Donald Trump

Vox Symposium on Attorney General Barr's Summary of the Mueller Report

Fifteen legal scholars weigh in, including the VC's own Keith Whittington, and myself.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Vox has posted an insta-symposium on the release of Attorney General William Barr's summary of the special counsel Robert Mueller's report on the Russia/Trump investigation. The symposium includes contributions by fifteen legal scholars, including the Volokh Conspiracy's own Keith Whittington and myself. Here's an excerpt from my contribution:

Barr's summary states that the special counsel did not find that Trump or members of his campaign colluded with Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential campaign. This… finding appears to exonerate Trump on the crucial issue of "collusion…"

On the question of obstruction of justice, Barr's summary quotes the special counsel's report as stating that "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him." Barr goes on to state that he and Rosenstein have concluded that the evidence "is not sufficient" to conclude that Trump committed obstruction of justice.

The equivocal nature of the obstruction finding emphasizes the importance of publicly revealing as much of the report as possible, so that Congress and the public can make an informed judgment. While Justice Department policy forbids prosecution of a sitting president, Congress can still pursue impeachment proceedings against him.

Unlike a criminal trial, impeachment does not necessarily require proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In the view of most legal scholars across the political spectrum, impeachment is also possible in cases of illegal conduct or abuse of power that are not crimes.

Today's revelations were beneficial to Trump's cause. But he is not out of the woods yet. Multiple state and federal investigations into possible lawbreaking on his part are still ongoing. Congress would also do well to further investigate such technically non-criminal abuses of power as the president's cruel "family separation" policy, which has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal court, in a June 2018 decision….

The Barr letter is an important development. But it is far from the end of this particular road.

Keith Whittington also has a post about the Barr letter here. Among the extensive commentary elsewhere, I recommend pieces by Ken White, David French, Noah Feldman, Cass Sunstein, Benjamin Wittes, and Marty Lederman, among others.

The issue of whether Trump committed obstruction of justice will continue to be a subject of debate for some time to come. We won't know for sure unless and until the full Mueller report is released to the public, and quite possibly not even then. I will leave most of that discussion to those with greater expertise on obstruction than I have. But I would note, as a number of experts have already pointed out, Barr's key argument for the conclusion that there isn't sufficient evidence to prove obstruction is flawed. Barr contends that it is unlikely that Trump committed obstruction if he did not also commit the underlying crimes related to collusion.

But even if Trump did not engage in any collusion, he could still have wanted to impede the investigation for fear that it would uncover other illegal activities on his part, or that of his associates. And, in fact, the Mueller investigation did uncover evidence leading to the conviction of several close Trump associates on a variety of charges, including his longtime lawyer (Michael Cohen), his campaign manager (Paul Manafort), his first national security adviser (Gen. Michael Flynn), and others. That doesn't by itself prove that Trump committed obstruction of justice. Far from it. But it does undermine Barr's most substantial argument for concluding he did not.

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  1. Seriously Ilya, go get medical help, or f* off and stop posting your deranged ranting here.

    1. (a) I didn’t know there was such a deep shade of black.
      (b) I didn’t know they made pots in such a color.

      1. Find one post of his about Trump that is not TDS-tinged.

        Then get back to me.

        1. You’ve got a mighty low threshold if you think *this* shows TDS.

          1. Still waiting…

            1. Apparently your reading comprehension is pretty low too. *This* article has not even a hint of TDS.

              Why don’t you show where the TDS is in *this* article? Show me wrong. I say there is none.

              1. It’s right there in the last paragraph. Suggesting that Trump could still have fired Comey to conceal other crimes we also have no basis to believe happened.

                Yeah, and maybe he fired Comey to keep him from discovering where Jimmy Hoffa’s body was hidden. Makes as much sense.

                That last paragraph was written by a guy who just doesn’t want to admit there’s no basis for thinking Trump obstructed justice.

                1. “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump told the Russian foreign minister and U.S. ambassador on May 10 during an Oval Office meeting, according to a transcript of the meeting read to The Times by a U.S. official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

                  You were saying…………

                  1. Well, Comey was a real nut job. But, really, at this point you’re still swallowing whole anything an anonymous source says, as long as it makes Trump look bad?

                    1. Two Points :

                      (1) Nobody likes Comey; he’s a sanctimonious prig. But insulting JC doesn’t change the fact that Trump fired the head of the FBI to take pressure off the Russian investigation. Then bragged about it. To the bloody Russian Ambassador, no less.

                      (2) It’s hard to take your objection to this “anonymous source” seriously, given the White House didn’t deny the quote when the Times printed it. Instead, they launched a manhunt for the leak source. Also remember Trump admitted he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he fired Comey. This was on tape, on national TV, in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt two days after the firing,

                      Maybe you can write off Trump as an anonymous source?

                    2. Sure, now prove that he didn’t fire Comey to keep the guy who’d botched the Hillary email investigation from botching the Russian election meddling investigation. All you’ve got him on record saying was that it was about the Russia investigation. Not HOW it was about that.

                    3. You above : “there’s no basis for thinking Trump obstructed justice”

                      (1) I think we’ve moved beyond that to “insufficient evidence to charge Trump with obstructing justice”. Progress is always good, eh?

                      (2) “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” doesn’t fit well with your benign interpretation.

