We begin today’s roundup with Michael Stern at USA Today who says Russia is a habit Trump won’t break, and that we need to see the full Mueller report:
“Beyond a reasonable doubt” is the standard the Justice Department uses to indict. It is the law’s highest burden of proof. If Mueller used the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard to conclude that his investigation “did not establish” a Trump-Russia conspiracy, there could still be evidence of a conspiracy that simply does not rise to the level needed to indict in a criminal case.
Mueller’s report should reveal the standard he used and the evidence he found.That is why it is imperative that Attorney General William Barr release the full Mueller report. Only then can Congress and the public assess the true nature of the Trump-Russia connection.
As for obstruction of justice, Mueller offered this: “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Mueller left the obstruction question to Barr, who was appointed by Trump.
More from Peter Zeidenberg at The Daily Beast:
[I]t is almost impossible to view Barr as an impartial arbiter. After all, before becoming attorney general, he drafted a 19-page memo that laid out his conclusion that the president cannot obstruct justice by firing executive branch subordinates, such as the FBI director. Given that these were and presumably still are Barr’s views, it can hardly be surprising that Barr has concluded that the evidence that Mueller has gathered does not satisfy Barr’s rather peculiar standards for obstructive conduct. That Barr has interceded with his own judgment of culpability directly contradicts the very purpose for appointing an independent special counsel to conduct this investigation.
Jonathan Chait explains how the Trump administration is lying about the report and bullying the media:
The Russiagate skeptics are presuming that Barr’s letter has refuted three years of devastating reports that paint an unmistakably sordid picture. Their goal now is to bully the media into placing the entire topic, a political scandal of gigantic proportions, out of bounds of discussion. After two years, everybody agreed collusion is not per se a crime, but Trump’s defenders now illogically insist the absence of a crime means the absence of collusion. We should accept the verdict that there is no crime, and demand to see all the evidence of the corruption that is already beyond all dispute.
Ryan Cooper at The Week:
Notably, none of the crimes Cohen, Flynn, and Manafort were convicted of were directly related to Russian election interference — but Trump's alleged acts would still constitute obstruction according to the stated views of Attorney General Barr. [...]
Instead of following through with his previous promises, Barr exonerates Trump through a ludicrously narrow focus. Because "the evidence does not establish that the president was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference," the case can't be made, he argues. As Wheeler writes, "In giving Trump the all-clear on obstruction charges, Barr appears not to have considered whether Trump obstructed the actual crime in question." In other words, the fix was in (and thus the whole report should be released immediately, so the American people can see what Mueller found for themselves).
Here is Natasha Bertrand’s analysis at The Atlantic:
Generally speaking, the wide aperture afforded by a counterintelligence investigation may be key to understanding some of the biggest lingering mysteries of the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians in 2016—mysteries that, if solved, could explain the president’s continued deference toward Russian President Vladimir Putin and skepticism about his conduct on the part of the U.S. intelligence community.
For example, was the fact that Trump pursued a multi-million dollar real-estate deal in Moscow during the election—and failed to disclose the deal to the public—enough for the Russians to compromise him? Why did the administration attempt to lift the sanctions on Russia early on in Trump’s tenure, even after it had been revealed that Russia had attacked the 2016 election? And what about the internal campaign polling data that Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort gave to the suspected Russian agent Konstantin Kilimnik in August 2016—an episode that, according to one of the top prosecutors on Mueller’s team, went “very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating”?
And John Nichols’ take at The Nation:
Barr’s interpretation of the Mueller report is just that: an interpretation. It’s not the real thing.
But this is not the worst of it. Barr’s assessment is suspect. Indeed, as former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams observed Monday, relying on Barr’s summary is “like having your brother summarize your report card to your parents.”
On a final note and different topic, make sure to read Jay Michaelson’s piece on a very important case before SCOTUS today:
In principle, the questions are complicated. When does gerrymandering move from political chicanery to constitutional violation? How much is too much? And can I, as an ordinary citizen, sue to challenge an entire state’s electoral map? All of these questions have split the Supreme Court in recent years.
In practice, though, the outcome is likely to be simple. For years, Justice Anthony Kennedy was the swing vote on this issue, wedged in between four conservatives (Roberts, Alito, Scalia/Gorsuch, and Thomas) and four liberals (Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor). And as Kennedy often did, he hedged, usually voting with conservatives to dismiss gerrymandering claims, but siding with liberals in saying that some claim, someday, might prevail.