Quantcast
Connect with us

The most important mystery in Mueller’s report: Did Trump’s obstruction cover up a conspiracy?

Published

on

In the wake of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s expansive case for President Donald Trump’s obstruction of justice, as revealed in the newly public report, a common theme is emerging among much of the commentariat that Trump’s obstruction of the Russia investigation was largely futile.

It was exemplified by Philip Klein’s take in the Washington Examiner, who wrote that “those surrounding President Trump managed to protect him from his own worst instincts by refusing to carry out actions that would have significantly strengthened the obstruction of justice case against him.”

But this is wrong. Attempting to obstruct justice, such as giving orders to quash the special counsel probe as Trump did, is just as much a crime as actually obstructing justice. Your aids refusing to carry out your corrupt orders doesn’t make you less corrupt.

Perhaps even more importantly, though, we have no idea how successful Trump was at obstructing justice.

Consider an extremely important caveat in the summary of the first volume of the report, which focuses on the Russian election interference, the Trump campaign’s links to Russia, and potential conspiracy. Mueller could not establish that a conspiracy occurred; however, he noted that

ADVERTISEMENT

Even when individuals testified or agreed to be interviewed, they sometimes provided information that was false or incomplete, leading to some of the false-statements charges described above.…some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated—including some associated with the Trump Campaign—deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records.

And he explained that

while this report embodies factual and legal determinations that the Office believes to be accurate and complete to the greatest extent possible, given these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.

ADVERTISEMENT

In other words, while Mueller didn’t demonstrate that a conspiracy occurred, he leaves open the possibility that it did. And he a cover-up may be the reason he didn’t find it.

If a conspiracy existed, the most plausible nexus for such a crime would be Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort, who used Deputy Campaign Chair Rick Gates to send internal polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik periodically throughout the campaign. Gates, according to Mueller, used WhatsApp and deleted the messages after they were sent. Gates believed Kilimnik was a Russian “spy”; the FBI has assessed that he has ties to Russian intelligence. The report also says that Manafort believed the polling data would make its way back to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch to whom Manafort was indebted.

And when Manafort was supposedly cooperating with the special counsel, he lied when he was asked about his interactions with Kilimnik, rendering him entirely unreliable.

ADVERTISEMENT

At one meeting, Gates said that the three men discussed key battleground states in the 2016 election: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Manafort did not offer that fact — which may mean it didn’t indeed happen, or that Manafort thought it was worth hiding.

Ultimately, the report noted: “The Office could not reliably determine Manafort’s purpose in sharing internal polling data with Kilimnik during the campaign period.”

During a hearing with Judge Amy Berman Jackson, one of Mueller’s prosecutors said the meetings with Kilimnik went to the “heart” of the probe.

ADVERTISEMENT

So all this is clearly important. What does it have to do with Trump?

In Volume II of the report, Mueller revealed that he considered Trump’s behavior toward Manafort potentially obstructive conduct:

the President has taken other actions directed at possible witnesses in the Special Counsel’s investigation, including Flynn, Manafort, [REDACTED] and as described in the next section, Cohen. … During Manafort’s prosecution and while the jury was deliberating, the President repeatedly stated that Manafoft was being treated unfairly and made it known that Manafort could receive a pardon.

ADVERTISEMENT

The jury in Manafort’s case deadlocked on 10 out of 18 counts, and juror has since revealed that this was because of a single holdout juror who did not agree with the rest on the undecided charges. The mistrial didn’t end up affecting the totality of the case against Manafort, but if that holdout juror resisted finding Manafort guilty because of Trump’s comments, he would have successfully obstructed justice.

More importantly, though, is the fact that Trump made it clear Manafort could be pardoned. The report explained:

With respect to Manafort, there is evidence that the President’s actions had the potential to influence Manafort’s decision whether to cooperate with the government. The President and his personal counsel made repeated statements suggesting that a pardon was a possibility for Manafort, while also making it clear that the President did not want Manafort to “flip” and cooperate with the government.…In light of the President’s counsel’s previous statements that the investigations “might get cleaned up with some presidential pardons” and that a pardon would be possible if the President “come[s ] to the conclusion that you have been treated unfairly,” the evidence supports the inference that the President intended Manafort to believe that he could receive a pardon, which would make cooperation with the government as a means of obtaining a lesser sentence unnecessary.

ADVERTISEMENT

This is particularly relevant because, in the same hearing mentioned above, one of Mueller’s prosecutors argued that the special counsel believes part of Manafort’s reasons for lying to the special counsel about the Kilimnik meetings was to increase his chances of getting a pardon.

So what does this all tell us?

Mueller isn’t confident that new evidence wouldn’t “shed additional light” on the question of a conspiracy with Russia. Mueller was never able to determine why Manafort was sending polling data to someone believed to be a Russian spy, though he thought this matter was central to his probe. He also believes Trump’s dangling of a pardon for Manafort may have been an instance of obstructing justice, and he believes that Manafort may have lied about a matter of central importance of the probe — one that could have implicated a criminal election-related conspiracy — in an effort to get that dangled pardon. By dangling a pardon, Trump could have kept quiet the best source of information about a conspiracy with Russia.

ADVERTISEMENT

We don’t know if Trump’s obstruction worked. But Mueller leaves that possibility open, and if it’s true, it could be obstruction of a historical scale.


Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Ted Cruz defends Trump by comparing him to Twitter trolls who tell him to go back to Canada

Published

on

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Tuesday issued an unusual defense of President Donald Trump's racist remarks against four Democratic congresswomen by comparing the president to an internet troll.

According to Politico reporter Burgess Everett, Cruz deflected criticism of Trump's racist tweets against Reps. Rashiba Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) by arguing that "lefties on Twitter every day" tell him to "go back" to Canada, where he was born in 1970.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Former Trump communications aide admits to hiring prostitutes

Published

on

President Donald Trump's former communications aide Jason Miller admitted to hiring prostitutes in 2015 and 2017, an exclusive report revealed Tuesday.

Mediaite broke the news that Miller had hired "multiple" prostitutes for sexual acts at massage parlors. The comments were part of a videotaped deposition, and Miller confessed that he was using the sexual services as recently as "a few months ago" from the deposition he gave on May 30.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Trump believes white nationalism is a winning strategy — because Fox News tells him so

Published

on

Donald Trump thinks white nationalism is going to win him the 2020 election. This much is clear. Trump's racist Twitter rant on Sunday — in which he suggested that four nonwhite congresswomen, three of whom were born in the United States, are "originally" from somewhere else and should therefore "go back" — might have seemed at first like a spontaneous eruption of racist rage from the simmering bigot in the White House.

Soon, however, it became clear that this was strategic. Trump thinks it's a winning move to echo the claims of David Duke and other white nationalists who believe the United States is for white people. He justified his racism by saying that "many people agree with me," and by continuing to rave on Twitter about how the real purveyors of "racist hatred" are those who look askance at his embracing the rhetoric of Stormfront and the KKK.

Continue Reading
 
 
 

Copyright © 2019 Raw Story Media, Inc. PO Box 21050, Washington, D.C. 20009 | Masthead | Privacy Policy | For corrections or concerns, please email [email protected]

close-image