Mueller confuses Maureen Dowd!

TUESDAY, JUNE 4, 2019

Pundit corps' latest god fails:
"If I've lost Maureen Dowd, I've lost the country!" So President Johnson once said.

Actually, LBJ was talking about losing Walter Cronkite. But Robert J. Mueller—Mueller the God—does seem to have lost Maureen Dowd.

Dowd has quit Robert J. Mueller. She described a state of terminal confusion in Sunday's New York Times:
DOWD (6/2/19): Barr is not so much the attorney general as the minister of information. His interview with Crawford was tactically brilliant. Barr once more deftly took advantage of the fact that Mueller, with his impenetrable legalese and double negatives, has handcuffed himself.

Even when the reclusive and mute Mueller finally stepped up to the lectern on Wednesday, he was still hiding.

“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” said Mueller, sounding like Odysseus struggling to navigate between Scylla and Charybdis. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”

Mueller is as elliptical as Barr is diabolical. The special counsel is clearly frustrated that we don’t understand his reasoning. But his reasoning is nonsensical.
In all honesty, the statements Dowd quotes aren't all that hard to parse. Technically, they contain no double negatives.

Beyond that, Mueller's overall "reasoning" actually makes fairly good sense, though only of a type:

"If I can't indict the guy," Mueller has said, "why should I bother reaching a legal judgment? Plus, it wouldn't be fair to poor Donald J. Trump. The fellow would never be able to find a way to defend himself!"

So the latest god has said. The bulk of that reasoning does make a fair bit of sense, and Dowd doesn't explain what's "nonsensical."

At any rate, the passage Dowd quotes is perhaps too confusing for mainstream press corps work. Mueller the God—the man who was going to lock them all up—has clattered back down to earth.

In fairness to Dowd, Mueller's two-part statement has struck many people as perhaps too precious by half. Beyond that, his positioning is a bit maddening, especially when he announces, channeling Garbo, that he doesn't want to say anything more.

In yesterday's Washington Post,
E. J. Dionne addressed himself directly to Mueller. Speaking as one might speak to a child, Dionne told Mueller that he needs to testify to Congress so people can get a better idea what he has actually said.

What has Mueller actually said? In the passage Dowd quotes, he has said two things. Warning! Double negative ahead:

Mueller has said he isn't sure that Trump didn't commit a crime. Also, Mueller has said that he hasn't determined that Trump did commit a crime!

Trump may have committed a crime, but it's also possible that he didn't! There's nothing "nonsensical" about that, but in the modern world of the instant take, it's deeply unsatisfying.

In and of itself, it's also perhaps a bit puzzling. Below, you see the fuller passage from Mueller's public statement last Wednesday. We'll highlight the part of the statement which seemed puzzling to us at the time:
MUELLER (5/29/19): Let me say a word about the report. The report has two parts, addressing the two main issues we were asked to investigate.

The first volume of the report details numerous efforts emanating from Russia to influence the election. This volume includes a discussion of the Trump campaign's response to this activity as well as our conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.

And in the second volume, the report describes the results and analysis of our obstruction of justice investigation involving the president. The order appointing me special counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation. We conducted that investigation and we kept the office of the acting attorney general apprised of the progress of our work.

And as set forth in the report, after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.
"If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so?"

All by itself, on its own, that statement by Mueller struck us as strange. Here's why:

How could anyone ever be sure that Trump hasn't committed the crime of obstruction of justice? (For that matter, how could anyone ever be sure that Trump didn't commit a crime of conspiracy with the Russians?)

Let's be more specific:

How could Mueller ever be sure that Trump didn't commit some such crime—a crime which Mueller simply failed to uncover? In this case, how could anyone ever have confidence that Trump clearly did not commit a crime? How can Mueller, or anyone else, "prove a negative" of that type?

As a general matter, an investigator can't prove that the person being investigated didn't commit a crime of this type. That's part of what observers have meant when they've said that prosecutors don't typically engage in "exoneration."

For that reason, Mueller's statement doesn't exactly make sense. Trump's supporters have complained about that statement, and they aren't exactly wrong. Meanwhile, mainstream pundits have started complaining about the way they've been failed by their latest "most upright person," by their successor to Comey the God.

Especially among liberal pundits, enormous expectations were built around Mueller the God. He was going to lock them all up! We heard it again and again.

In the end, Mueller didn't indict Donald Trump Junior. He didn't indict Jared Kushner.

He didn't frog-march anyone off for attending that Trump Tower meeting. He didn't splay Trump's financial entanglements all across the countryside.

We were told, month after month, that he was going to do all those things. In the end, he did none of those things, and created confusion to boot.

The moral here is plain. Whenever our press corps creates a god, that god goes on to fail them. (Colin Powell convinced them to vouch for that war. In the end, they all said they'd been wrong.)

