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Some questions about US politics…

I have been fixated on UK politics lately and have perhaps not given the ‘Trump and Russian Collusion’ affair the attention it deserves.

Simply put, if the report exonerates Trump and his administration of illegality (even if not fuckwitterly), would it be a fair characterisation to say the following things are true?

1. Trump’s protestation that he was being subjected to a witch-hunt by politically motivated Federal figures has been vindicated.
2. Trump’s more questionable actions were attempts to fight back against political enemies employing now debunked accusations.
3. No one is being prosecuted for trying to bring down a duly elected President with bogus charges.

Or have I got it all wrong? Educate me as I really have not been paying attention.

79 comments to Some questions about US politics…

  • seekerofthetruth

    I have been following this with some amusement – if I were an American I think outrage would be in order.
    1) Yes
    2) Yes
    3) Watch this space. Trump never forgives, but sometimes thinks “revenge is a dish best served cold”.

    I suspect that Trump was aware that Muller and co. knew, from about day 7 or so, that there was no evidence of Russian collusion. Since then they have been doing really bad things to his associates, hoping he will move to protect them so they can claim “Obstruction!”.

  • Yes.

    We will have to see about three though.

  • Julie near Chicago

    And a third Yes to (1) & (2), with a 90% confidence in a Yes for (3).

    Unfortunately, going after the villains seems unlikely to achieve the end sought, which is to have them all drawn and quartered, tarred and feathered, and run out of town on a rail OR — less poetically — prosecuted and incarcerated for some lengthy spell. Partly because Pres. Trump would have to find in his own Administration people loyal enough to either him or the rule of law*, and gutsy enough to do the work, which he hardly has time to do himself; AND enough people, ditto, in Congress, that they would do their bit toward the same end.

    *There’s also the question of whether these folks in fact did anything legally actionable. As to that, I have no idea.

  • This is an interesting take.

    In Defense of Trump Obstructing Justice (When There’s No Underlying Crime). Forget about Donald Trump and the Mueller report and think about all the little (and not-so-little) people who get crushed by the feds.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Oh yes indeedy, including so-called “process crimes.” As the Reason article notes.

    .

    Strictly for the record, I see no particular evidence that the President “lacks loyalty to the office.” It seems to me that such loyalty lies mainly in trying to accomplish what the office-holder sees as his duties of office, as set forth in the Constitution and informed by his own POV as to what’s best for the country as a group (its status and good or ill faith in the eyes of outsiders such as Britain and N.K.) and for the individual members of the country.

    As counterpoint, Pres. Trump has taken opinions of various members of the Federalist Society greatly into account, whereas the former Occupant of the office took the views of those in opposition to the Constitution and the good name of the country as his guiding lights. His loyalty to the office was notables by its absence. There! I said it!

  • Jay Jorgensen

    You nailed it.
    The really crazy part is that despite the report, the accusers are doubling down in many cases. FUBAR.

    There is apparently an investigation going on into Obama’s Justice dept and FBI specifically around misuse of FISA courts/process.

  • Ellen

    The problems of American politics should be quite familiar to Britons. Much of the Democrat party has gone barking mad, and a substantial portion of the Republican party as well. They view Trump as Royalists of the day viewed Oliver Cromwell. “This – person – is not acceptable! We must do something.”

    Replace Trump with Brexit, multiply the number of political parties involved, and there you have it.

  • 1) Yes. (My summary FWIW is here et seq.)

    2) I find Mueller’s claimed doubts on “obstruction” implausible and dishonest – i.e. there were no “questionable actions ” worthy of significant discussion – except in Sir Humphrey Appleby’s sense:

    Appelby: “Say they are questionable.”

    Hacker: “How do I do that?”

    Appelby: “Question them. They are then, by definition, questionable.”

    3) Trump could have learned from the late Andrew Breitbart the advantage of launching his counterattack slowly and steadily, so Dems go loudly on record as defending each position before it becomes untenable and they must retreat to the next. That this strategy keeps the issue alive for much of the time between now and the election also has value for him.

    He’s had two years to think about what to do when this moment came. That he was not baited into doing something that could be effectively construed as “obstruction” suggests he is either very lucky or nearer Scott Adam’s depiction of him than his enemies are willing to recognise.

  • Eric Tavenner

    On point 3, the Attorney General is making noises like he intends to take action. Whether or not he actually does remains to be seen.
    Julie, lying to a judge to get a search warrant is definitely actionable.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Niall,

    Good comment (as usual). I particularly like your Point (3). :>)))

    .

    The one thing I would say, is that the apparently mugwumppy “obstruction of justice” statement sounds to me inherently lawyerly. “My investigation can’t say with 100% honesty that it proves he didn’t do it” — especially since such an investigation wasn’t part of the Mueller Investigation’s remit.

    More-or-less analogy as to How It Works: As I understand it, here in the U.S. the District Attorney’s Office for a given jurisdiction takes evidence procured in an investigation of a (possible or certain) crime. It then decides whether there’s enough evidence on which to build a prosecutable case against a suspect, if one is suggested by the evidence from the investigation. In one case, the evidence may show that a given suspect is definitely not guilty (to within the bounds of human fallibility, perhaps I should note), while in another case there’s insufficient evidence to support a conclusion of either “guilty” or “innocent.”

    The Prosecution may decide that in fact the suspect is specifically not guilty, or that the investigation does not prove innocence but does not prove guilt either, so finds the charge not prosecutable.

    I may well be all wet in the foregoing; if so, I would welcome correction.

    .

    Finally, I’d like to add that there’s a very good rundown of Barr’s summary statement at

    https://www.businessinsider.com/mueller-report-summary-barr-russia-investigation-2019-2

    . . .

    Eric: Good point, thanks.

  • Nico

    Because Mueller punted as to obstruction, many [democrats] feel justified in saying that Trump did commit obstruction of justice. Of course, it was very lame to punt on that: it was Mueller’s job to make a determination. But giving the impression that there was a crime when there was none is all Mueller had left, and of course he was going to do that.

    Mueller’s argument for punting was that “gee, it seems there’s constitutional issues here that I cannot decide”, but in fact it seems to me that if the only obstructive actions were a) firing Comey, b) considering (but not actually) firing Mueller (and Rosenstein, and Sessions), and c) tweeting non-stop about the witch hunt.

    Those are trivial to dismiss facially. (a) clearly did not obstruct justice (since Mueller got appointed) and was very much justified by Rosenstein’s memo. As to (b), considering but then not carrying out a potentially-obstructive action cannot by itself be an obstrcvtive action!! And as to (c), well, the President told Mueller he’d be doing that while at the same time cooperating and telling everyone to cooperate, so (c) cannot have been obstruction either.