                      (3) We agree Comey botched the investigation into Ms Clinton’s emails. I suspect we disagree substantially on just how – with me being correct, you being incorrect. and it easy to document & establish that distinction. ‘just say’n……

                    4. 1. No, we haven’t as long as you think the basis for the obstruction is firing Comey. The president has the legal authority to fire the FBI director at any time,with or without cause.

                      Given that he has the legal authority to do so, it is not at all clear that this could form the basis of an obstruction charge, even if you had proof of corrupt motive, which you don’t. There is no evidence of corrupt motive that goes beyond mere speculation.

                    5. As a general matter, obstruction of justice is not obviated by an action being otherwise legal.

                    6. issue is, any firing, reassignment, or demotion of any law enforcement official or DOJ by a superior could then be considered “Obstruction of justice,” no matter the circumstances.

                    7. When the full report is released I’m certain they’ll be other evidence listed supporting an obstruction of justice charge, even if the total weight of facts remains inconclusive. But Mr Bellmore’s “there’s no basis for thinking Trump obstructed justice” is pretty hard to maintain when the president brags to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov & Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that he fired Comey to take off the “great pressure” of the russian investigation. That is what you define as “basis”, full stop.

                      Please continue to offer every conceivable alternate explanation possible – while keeping a straight face or not. I still hold Brett Bellmore’s statement disproved, even without any additional evidence to follow. Yes there were grounds for thinking Trump obstructed justice, just like there were grounds for investigating connections between the Trump campaign, and a Russian government determined to help Trump’s election.

                    8. ” I think we’ve moved beyond that to “insufficient evidence to charge Trump with obstructing justice”. Progress is always good, eh?”

                      Nope. The letter says, “…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…”

                      So the Barr letter doesn’t just claim that there is insufficient evidence of obstruction, it exonerates him.

                    9. “”I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” doesn’t fit well with your benign interpretation.”

                      Why not? There are a variety of scenarios where Trump could have believed that the Comey firing took pressure off him, but didn’t have corrupt intent when firing him.

                      To name a few:

                      Trump thought firing him would take pressure off, but fired him for unrelated reasons like the AG’s report, the handling of the Hillary thing, etc.

                      Trump fired him for refusing to say publicly that Trump wasn’t under investigation.

                      etc.

                    10. grb, if Trump wanted to end the Russian Investigation because it was interfering with his diplomatic responsibilities, and not to hide an illegal conspiracy, would it be Obstruction? Your entire belief is that the only valid reason to hamper the investigation was due to illegal works. The report stated it found nothing illegal. So why is it not possible that Trump simply wanted the investigation ended so he could do his constitutional job? Is it any worse than Obama’s hot mic moment about waiting until after the election?

                  2. “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump told the Russian foreign minister and U.S. ambassador on May 10 during an Oval Office meeting, according to a transcript of the meeting read to The Times by a U.S. official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

                    You were saying…………

                    Comey signed off on using Hillary oppo research in a FISA warrant without informing the court about it.

                    Not exactly the action of the most stable person.

                2. Yes, a complete disgrace. Why did the country need this hack to investigate and then leave it to the AG to make the final conclusion 2 years later? Wasn’t this supposedly his whole job as “special counsel”?

                  1. Well, the hack couldn’t prove anything against Trump, so the “best” he could do was smear him a little on the way out, leave the TDS sufferers with some slight thread to hang onto.

                    That’s what that “not exonerate” was all about. Just one last dig at Trump on the way out.

                    1. I think it’s hilarious that deadenders are still trashing Mueller even now. Maybe they can’t help themselves, like the bite of a dead rattlesnake. While Kavanaugh’s nomination was underway, I noted special counsel investigations have an almost universally bad reputation, regardless of which side’s ox is gored. Kavanaugh’s – of course – was easily the most sleazy, useless, and partisan – showing greater contempt for the law than any other example.

                      While pointing to this obvious fact, I observed Mueller looked to be one of the best. He refused to leak, didn’t wage political jihad in the press, carefully shut down his investigation around elections, and – as is now apparent – finished his work with exception speed given the broad scope. At this point he appears to have drawn tight and conservative conclusions. Compare and contrast his plus-two years to Brett’s plus-three years “investigating” the suicide of Vince Foster. The former was a professional who understood the responsibility & gravity of his post. The latter was a hack.

                    2. He should be trashed today and tomorrow and the next day. Rather than exercising some degree of professional honesty and integrity he essentially punts on the question of obstruction and leaves it to the AG? Pathetic. He also used the Clinton campaign propaganda as the basis for this farce of an investigation, which was, apart from being a lie, an intelligence, not a criminal matter and something that was never covered by the special counsel regulations. And these “special counsel” regulations should themselves also be trashed as not based on any clear statutory grant of authority and unconstitutional.

                    3. You’d think clearer if you got a grip.

                      (1) Just guessing, but I assume Mueller punted on obstruction charges because so many people (see above) think it’s constitutionally impossible for a president to be charged. Thus Mueller decided it was a political issue, and not in his remit. I’m not sure how you can fume over that, but you seem to enjoy fuming……

                      (2) The original counterintelligence investigation of contacts between Russian intelligence and people associated with Trump was not started by the Steele Dossier. That canard has been disproved so many times the truth should have pierced even the thickest propagandistic haze.

