As I read the letter from Attorney General Barr yesterday morning, summarizing the Mueller Report, I thought of two seemingly unrelated things:
First was a tweet by James Comey that I noticed several days ago. It has helped me put recent events into, perhaps, a better frame.
The AG’s summary of the Mueller Report was disappointing and pretty much as expected. He starts off with a cagey discussion of the nuts and bolts of the report. I was struck by how precise he was as to the work of gathering information, and how imprecise he was as to its results:
In the report, the Special Counsel noted that, in completing his investigation, he employed 19 lawyers who were assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants, and other professional staff. The Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, issued almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers, made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.
The Special Counsel obtained a number of indictments and convictions of individuals and entities in connection with his investigation, all of which have been publicly disclosed.
“… a number of indictments and convictions” is remarkably vague, don’t you think? Oh, and then there’s this, too:
During the course of his investigation, the Special Counsel also referred several matters to other offices for further action.
Sorry, Mr. AG, but “a number of” and “several” just don’t begin to do justice to the seriousness of what this investigation has uncovered. Especially since your oh-so-precise language about the number of subpeonas, for example, will just give grist to the witch hunt chorus. Well done, sir, well done. You have fulfilled your promises to @POTUS and @GOP.
And then there’s the language around the whole question of obstruction of justice:
Generally speaking, to obtain and sustain an obstruction conviction, the government would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person, acting with corrupt intent, engaged in obstructive conduct with a sufficient nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding. In cataloguing the President’s actions, many of which took place in public view, the report identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent, each of which, under the Department’s principles of federal prosecution guiding charging decisions, would need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to establish an obstruction-of-justice offense.
It’s interesting that the fact that so much of what Trump did was in ‘public view’ seems to somehow negate, for AG Barr, the idea that he was obstructing justice. So, does this mean that Trump’s ignorance and lack of self-control effectively become his shield from any consequences? In what world, other than that of craven white privilege and GOP hypocrisy, does that even come close to working?
I think Mueller was smart to leave the conclusions to the AG and just lay out the evidence, which I am sure is much more damning than what is being depicted in this little letter (else the report would have been released pretty much immediately — or at leased leaked by Devin Nunes’ Cow). The AG is unmasking himself as what we all feared he would be. And ultimately, this mess is going to sit with Congress and then, in 2020, with us — each and every one of us.
And in the meantime, keeping the long view in mind, here’s the other thing I thought of.
I turned from geologic time to Alfred Lord Tennyson’s beloved poem, “Crossing the Bar.” For some reason, I find it comforting to realize that, whatever happens with this Trump debacle, we all, one way or another, are ultimately left with just ourselves and the content of our lives, in the end.
This will be true for me, for you, and for Donald, Jared, Ivanka, Don, Jr. – all the players and bit players who have brought us to this place. Whether you believe in a ‘Pilot’ or not, I do believe in something like karma. And I, for one, know that I’ve no hankering to be Lindsay Graham or Mitch McConnell or AG Barr or Ann Coulter or Tucker Carlson or any of the other enablers and sycophants and inciters, when all’s said and done. So, whenever that happens for Donnie et al, I find some peace in the strong suspicion that it’s likely to be a very rough crossing. (And if there’s a Pilot, they are all going to have some ‘splainin’ to do!)
Crossing the Bar
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
Or, for a more direct, and probably more entertaining, route to the Pilot, there’s always Elton John…