Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Will Mueller's Testimony Cause The Sky To Fall?

Short answer: No. Longer answer ...

When we first heard--just a week ago--that Robert Mueller would be testifying before a “joint panel” of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, on July 17th, my initial reaction was twofold:

1. This was probably prompted by the realization that Barr and Durham are focusing very strongly on the Intelligence Community Assessment that John Brennan manufactured in order to support the Russia Hoax narrative, and the need to offer some sort of support for that narrative, weak as it was shown to be by the Mueller Dossier itself; and
2. The decision to drag Mueller out before the public eye once again--after his widely panned no-questions press conference--was an expression of Dem desperation in the face of the Barr DoJ's new found effectiveness.

In my view, Adam Schiff gave the game away with his tweet announcing the development:

Robert Mueller has agreed to testify before Congress pursuant to subpoena. 
Russia attacked our democracy to help Trump win. Trump welcomed and used that help. As Mueller said, that should concern every American. 
And now, every American will get to hear directly from Mueller.

The bolded portion is a capsulized version of the whole Russia Hoax of "collusion," precisely what the Mueller Dossier said it couldn't find. As I said at the time:

Sheer desperation. Mueller's appearance will be staged to defend the ICA narrative of the Russia Hoax, to stave off the looming disaster just a bit longer. But this isn't going to stop Barr and Durham. Mueller better mind how he goes.

I remain of that opinion but, surprisingly, a few commentators expressed alarm. For example the husband/wife duo of Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing--experienced inside DC players--expressed the view that, while Mueller would probably avoid saying anything much beyond "read the report" in his public testimony, Andrew Weissmann in the closed door session would do real "damage" to the President and would probably "lie" in order to do that damage.

I'm not here to say that Weissmann won't lie, but I do believe that--discretion being the better part of valor--Weissmann will opt for caution with perhaps some innuendo mixed in. The obvious problems he faces are, again, twofold:

1. There really is very little he can do to support the Russia Hoax/ICA narrative, given that the Mueller Dossier had nothing on offer in that regard; and 
2. Weissmann will need to be cautious with regard to the obstruction issue because he is vulnerable to the question of why he sought no expert opinion on the issue from DoJ's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)--after all, he had two years to do so and Barr has expressly raised that question!

Now, my understanding is that, while the closed session will be freewheeling in terms of time and scope, there will be no transcript made. This was part of the reason that Toensing and DiGenova were of the view that Weissmann would "make stuff up" and "lie." The problem I see with that is this. While a perjury charge would be difficult in that situation, if any benefit is to be derived from Weissmann's testimony any misrepresentations will need to be broadcast publicly with attribution. That will open Weissmann up to potential legal problems if he tries to go beyond the four corners of the Mueller Dossier that he himself (according to most observers) wrote. At the very least it will open him up to  powerful attacks when more documents are ultimately declassified. Barr has thus far given Team Mueller a pass, for the most part, on the contents of the Mueller Dossier, but there's no reason to expect that to continue once the details of the origins of the Steele dossier and the ICA are determined. Thus, Schiff's concerns for the ICA--which Weissmann should share--as well as my own belief that the Mueller testimony is a tactic born of desperation, defensive rather than offensive in character.

Support for these views has come out over the last few days. For example, Eric Felten, in his Insinuendo: Why the Mueller Report Doth Repeat So Much (h/t commenter Forbes), offers a highly amusing take down of Weissmann's underhanded and decidedly unethical rhetorical techniques in the Mueller Dossier. Since all those insinuendos appear in the Mueller Dossier, Weissmann can no doubt repeat them in his testimony. However, Weissmann (as well as Nadler and Schiff) will face several significant problems if they hope to reprise the Mueller Dossier's insinuendos to breathe new life into the Russia Hoax narrative:

1. The first is that the public has long since discounted those insinuendos and moved on. 
2. Secondly, the insinuated support in the Mueller Dossier for the Russia Hoax narrative is based on "facts" that were debunked long before the Dossier was even made public--largely with regard to George Papadopoulos. Felten really shines in deconstructing that aspect of Weissmann's underhanded technique. 
3. This is an area in which new documentation is highly likely to be made public. Devin Nunes and others have stated openly that there are recordings of Papadopoulos' interactions with CIA/FBI/MI6 assets which are "highly exculpatory." Therefore, Weissmann will probably want to be very careful with regard to anything to do with Papadopoulos. If he should ever be challenged in a non-privileged setting regarding anything he says, he could find himself in real trouble.