                      (3) Mueller’s investigation of course came later, and has led to us learning (a) Donald Trump Jr was told the Russian government wanted to support Trump with very high level and sensitive information during the campaign. DTjr responded, “I love it” (b) Trump’s campaign manager Manafort gave private briefings on insider information to an operative connected to Russian intelligence, (c) Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed creating a secret secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, to shield their discussions from US intelligence, (d) Trump repeatedly & brazenly lied to the American people about his business dealings in Russia. And so much more…..

                      A lot to investigate, huh? Mueller must have been remarkably efficient.

                    4. 1) WTF? What the hell is a special counsel supposed to do but make an independent assessment free from political pressures. I thought the whole point of appointing this impeccably credentialed, man of unrivaled integrity and honor as a special counsel was that he would conduct an independent investigation when circumstances rendered it inappropriate for an investigation through normal DOJ channels. But he passes the decision to the AG? If the AG could have rendered an unbiased decision all along then why the bloody hell did we waste some much time with this Mueller buffoon, who did his best to create circumstances subjecting the AG and president to further questions.
                      2) Could be the corrupt Obama FBI/DOJ relied on other questionable meas/sources, but the dossier sure was essential for their FISA fraud (and given the focus of the Mueller charade it probably played the center role in that crock, but time and future disclosures will tell)
                      3)What are you referring to? The set-up meeting in Trump tower? Sad.

                    5. “relied on other questionable means/sources….”

                      Someone connected to the Trump campaign drunkenly bragged to a foreign diplomat that he had advance knowledge of Russian government dirty tricks against Ms Clinton. That diplomat informed his country, which informed the US.

                      Now don’t you feel stupid?

                    6. Your number 2 proves your ignorance grb.

                    7. Well give my point 2 is a documented fact – which you have no response to – I’ll take your “proof” in stride…..

                    8. Mueller should be trashed for his entire career. Using over aggressive prosecutorial methods that border on abuse should be admonished, not respected. This is the guy who caused the suicide of a veteran in the anthrax case. Mueller allowed great misconduct on his major operations in order to get a win. It is heavily inferred that Flynn and Cohen both flipped by prosecutors threatening family members. That should never be applauded.

                    9. Jesse, I disagree with almost every comment you make here, but you are completely right about Muellers’s FBI and Bruce Ivins. I watched FBI agents drain an entire large pond in the Frederick Watershed because they had an anonymous tip that evidence had been hidden there. It’s why I’ve never had any confidence at all in this investigation.

                      Okay, now back to disagreeing.

  2. Whether or not a President can obstruct justice by exercising the powers of his office might be an interesting legal question, but Trump isn’t going to be impeached for exercising the powers of his office to effect an investigation with no underlying crime. If Republicans or Democrats want Trump out of office, they will have to do it the old fashioned way, by beating him in the next primary or election.

    1. He had the corrupt motive of Making America Great Again.

    2. Twelve,
      Did you mean effect or affect? Both make sense…but mean quite different things, of course.

      1. It’s so hard to keep track of which is which, sometimes I suspect the dictionary companies have gotten together on gas-lighting people over which is which.

      2. Feel free to smack me with a ruler if I got it wrong.

  3. There is very good authority that the President is the chief prosecutor and can prosecute or not as he wishes. This makes is very difficult to accuse a President of obstruction of justice. (For instance, it is a felony to illegally assist someone to enter the US, but that statute has not been enforced once.) Here is what a former law clerk to liberal Justice Blackmun had to say during Obama presidency:

    “The power to prosecute or not does not rest with the FBI, or the “career prosecutors” in the DOJ …, or even the attorney general of the United States. It rests with the president and the president only. He is the one in whom Article II of the Constitution vests “the executive authority” (of which criminal prosecution is a key component). He is the one the Constitution charges to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” He is the one who can render moot any pending or future federal prosecutions (even prior to indictment?more on that later) by pardoning individuals. And he is also the one who can declassify documents (in a world of overclassification that tends to sweep in things already in the public domain), essentially rendering innocent conduct that may before have been criminal. He controls both classification and criminal prosecution, the two powers central to the Clinton email incident.”

    For link bing 3 Important Lessons to Take From Director Comey’s Statements About Clinton’s Email July 2016 Vikram Amar

    1. All correct….which is why we have the alternative remedy of impeachment.

      1. I agree.

  4. Anything from Vox is automatically as suspect as anything from InfoWars, and Somin should be ashamed for participating in anything that site does.

    Although it is nice to see that Somin has already swallowed the latest anti-Trump talking points. “Trump’s not guilty of anything we spent years accusing him of, but I’m sure he’ll be guilty of SOMETHING! We’ll get him yet, and his little dog too!”

    1. Yup. Hey, just because we haven’t figured out what he’s guilty of yet doesn’t mean that he’s not guilty.

    2. Anything from Vox is automatically as suspect as anything from InfoWars, and Somin should be ashamed for participating in anything that site does.

      What do you think of Donald Trump’s appearance with Alex Jones on Infowars, clinger?

      1. “What do you think of Donald Trump’s appearance with Alex Jones on Infowars, clinger?”

        Well, let’s see. The current President claimed that the former President was illegitimate because he was born in Kenya. Prominent members of the opposition party claimed that the current President was a Russian spy. I’d say that our country is being run by a bunch of fucking assholes. On both sides.

