This MPU episode looks at the ongoing showdown between President Trump and the new Democratic congressional majority over his demand for $5.7 billion for his border wall/steel slats/fence/drones/security/whatever, watching Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dance on the top marginal tax rate, and Elizabeth Warren’s first week on the presidential campaign trail.
This episode looks at the partial government shutdown and who will emerge victorious, the Go Fund Me drive to help fund the border wall, Trump’s plan to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan, and the looming war between Bernie and Beto for the soul of the Democratic left.
September 1, 2018
The Honorable Rod J. Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General
United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.
Re: Final Report from the Office of Special Counsel
Dear Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Members of Congress,
It is with great regret that I must issue this Final Report from the Office of Special Counsel announcing that we hereby close our investigation into Russian Interference with the 2016 Presidential Election with no finding of wrongdoing in this matter. I am sorry to say that after fifteen months of rigorous investigation by the nation’s premier team of criminal investigators and prosecutors, and at a cost of millions of dollars to U.S. taxpayers, our efforts were all for naught. Quite simply, we were stymied by the superior intelligence and cunning of Donald J. Trump and his campaign cohorts. In short, we failed.
Specifically, while my team was successful at chasing down thousands of leads and obtaining some 19 indictments and five guilty pleas from individuals and companies who worked together to elect Mr. Trump, we were helpless to build a case proving their illicit actions really happened. Even with bank records, wire-tapped conversations, thousands of emails, and other incontrovertible evidence of their web of conspiracy to affect the 2016 election, we have decided to hang it up and call it quits without attempting to make a case to the American people, the task we were specifically assigned and sworn to carry out.
While there is ample evidence that campaign staffers Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos and Carter Page met with Russian operatives to discuss publishing materials meant to discredit candidate Hillary Clinton in exchange for a more favorable foreign policy toward Russia once the election was over (including changes to the RNC platform made at the behest of campaign manager Paul Manafort to benefit Russia in the Ukraine), we are stymied about how to prove said quid-pro-quo conspiracy so that rural voters and GOP Senators might comprehend it.
Further, despite thousands of documents showing unreported illicit financial transactions and favors of influence between Russian oligarchs and Mr. Trump’s family, we were unable to connect the dots of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, even though the President himself is on public record asking for their help to smear Mrs. Clinton with illegally hacked emails, and even though the President’s son, son-in-law and campaign associates met and spoke repeatedly with Russian operatives in furtherance of their efforts to illegally obtain and release her emails, and even though Mr. Trump and family would have been the sole beneficiaries of said collusion to affect the outcome of the election.
Moreover, while we have documented proof through emails, tweets and sworn witness testimony that Trump confidant Roger Stone personally engaged Julian Assange and the Russian hacker Guccifer 2, who went on to procure and release DNC and John Podesta emails to damage Clinton’s campaign only days after Stone predicted those events on multiple media outlets, we felt we had no choice but to accept his explanation that he was merely joking and the timing and specificity of his “jokes” was a coincidence. True, we could have called Mr. Stone to testify under oath and catch him in multiple changes in his story, but why bother? He said it was a misunderstanding and we have to take an upstanding man like him at his word. To have done less would have been a perjury trap.
Similarly, the fact that the President attempted to obstruct justice by firing FBI Director James Comey and through other documented efforts to derail our investigation is simply beyond our capacity to prove in court. As you know, the President claims it was all a misunderstanding, and the American people would surely believe a sitting U.S. president with a 13% “honest and trustworthy” rating over contemporaneous FBI memos, the sworn testimony of multiple eye witnesses, and every single officer of the U.S. Department of Justice.
I know you and the American people were hoping to find closure through our investigation. But frankly, the only way to do that would have been to put the key witness on the stand. And any effort to subpoena the President to testify under oath, as was done in Clinton v. Jones and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, would have been an unconscionable perjury trap and may have insulted the President’s feelings as well. No president of the United States can be expected to testify truthfully and get his multiple different stories straight under that kind of pressure.
In all candor, it appears that Mr. Trump and his team of neophyte political amateurs were just too cagey and sinister for us. For that, and for all the negative press generated by the President’s disinformation campaign while we professionally and meticulously investigated this case out of the public eye as we were constitutionally charged to do, I humbly apologize. And if you’ll authorize it, I would like to testify in front of Congress so I may publicly clear the President’s good name and admit the folly of our partisan attempt to reverse his magnificent electoral mandate.
Oh wait!… No, I take that all back. I don’t know what I was thinking. It was 2 in the morning and I was Ambien writing.
We are still investigating. Further criminal indictments and referral for impeachment forthcoming.
Robert S. Mueller III
(As dictated to Kevin Kelton, cohost, The More Perfect Union podcast)
This episode of the MPU podcast looks at comedian Michelle Wolf’s turn as the headliner at The White House Correspondence Dinner, dictator Kim Jong-un’s turn as a statesman in South Korea, President Donald Trump’s turn as a guest on Fox and Friends, and Bill Cosby’s turn as a convicted sex offender. Amazingly, the only one who came off well was Kim Jong-un! What does that say about the world we live in?
The 150th episode of “The More Perfect Union” podcast finds the hosts in violent agreement on some issues, in wide disagreement on others, and even saying nice things about President Trump a couple of times. (Well… sort of nice.) Then the gang looks back on their 150 episodes together and reminisce about their favorite moments.
by Kevin Kelton
The border wall between a “subject” and “target” is thin and can crumble quickly.
Much has been made about reports that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told President Trump he’s “not a target” of the Russia or Michael Cohen investigations. Trump and his supporters seem to believe that exonerates him in both investigations. As they say online, LOL.