    Worse though, (a) could only have been obstruction if Comey and friends didn’t already know that there had been no illegal actions on the part of the Trump campaign (at least as to hacking the election)! But of course Comey et. al. knew! The whole thing was a setup, which means that Comey et. al. actually violated the law in a number of ways, and incurred serious criminal liability for it themselves.

    But Mueller gets to say “gee, i dunno, it looks like there’s constitutional issues I cannot decide, so I won’t”, and the media and the House democrats run with that.

    So, for an outsider it might be tough to figure out the exact state of play. You might have to make up your own mind — why trust my exposition?

    In the reality I’m observing, which is not the reality that the democrats and the media pretend is real, my answers are:

    1) Yes.
    2) What questionable actions?? But, yes.
    3) TBD, but the meta-rule in DC is this: the rules are for Republicans to follow and Democrats to enforce against Republicans, so you can make a prediction on that basis.

    The new Attorney General has said he’ll be investigating the investigation. Assange will be extradited, and will almost certainly seek immunity in exchange for his testimony as to how Wikileaks got the DNC e-mails. These two things together could cause the Democrats a great deal of heartburn. If it becomes clear that Seth Rich gave Wikileaks the DNC e-mails, and if it becomes clear that he got killed for it, then the Mueller modified, limited hang-out of “gee, Trump kinda sorta did commit obstruction” will be forgotten and the dems will have a very hard time in 2020.

    If the new AG is remotely like Sessions, a go-along-to-get-along type, then none of that will happen, and 2020 will be close.

    So, it’s too soon to tell as to (3).

    Even in the best of cases, I expect only the FBI’s leadership, and maybe a few people in the DoJ outside the FBI, will be prosecuted. Mueller will not be, nor will anyone who worked for him. Neither will Rosenstein. We’re talking about Comey, Ohr — those guys. Hillary Clinton will not be prosecuted. Neither will Brennan, or Rice, or Obama. Especially Obama — with so many to prosecute, and with a prosecution of a former President surely being extremely risky, I expect it will never happen.

  • Nullius in Verba

    On 3, there are also strategic considerations. It’s a high-risk strategy to try for a prosecution – if you fail, the attempt can backfire on you. Sometimes you can make a lot more headway with the voters in the court of public opinion, with a long drawn out process of leaks and rumours and rhetoric, than the complicated messy and often ambiguous business of proving stuff in the courts. The Democrats have utterly discredited themselves in this process, and the longer it goes on and the longer they wriggle and evade, the worse they look. It may be advantageous to keep them doing themselves damage, rather than bringing closure, and allowing them to draw a line under it and move on.

    Also, it’s arguably more important to change the system, so they can’t do it again, than to give the impression that the system is functional it just had a few bad apples. It might actually be better to tell people we can’t bring them to justice, in order to make the case to change the system so we can. Building in new safeguards is more important – and what argument better makes the case for that? That the justice system is currently capable of cleaning up this mess? Or that it can’t? Would jailing a few small fry allow them to claim the problem has been fixed, instead of diving in for the long haul to drain the whole swamp?

    And I expect they would quite like to drag the whole process out to the 2020 elections!

  • Nico

    Nullius: it probably would be safer to defer prosecutions until either the public is demanding it and the election in the bag, or until after winning the election — probably the latter.

    As to changing the system, it can’t be done. The fundamental problem is that between the Bush Sr., Clinton, Bush Jr., and Obama administrations, the DoJ and the intelligence agencies are stacked with partisans and establishment people all of whom hate Trump. Clinton and Obama both understood that the DoJ is absolutely critical to the exercise of political power in the U.S., so they greatly politicized the department, while the Bushes treated it as just a matter of professionalism and did nothing to prevent its politicization. Trump lost two years in the effort to undo this politicization, so at best he’ll have six years to the 16 of Clinton and Obama and 12 of the Bush administrations — hardly enough to make a dent. Moreover, Trump will need to have the Senate solidly in R hands in 2021 to make a dent anyways. Changing the laws is also infeasible as long as Congress is either in Dem hands or in the hands of Republicans that hate Trump.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Nico, you end both of your comments above with particularly good points. (From first comment: “Especially Obama.”)

    Thanks.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Trump lost two years in the effort to undo this politicization, so at best he’ll have six years to the 16 of Clinton and Obama and 12 of the Bush administrations — hardly enough to make a dent.”

    The first thing to do is to establish the need. Turn it into one of the voters’ priorities. Make it so the next President has to promise it.

    And frankly, I’d not lay any money on Trump not making a bigger dent than anyone would expect! He’s done a lot of other stuff nobody thought he’d be able to do.

    Granted, he won’t fix the world single-handedly. No President ever does. (Nor would we want to give any one person the power to do so.) But I think his most lasting legacy will be moving the Overton window on what politicians can do and how they have to behave. He’s changed the issues politicians will be fighting on. And sometimes it matters more which direction you’re moving in than whether you actually get there.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Now I must correct myself. From

    https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/967231/download

    we have the one-page statement from DOJ authorizing the Mueller investigation. In particular, its point (c) states:

    If the Special Counsel [Robert Mueller] believes it is necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters.

    So apparently “obstruction of justice” committed during and as a result of the investigation was indeed within Mueller’s license to pursue.

  • bobby b

    “Forget about Donald Trump and the Mueller report and think about all the little (and not-so-little) people who get crushed by the feds.”

    I used to tell people that, if they spoke to any federal agent or AUSA without having me at their side, they would have to find someone other than me to represent them.

    Once you have a conversation with such a person – who will refuse to tape record that conversation and will insist that his notes will suffice to memorialize the talk – you are screwed. They WILL ALWAYS “find” a lie, and then threaten to charge you for that lie, and then hold that threat over your head for whatever else they want you to say. If I did to witnesses what they do, I would have been in jail for suborning perjury.

    Ask Martha Stewart if she’ll ever have another friendly talk with an FBI agent. She was investigated for stock fraud. No fraud was shown – the charge was dropped – but during her interview she misspoke about a rather meaningless detail, and she was charged with obstruction and spent five months in jail followed by five months of home confinement.

    If an FBI agent ever asks you a question – no matter how innocuous – do not answer. Ever. Get a lawyer first. If an FBI agent asked me “how’s your steak?”, I’d politely nod. Silently.

    The fact that Trump’s lawyers refused to let him speak to Mueller’s gang speaks well of Trump’s lawyers.

  • bobby b

    In some parts of the world, deposed leaders end up before firing squads.