      2. What do you think of Obama’s appearance with a YouTube personality whose claim to fame was bathing in milk?

  5. Somin is thoroughly incorrect, because all of the obstruction “evidence” is things that Trump did publicly. Basically, firing Comey and writing various tweets.

    Comey being James Comey, the director of the FBI while the Trump campaign was spied on, on the basis of Clinton oppo research that the same James Comey said was salacious and unverified.

    1. How do you know the extent of the evidence, let alone the evidence that made it into Mr. Mueller’s report to Mr. Barr’s indirect claims about the evidence, clinger?

  6. Any investigation which is undertaken by any person in the Justice Department without the effective consent of the President is unconstitutional. This means that, if the President exercises his discretion to curtail an investigation, there is nothing to obstruct.

    1. Congress would like to talk to you for a moment….

      1. Congress is welcome to consider it an impeachable offense, it does not change the lack of a crime being committed. Impeachment is not limited to crimes in the legal sense..

        1. I meant Congress can conduct their own investigation.

          1. And the Executive could stone wall them just like they do now.

  7. “so that Congress and the public can make an informed judgment.”

    Did you type that with a straight face?

  8. A blog post about a symposium in which 15 legal scholars give their opinions on a 4 page letter that is itself a summary of the primary document of interest. Yeesh. I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing as a symposium that Illya would turn down.

    Dear professor Somin,

    We are writing to inquire whether you would be interested in contributing to a symposium on…..

    Reply: I’m In! Here’s my post with embedded links to my previous posts, which contain embedded links to previous posts (aka the Somin self-referential link hole). The AG’s summary is clear evidence that Americans suffer from political ignorance and should vote with their feet (see past 2,000 posts). And immigration is a humanitarian issue!

    The only thing that needs to be provided is a link to the AG’s letter and patience while awaiting more material from the report. But pundits gonna pundit.

  9. If they couldn’t get enough evidence to indict a ham sandwich, there wasn’t obstruction of justice. In order to actually exonerate someone of a crime like obstruction of justice you’d have to be able to read their mind.

  10. If they couldn’t get enough evidence to indict a ham sandwich, there wasn’t obstruction of justice. In order to actually exonerate someone of a crime like obstruction of justice you’d have to be able to read their mind.

    1. Exactly. If a Grand Jury indictment means Guilt, then not being indicted means Innocence.

      1. A grand jury indictment means there was significant evidence beyond conjecture that a crime occurred. Without it you are effectively at the level of conspiracy theory.

        1. I’m not sure what a grand jury has to do with this case. All we know for now is that William Barr doesn’t think there is enough evidence to indict. I’m sure you would’ve been just as accepting of a decision by Eric Holder not to bring charges against Obama.

  11. Oh look Somin again shows he can’t set aside his seething hatred infecting his thought process on any subject about anyone who opposes open borders. What a surprise.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    . We won’t know for sure unless and until the full Mueller report is released to the public
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Can’t believe I have to explain this to a law professor of all people but formal investigations aren’t/shouldn’t be a data free for all. As others have astutely pointed out how happy would you be if a rival wanted dirt on you for themselves or out in the open for professional or personal reasons and all they had to do was baselessly accuse you of child molestation over and over again and demand the full report be released publicly ‘for safety’.

    The taxpayers are not the Dems personal PR and research piggybank

    1. What you say is true for those of us who aren’t President of the US and subject to impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors. The President is answerable to Congress for all of his conduct, and thus Congress should have all the information uncovered by the investigation. And obviously the President is answerable to the American people as well. And if there is anyone can’t set aside seething hatred, it is pretty much every Trump defender who comments on this blog.

  12. Reality check time.

    Most peeps agree something like 80%+ of the Mueller investigation contains grand jury stuff which can’t be released without jumping though lots of hoops. There is also legit confidential stuff in terms of sources and methods which is not gonna be released. Trump also has some EP claims that courts will find legit (not saying all but EP does exist).

    Bottom line is a lot of the Mueller report can not be released as a mater of established law and it is time to stop pretending otherwise.

  13. Trump: You should stop the investigation because it’s a witch hunt because there was no collusion.

    Mueller: There was no collusion. But Trump may have obstructed the investigation by saying it’s a witch hunt because there was no collusion.

    99% of people investigated for anything, from Hillary Clinton, to Elon Musk, to Bill Clinton say they should stop the investigation because there was no wrongdoing. Absent lying to a grand jury the way Bill did, or destroying evidence the way Hillary did, saying the investigation is bogus is not obstruction, it’s a constitutional right.

    1. Since we don’t really know what is in Mueller’s report, I guess it’s legit to make stuff up and then ridicule the stuff you made up.

  14. “But even if Trump did not engage in any collusion, he could still have wanted to impede the investigation for fear that it would uncover other illegal activities on his part, or that of his associates. And, in fact, the Mueller investigation did uncover evidence leading to the conviction of several close Trump associates on a variety of charges,”

    None of which actually implicated Trump in any way. Getting a date wrong in an interview, tax evasion for income earned before working for Trump, stuff like that.

    The sort of thing you could nail the associates of any recent President on, if you sicced a prosecutor with an unlimited budget and very little in the way of scrupples on them.

