Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Two Good Reads On The Mueller Dossier--Pre-Testimony!

There are two excellent articles out today. They both are focused on Robert Mueller's upcoming testimony, but they both also make good reading in the wider context of the Mueller coup attempt that we outlined yesterday in discussing the bombshell investigative reporting of Paul Sperry (on James Comey) and John Solomon (on Andrew Weissmann).

The first article is by Judicial Watch's Chris Farrell: A question for Robert Mueller. Farrell, of course, recognizes that the Mueller hearing will be simply political theater--impeachment theater. But then he goes on to make some broader points:

Mueller’s last public appearance was his eight-minute public statement on May 29, in which he basically said that Donald Trump must be viewed as guilty unless proven innocent. “If we had confidence the president clearly did not commit a crime,” he intoned, “we would have said so.”

"Confidence that something is clear" does, in fact, sound a lot like "beyond a reasonable doubt." What an embarrassment! That a lifelong DoJ and FBI official, working now at pretty much the top of the prosecutorial heap on the most important case of his life should stand our most hallowed legal principle on its head--innocent until proven guilty, the "Golden Thread" of our justice system, as Rumpole's famous closing argument puts it. And that he should do this publicly, in writing, and that this abomination and trashing of all we hold dear should be embraced by the chattering classes and the majority party of our House!

How Trump could, or more importantly would want to, obstruct an investigation where he knew there was no crime seems to have been lost in the scramble to take the president down. ...

Uh, yeah.

Nothing substantive has emerged in the past few months to shake the “no collusion, no obstruction” conclusion. Yet information has begun to appear that makes the Mueller Report appear to be much more of an anti-Trump political hit-piece than it appeared.

Yes, that's a problem, which is why the country is tuning this out. But the evidence that this was a political hit, a coup attempt, is attaining ever greater mass--well past the critical stage.

For example, the hiring effort was led by Andrew Weissman, who was enough of a Democratic insider to have been invited to Hillary Clinton’s election night party. He assembled a left-leaning team of investigators who could be counted on to approach the question with the proper “get Trump” attitude. ... 
Mueller will soon have to face probing questions about his willful blindness, selective investigative focus and history of seeking to cement a legend around dates and persons that fit the collusion/obstruction narrative. He will also have to explain the murky origins of his investigation, rooted in former FBI Director James Comey’s  leak of information from Trump’s FBI files to the New York Times through a professor at Columbia Law School. 
Mueller could explain why he chose not to announce that his investigators had found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia until after the 2018 midterm elections, even though his team already knew that Russiagate was a hoax. 
What about the fact that Carter Page had acted as an informant for the FBI against Russia?  
And what of United States District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich’s opinion from July 1, 2019 that Mueller did not establish a Kremlin connection to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), which the report claimed was the Kremlin’s tool social media campaigns seeking to influence the 2016 election? 
Then there are the matters of the Clinton-funded Steele dossier, Fusion GPS and its links to the Justice Department and the genesis of the illicit Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants used to spy on the Trump campaign.
Mueller showed a remarkable lack of curiosity about these issues, and for good reason since the truth would have compromised the entire rationale for the continued legal and political harassment of President Trump. ... 
In retrospect the most remarkable thing about the Mueller witch hunt is that even with the deck stacked so solidly against him, Trump emerged from the process clean. The Russiagate hoax was so completely lacking in substance (even the manufactured kind) that Mueller couldn’t take Trump down. ...

The second article really gets into the weeds with the Mueller Dossier--or, more precisely, the footnotes. Eric Felten has mastered that arcane material (more than 2000 footnotes!), The Shaky Standing of Mueller's Footnotes, and he has some advice for the House GOPers--if Mueller wants to stick to the four corners of his Dossier, fine: ask him about his footnotes. After all:

Who knew that the humble footnote would loom so large in some of the most consequential documents of our time? Those bottom-of-the-page annotations are supposed to impose rigor on authors by forcing them to cite justifications for what they assert. But in the age of collusion claims, footnotes have become so much more -- places for officials to tuck away inconvenient information; discreet spaces in which to make dubious assertions; or fine print in which required disclosures can be hidden in plain sight. 
It was in the footnotes, for example, where the FBI appears to have misled the FISA court in its application to spy on Carter Page – obscuring its reliance on opposition research, the Steele dossier, financed by the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Nice point! And Felten proceeds with some fascinating observations.

Long stretches of the special counsel’s report hang almost exclusively on Comey’s say-so. One or another of Comey’s memos are cited some three dozen times in Volume II alone, which addresses possible obstruction by Trump. Mueller relies on Comey memos in footnotes 109, 110, 111, and 112, and then in footnotes 172, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 181, 182 and so on.
Comey was also interviewed by the FBI and numerous are the footnotes — 68, 108, 109-112, 176-78, 180-82 and more — anchoring the narrative in his testimony.

What an excellent complement to Sperry's work on Comey's coup op against Trump! A perfect snapshot documenting to how great a degree the Mueller Op depended on Comey's earlier coup efforts. And Felten observes, quite rightly:

Comey’s memos may or may not be the “strong corroborating evidence” Mueller claims, but Comey surely intended for those memoranda to establish his version of events. For all his suspicions and speculations about the president’s intentions, one former FBI director demonstrates a remarkable lack of curiosity about the motives of another former FBI director.

So just, in light of Sperry's revelations--which Mueller surely knew of long ago.