    We’ve always prided ourselves in being better than that. The peaceful transfer of office – even from one party to another – is valued here. Because of that, there has been a long-held custom that we end attacks on ex-presidents as they leave office.

    That custom has become shakier of late, but we’ve not entirely crossed over yet. For that reason, I would welcome an investigation of everyone’s role in what has occurred, and the prosecution of everyone involved, except for Obama (who I think is going to ultimately be shown to have caused much of this mess.) We still don’t strangle our deposed kings.

  • Julie near Chicago

    bobby,

    “Because of that, there has been a long-held custom that we end attacks on ex-presidents as they leave office.

    “That custom has become shakier of late, ….”

    And who has been the only occupant of the Oval Office that I know of who has made the custom shakier — indeed, has thrown it on the floor and smashed it? GRRRRRRRR…..

    And now, we have a Democratic Party that would impeach and, I daresay, convict Pres. Trump if they thought they could.

    It’s true (as far as I know) that even the Sith never called for GWB to be prosecuted. (Thank the Great Frog for small favors.)

    I do see your point, unfortunately.

    But purely as a hypothetical, suppose there were substantial evidence that the Sith committed treason according to a highly defensible interpretation of the crime. Would a case against him have to be brought by the DOJ (and hence by the Administrative Branch and presumably with the authority of the President then in power, against the custom you defend? –By this reasoning, the Mueller investigation itself — but not the earlier FBI investigation — would have been brought by the Trump Administration with the concurrence of Pres. Trump.)

    ETA: By the way, I like your point about the savvy of the President’s lawyers in not letting him talk to the Investigation.

  • Nico

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-7o9xYp7eE

    Watch that video. Watch it a few times. Let it sink in. The watch it every year. Considering that video, Giuliani did well to not let Trump speak to Mueller.

  • Fraser Orr

    First of all…. what bobbyb said. I have told my kids this many times — the only thing you say to the police or federal agents is “I need to talk to my parents”, “I need to talk to a lawyer”, “I am sorry, my parents have told me I may not speak to you without them or a lawyer present.”

    It is horrifying that that is true, but there is no doubt it is true. No matter how they provoke you. And they will. What Muller (actually Weinstein) did to Manafort would be considered torture were it done to a terrorist in Guantanamo. But somehow the principled left don’t have too much to say about that.

    But besides that, what I find remarkable about the Muller report is how little is in it. I mean If Muller had forty FBI agents and a panel of the excellent lawyers, and thousands of subpeonas looking into my life they would have found a lot of things that they could bust me on no doubt. But on Trump they found practically nothing? I find that astonishing. Especially when it is plain to any clear thinking person that they were entirely out to get him, and were willing to do basically anything to do so. (For example, what they did to Jerome Corsi was nothing short of an attempt to suborn perjury, and how brave a man was Corsi to stick to his principles and the truth?)

    Despite all those efforts by a deeply unfair and biased investigation, they found basically nada? Like I say, I am absolutely astonished.

    And the evidence of what the FBI and the intelligence services did? As one article I read recently put it, it is the closest we have ever come to tanks on the lawn of the white house. What some of these men (and a few women) did? Should end them in jail for the rest of their lives, for it amounted to nothing less than treason.

    I doubt it will happen, we will see. Barr seems like a ball buster. As to whether it is politically expedient? I think probably not.

    My god, I am not a democrat (or for that matter a republican) but in the past at least I admired their principles of standing up for justice, human rights, due process and holding the powerful accountable. How quickly those principles dissolved in the face of their hatred of Trump and their thirst for power.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    It is worth remembering that there is only one functioning political party in the US — that being the Democrat Party. And the Democrat Party has in the last few decades been taken over by grifters and extremists. The Democrat Establishment includes not only elected officials but also most of the media, the top echelons of the bureaucracy, Big Education, and Hawaiian judges. The Democrat Party for some reason engenders extreme levels of support among its adherents — even Death cannot keep a Democrat supporter from voting.

    With that as background, the run-of-the-mill Democrat supporter is entirely unimpressed with that turncoat Muller who failed to get President Trump — simply does not believe Muller’s conclusions. They are not interested in facts or legalities. On the other hand, it will be very difficult for the Not-The-Democrats to bring any of the miscreants to justice, against the active opposition of the Democrat Establishment.

    In the meantime, let’s not lose sight of one of the main casualties of the Democrats sorry witch hunt — which has been the lost opportunity for a more constructive engagement between the USA and Russia. Who benefits from that lost opportunity? China! The unasked question is whether China is just lucky, or whether there are wheels within wheels in this whole saga?

  • Alsadius

    So far as I can tell, the Russia probe was based on a questionable dossier, but the people doing the investigations needed to dig into it in order to tell if there was any fire under the smoke. The were a few candles – a couple meetings happened, a couple minor underlings were crooked – but there’s no bonfire. The Russians didn’t rig the election, Trump didn’t hack Clinton’s email like a modern Watergate, and nobody abused power too egregiously.

    That said, Trump doesn’t think like a lawyer, so he did some really stupid things in a legal context. And that’s not just lawyerly BS, there’s good reason for many of those rules. Obstruction can eliminate proof of an underlying crime, so you can’t make an obstruction charge dependent on proving the underlying crime – if you did, successful obstruction of an investigation into a real crime would have no penalties attached, which is obviously a perverse result. Trump thinks like a medieval noble in some ways – he’s about personal loyalty, not the rule of law – so he acts like personal loyalty is the only thing that matters. In a legal context, while he’s living within(and in charge of!) a nation of modern laws, that’s abysmally bad behaviour, and it makes him look guilty as hell.

    I suspect Trump has probably technically broken some laws here. But much as the President isn’t supposed to be above the law, he sort of is, and nobody will charge him. (Or, to use a more infamous wording, “no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case”). This is a legal issue that’s better dealt with by elections, or possibly impeachment, not traditional criminal processes.

    That said, I totally agree that lying to the FBI is a bullshit crime. If you’re not under oath, you can lie. Take that away, though, and we’re left with about half the naughty stuff identified still being there, and it’s still not pretty.

    IOW,
    1) A bit of truth, but most people involved acted properly.
    2) True, but not important. I’d forgive a dumb kid who followed his gut and not his legal advice, but this is the President, as well as a man who’s been in and out of courtrooms since before I was alive. If he doesn’t know better than this, he’s incompetent and dangerous.
    3) True, for the same reason that nobody was prosecuted for the 2008 bank crash. No actual crimes were committed, just bad decisions.

  • Eric

    The first two are true, but were I James Comey, or James Clapper, or Rod Rosenstein, or even Christopher Steele, I wouldn’t be sleeping easy in my bed these days.

