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The Myth of the Mueller Report

By       Message David Corn       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   13 comments

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No one knows whether the Trump-Russia special counsel will produce a final and public report telling all.

From youtube.com: Robert Mueller has Donald Trump's vote rigging scheme nailed {MID-341982}
Robert Mueller has Donald Trump's vote rigging scheme nailed
(Image by YouTube, Channel: Breaking News NN)
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You hear people say it again and again: Just wait for Robert Mueller's final report. But they're overlooking one distinct possibility: There may not be a Mueller report. Or at least not the kind of fulsome, tell-all report they have in mind.

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Democrats on the Hill, cable television pundits and analysts, social media influentials, voters, your cousin. They're all talking about -- and hyping -- this supposed moment of truth, when the special counsel will reveal all that he and his team have discovered about Moscow's attack on the 2016 election and interactions between the Trump crew and Russia. Even Trump's camp has promoted the notion that a dramatic climax in written form is approaching. Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's lawyer, has repeatedly referred to a Mueller report. And Trump himself has tweeted about a Mueller report, calling it the "Witch Hunt Report," claiming it will be unfair, and vowing, "We will be doing a major Counter Report to the Mueller Report."

Here's the problem with all this speculation and anticipation: Mueller is under no obligation to produce a final report that shares with the public the full breadth of what he has uncovered.

The Justice Department guidelines governing the work of a special counsel do not compel Mueller to compile such a report. They only include one sentence about a report: "At the conclusion of the Special Counsel's work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel."

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This description is rather elastic. It could entail a brief report that merely lists the indictments Mueller has brought, briskly explains why he decided to pursue these cases, and perfunctorily states that he found no other activity he deemed worthy of prosecution. Yet this regulation would seemingly also allow for a lengthy report that details all the investigative digging conducted by Mueller and his crew -- everything they unearthed -- with explanations of why he did and did not initiate criminal cases. This sort of report could be comprehensive and disclose the specifics of wide-ranging political skulduggery that did not draw indictments -- perhaps even name names -- and might be horrific for Trump and his henchmen. But Mueller is under no official commitment to perform such a grand finale.

As a Justice Department special counsel, Mueller is presumably working under the department's rules that do not permit prosecutors to make public the information they gather that is not revealed in the course of a criminal case -- that is, material beyond the information presented in an indictment, in court filings, or in evidence submitted during a trial. Federal prosecutors are generally prohibited from exposing what they have learned during an inquiry besides what they openly use in a prosecution. That's why it was such a big deal in 2016 when former FBI Director James Comey publicly said Hillary Clinton should not be indicted for mishandling emails when she was secretary of state and also discussed details of the FBI's investigation and criticized Clinton's actions. Federal prosecutors usually face a stark binary choice: file charges or keep quiet. So will Mueller be free to describe in a final report what he found that was not revealed in the criminal cases he pursued?

Once upon a time, Washington had independent counsels who indeed did file massive final reports that were publicly released. This was a post first created by a 1978 act of Congress that set up temporary offices for investigating possible wrongdoing by past and present high government officials. The post-Watergate law called on these special prosecutors to bring criminal cases, if warranted, and to file public reports fully describing what their excavations uncovered. A good example: Iran-Contra independent counsel Lawrence Walsh. He spent six years investigating that Reagan administration scandal, prosecuted several cases, and at the end in 1993 produced a 572-page report chronicling a vast swath of wrongdoing and sleaze that went far beyond the indictments. That work is considered a masterpiece of government reports. Five years later, Kenneth Starr, another independent counsel, produced a report that achieved its own infamy.

In 1999, the legislation establishing the independent counsel expired, and Congress did not renew it. (Republicans and Democrats in Washington had been targeted by independent counsels, so there was antagonism toward the law on both sides of the aisle.) That was when the Justice Department developed its guidelines for a special counsel -- which included no mention of a final public report. Under these regulations, in 2003, Patrick Fitzgerald, a US attorney, was appointed special counsel to investigate the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame. (Her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, had enraged the Bush-Cheney White House by publicly challenging its bogus claim that Iraq had to be invaded because it was developing nuclear weapons.) Fitzgerald ended up successfully prosecuting Scooter Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, for obstructing justice. But he never produced a public report covering all his investigation had dug up. (Libby's prison sentence was commuted by President George W. Bush, and he was pardoned by Trump last year.)

The Justice Department guidelines under which Mueller is operating note that his final report explaining his prosecution decisions is confidential and gets delivered only to the attorney general. If the attorney general has recused himself in this matter, as former Attorney General Jeff Sessions did, then the report goes to the deputy attorney general, a position now occupied by Rod Rosenstein (who reportedly may soon leave the Justice Department). With the attorney general nomination of William Barr now pending, it's unclear who will be in the Justice Department's top chair -- and who will be responsible for overseeing the Trump-Russia investigation -- when Mueller is finished. But that's the official who will get the report -- whether it is a short roundup of the prosecutions or something more comprehensive -- and he will not have to show it to the public. If the Justice Department does try to sit on the report, House Democrats will no doubt demand a copy. And it's not difficult to envision a subsequent dust-up that could reach the Supreme Court. (The regulations, though, do note that if the attorney general at any time prevented the special counsel from pursuing an action because he believed it was "inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices," the A.G. must report that to Congress at the end of the investigation.)