    1. Trump’s been around the block in GOP and Democrat circles. He knows that when government bureaucrats want to get you, they get you.

      Trump does not drink or smoke. Pence does not hang out with women not his wife.

      The President and VP are very aware of who they are and what their political enemies are capable of. Trump knew that his hands were clean and that the lefties could not control him because of this fact.

      1. Trump does not drink or smoke. Pence does not hang out with women not his wife.

        What kind of yahoo figures those are persuasive points in a world in which Trump lies about paying hush money after rawdogging porn stars and cheated on his wives (and, apparently, his taxes), and Pence is a superstition-addled bigot from Outer Gooberland?

      2. Trump doesn’t drink because his brother was an alcoholic, and didn’t see any point in taking that chance. And only idiots smoke.

        1. And only idiots smoke.

          That explains the tobacco statistics from Trump Country.

      3. “Pence does not hang out with women not his wife.”

        Actually, he said he was scared to be alone in a room with women not his wife. Really more pathetic than admirable.

    2. Trump did say near the beginning that investigating his business was a red line that Mueller had better not cross, NYT 7/17/17:
      SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia ? is that a red line?

      HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

      TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t ? I don’t ? I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows?…

      I think everyone whose ever dealt with any complex business transactions is vulnerable to federal prosecutors looking for a ham sandwich.

      1. That’s the real reason for the 4th Amendment — to stop the king from plowing through his opponents papers at will, looking for anything illegal, which, them often being people of means, almost certainly means finding something.

        “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide.” No, the problem is The People being subject to a dictatorship because the king keeps disabling opponents with yet another tool of tyrrany.

        1. Having said that, this was cosmic justice for all his “lock her up” rhetoric.

          1. It was more cosmic justice for dropping it after the election, instead of going after her for real.

            1. You guys should go after Hillary during the next two years. After that, it is likely to be a long time before clingers get control of the Department of Justice back.

              Which, of course, means Trump is far from out of the water.

              1. “You guys should go after Hillary during the next two years. After that, it is likely to be a long time before clingers get control of the Department of Justice back.”

                I thought that the Dem’s line was that the media and FBI’s unfair focus on the emails unfairly cost Hillary the election.

  15. In this case the real crime was the investigation, premised as it originally was on nothing more than the Steele dossier, a smear job the Hillary campaign had paid for. There was never any valid basis for the investigation in the first place, and they knew it.

    1. The “investigation” was not based on the “Steele” dossier, it wasn’t an investigation and Steele didn’t write it.

      It started as the Obama administration spying on its political opponents, not just Trump, using government surveillance powers; laundered by the “independent contractors”, inc Fusion GPS, with access to NSA data, and it morphed in early 2016 into a Brennan operation to “dirty up” Trump and his associates by dangling bait in front of them to try to get them to do something foolish or illegal. Mifsud, who was doing the Papadopoulos dangling is not a Russian operative, but a British one. Halper who did the Carter Page dangling is not a humble academic, but a long term FBI and CIA hired hand. And the Russkie lady who met Don Jnr was hired by Fusion GPS. It’s all totally made up, and Mueller knew that from Day One of his own investigation.

      1. Yes, I know all that. Guess I shouldn’t have omitted the sneer quotes around “investigation”.

      2. +1000

      3. I find that implausible.

        Surely the combined might of the US intelligence agencies could have found more than the made up bag of crap that was in the Steele Dossier.

        If not they are in worse shape than I thought.

        1. I’ve no doubt the intelligence services could have found more dirt on him. But they weren’t working for Clinton yet. I expect the NSA has somewhat mixed loyalties, they don’t want to burn all their capabilities just to get one crook with pull elected.

          Right now their blackmail capacity is devoted to making sure Congress never shuts them down.

        2. “combined might of the US intelligence agencies”

          Jim Comey and John Brennan were in charge. Our intelligence agencies likely can’t find water if its in the glass on their desk.

          1. Brennan as Emily Litella on MSNBC: “Well, I don’t know if I received bad information but I think I suspected there was more than there actually was. I am relieved that it’s been determined there was not a criminal conspiracy with the Russian government over our election.

            I guess you have to give Brennen a little credit there, he is not a bitter ender still in the bunker like Schiff, Nadler, and Waters in Congress, or Maddow, Greg Sargent, etc. in the media or our own Ilya Somin.

            As far out on the limb as he got, and as hard as he was sawing on it, now he’s trying to work his way back to the trunk.

        3. Surely the combined might of the US intelligence agencies could have found more than the made up bag of crap that was in the Steele Dossier

          They actually found some very interesting stuff – they found Michael Cohen in Prague. But unfortunately the wrong one. That’s the tell that they were searching real SIGINT data for target names, and not just keeping track of Michael Cohen the taxi medallion doofus.

          It’s like the denouement in Dial M for Murder. The fact that Ray Milland knows where the key is, is the trivial detail that proves he’s guilty.

      4. I think this is right. This was the insurance policy in case Trump won.

    2. premised as it originally was on nothing more than the Steele dossier, a smear job the Hillary campaign had paid for. There was never any valid basis for the investigation in the first place, and they knew it.

      This is total bullshit. And who is “they?”

      Oh, wait. I know. It’s the all-purpose conspiracy behind everything Brett doesn’t like.