    Also, there was news out today people at DoJ may have been taking bribes from reporters to leak information. The act of leaking information is sort of legally murky, but taking money for it will get you into trouble.

  • The Alpaca Herder

    Working federal civil servant here. You Brits have a wonderful expression of “shouty crackers” that I think applies nicely to most of the Democrats right now. After two years of searching high and low nothing was found.

    Mr. Trump remains my lawfully elected commander-in-chief. Whether I like him or not is immaterial just as it was immaterial whether or not I liked Mr. Obama. I’m there to keep the machinery of government rolling. Mr. Mueller was immune to the 35 day government shutdown while I wasn’t.

    If the fools in Congress would stop debating a report about a closed matter and actually work on getting a budget passed, I would be pleased. As it stands, I’ve had to restart my countdown clock for the next government shutdown. Appropriations will lapse as of 12:01 AM on October 1st when the new fiscal year starts if, to use the British phrasing, supply is not voted through. NOBODY IS EVEN TALKING ABOUT PAYING THE BILLS. The constant hate-fest towards POTUS is not helping anyone and precious time is being wasted when twelve very lengthy bills to set next fiscal year’s funding levels do need to be written. POTUS already said he would not sign a massive consolidated bill this time with a page count exceeding a thousand as has been put in front of him before.

    Of course, the Social Security trust funds trustee board today announced that it will go technically insolvent next year (expenses exceeding income). None of the fools in Congress reacted to that at all. Not one. Only the constant hate-fest continues while all of us budding Sir Humphrey types are watching things burn down increasingly rapidly.

  • bobby b

    1. Trump’s protestation that he was being subjected to a witch-hunt by politically motivated Federal figures has been vindicated.

    Yes. The underlying claim was that he was in league with Russians to illegally influence the election. No evidence of this was found, even after two years of high-ranking Democrats loudly announcing that the evidence was certain.

    2. Trump’s more questionable actions were attempts to fight back against political enemies employing now debunked accusations.

    Yes. Remember during Kavanaugh’s USSC hearing, when he was accused of horrid things and he reacted in an outraged and angry manner, and then that outrage and anger were cited as reasons why he lacked the proper temperament for the position? Trump’s pushback was much the same thing, and is now being called “obstruction.” I think he was more restrained than most of us would have been had someone been making up tales of our being rapists thirty years ago.

    3. No one is being prosecuted for trying to bring down a duly elected President with bogus charges.

    Give this one time. I don’t know if this will reach up high enough to make a difference, but some people are going to prison for fabricating evidence against the President and for misusing court procedures. I think we’ll see individual FBI or DOJ people get nailed for indiscretions – see Eric’s comment above – and then they’ll be offered leniency for testimony about others, and it will work its way up the ladder, and then stop once someone decides to take a bullet and protect his superiors. I give it a 20% chance of implicating Clinton, and a 10% chance of implicating Obama.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Perry, a side-issue from all this is the impact the affair may already be having on UK-US relations. Steele, the former Russia desk head of M16 who came up with the dossier and fed it to the Clinton campaign, has probably done quite a bit of damage. And if it turns out that the UK government was less than energetic in stopping this sort of crap, then expect the “Five Eyes” intelligence service co-operation (US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand) to be affected. It does not help that current PM Theresa May looks like the sort of person who would love it if Trump were to be destroyed.

    Funny, isn’t it, how parts of the liberal-left have come all gooey and supportive of the State apparatus if it is someone they despise who is in the cross-hairs. Kudos, it has to be said, to the likes of Glenn Greenwald for calling out this nonsense good and early. From the start, he smelt a rat over the whole “Russia got Trump elected” line.

  • bobby b (April 22, 2019 at 11:25 pm) and Julie near Chicago (April 23, 2019 at 12:30 am), I think you are completely wrong in suggesting – if I understand you correctly – that Obama, were he shown to be guilty, should be handled in some Clinton-Comeyesque way instead of being tried, convicted and jailed.

    Of course., it may very likely not matter. While there seems to be proof Obama was at least passively an accomplice in Hillary’s email-server, proof of more important matters may never appear, or the mere ability to act on it may be lacking, or the clock may run out (or those who say it will be a full-time job just to jail Comey, Brennan and/or their minions may be proved right). If mine were the choice, I’d put the Clintons in jail before (and so maybe, by the clock running out, instead of) Obama. And I can see reason why Trump would focus on prosecuting others until after the election and after they were jailed. Obama is the final course.

    But if there is an honest, sufficiently-provable case, I’d think it crazy to refrain. Take the hit! You guys across the pond will take a worse hit if you chicken out in a plain, provable case.

    except for Obama (who I think is going to ultimately be shown to have caused much of this mess.) We still don’t strangle our deposed kings.

    You don’t have KINGS over there.

    In the UK, we separate head of state from head of government. You don’t. That is absolutely basic to your form of government.

    A founding father said,

    What is right in Pittsburg may be wrong in Paris and pure folly in St Petersburg.

    And vice versa. It would be pure folly to treat your presidents as if they were Kings. It would be pure folly to rule that Black presidents were (more) above the law than others. Some things fail to happen because you can’t do them but these things should not fail to happen because you won’t do them despite – after sufficient investigation – discovering that you honestly and legally could do them (and so, by definition of those words ‘honestly’ and ‘legally’, should do them).

    Don’t be a RINO. 🙂

  • Julie near Chicago

    Oh lord, Niall, I wish you wouldn’t confront me with the admonition to turn my back on my Worser Self. Me, a RINO !!! The very thought is disgusting. I shall hang my head in shame if I have truly given grounds to believe such a thing.

    The fact is, there are arguments both for and against such a prosecution (were it to become rationally justified under the law).

    Leaving the “King” analogy aside, there is a tradition in our system of not going after former Presidents, at least not on the grounds of high crimes committed while in office — treason, or subornation of members of the government. We seem to like to pretend that “what’s done is done” and that after all we need to keep some degree of civility and decency in politics.

    Also, we don’t want our current President to obsess over crimes of his predecessor(s) instead of attending to current business. (Just as distraction of the current Pres. from his lawful duties with this Mueller Investigation is not what the country needs at the present time!)

    But just between you and me and the gatepost, I’d love to see the Sith held accountable for his various malfeasances while in office, if they could be properly proven to have occurred. Same goes for Slick Willy, by the way, and not on the grounds of improper swordsmanship.

    None of that applies to the messes of Shrillary, as far as I’m concerned.

