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How the Media Missed the Most Important Part of the Mueller Report

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When Special Counsel Robert Mueller pursued his investigation, he asked two key questions: Did President Donald Trump or his campaign conspire or coordinate with the Russian effort to interfere in the 2016 election? And did Trump, as president, obstruct the investigation?

And with all the coverage of the Mueller report, most of the media seems to be missing the central point at which the two questions overlap: Paul Manafort.

As I explained after Mueller’s report first came out, a key mystery remains about Manafort. Why was he, as Trump’s campaign chair, sending polling data to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, among others, through Konstantin Kilimnik? Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates, incidentally, thought Kilimnik was a “spy,” Mueller told us — and the FBI agrees.

One suggestion in the report is just that Manafort thought it would show off his work to someone he had a business relationship with. But this is hardly persuasive, and Mueller doesn’t seem to fully buy it.

And most importantly, the reason we don’t know Manafort’s reason for sending the polling data — a potentially conspiratorial act — is because he lied to Mueller, even after he agreed to cooperate with the investigation. And this ties to the obstruction case. Mueller lays out a strong case that Trump’s dangling of a pardon to Manafort, and his encouragement that Manafort not “flip,” constituted criminal obstruction of justice. Well, Manafort never truly flipped; he just kept misleading investigators. If Manafort really was conspiring with the Russians — with or without Trump’s knowledge — the president may have successfully covered it up.

Of course, this is speculation. But that’s one reason why obstructing justice on its own is and should be a crime. It corrupts the justice system and leaves doubt that the best possible answers were obtained. Manafort lied to investigators and Trump encouraged him to do so, or at least to keep his mouth shut; this suggests they both had something to hide.

This gaping hole in the case should be a major takeaway from the report. But it has attracted relatively little attention, given the fact that it emphasizes why obstruction charges are so important and undermines claims that the report is a decisive demonstration of “no collusion.”

Mainstream coverage, in fact, has misled people. For example, the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake wrote that the Mueller report showed, “No collusion, officially.”

But Mueller makes clear in the report that just because he didn’t find something doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. And in the case of the polling data, Mueller goes a step further and says he doesn’t know why Manafort shared this information — leading wide open the possibility that the motive was criminal in nature.

In another piece, Blake noted that “it’s not clear whether there was any quid pro quo agreement” regarding the Manafort polling data. But he doesn’t mention that one likely reason this isn’t clear is that Trump successfully obstructed justice.

The New York Times, in its list of the “7 key things” it thinks its readers “need to know” about the Mueller report, it didn’t even mention Manafort once.

And the first “thing” it thinks you should know is this: “Trump did try to sabotage the investigation. His staff defied him.”

While this is true, it gives the false impression that all of Trump’s efforts to stop the investigation failed because of his staff. As I have argued, though, it’s quite possible that not only was Trump successful in illegally keeping Manafort quiet but that this act covered up another game-changing crime.

There have been some exceptions to this trend of missing the point. Ben Wittes, writing for Lawfare, noted the significance of Trump’s tampering with Manafort.

“Trump got what he wanted in this case,” wrote Wittes. “Manafort did not end up cooperating to Mueller’s satisfaction. Indeed, Mueller concluded that he breached his plea deal by failing to cooperate and by lying to investigators. So the reality here may well be that the president’s obstructive conduct did, in fact, obstruct the investigation. The president hinted that Manafort should not ‘flip’ and that he would take care of him. And Manafort acted in a fashion consistent with his relying on those assurances.”

However, in the reverse of Blake’s omission, Wittes fails to connect this to the fact that Manafort’s potentially criminal motive for sending the polling data remains unknown.

Charlie Sykes, writing for the Bulwark and citing Wittes, has been the only writer I’ve seen yet make the full connection:

At this point, we don’t know how significant Manafort’s silence was to the outcome of the investigation. We do know that before, during, and after his tenure as Trump campaign chair, he maintained deep and tangled relationships with figures associated with the Kremlin. At one point he passed private campaign polling data to an associate with links to Russian intelligence. Could he have exposed greater cooperation between TrumpWorld and the Russians? We don’t know, although Mueller left behind several tantalizing suggestions about the information that they had been blocked from seeing.