      1. Well bernard, what was the basis then? If it wasn’t the bogus Steele Dossier, was it Papadopoulos’ drunk meanderings in a bar regurgitating what had already been reported in scores of newspapers?

        That was the fallback story, but it couldn’t fly either.

    3. premised as it originally was on nothing more than the Steele dossier, a smear job the Hillary campaign had paid for

      When wingnuts forget their place on the autism spectrum, they visit the Volokh Conspiracy to speak nonsense.

  16. But even if Trump did not engage in any collusion, he could still have wanted to impede the investigation for fear that it would uncover other illegal activities on his part, or that of his associates. And, in fact, the Mueller investigation did uncover evidence leading to the conviction of several close Trump associates on a variety of charges, including his longtime lawyer (Michael Cohen), his campaign manager (Paul Manafort), his first national security adviser (Gen. Michael Flynn), and others. That doesn’t by itself prove that Trump committed obstruction of justice. Far from it. But it does undermine Barr’s most substantial argument for concluding he did not.

    Jesus dude, your delusions are clearly debilitating for you.

    Trump’s advisors were convicted of lying, tax evasion, and other crimes 100% unrelated to Trump being President.

    1. Except in the sense that nobody would have had any interest in prosecuting them for any of it if Trump hadn’t been elected President.

    2. They lied, repeatedly and consistently, about matters involving Russia and the Trump campaign.

      Best case is that they are the guiltiest-looking innocent guys a prosecutor even encountered.

      Why? Congressional investigations will provide our best hope to learn the answer.

  17. Oh, we’re still treating Vox as a serious source of, well, anything?

    Well, as serious a source as Ilya has been for the past several years now.

    Poor Ilya, the TDS really screwed you up badly.

    1. If there is one thing the bigoted right-wingers who love the Volokh Conspiracy can’t stand, it is a (in this case, the) genuine libertarian.

      Carry on, clingers. So far as movement conservatism can carry anyone or anything in modern America, that is.

      1. A genuine libertarian supports bureaucratic coups and intelligence agencies spying on the political opposition.

        1. Who is in the market for pointers on libertarianism from bigoted, statist right-wing malcontents?

      2. Will you ever try to post something coherent Arty?

  18. “… so that Congress and the public can make an informed judgment …”

    Yeah throw a lot of raw data out to the public and Congressional spinmeisters, cults and sects of whom believe …

    … The Truth of the “Killian Documents” supplied to Mary Mapes by Bill Burkett that resemble nothing in the TANG archives from the office of Col Killian.

    … That there should be no reflected light in the shadows of the moon landing photos because the moon has no atmosphere.

    … The Stone JFK movie staging of two men back-to-back in equal height chars in a courtroom proves the bullet tracks in the assassination autopsies don’t match up when the actual seating arrangement in the motorcade limo was totally different.

    … That because some carrier pilots liked to flame the pilot waiting behind them for takeoff, John McCain caused the 1967 USS Forrestal fire, when the positions of the planes involved show that could not have happened.

    … That the vast 2006 escalation of the Mexican Drug War was caused by sunset of the US Assault Weapon Ban in 2004, and not by Prez Calderon sending the Mexican Army against the cartels in 2006.

    The “Trump Colluded with Russia” and “Trump is Putin’s Puppet” cults will cut’n’paste the full report as convenient to their apriori faith and dogma.

  19. Please show some consideration . . . Somin is in mourning.

  20. I’m no Trump fan, but I find it eminently annoying when those who energetically dislike Trump can’t separate themselves from MSM BS tropes.

    To wit: separating the kids from the adults at the border… old policy, in practice a long time, not Trump’s. Ok, so it happened also on his watch. Has Ilya ever managed *anything*, any organization? It’s entirely possible that Trump wasn’t even aware of this pre-existing policy before it became a drama cluster, complete with mendacious media photos, et al.

    Ilya and several ‘conspirators’ are just too eager to assail Trump. Unlike other pundits, at least the ‘conspiracy’ by and large has also panned the previous numbskulls in the presidency, but didn’t leave a sense of gunning for them, which… as I said, I’m not a fan of Trump, but I do find him less constitutionally criminal than any president for a long time: Less than Obama, less than either Bush, and less than Clinton. However, is vividly a threat to DC’s sick business as usual. At least he’s stirring the crud off the rich, settled bottom of the pot.

    I would implore Somin to examine that nasty little burning thing in his gut that allows him to play along with the nastysphere pertaining to… well… anything. If I have one complaint about the conspirators as a whole, it’s that they are altogether too tied to the corrupted thinking of the mainstream and what I call Messtablishment. Somin seems to provide, all too often, outright apologeticals for them.

  21. I guess “Mueller is Coming” didn’t work out as expected. Sad.

  22. Doesn’t this really put the ball squarely in the Democrats’ court as far as obstruction allegations go? Am I misreading this, or doesn’t this mean that House Democrats need to impeach him on the obstruction charge and accept whatever political consequences may come of doing so, or just call the whole thing off as far as allegations of obstruction go?

    1. Congress should and likely will investigate (1) the process by which a series of Republican prosecutors excused some of the guiltiest-looking innocent people on earth (one of whom was their boss, many of whose associates lied under oath about the precipitate of the investigation) from prosecution and (2) the evidence underlying that process.

      Party like it’s 1899 (or 1952), clingers. Enjoy it while you still can.