    Anyway, my viscera are strictly in agreement with you. And the argument for prosecution (were it to become possible) is simple:

    No one should be above the law. (The Rule of Law is that the law is not to be a respector of persons.) And, Justice must be done and must be seen to have been done — which is the only method of ensuring genuine respect for the law among the populace at large.

    The law is only worthy of respect when it is committed to the execution of Justice. (This standard doesn’t prohibit considerations of the actual severity of the crime, or of mitigating circumstances surrounding it.)

  • Snorri Godhi

    Didn’t the Roman Republic put automatically on trial every office holder at the end of his term? It might have been only for some offices, i don’t remember. Anyway, that’s the kind of system we should have.

    In the absence of such a system, i should be wary of establishing a precedent by putting Obama on trial, or even Hitlery — while Trump is in office. I see no reason, however, not to start investigations.

  • Flubber

    One thing to note about the Russia investigation – its core purpose was to try to hide the chronic misuse of the NSA’s surveillance system in the US during Obama’s tenure.

    https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2019/04/22/spygate-and-the-steele-dossier-were-the-cover-story-the-real-issue-is-years-of-obama-era-surveillance-and-political-spy-operations/

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Also, we don’t want our current President to obsess over crimes of his predecessor(s) instead of attending to current business.”

    That’s not the President’s job. It’s the job of the judiciary to chase criminals. It’s the job of the legislature and executive to redesign the system so this sort of thing can never happen again. Each branch of government is supposed to be a check on the others.

    And if they can investigate a President while he is in office, I don’t see how it serves the interests of justice to stop when he’s not. That only makes sense if you’re using the justice system as a *political* weapon, where the argument would be that an ex-president is no longer in politics and therefore should not be a target.

    And while I totally agree that it is wrong to use the justice system that way against someone no longer in the political fight, I think there’s a far bigger problem being identified right there.

  • William H. Stoddard

    Nullius in Verba, Siince when is it the judicial branch’s job to chase criminals? That seems to be on one hand a function of the police (part of the executive branch, usually but not wholly in state governments) and on the other of city attorneys, district attorneys, and attorneys general (part of the executive branch). What the judiciary does is conduct trials where the state tries to prove its case against the accused and their legal counsel. That doesn’t seem to be welll described as “chasing.”

  • Nullius in Verba

    William, You have a good point.

    Maybe it is the President’s job after all?

  • CaptDMO

    Yes, No, pending.

  • llamas

    1. Mostly, yes.
    2. Mostly, yes
    3. The question of prosecutions is an interesting one. Rather than limiting it to the narrow class of prosecutions for attempts to bring down a duly-elected President based on false charges, we should consider a broader universe of all possible offences related to the entire hoax of ‘Russian interference’. Follow the useful llamas decoder ring, as follows:

    (R) Prosecuted to the outermost limits of the law, but almost-always for unconnected procedural infractions such as the ever-popular ‘lying to a Federal officer’, unlawful structuring of bank deposits or failure to completely fill out a UPS shipper. Such prosecutions/convictions as are obtained for these trivial and non-connected offences will invariably be reported as “serious convictions for crimes directly tied to the investigation of Russian interference in US elections”. This may well still include further prosecutions and convictions for such offences committed during the investigation. This is now in the finest traditions of Federal law enforcement – “even though there’s absolutely no evidence of the massive felonies that we repeatedly asserted were absolutely committed, we’re going to make sure that every jaywalker and speeder that we encountered along the way is prosecuted to the fullest extent possible.”

    (D) No.

    Always happy to clarify.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Gavin Longmuir

    PdH: “… have perhaps not given the ‘Trump and Russian Collusion’ affair the attention it deserves.”

    Minimal attention may have been the smartest use of limited time. Big Intrusive Government types, often but not always Far Lefties, have used this hoax for the last 2 years to divert attention from actually addressing some of the very real problems facing the US. (Unfortunately, many other countries are also facing similar or related challenges).

    + Unsustainable deficit spending. At the end of what has been called one of the longest economic expansions in US history, our profligate FedGov is borrowing or printing 1 out of every 4 dollars it spends.

    + Unsustainable National Debt — which currently stands at about $170,000 per taxpayer. Including off-budget unfunded commitments like pensions, it is probably closer to $1,700,000 per taxpayer. And since one man’s debt is another man’s asset, there will undoubtedly be tears all round when reality strikes.

    + Unsustainable trade deficit — which has had the corollary of de-industrialization, loss of jobs, loss of manufacturing expertise, loss of tax revenues, and social problems. Some day, the rest of the world is going to have to stop accepting IOUs for real goods & services. The fallout will affect not just the US, but will have global impacts on everything from German automobile manufacturers to Chinese electronics manufacturers and Guatelmalan seamstresses.

    + Seriously degrading educational system — which fails to teach youngsters the 3Rs and leaves predominantly-female college graduates indebted & embittered.

    When there are real problems to deal with, why waste time on trivia? Who has benefitted from the failure of the US Political Class to address these worsening problems?

  • llamas

    bobby b. wrote:

    “If an FBI agent ever asks you a question – no matter how innocuous – do not answer. Ever. Get a lawyer first. If an FBI agent asked me “how’s your steak?”, I’d politely nod. Silently.”

    Words to live by. Once you realize that every single person in the US is guilty of some breach of federal law – I guarantee you that this is 100% true, show me the man, I’ll show you the crime – and that Federal law enforcement now operates almost-exclusively on the stair-stepping approach that bobby b. describes, you simply have no way to know why a Federal officer is asking you any question – no matter how innocuous – or where it may lead. And they will happily prosecute you for any breach of any law, even if completely unrelated to the matter they are supposedly investigating, drive you into the poorhouse to defend yourself even if you are completely innocent, and walk away laughing – simply to keep their major prosecutorial tool effective.

    The last time I was asked a question by a Federal law enforcement officer – admittedly, some time ago now – my answer, based upon the sage prior advice of a law enforcement officer, was “I cannot speak to you without a lawyer present, and unless you have a warrant, I am leaving immediately.” I never heard another word about the matter.

    llater,

    llamas

  • TheHat

    I agree that it is unlikely that Obama will ever be forced to face up to his follies. To even try would alienate his supporters many of whom now support Trump. My approach, (were I Trump or Barr), has been laid out before us by Mueller. We should attack the first and second tier Liberals. First tier: Prosecute everyone around Obama and all Obama appointees for every parking ticket, obscure financial transaction and every political media tidbit ever spoken. It’s the Chicago approach. Put one of ours in jail and we’ll put five of yours in jail. Second tier: I’d attack the 2020 contenders. Still using the Mueller approach, I’d bring all the 2020 Democratic Presidential contenders into the office to face questioning. “Did you support the Iran deal giving Iran billions of American Taxpayer Dollars?” “Let us see your tax returns for the last 20 years!” I’m pretty sure I could jamb up their political ambitions or generate a lot negative media for most of these twits. It could be fun.