As it turns out, Mueller's murky writing and precious reasoning remind us that he's just human. Question:

Do the members of our cable pundit corps rise to that imperfect level? They keep inventing establishment gods, and they just keep getting failed.

17 comments:

  1. This is easy to sort out. Mueller is an investigator. His job is to seek out and assembling information, facts about what happened. It is not his job to charge anyone with a crime, nor is it his job to not charge them. Prosecutors do that, in this case the Attorney General.

    Just as it was wrong for Comey to comment on Clinton's guilt or innocence, it would be wrong for Mueller to comment on Trump's probable guilt or innocence.

    But, there is a large body of evidence in the Mueller Report. This is the source of claims that Trump should be charge with obstruction of justice. This is the source of claims that Russia interfered with the election. This is the basis for calls to impeach Trump, calls to charge him with crimes, calls to do something to stop Russia from interfering again.

    Somerby keeps saying that no one can draw conclusions about Trump's guilt from Mueller's statements. That may be true, but certainly people can draw conclusions from the large body of evidence in the Mueller report.

    Mueller is being coy about testifying. He is not above the law and should answer questions under oath. His report does not address everything that Congressional committees might need to know.

    ReplyDelete
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  2. “Show me the man, and I’ll show you the crime,” said Stalin's head of the Secret Police, Lavrentiy Beria. Is this relevant to Trump?

    Trump was originally suspected or accused of two crimes:
    -- Illegal collusion with Russia
    -- Commiting Obstruction of Justice by firing Comey.

    Both charges were far-fetched from the get go. The former was based substantially on the preposterous, unsubstantiated Steele Dossier, which had financial support from Hillary's campaign. The latter made no sense, as Comey richly deserved to be fired, and firing him didn't stop any investigation.

    Not surprisingly, the Mueller Commission exonerated Trump on these two charges. But, now some are claiming that Trump committed a new Obstruction of Justice during the investigation. If that doesn't stand up, maybe his enemies will claim that Trump committed some other crime while being investigated for the new O of J. Apparently Trump's enemies will never stop accusing him of new crimes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "The former was based substantially on the preposterous, unsubstantiated Steele Dossier.."

      This isn't fair. Based on your post here, I can't tell if you are a moron or stupid. Please advise.

      Delete
    2. Right-wingers waiving away treason against the United States of America is the least surprising thing to happen in my lifetime. You could see that coming down Broadway 3 decades ago.

      Delete
    3. Based on the Steele Dossier. LOL.
      If it weren't for bad faith, Right-wing arguments would have no faith at all.

      Delete
    4. Hello All,

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      Delete
  3. "How can Mueller, or anyone else, "prove a negative" of that type?"

    Exactly. And therefore "We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime." is, in fact, a perfectly clear and unambiguous statement of exoneration.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime."

      You may not be dumb, but you sure are stupid.

      Delete
  4. “How could Mueller ever be sure that Trump didn't commit some such crime—a crime which Mueller simply failed to uncover?“

    Mueller is referring to *the specific instances of potential obstruction of justice which he and his team investigated*, not some hypothetical case that they didn’t investigate.

    The other problem with Somerby’s reasoning is connected with his use of the term “prosecutor” for Mueller and “the person being investigated” for Trump. Mueller spells out that, due to his interpretation of DOJ policy, the president cannot be indicted, and that impeachment is the only remedy to charge a president with crimes while in office. Thus, Mueller was not acting as prosecutor towards Trump, and Trump wasn’t just any person being investigated, but rather the president, who by virtue of his office (again according to DOJ) cannot be indicted while in office.

    It seems Mueller is bending over backwards to avoid clearly accusing the president of a crime because he sincerely believes that that is not allowable within the DOJ. The instances of potential obstruction clearly show obstruction, as indicated by that letter stating as much signed by that bipartisan group of hundreds of lawyers and former prosecutors.

    Whatever the press may or may not have told us is irrelevant at this point. The “confusion” surrounding Mueller is perhaps real, but that is no reason for the House to dither about the clear decision it has to make. And ultimately, that was where this was always going to lead.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @5:17 we can only guess about Mueller's motivations. IMHO (and in Barr's opinion), Mueller did have the option of stating that in his opinion, Trump committed O of J. In fact, I think it was his job to reach a conclusion. In any event, Mueller certainly had the option of charging anyone other than the President with that crime, and he did not do so.

      Delete
    2. @9:08- "David in Cal June 3, 2019 at 7:58 PM
      @7:24 I did not read the report."

      Delete
    3. The Mueller Report is like the Bible and the US Constitution to Conservatives. They never read it, but fully believe they're the authority on what it says.

      Delete
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