He concluded, aptly: “But, for the time being, it appears that Donald Trump’s attempts to obstruct key parts of the investigation may actually have succeeded.”

Wittes acknowledged Sykes’ point, writing: “I don’t know why this aspect of the report is not getting more attention.”

Indeed.

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Trump Makes False Claims About Classified Documents – And Obama

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Donald Trump is responding to news reports he is under FBI investigation for actions covered by the Espionage Act by making apparently false claims about his mishandling of classified documents and about former President Barack Obama.

“Number one, it was all declassified,” Trump says in a post on his Truth Social site, a claim legal experts say is incorrect. For any president to declassify documents, experts say, there is a process that involves actions being taken on each individual document. They also say the president does not have legal authority to declassify documents related to nuclear weapons.

“Number two,” Trump continues, “they didn’t need to ‘seize’ anything. They could have had it anytime they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago. It was in secured storage, with an additional lock put on as per their request.”

READ MORE: FBI Agents Searched Mar-a-Lago for ‘Classified Documents Relating to Nuclear Weapons’: Report

Again, according to reports, that too is false. DOJ issued a subpoena after the National Archives tried to get all the documents back and Trump still did not comply.

“They could have had it anytime they wanted—and that includes LONG ago,” he continues in a separate post on Truth Social. “ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS ASK.”

Again, multiple reports say they did, numerous times.

READ MORE: DOJ Served Trump With Grand Jury Subpoena for Classified Documents Months Before FBI Raid: Report

None of his responses explain why he had at Mar-a-Lago what we now know were at least 35 cartons – 20 retrieved on Monday and 15 earlier this year – of items including confidential, classified, and top secret documents that were required by law to have been handed over to the National Archives.

“The bigger problem is,” Trump says, “what are they going to do with the 33 million pages of documents, many of which are classified, that President Obama took to Chicago?”

That is also false.

The National Archives on Friday issued a statement after Trump repeatedly spread the false claim that former President Barack Obama had 33 million documents in his possession.

“President Barack Hussein Obama kept 33 million pages of documents, much of them classified. How many of them pertained to nuclear? Word is, lots!” was one of Trump’s false attacks on his Truth Social site.

“The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) assumed exclusive legal and physical custody of Obama Presidential records when President Barack Obama left office in 2017, in accordance with the Presidential Records Act (PRA),” the Archives said in a statement posted to its website Friday.

“NARA moved approximately 30 million pages of unclassified records to a NARA facility in the Chicago area where they are maintained exclusively by NARA,” the Archives added. “Additionally, NARA maintains the classified Obama Presidential records in a NARA facility in the Washington, DC, area. As required by the PRA, former President Obama has no control over where and how NARA stores the Presidential records of his Administration.”

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‘So Much Worse!’ Morning Joe Rips GOP for Defending Trump After Burying Clinton Over Classified Info

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MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough hammered Republicans for spending years excoriating Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified materials and then turning around defending Donald Trump over far worse allegations.

The FBI carried out a search of Mar-A-Lago this week, where agents reportedly expected to find nuclear secrets among the classified materials Trump took from the White House, and Scarborough and “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski laid into Republicans for attacking law enforcement to protect the former president from serious allegations.

“The conundrum you just put out there,” Brzezinski said, “about it being just as bad when a Democrat has some improper use of classified documents as when a Republican does, on this show, you will see us saying the same thing in each situation. Roll the tape, you know, rewind the tape — critical of Hillary Clinton, everything to do with the email, very, very critical. Here, you have a situation where Trump’s following and his friends on TV won’t cover the story the same way. In fact, they will go to fantastical lengths to not ask the right questions, to twist the truth, to push his big lies. It is dangerous.”

Scarborough said there was no comparison between what Clinton did and what Trump has been accused of doing, even as the facts remain scant.