  • TheHat wrote: “Let us see your tax returns for the last 20 years!”

    That’s not as interesting as “Let’s see the tax returns for your family members for the last 20 years.” Apparently Nadler and company are putting that one in play.

    I can’t imagine why Karen Waters’ mother (Maxine) would want that one in play, yet she’s apparently on board with it. There’s also matters of Hunter Biden (Joe), Richard Blum (DiFi), and Jane O’Meara Sanders (Bernie).

  • bobby b

    Niall Kilmartin
    April 23, 2019 at 8:16 am

    “You don’t have KINGS over there.

    In the UK, we separate head of state from head of government.”

    And here, we combine the two, and then separate them into the holy trinity of judiciary, legislative, and executive. We have three kings. 😀

    Point is, our president becomes the one face of it all – the figurehead. We don’t call this “McConnell/Pelosi’s America”, we don’t call it “Robert’s America” – we call it “Trump’s America”, even though he’s only one-third of the ultimate power.

    In an age when the investigative process can be prostituted to serve whoever has power over the investigators, we risk a complete standstill of government* if every president/leader/figurehead has to govern knowing that the very second his immunity disappears, he’s going to be subject to partisan-led recriminations and punishment via investigation and prosecution.

    Certainly we ought to be imprisoning all of those below him who acted illegally. But I’d much rather that Obama’s punishment be limited to him seeing his legacy turn to ashes, if it means we can maintain a semblance of a working government.

    (* – And, yes, I realize that, as a libertarian, a standstill of government is something to be prized – but not this way.)

  • Nico

    Alsadius: if you believe that the Obama FBI/DoJ didn’t know from the word go (or, anyways, from before the first FISA court warrant application) that the Dossier was DNC-funded, or if you think that they didn’t know before the first FISA court warrant application that they didn’t have any corroboration of any of it nor reasons to think it might be fake, well, then I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

    They so well knew it was not enough for a FISA warrant that they passed it to Michael Issikof with instructions to write a story with some of the dossier’s contents but no attribution to Fusion GPS so that they could use that story as corroboration in their FISA court warrant application.

  • Nico

    Gavin,

    + Unsustainable deficit spending. At the end of what has been called one of the longest economic expansions in US history, our profligate FedGov is borrowing or printing 1 out of every 4 dollars it spends.

    I keep repeating this in case someone sometime actually pays attention and gets it, but the Federal deficit is primarily a function of the U.S.’ trade deficit, and that’s a function of the U.S. being willing to participate in asymmetric free trade. Every dollar (well, most) of the trade deficit that goes to China is exchanged for yuan (due to financial repression in China), which means the Chinese central bank must buy dollar-denominated assets to avoid paying the float on that cash, and the only dollar-denominated assets they’re willing to buy are U.S. treasury notes, which means that Congress must deficit-spend in order for those notes to be available for purchase.

    The two deficits are mutually self-causing. Each additional dollar of deficit spending causes demand to sell us one more dollar of goods (and services, but mostly goods). Each additional dollar of pent up trade deficit demand causes pressure on Congress critters to spend one more dollar.

    Trump has some power over this: he has the ability to pressure our trading partners to make trade a bit less asymmetric. But he can’t want to try too hard because causing a steep decline in the trade deficit is bound to cause a budget crisis. For that reason I’d expect that he won’t get serious about this till after the 2020 election.

  • Roy Lofquist

    Listen to the pumpkin. Shortly after assuming office President Trump said, in effect, that it was an irregular campaign but that it was time to move on and govern. The Democrats ignored that peace offering and doubled down on their efforts to remove him.

    Just recently, after the release of the Mueller Report, Trump said that no president should ever have to go through what he did ever again. From what we know of Trump I’ll bet that a number of his enemies are going to regret being involved.

    My money is on a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) prosecution.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racketeer_Influenced_and_Corrupt_Organizations_Act

    My antennae started flapping wildly when A.G. Barr mentioned predicate offenses in his Congressional testimony. Although slightly out of context, predicate offenses are a major factor in RICO.

    RICO is particularly effective in loosening lips in that it is not necessary to establish probable cause against a potential defendant, only that they were associated with a criminal.

    It will take a while. Probably long enough to splash into the punch bowl at the start of the 2020 campaigns.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “In an age when the investigative process can be prostituted to serve whoever has power over the investigators, we risk a complete standstill of government* if every president/leader/figurehead has to govern knowing that the very second his immunity disappears, he’s going to be subject to partisan-led recriminations and punishment via investigation and prosecution.”

    That seems like an excellent motivation for a president/leader/figurehead to make doubly sure that the machinery of investigation and prosecution cannot be prostituted, or used for partisan-led punishment.

    I don’t see why the president is different to anyone else. It should not be possible for the administration of justice to be hijacked for partisan politics. By making it impossible, the president protects himself as much as he does everyone else. And if he fails to protect everyone else from that sort of thing, he does not deserve any protection from it himself.

    Giving the president immunity but not anyone else is the wrong approach – it’s an open invitation for presidents to corrupt the system for their own partisan purposes. Everyone gets immunity from partisan abuse, or nobody does.

    “I keep repeating this in case someone sometime actually pays attention and gets it, but the Federal deficit is primarily a function of the U.S.’ trade deficit, and that’s a function of the U.S. being willing to participate in asymmetric free trade.”

    I’d have said it was the other way round. The government like the country spends more than it earns. In order to spend it and not earn it domestically, it must by definition spend it abroad, thus spending more than you earn necessarily results in a trade deficit.

    The same situation arises when a household spends more than it earns, running up the credit card bills. If you count all the goods and services the household produces for the rest of the world (by working), and the goods and services it consumes from outside (by going to the shops), it’s obvious that the latter is bigger. But this is like blaming the shops for being willing to sell you stuff, and take your money, but not be interested in employing you to do work. It’s entitlement thinking.

    As with any household, the answer is to live within your means. Don’t borrow – and when the money runs out, stop buying. If you want to buy more stuff, then you have to do something to earn more money. You have to produce more things that other people want.

    The basic problem is that the Americans have got used to a big-spender welfare-state lifestyle, but don’t have the means to pay for it. So they borrow, and blame the foreigners for not wanting to buy their stuff. They think the world owes them a living. But it’s one of the dangers of democracy. Nobody is going to vote for living within their means if they think they can get out of paying the bill themselves, so politicians who seriously cut spending to live within their means would be voted out pronto, and everyone knows it.