Felten doesn't get into the second--obstruction--portion of the Dossier, but the title of that part alone tells of serious problems: 

“Separation-of-Powers Principles Support the Conclusion that Congress May Validly Prohibit Corrupt Obstructive Acts Carried Out Through the President’s Official Powers.”

The title alone gives Weissmann's game away: Weissmann is clearly making an argument for a theory of prosecution--a new, controversial, and most legal scholars would say a reckless theory. The further and important problem is that Barr and Rosenstein urged, through Mueller, that Team Mueller (i.e., Weissmann) make a call on obstruction, one way or the other. Weissmann, however, refused to show his hand, just as he also refused to seek OLC's advice or assistance in coming to the final conclusion that he dodged. Moreover, this is precisely the issue that Bill Barr weighed in on just over a year ago in his 19 page legal memo: Mueller's "Obstruction" Theory. That memo not only put Team Mueller on notice that a former AG was wise to their little game, but it also cited weighty precedent against Weissmann's theory of obstruction. Weissmann will find himself on very weak ground if he tries now to push a theory that he refused to use earlier. Nor will his attempt to go beyond the Dossier likely go unremarked at DoJ. This is another area that has been largely discounted by the public, and a fuller debate will only show the President in a favorable light.

Similarly, CTH has drawn attention to a curious WaPo article (‘The enigma of the entire Mueller probe’: Focus on origins of Russian investigation puts spotlight on Maltese professor) that seeks to muddy the waters surrounding the Maltese "professor," Joseph Mifsud. In fact, those waters have become increasingly clear. As CTH puts it (CIA Seems Highly Concerned – Washington Post Reports on Sketchy Joseph Mifsud…):

If he walks like a counterintelligence agent; acts like a counterintelligence agent; sounds like a counterintelligence agent; hangs out with other counterintelligence agents; has admitted to engagements on behalf of intelligence agencies; trained U.S. FBI agents in conducting counterintelligence operations and generally has a history of counterintelligence agent behavior, well, he ain’t just a Maltese professor.  Just sayin’.
So what’s up?  Why is the Washington Post all out-front of Joseph Mifsud all of a sudden?

The CTH answer to that highly relevant question makes sense, but probably doesn't go far enough:

Likely it’s because someone in the background (Barr via Durham) is peeking at the connective tissue between John Brennan’s instructions in 2015 and 2016; and John Brennan’s “electronic communication’ results to the FBI in July 2016 that kicked off the counterintelligence operation against candidate Trump known as Crossfire Hurricane.

Of course the EC that initiated Crossfire Hurricane is important, but what's really front and center with John Brennan right now is how he went about manufacturing the ICA's Russia "meddling" narrative as a cover for Crossfire Hurricane. Put it this way: 

If the ICA narrative can hold, then maybe, just maybe, the whole Steele dossier and Crossfire Hurricane can be sold to the public as possibly off base but justifiable in the big picture of Russian "meddling." But if the ICA is shown to be what we all know it is--no more than a cover story to justify the Deep State's assault on our political system--then the conspirators are facing serious legal jeopardy and the Dems are facing serious public and electoral consequences.

And here, I think we see the real desperation of dragging Mueller before the public once again. The Steele dossier and the ICA are very dangerous ground for Team Mueller. Clearly Team Mueller has strong motives for defending the ICA, since the two are at the heart of the justification for the whole Special Counsel operation. But ... to attempt a public defense of either at this point, with so much evidence against them, and the whole question in play of: Why didn't Team Mueller examine the origins of the Steele dossier? That, I think, is a strong indicator of desperation.

And as if all that weren't bad enough, now comes word that IG Michael Horowitz has finished his investigation and is working on his report. (You can listen to John Ratcliffe discussing Horowitz's work here or also check out the CTH interpreted version in print.) 

Ratcliffe says that Horowitz hopes to have the report out before Congress recesses in August, which would mean: shortly after that July 17 Mueller testimony. Sundance argues that there will be delay, and Ratcliffe himself expresses some skepticism as to timing. Here's sundance's calculation of the timing, which would take us to September:

Roughly four weeks for draft assembly and referencer check; two to four weeks for administrative review; another two weeks for principal review/feedback; another week or so for IG counter-points and additional reference citations; and then AG review of final report before release.
If Ratcliffe is accurate; and considering we don’t know when the investigative phase actually concluded; the most likely public release date (just an estimate based on historical IG reporting) would be the end of August or early September.

