule and grief; Grassley somewhat less so. But they have done noble service to the Republic. So, indeed, has a small army of independent journalists and media publishers, who have gotten the news unearthed by congressional committees out there when the mainstream media refused to report it.
The other observation is one that ought to anger us. The reason Mueller was appointed in the first place is that James Comey created out of thin air a drive-by impression of bad faith within the Trump administration, by writing a memo alleging that Trump made improper demands of him, and “leaking” it through a friend to the New York Times. Comey said later that his intention was to get a special counsel appointed with this move.
Comey has since been caught in so many conflicts between his own statements, we have good reason to discount any of them that laid the foundation for the Russiagate narrative. It was improperly founded from the beginning. Mueller should never have been appointed at all.
Moreover, Michael Flynn should never have been put on the process-crime rack for anything, considering that by the time he was being questioned, federal authorities already knew everything he had said in the phone calls they asked him about. Not only did they know, but someone in the federal government had leaked the information – a felony crime – to the media.
Even Michael Cohen’s saga, replete as it is with blank, unholy silliness actually involving Cohen, need never have been paraded before us. Cohen was shoehorned into the Steele dossier by people who researched him online and found him a convenient character. He was not “identified” by someone making a legitimate case that Cohen had done anything remotely relevant to the dossier’s purpose of setting up a Russia-involved “counterintelligence” narrative. He never was in Prague, and it’s increasingly clear he got caught early on in Mueller’s steel trap mainly – perhaps only – because third parties who knew nothing about him put him in the dossier.
Probing Cohen then served as an opening for Mueller and a U.S. attorney to read his email exchanges with the president, and probably the president’s staff – and for all we know with other clients of Cohen’s – for months. This, when what Cohen actually did had nothing to do with “Russia,” and led most notoriously to the moronic farce with Stormy Daniels.
From Comey’s “leaked” memo to the sleazy behavior of federal authorities toward figures like Flynn, Cohen, and Trump, and the now-infamous use of the Steele dossier and Michael Isikoff’s Steele-sourced Yahoo article to justify the Carter Page FISA applications, the activities of U.S. government officials have been disgraceful.
And that’s not even counting the use of Stefan Halper to organize a HUMINT operation against the Trump campaign, and the use of unmasking authority by members of the Obama National Security Council to perform backdoor surveillance of it.
Which brings us to the final observation for tonight. The most important thing we know from the long, excruciating drill of the Mueller investigation is that we need the biggest, most intensive, no-holds-barred investigation this nation has ever had of all the activities involved in Mueller’s probe, and every other effort we know of to spy on and lay information against the Trump campaign and the Trump administration.
Plus all the efforts we don’t know about yet. As nice as it would be to declare victory and move on, we can’t. The reckoning hasn’t yet begun. And nothing like this must ever happen again.