    The Americans don’t have to mess about with free trade, trying to make it symmetric. All they have to do is make sure not to spend more than they collectively earn. Do that and the trade deficit will vanish automatically.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Nico: “… the Federal deficit is primarily a function of the U.S.’ trade deficit, and that’s a function of the U.S. being willing to participate in asymmetric free trade.”

    Second part of that sentence is undoubtedly true. In the immediate aftermath of WWII, there was a case for the US being willing to agree to one-sided trade deals, to help allies as part of containing communism. But that was a long time ago. The more recent extension of that one-sided approach to China was a giant mistake for the USA, although individual US businessmen and politicians have made out quite nicely, thank you..

    The first part of the sentence … I am less than convinced. There are economists who have produced very simplified equations to support the assertion that it is necessary for the US to run a budget deficit because of the trade deficit, but they tend to change the subject when asked why Japan can run a budget deficit and a trade surplus. There is a much simpler explanation of the Federal deficit — the government simply spends more money than it has. The trade deficit definitely enters the picture, because it cuts tax revenues and economic growth; but it is probably a secondary issue.

    Regardless, something is irrefutable: in the long run, both the budget deficit and the trade deficit are unsustainable. Both depend on the kindness of strangers and their touching belief that some day they will get paid back. Yet these existential deficits do not even figure in the Political Class’s agenda. Instead, the usual suspects focus on whether some Russians might have paid for some Facebook adverts which might have had some political impact.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    NIV: “The basic problem is that the Americans have got used to a big-spender welfare-state lifestyle, but don’t have the means to pay for it. So they borrow, and blame the foreigners for not wanting to buy their stuff. They think the world owes them a living.”

    I demand the right to be the first one to cast a stone at our profligate & incompetent US Political Class. However, globally there is lots of company in the profligate & incompetent category. For example, the UK also runs a budget deficit and a trade deficit.

    The list of countries with over-spending governments is — to use UK-speak — gobsmacking. In addition to the reprobates in the USA and the UK, the list includes China, Japan, Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Spain, India, Brazil, Russia, and many more, including such unlikely candidates as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Incidentally, many (but not all) of these countries also run trade deficits.

    Deficit spending — the ability to spend more money than they have — may be too tempting in the long run for any Political Class. It is another strong argument for Limited Government … if such a thing is possible.

  • Nico

    Gavin:

    Well, the first part (“the Federal deficit is primarily a function of the U.S.’ trade deficit”) is predicated on the second part (“and that’s a function of the U.S. being willing to participate in asymmetric free trade”).

    As long as the U.S. accepts asymmetric trade where it imports more (much more) from the rest of the world than it exports to the rest of the world… it follows that a) the U.S. must keep a large trade deficit, b) central banks of repressive mercantilist nations will have to buy large amounts of U.S. federal debt (while citizens of other countries will be free to buy other dollar-denominated assets instead, except they often will still just buy treasuries), which c) means the U.S. must also maintain a federal budget deficit of at least the size of the U.S. trade deficit, minus whatever foreigners choose to “invest” in other dollar-denominated assets (very little) plus whatever deficit spending the domestic market is willing to fund in the U.S. There are three variables in that formulation, which we could write like this:

    budget_deficit = trade_deficit – direct_foreign_investment + domestic_treasury_demand

    If trade was balanced we’d have:

    budget_deficit = domestic_treasury_demand

    which would be much smaller than the current budget deficit.

    To be really pedantic we’d have to check whether the trade deficit is much larger than domestic treasury demand. In 2018 the trade deficit was something like $890 million, while the federal budget deficit was $779 million. So direct foreign investment must be at least $111 million, if domestic treasury demand is zero, but domestic treasury demand is probably closer to $100 million at least (I don’t have a good source for this), for ~9x difference, so I think what I wrote has a decent chance of being acceptable at the moment 🙂 Of course, I could be wrong. Perhaps domestic demand for treasuries is comparable to foreign demand, in which case the budget deficit cannot be said to be primarily a function of the trade deficit.

  • Nico

    NiV: households and nations don’t compare that easily, and anyways, I did say the two deficits are practically mutually self-causing…

  • Paul Marks

    You have got nothing wrong Perry – President Trump has been vindicated and the Democrats and the “Mainstream Media” (i.e. the left) have been showing to be liars and coup plotters.

    However…..

    This does not alter the fact that President Trump has utterly failed to control GOVERNMENT SPENDING – certainly the Democrats are worse (not a day passes without more insane spending promises from the Democrats), but President Trump (and the Republican establishment who controlled Congress for the first two years of his Presidency) have still failed – and the consequences of that failure will be terrible.

  • Nico

    @Paul Marks:

    Yes, Trump has failed to control spending. That’s because a) that’s up to Congress anyways, so there’s little he can do on that end of things, and b) the only thing the President really can do about spending is to use tariff policy to even out trade, which would necessarily and greatly increase pressure on Congress to reduce spending (see above commentary about the link between the two deficits).

    (b) is the only thing the President can do, and he’s at least put on a show trying to do it. I don’t know why his efforts here have failed, but I suppose there’s a few reasons: firstly that Congress wants to spend more, which increases opportunity for mercantilists to export more to the U.S., so the President has to try that much harder to even out trade, and secondly, I’m sure the President understands that if he’s successful at that then there will be a budget crisis, and I wouldn’t be remotely surprised nor shocked to find out that he’d rather that happen *after* 2020 and so has been putting on more of a show than anything (would you be shocked/surprised by that, if that were true??).

    Some day, perhaps another few decades from now, who knows, balance will be restored to international trade, and to the country’s finances. Whenever that is, I do hope that the Executive ends up getting Constitutional authority to reduce spending. I’m afraid first we’ll have to have a serious crisis. The way crises usually play out is that things end up worse, not better 🙁

  • However…

    Not relevant to this matter 😉

    Folks, try to kinda sorta stay on topic. Yeah I know, as if.

  • Dyspeptice Curmudgeon

    @Nullius at 11:01
    @bobby at 11:15

    DJT could do a LOT with an Executive Order.
    1) He could require that no D.A. could use a statement taken from a Form 302 which purports to be a statement made by someone else (that is, it’s hearsay), unless the questioning was recorded, so that the veracity of teh Form 302 could be substantiated.
    2) He could require that any purported ‘lie’ could not be the subject of a charge, unless the person had been confronted with the discrepancy, and given the opportunity to explain the difference, and no such discrepancy could be the subject of a charge, unless both of the differing statements were made under oath.
    and 3) He could determine that no charges should be laid regarding any ‘process crime’ unless the person being questioned was suspected of a particular crime, AND the questionable statement was made in relation to or regarding that particular crime.