READ MORE: ‘Deranged’ Republicans have gone off the rails with FBI attacks after Mar-a-Lago search: conservative

“What is so maddening about the Republican response to this is, despite the fact — and I hope our liberal friends can deal with this — despite the fact we brought up Hillary Clinton’s emails, in this same time, we’re bringing up Donald Trump’s classified information that he’s reportedly taken to Mar-A-Lago, there is no moral equivalency,” Scarborough said. “The two are brought up because what Donald Trump has done is so much worse, so much more dangerous.”

An Ohio man tried to force his way into FBI headquarters in Cincinnati on Thursday, apparently prompted by Republican attacks on law enforcement officials over the Trump search, and Scarborough called out their violent rhetoric.

“The order of magnitude is overwhelming, and I bring it up to make a bigger point about Republican hypocrisy,” Scarborough said. “They were worried about a former secretary of state’s emails. They’re completely discounting the possibility of nuclear secrets being stolen from the White House and taken down to Mar-A-Lago and hidden from the Department of Justice.”

“Where are the Republicans? Where are the Republicans? Where are the Republicans?” he added. “Hold a press conference, condemn these actions, condemn the hate speech, condemn the targeting of law enforcement officers. Condemn the targeting of FBI agents and professionals at the Department of Justice. Is there not one that will do it?”

Watch the video below or at this link.

 

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DOJ Served Trump With Grand Jury Subpoena for Classified Documents Months Before FBI Raid: Report

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The U.S. Dept. of Justice served Donald Trump with a grand jury subpoena months before the FBI raided the former President’s Mar-a-Lago home Monday, according to a right wing media outlet.

News of the existence of the grand jury subpoena being served on Trump months ago comes from Just the News, a website created by John Solomon. Solomon is a longtime journalist who in 2019 was labeled by The Daily Beast as “the Trumpian right’s favorite ‘investigative reporter,'” and the “Trump-friendly scribe” whose “Biden-Ukraine conspiracies were cited multiple times in the whistleblower memo.”

“Many of his co-workers are ashamed to be associated with him,” The Daily Beast reported, citing “his questionable reporting, which often seems specifically tailored to stoke the flames of right-wing paranoia.”

READ MORE: ‘Same Answer’: Trump Sat Across From the NY Attorney General and Pleaded the Fifth to Each Question For About 5 Hours

Solomon on Thursday writes: “Two months before his Florida home was raided by the FBI, former President Donald Trump secretly received a grand jury subpoena for classified documents belonging to the National Archives, and voluntarily cooperated by turning over responsive evidence, surrendering security surveillance footage and allowing federal agents and a senior Justice Department lawyer to tour his private storage locker, according to a half dozen people familiar with the incident.”

If accurate, that’s news.

“Very clearly not the intention of that John Solomon article, but it inadvertently reflects very well upon the Justice Department,” NBC News Justice reporter covering the DOJ, Ryan J. Reilly observes. “A subpoena was issued to the former president of the United States and it held for nearly three months, until Trump’s own team publicly disclosed it!”

READ MORE: Experts Call on Trump to Release Search Warrant and Inventory List as His Supporters Talk of ‘Civil War’

National security and civil liberties journalist Marcy Wheeler adds: “Here’s what propagandist John Solomon says FBI had reason to believe Trump didn’t turn over in the original 15 box collection of stolen documents: Correspondence with foreign leaders.”

She points to this section of Solomon’s article:

“The subpoena requested any remaining documents Trump possessed with any classification markings, even if they involved photos of foreign leaders, correspondence or mementos from his presidency.”

According to multiple news outlets, FBI agents carted away an additional 10 to 12 cartons on Monday, in addition to the 15 the National Archives was forced to travel to Mar-a-Lago to retrieve earlier this year.

Even Rupert Murdoch’s Trump-friendly New York Post on Tuesday reported a “showdown over the materials first erupted back in January when the National Archives said it had retrieved 15 boxes of White House records — including classified information — from Mar-a-Lago that Trump should have turned over when he left office. The feds took another 12 boxes of material on Monday.”

 

 

 

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