Over the years I’ve read many dozens of articles about murder investigations and other felonies. Invariably there’s a spouse, relative or close friend whom all the evidence points to, but the police call him “a person of interest” and not “a suspect.” Usually it’s to get that person to turn themselves in for questioning. But persons of interest can turn into suspects and charged perpetrators very quickly.
Unlike “suspect” and “material witness,” “person of interest”… generally refers to someone law enforcement authorities would like to speak with or investigate further in connection with a crime. It may be used, rather than calling the person a suspect, when they don’t want their prime suspect to know they’re watching him closely. Critics complain that the term has become a method for law enforcement officers to draw attention to individuals without formally accusing them.
Now here’s the FBI’s terminology:
• A “subject” is: “a person whose conduct is within the scope of a Grand Jury’s investigation.” A subject is somewhere between a target and a witness. A subject has engaged in conduct that may look suspicious or unethical, but the prosecutor isn’t certain that a provable crime has been committed and wants to do more investigating in order to be sure.
• A person is a “target” when the prosecutor or Grand Jury has substantial evidence linking him to the commission of a crime. The key thing to remember about these categories is that they are ultimately meaningless and offer you no protection. Why? Because even if you’re currently a witness or subject, there’s no guarantee that your status will remain unchanged.
According to Bruce J. Kelton, a former Justice Department attorney who prosecuted RICO and organized crime cases, “Many individuals who wind up as criminal defendants in federal court started out as subjects and as the grand jury investigation developed turned into targets. To give an example, Bernie Madoff was the initial immediate target in a Ponzi scheme in New York. But by the end of the investigation, 15 others who initially were subjects were indicted and convicted.”
So if you think the fact that Rosenstein told Trump he’s “not a target” means he’s been vindicated, you may be in for a big surprise. And if the president thinks he’s been vindicated, good! Let him continue with that false sense of security.
As for me, I will accept the outcome if he’s never charged. And do a jig if he is.
This week’s MPU podcast looks at Roseanne Barr’s love affair with Donald Trump, the differences between what liberals and conservatives watch on TV, Laura Ingraham’s cheap shot a Parkland shooting survivor, and what a remake of Red Dawn might look like.
This episode of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the newest darlings of the left – the Trump appointees who have turned on him or were dumped by him. Or in the case of Don Jr.’s wife, Vanessa, the person who dumped a Trump. Plus you’ll learn the names of DJ’s current band and of all of Greg’s college bands.
Episode 141 of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the aftermath of the Parkland High School shooting, the indictment of 13 Russian nationals in the special counsel probe, the failed DACA negotiations, and Laura Ingraham’s diss of LeBron James. Then the gang takes a look at other political podcasts and talk about why they do the show and what they think sets it apart from other podcasts.
by Kevin Kelton
Though the makings of a democratic wave election in the midterms seem apparent – enthusiasm, leading indicators, a highly divisive president – one key component is missing… and it could be the fatal flaw.
It’s the “why.”
Every wave election has an overriding theme or movement behind it. Today’s Democratic party lacks either.
In the last half century, there have been six wave elections.* Two were presidential election cycles, the other four were midterms.
The 1980 Reagan wave was powered by a weak economy and the Iran hostage crisis, but mostly by a charismatic presidential candidate who gave a face and voice to the movement. Similarly, the 2008 Obama wave was driven by a war-weary nation and a financial crash, and a charismatic candidate. But let’s put those aside and look at midterms, where there is no presidential candidate to embody the movement.
In every midterm wave, there were clear economic and foreign policy crises that turbo-charged the national mood:
1974 – the Vietnam war and Watergate
1994 – a faltering economy, healthcare, and the GOP’s “Contract with America”
2006 – a war-weary nation, Hurricane Katrina, and GOP scandals (Jack Abramoff; Tom DeLay)
2010 – Obamacare, a stagnant economy, high unemployment, the national debt, illegal immigration
Now let’s look at the prospects for 2018. Other than an historically unpopular first-term president, what issues do the Democrats have to run on? Even with the current stock market correction, it’s unlikely the economy will tank before November. (It takes six months of negative GDP to classify a recession, and right now GDP is strong.) Unemployment is historically low. There is no new military conflict. By November DACA will likely be resolved and the only immigration issues will be the border wall and the lingering Muslim ban court cases. Trump is riding high on the tax cuts and the recent long-term budget deals. Even the #MeToo movement is too fractured to break solidly Democratic. The party can’t own the issue with Bill Clinton, John Conyers, Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, and Anthony Weiner as its poster boys.
Plus the Democrats are still a splintered party with no national leader to rally the troops. So they will be left to a series of local races with no unifying issue or theme to power them past heavily financed incumbents.
Unless the anti-Trump movement itself is enough to power the wave, what should be a tsunami may turn into a small storm. Democrats are likely to pick up seats in the House, but unless they net 24, the GOP will still own both chambers and the Executive branch.
The party’s leaders better settle on a set of core issues now, issues that will resonate with middle-class voters and power midterm turnout. And they better be bumper sticker stances, not nuanced wonky ones that take two minutes to explain.
So what can you do? Find the issue you are passionate about and post about it tirelessly on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Join Facebook political groups to magnify your voice. Share posts on the issue and send them to your senate and congressional candidates. Be your own campaign manager and campaign spokesperson. Then pick five races with five candidates you are excited about and donate. If every Democrat becomes a one-man SuperPac, we win.
Unless we’re all in the campaign, Trump and company will be campaigning on tax cuts, jobs and prosperity, while Democrats be running on Russia and Robert Mueller.
I respect Robert Mueller. But I don’t think he’s a wave.
* An argument an be made that 2014 was also a wave election, but since the House was already heavily GOP, movement of congress further right isn’t being counted here as a “wave.”