There is another possible -- or parallel -- scenario. Mueller has been investigating whether Trump obstructed justice. It remains a matter of legal debate whether a president can be indicted for a federal offense while in office. Justice Department policy says a president cannot be charged. Some legal scholars disagree. For instance, Neal Katyal, a former acting solicitor general contends that "generic DOJ opinions about whether a sitting President could be indicted do not create an 'established Departmental practice' about whether an individual could be indicted for successfully cheating in a Presidential election." The courts have never settled this question. So what might Mueller do if he gathers information that supports a charge of obstruction related to Trump?

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7 people are discussing this page, with 13 comments  Post Comment


pablo mayhew

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The fact that this so-called "reporter" is still walking free, propagandizing, and not imprisoned for his role in the illegal Trump-Russia dossier deeply disturbs me.

Submitted on Friday, Jan 11, 2019 at 11:56:01 PM

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Don Smith

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Reply to pablo mayhew:   New Content

Oh, at first I thought you mean Luke Harding, involved in the Steele dossier. But they aren't mentioned? You mean the author of the article. Why do you think he's illegit? He wasn't particularly pro- or anti-Trump. He was just saying that Mueller's report might not be released or not much of it will be.

Are you a troll?

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 12, 2019 at 5:55:10 AM

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pablo mayhew

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Reply to Don Smith:   New Content

Nope. I'm an historian. And a former newspaper editor. Nice of you to ask, though.

How about you? Are you a troll?

As with most things, it depends on where you get your information. David Corn has a proven track record as a Deep State globalist shill. I wouldn't believe a word he writes, and I don't. He's dirty.

click here

Get it straight. Corn wasn't trying to debunk the phony GPS Fusion dossier when he wrote about it prior to the 2016 presidential election; he was attempting to promote it...in an effort to damage Trump.

Now Corn's in hot water just like a whole lot of other journalists who accepted money from HRC's campaign, and there likely exists an indictment with his name on it for misprision, if not outright conspiracy.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 12, 2019 at 9:50:46 AM

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Don Smith

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Reply to pablo mayhew:   New Content

You were a terrible editor, obviously. You just wrote, "I'm an [sic] historian."


In February 2013, David Corn was named winner of the 2012 George Polk Award in journalism.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 12, 2019 at 3:02:07 PM

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Reply to Don Smith:   New Content

Is that supposed to be some kind of joke?

One uses "an" with nouns that begin with "h," with some exceptions...of which "historian" is not one. I received my history degree 25 years ago; you don't think I know how to refer to myself by now?

.quora.com/Is-it-an-historian-or-a-historian?share=1

For instance, "an hourglass." Or "an historian." Listen to the way it sounds.

Don't trust me, though. You obviously didn't about David Corn--hence your feeling it necessary to provide me with intelligence of his "award," as if that means anything at all to me. Who gave it to him, the CIA? For all those 4 a.m. briefing/debriefing sessions, undoubtedly.

I suggest you pick up a copy of Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style." It will be well worth the small cost to help you avoid embarrassing situations such as these.

Incidentally, you wrote this, right?...

"Things may get a lot worse than Dems imagine, especially if Ruth Bade Ginsburg's passes away."

I would be wary of criticizing anyone's editorial skills, were I you.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 12, 2019 at 3:57:41 PM

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Reply to pablo mayhew:   New Content

When I did an Internet search, the sources all said that for "historian", you say "a historian" because the "h" is not silent. For "hourglass" the "h" is silent, so of course you say say "an" for that. Don't trust quora.


I've been a writer for years. I have a PhD. I've never seen an educated person say "an historian."

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 12, 2019 at 6:28:10 PM

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Devil's Advocate

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Reply to Don Smith:   New Content

His use of "an" is absolutely correct, Don. But, it's interesting how you choose to keep pursuing that little ditty, rather than offer any counterpoint or anything of substance to what he's saying. Typical.

(You should read through some of your own past comments. They haven't exactly been constructed with expert perfection. I just choose to overlook that sh*t, unless it's paramount to the discussion.)

Anyway, Corn's a propagandist, plain and simple.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 12, 2019 at 6:46:24 PM

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Six years is far in excess of the amount of time required for brainwashing and/or dementia to destroy proper cerebral functions. How are you doing? Been tested lately?

Submitted on Sunday, Jan 13, 2019 at 12:55:12 AM

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I heard one of the signs is struggling with common English structures.

Submitted on Sunday, Jan 13, 2019 at 6:02:24 PM

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Things may get a lot worse than Dems imagine, especially if Ruth Bade Ginsburg's passes away.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 12, 2019 at 5:56:29 AM

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Dems getting ready for the nothingburger.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 12, 2019 at 7:35:02 PM

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Lois Gagnon

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Watching people I thought knew better fall for this Russia psy-op has been the most surreal political experience I can remember. Listening to the most recent "bombshell" report this morning I couldn't help but laugh out loud. The "reporter" told the viewing public virtually nothing. You would have to be desperate to believe the narrative to think it was anything of substance. But alas.

Submitted on Sunday, Jan 13, 2019 at 3:05:01 AM

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Orange - the new Red.

Lois, if you've got a week or so to spare, make a list of those the FBI failed to investigate.

I imagine investigating domestic war criminals is not in the jurisdiction of the FBI; rather a U&I duty. (If only we had a 'bureau'.)

Submitted on Sunday, Jan 13, 2019 at 4:44:35 AM

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