      1. Party like it’s 1899 (or 1952), clingers

        You’re expecting two or three more full terms of Republican Presidents before the Dems get another go ?
        That seems rather pessimistic.

        1. There just aren’t enough bigots and half-educated slackjaws left in America to elect another Republican for quite a while — and the end of that period assumes Republicans change substantially, renouncing the ignorance, superstition, and intolerance.

          1. Weren’t you saying that every chance you had since 2008? Somehow they took congress, held the house 8 years, have the Senate 8 years and counting, and now Trump is president.

  23. It is incredibly misleading to try and justify the Mueller investigation by asserting it “uncover[ed] evidence leading to the conviction of [Michael Flynn].” While I am not trying to excuse Flynn’s lying, you cannot pretend like there was some sort of criminal conduct that existed prior to the investigation as a valid basis for the investigation itself.

    1. Why did Trump’s close associates lie so consistently and frequently about associations with Russian agents?

      1. I know you’re too dumb to understand this… but Wassermann threatening Flynn’s family was the primary reason for the Flynn pleaing. Same could be said of cohen as reports came out that they threatened to go after his wife if he didn’t plead. So unsavory prosecutorial tactics. But you applaud those I’m sure.

    2. Interestingly enough, the FBI apparently initially concluded that Flynn did not intentionally lie. Then they went back and changed their mind.

  24. I once enjoyed Professor Somin’s blog entries. Now I generally “vote with my mouse” to scroll to the next post.

    1. You seem like the kind of Republican who would be more comfortable at FreeRepublic, RedState, Instapundit, Gateway Pundit, and Stormfront. The Volokh Conspiracy is just as extreme and conservative as those other sites, but the Conspiracy also features the occasional libertarian leavening from Prof. Somin that seems to enrage you.

  25. News flash:

    Trump loyalist Barr declares Trump innocent as a newborn babe.

  26. Keep hope alive bernard.

  27. Mueller’s report was as partisan and anti-Trump as he could possibly get away with under the circumstances.

    He’s a special prosecutor hired to make legal conclusions including on obstruction of justice. Instead after two years he punted, and offered a pathetic parting swipe against Trump in saying he “does not exonerate.”

    1. This is typical blind Trump worship.

      You haven’t even seen the damn report, but you know what it says, and that it is hopelessly biased.

      1. I am talking about the direct quote of the Mueller report from Barr’s letter.

  28. One can disagree deeply with Somin but not seek to silence him.

    That’s how free speech works. It’s a bit sad to read comments on Reason which sound like they come from Antifa.

  29. Somin apparently believes that Trump should be impeached not because of some crime Trump committed, but rather because Somin disagrees with Trump’s immigration policies.

    It may even be constitutional for Trump to be both impeached and convicted because congress disagrees with his immigration policy.

    But that’s surely not the way civilized politics works.

    1. Wow, that’s one major league straw man of an argument.

  30. Where is Joseph Mifsud? Apparently he has conveniently gone missing.

  31. It’s time to ask: What did Obama know, and when did he know it?

    1. Birther hope forever!

  32. On the question of obstruction of justice, Barr’s summary quotes the special counsel’s report as stating that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Barr goes on to state that he and Rosenstein have concluded that the evidence “is not sufficient” to conclude that Trump committed obstruction of justice.

    So, presumption of innocence is dead letter for you now?

    If he did not indict — and Mueller indicted a company that did not exist for a crime they did not commit in this witch hunt — it means that there was not a crime. This wasn’t Hillary where the AG quashed any attempts at a prosecution.

    1. “Barr goes on to state that he and Rosenstein have concluded that the evidence “is not sufficient” to conclude that Trump committed obstruction of justice…”

      And he goes on from there to state, “…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…”

      So not just insufficient evidence, but an exoneration. But the op, like much of the msm, is desperately hanging their hats on the “insufficient evidence” thing, without bothering to mention the exoneration. No, folks, the Barr letter did not leave the question of obstruction open.

      1. Bingo, but remember Bull Cow can’t even tell a bull from a cow. He’s deranged in his hatred and just really isn’t that bright.

      2. You seem like the kind of faux libertarian who would be eager to take a Republican prosecutor’s letter exonerating his Republican government boss as gospel, especially if built upon a prosecution led by a Republican, TIP. Especially where exoneration would help the causes of bigotry and backwardness.

        Carry on, clingers.

        1. “You seem like the kind of faux libertarian who would be eager to take a Republican prosecutor’s letter exonerating his Republican government boss as gospel…”

          See, at least that’s an honest argument, unlike those trying to claim that he hasn’t been exonerated. But the fact that those exonerating him might have have a partisan bias only gets you so far. You still have to show that he obstructed justice.

          1. Personally, I don’t see how Barr could think he could get away with a deliberate mischaracterization of Mueller’s report, since most of it will surely be public before long. I think he is probably correct that there isn’t sufficient evidence to indict. Those who dislike Trump (like me) will have to be disappointed for a little while, and then move on with their lives. Or just continue to wallow in bitterness, like those who hate Obama and still fulminate against him years later.

  33. Every time a prosecutor talks about somebody being exonerated or not, I wince.

    First, prosecutors simply do not have the power to exonerate or not exonerate anybody. Those who think they do are probably poorly trained in law.