That seems reasonable, but there is the Barr factor to take into account. Previous IG reports were stonewalled by Rod Rosenstein and Chris Wray. My belief is that that stonewalling was very determined. Barr will be much more inclined to push the report through, although not at the expense of accuracy and measured judgment.

Horowitz's report will not involve the ICA directly, but it will certainly address the Steele dossier--at least as regards the Carter Page FISA. That is certainly concerning for Team Mueller and the Dems.

Sundance brings up another matter, with which I disagree. He states, regarding Horowitz's report:

If previous reports of Christopher Steele being willing to speak to U.S. authorities about his dossier work in 2016 are accurate; and if Horowitz has completed his investigative work; then it’s likely Horowitz has already interviewed Steele.

That reflects initial reports regarding Steele's willingness to speak to US investigators, in which it was stated that he would speak to Horowitz. However, those initial reports have been contradicted--IMO, on reasonable grounds, since Steele is not a DoJ employee (duh!). I believe Durham's team will be conducting that interview. I also believe, as I've tried to explain, that the Steele interview will only be one part of a far more extensive effort to secure foreign cooperation and which could extend to quite a few more interviews. Those interviews will certainly focus on Steele's "dossier" and should also involve the ICA. 

All of this almost certainly went into the decision to drag Mueller out again.


  1. Another Dreher blog that I thought was pretty good: The Orwellian Sexual Revolution.

  2. "...Andrew Weissmann in the closed door session would do real "damage" to the President and would probably "lie" in order to do that damage."


    1. Why will there not be a transcript of a closed door session. It seems to me transcripts have been made, and released, of previous closed door sessions.

    2. I have asked before, but what is to prevent a Republican staffer from taping Weissmann's testimony?

    3. How can Weissmann 'lie'? Won't there be Republican representatives and staffers there to cross-examine him? Surely he is equally bound as Mueller to the contents of the Report.

    1. 1. Because Nadler. And the rest of the Dems. They make their own rules without regard to comity.

      2. Dunno. House rules?

      3. Yes there will, but there will also be Dems there to support him in his lies. However, as I argue, that would come back to bite him in the longer run, so I suspect he'll play it safe.

  3. And...where is Lindsey Graham?

    1. Trying to get Trump into another war?

    2. Ha! I bet he misses his BFF...

    3. For a while I thought he'd got over that, but no ...

  4. I agree that the ICA is a real problem for the CIA, FBI and Clapper. But it is not just their reliance on the Steele dossier that is on the line. It is the very notion that the DNC emails were pilfered by the Russians, rather than downloaded locally by a Democrat insider. If the ICA is shown to rest on quicksand, there will inevitably be questions about this. And it must scare the Hoaxsters silly.

    1. No ruling yet on Roger Stone's motion. I'm sure none of that has been missed by Barr. They hafta know that whole story is bogus, as well as the FBI's role.

  5. On the Mifsud story- I will make a prediction:

    When it is revealed that Mifsud was, in fact, a western intelligence agent/associate, the story will be floated that it was Papadopoulos that brought up getting Clinton e-mails from Mifsud's Russian "connections", and not the other way around. I think the story today was in preparation for that because I think the coup plotters know that Mifsud's connections can no longer be hidden, so they are preparing the ground for this change in the Papadopoulos story.

    1. Too late, I think. And there's more trouble headed their way. New post. Too many fires to put out.

  6. I was really down this week with the Antifa beat-down and Andy Ngo. Then I read Joe Digenova's take on Weissmann and doing real damage. And I didn't have time to read your blog due to work.

    So I am happy to see your take on this. I'm one who tries to be optimistic on this page but I was having a little despair of my own.

    Boy, I sure hope Barr has a blitzkrieg planned for the Deep State. I could really use any bone that he would throw us.

    1. Yeah, so today DiGenova is out with a Fox article suggesting question areas. IMO, that's too general. In the given format, over which the GOP has no control, they need to ask very simple, direct questions. If possible susceptible of yes/no answers.