Felten goes on to point out what we've heard before, but here in great detail--the remarkable reliance of the premier law enforcement agency in the world on ... press accounts:

Given the squads of lawyers and the platoon of FBI agents at Mueller’s command, the footnotes show a surprising reliance on media accounts as evidence of consequential claims – an echo of the FBI’s FISA warrant, which used a Yahoo News article to substantiate allegations in the Steele dossier. In discussing whether Trump had ordered his White House counsel to fire Mueller, the report cites the same Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman article in the New York Times not just once or twice, but in four footnotes in a row.

There's lots more. Much, much more. Felten really has mastered the footnotes--read it all. But I absolutely love the account of President-Elect Trump and the fraught question of whether he attended a chess tournament at which--gasp!--Russians were in attendance:

To get insight into Mueller’s method and intent – his penchant for building edifices of insinuation on the smallest of citations - it is worth unpacking one of the shortest footnotes in his report. Footnote 1024 on page 150 of the report’s first volume simply reads: “Nader 1/22/18 302 at 3.” It is a reference to the FBI’s memo – known as a 302 -- of its January 2018 interview with George Nader, identified in the Mueller report as “Advisor to the United Arab Emirates’s Crown Prince.” Nader had spoken with a Russian who was attending the 2016 World Chess Championship in New York and who had expressed an interest in meeting Trump. Nader also told the FBI that an unnamed chess federation official had “recalled hearing” from an unknown attendee that Trump “had stopped by the tournament.” 
The footnote tells us just how thin the sourcing was for this fantastical scenario. And it tells us just how little in the way of plausible proof the Mueller team needed to go off on an investigative tangent. The special counsel even used one of his precious few written questions for the president (question V. a. to be exact) to ask whether Trump had been invited “to attend the World Chess Championship gala on November 10, 2016” and whether he had attended “any part of the event[P3] .” Trump responded that he had learned in “the course of preparing to respond to these questions” that early in 2016 the chess federation had inquired, fruitlessly, about using Trump Tower for the championship match. But in any case, Trump said in his written testimony that he “did not attend the event.” 
It’s worth pointing out that Nov. 10, 2016, was just two days after Trump’s election and a day the president-elect spent in Washington — it was even in the newspapers — meeting with President Obama.

Was the President-elect at the 2016 World Chess Championship in New York, two days after his election? If so, the Mueller report suggests, perhaps he was not a white knight. 
As for the other days of the tournament, how plausible is it that Donald Trump just happened to pop over to the World Chess Championship? This is not just because Trump is more a WWE than a WCC sort of guy. Rather, it is a matter of common sense. Trump was the most famous person in the world, hated and loved and surrounded by unprecedented levels of security. Trump Tower, for example, was encircled by dump-trucks loaded with sand. And with such precautions being hastily imposed, Mueller entertains as a possibility worth inquiring into that the president-elect was able to slip away from his Trump Tower penthouse, travel some six miles to the South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan, take in some chess, schmooze with some Russians, and return to midtown — all without being seen? 
This is where one would hope to find a more robust citation, because without a more compelling predicate than the sad little footnote provided, the special counsel’s pursuit of Chessgate comes across as naive and foolish. And yet, Mueller’s team finds it hard to let go. Back in the main text, Mueller uses his favorite grudging formulation of innocence: “the investigation did not establish that Trump or any Campaign or Transition Team official attended the event.”
For those in the Trump transition team who were unable to sneak out to catch the end of the contest, Mueller might have added that the Russian challenger lost. 
He could even have footnoted it.
So, was this one of the circumstances that in which, if Team Mueller had had confidence that president clearly had not attended the chess tournament they would have said so?


  1. Sherlock Mueller deserves to be interviewed by Yakov Smirnov.

  2. One reason why Robert Mueller staffed his gang with only Trump-hating zealots was that he did not want any staff member to laugh out loud at the solemn meetings where the staff discussed the evidence.

    1. I forget where I read this, maybe in Lisa Page's testimony, but it seems in the early days of Team Mueller Lisa Page--who says she wanted to cut back on work to be more of a mom, less of a mistress-- went to a meeting of Team Mueller. Mueller was so personally impressed with her strategizing out loud that he demanded that the FBI sent her over to his team permanently. What does that tell you--about both of them?

  3. I was glad that you saw the Eric Felten article. I was going to recommend it to you.

    The latest is that Mueller's aide wants to both testify and represent Mueller at tomorrow's hearing.

    These men will do anything to hold on to their tenuous grasp of power.

    I can't wait for the indictments to come down on "Bob" and his posse. Barr really made "Bob" look stupid today in announcing that Mueller asked for the DoJ to lay down guidance for his testimony.

    What's next, a note from his mommy that "Bob" isn't feeling well and can't make it? These guys are awfully good and dishing out the government's power but not so good when the shoe is on the other foot.

    1. I'm about to do a very brief post re Barr today. Hat's off to Felten--it must have been a real slog to go through all those footnotes.

  4. The example of the footnote regarding the chess championship demonstrates the absolute nothingness that is Mueller's report and investigation.

    It's what was once called the term paper weight test, i.e. the impressiveness of a college term paper is determined by its weight--its actual weight as measured on a scale. Since no professor is ever to read through dozens of similar "weighty" term papers, the grading shorthand became based on the number of footnotes and citations to determined the grade. This was probably the case during Weissman's time in college.

    1. "the absolute nothingness that is Mueller's report and investigation."

      I LOLed, but it's so pathetic. That passage epitomizes the whole thing perfectly.