    Second, exoneration is not even a legal concept. Ultimately it’s a subjective thing that comes out of the public consciousness. So just the fact that legal scholars *in their role as legal scholars* are talking about exoneration makes me wince even more. Ouch.

    1. If a prosecutor declines to prosecute, it means either the crime is so minor it is not worth the time or in most cases there is not enough evidence to indict much less convict. It is true that a prosecutor declineing to prosecute doesn’t necessarily prove the person innocent, though in some cirumstances it can. But, if there is not enough evidence to even indict, I think it is more than reasonable to conclude the person is innocent and almost certainly unreasonable to conclude they are guilty under those circumstances.

    2. Hell, I can think of one criminal case where somebody was ACTUALLY exonerated fully. And that was the Duke lacrosse case. And that was simply because the stripper had the semen of five other dudes on her but NONE of them were lacrosse players and the AG covered up that fact.

      Exonerations, as a rule, do not happen. The Central Park Five were less exonerated than Trump.

      1. The UVA rape case would be another example of people being exonerated.

  34. But even if Trump did not engage in any collusion, he could still have wanted to impede the investigation for fear that it would uncover other illegal activities on his part, or that of his associates. And, in fact, the Mueller investigation did uncover evidence leading to the conviction of several close Trump associates on a variety of charges, including his longtime lawyer (Michael Cohen), his campaign manager (Paul Manafort), his first national security adviser (Gen. Michael Flynn), and others. That doesn’t by itself prove that Trump committed obstruction of justice. Far from it. But it does undermine Barr’s most substantial argument for concluding he did not.

    There is absolutely no evidence any of that is true. Indeed, if it were, there is no reason to think that the special counsel would not have come to a different conclusion. I really wish Somin would stop calling himself a Libertarian. Basically, Solim is arguing that even though there is not enough evidence for an indictment much less a conviction, it is still reasonable to conclude a person is guilty. That sets a terrible precident, especially coming from someone who claims to be a civil libertarian. I really wish the Somin would stop tarnishing the moral credibility of civil libertarians in his endless pursuit of Trump.

    1. I really wish Somin would stop calling himself a Libertarian.

      Bigoted right-wing malcontents who despise libertarians are among my favorite faux libertarians.

      And the backbone of the Conspiracy’s carefully cultivated followers.

      1. You don’t even try to make sense anymore do you?

        1. Tell us more about how libertarians favor big-government immigration practices, statist womb management, tariffs, and stale bigotry, you authoritarian rube.

          1. The word vomit is getting worse. Dementia?

  35. Now everything is going to await on events. Perhaps events in the South China Sea that get out of hand. Perhaps Putin’s aggressive posturings will filter too far down the chain of command and some regional unit commander with dreams of glory will go all Crazy Ivan in Syria or even the vicinity of Venezuela and we will have a hot incident escalating

  36. This is ok for a little entertainment, Ilya still clinging to the wreck of the Titanic waiting for the waters to finally bring oblivion.

    But when is David Post going to post his rationalization of how he didn’t beclown himself too.

    You do have to give the other conspirators a little slack though, while they are mostly never Trumpers, they at least never drank the collusion koolaid. The most you could say was they were collusion curious.

    1. The Conspirators seem mostly to be exhibiting their level of bravery with silence in this context, figuring that refraining from criticizing Pres. Trump might be the only shot they have at a federal judgeship during the useful portion of their careers.

      I figure their faculty colleagues notice this and are likely to reward the Conspirators (and other conservatives seeking an affirmative action hire at a strong school) properly.

  37. Slightly off topic but more good news for Trump, Michael Avenatti is being charged in two separate federal districts for unrelated crimes, exortion (SDNY) and bank fraud (California).

  38. Bwwwwaaaaaahahahhahahahaha!

    I was worried about you Bull Cow, I thought that you may have killed yourself. Your cries of despair and tears of unfathomable sadness were so sweet yesterday.

    Now you are here with this comedy. AG Barr was explicit that he and the Deputy AG both agreed that there was not sufficient evidence for obstruction separate and apart from the constitutional issues associated with indicating a sitting President.

    You lost. Complete and utter destruction. Moreover, public opinion is now settled. You shouldn’t have pushed the collusion/obstruction narrative so hard due to your separate desire for open borders and a communist one world government,

    Daddy Trump destroyed you and he lives rent free in your empty skull.

    1. Yep, between the Conspirators’ insights and this total and complete absolute exoneration of Trump, the clingers have finally turned the tide of the culture war! Bigly!

      Keep dreaming, clingers. And complying with the preferences of better Americans.

  39. Professor Somin, I suggest an exercise. Write 2,000 words explaining why President Trump is not guilty of the crimes you attribute to him. You are being paid to be a law professor. It is a necessary skill to both sides of any argument. We have seen your arguments for one side. Show us that you are the professional that you are being paid to be, show us the opposite arguments.

  40. If this happened in any other country the media would rightfully refer to it as a coup attempt. But, in this country the media won’t call it that because they were in bed with the traitors.

    People must be held accountable for this treason and sedition. Tribunals should be held and those found guilty sentenced accordingly. The time to take action to preserve the Republic is now.

  41. Next up: A Vox symposium with 15 legal scholars discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    Open remarks by Prof Ilya Somin. Closing delusions to be supplied by Rev. Kirkland

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