    Number 3 deals with the Martha Stewart and Scooter Libby type of cases. AIUI, Stewart was prosecuted for denying that she sold shares as a result of a tip, (when it was later proven that she had done so). The agents knew that it was not illegal for her to sell as a result of the tip, but influenced her to think that it was illegal, so she denied doing something which was not illegal. She could not be, and was not charged with insider trading.
    Similarly, Scooter Libby was prosecuted for giving answers before a grand jury, which differed from previous statements. (I am unclear whether the prior statements were under oath). At the time of his subpoena, Patrick Fitzgerald *knew* that Libby was not guilty of the crime for which he ostensibly was being questioned. Richard Armitage had already confessed to have let things slip. Moreover, Plame was not a covered agent, so again, there was no crime.
    George Bush ought to have fired Fitzgerald, but pooched it.

    Agreed that this step will not entirely drain the swamp, but it will impress upon the FBI and the DoJ that they are not there to score scalps.

    To really work on draining the swamp, he ought to fire, completely, the top three levels of management throughout the DoJ, FBI, ATF, DEA, NSA, CIA, and other agencies, keeping only those who agree to step down from management to work as field agents, to see if their interest is control or dedication to the goals of the entity.

    Pournelle’s iron law of bureaucracy applies: In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals that the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish, have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Perry — with the greatest respect, the issue of (mis)governance in the US is a key part of the whole “Russian collusion” topic. Perhaps that has not been so obvious to people in the UK, who have had their own problems on which to focus.

    Even though the alleged Trump/Russia collusion has always been a legal nullity, it has still been a giant success for the Establishment Political Class. Remember that for most of the time Mr. Trump has been President, he had a nominally Republican-controlled House & Senate. Admittedly, Congressional Republicans are often about as worthless as Conservative MPs appear to be; however, under normal circumstances, with one Party controlling Congress and the Presidency, an outsider like President Trump might have been expected to make major changes — something that the Establishment would not like.

    Because President Trump has been under relentless Democrat/media attack over the bogus Russian collusion charges since the very beginning of his presidency, spineless elected Republicans have not given him much support. Left wing Hawaiian judges have felt at liberty to issue injunctions against legitimate executive actions. There were limits to how far President Trump could push on issues like partial government shutdowns over budgets and actions to regularize trade. All because of the 24/7 drumbeat that he would be forced to resign or be removed from office over the bogus alleged offenses.

    The Establishment is undoubtedly very pleased with its success. Even though they have failed to indict the President, they have been able to limit quite stringently his ability to threaten their status quo. And the real issues which the US faces have once again been ignored, just as the Political Class wishes.

  • Snorri Godhi

    From a quick look at the new comments, i must say that Gavin’s and Nico’s are very interesting.

    Nico, i don’t know whether you are correct about the link between the 2 deficits, but i have been paying attention and the reasoning seems basically sound.

  • Snorri Godhi

    About never talking to the police/FBI:
    Does that apply only when you are questioned as a suspect, or also when questioned as a witness?

  • Dyspeptic Curmudgeon

    @Snorri
    Yes. Both Martha Stewart and Scooter Libby were actually *witnesses*. They had not committed a crime. Stewart was questioned apparently to discover whether she had in fact received an improper insider trading tip. That information would be useful to determine whether the tipper had himself profited by selling on the basis of that information. She was not questioned *at that time* as a suspect.
    Libby was questioned, just as Flynn and Papadoplous were: because the prosecutor could. There was no predicate crime of which they were suspected of committing.
    At the very least, you should record your conversation.

  • llamas

    @ Snorri Godhi – good question. Would love to hear bobby b. and the lost and much-missed commenter Sunfish on this subject. However, our gracious and ever-generous host has raised the thread-jack warning flag once already, so I will defer to his moderatatory injunctions before replying. In the meantime, think on this basic response to your question – How do you know, which you are?

    llater,

    llamas

  • bobby b

    Snorri Godhi
    April 24, 2019 at 1:02 pm

    “Does that apply only when you are questioned as a suspect, or also when questioned as a witness?”

    I suppose every hard-and-fast, absolute rule has exceptions.

    You’re standing at a corner when a car blows through the red light and runs over the elderly pedestrians in the crosswalk. There are no other witnesses. The police ask you “what happened?”

    Do you answer?

    Yeah, I suppose you do.

    But it would have to be just that clear that you can have no possible involvement before I would say so. As llamas and DC point out, being a “witness” is no absolute protection. In the end, you have to rely on your own judgment – and you may not know everything about the situation, and so your judgment is no real protection.

    (“But it wasn’t about me – they never gave me a Miranda rights warning!” They only need to tell you your rights in a custodial interrogation. If they’re talking to you and you’re free to leave, you can incriminate yourself without being Mirandized.)

    Certainly the world would be a worse place if no one was ever willing to step forward – but bear in mind that this situation was put in place by our law enforcement community for their convenience. Err on the side of caution always. Be like Trump’s lawyers (he said, circling back around to OP-relevance. 🙂 )

    (ETA: Note that I’m speaking here about local police. If a federal agent asked me about the red-light-runner, I think I’d call a lawyer before answering.)

  • Paul Marks

    It is relevant Perry.

    President Trump has been vindicated – he is not a traitor, the Democrats and the “mainstream media” (but I repeat myself – as the “mainstream media”, like the Silicon Valley cartel, are Democrats) are the traitors.

    But that does not alter the fact that President Trump has utterly failed to control government spending, although the Republicans who controlled the House and the Senate in his first two years as President are just as much to blame.

    Failing to control government spending is no small thing Perry – it means that the United States is going to go bankrupt (in fact – even if not in legal theory).

    The bankruptcy of the United States is no small thing – it may lead to the collapse of the West.

  • llamas

    Everything bobby b. said.

    If/when you answer questions put to you by police officers or investigators, you have no way to know whether they are asking you questions as a witness, or questions because you are a suspect, and they are not obliged to tell you which it is. In fact, they are perfectly entitled to lie to you about which it is, and about the investigative basis for their questions – so sayeth the Supremes. This is true regardless of the situation of the questions (voluntary, detention or custodial) and whether or not you have been read your Miranda rights.

    All that being so, you had better be for damned sure that any answers you give them cannot be sued to incriminate you – of anything. And – since you don’t know why they are asking you questions, and they don’t have to tell you, and in fact they are perfectly free to lie about why they are asking – the window of ‘damned sure’ is very small indeed. So small, that the default should be to refuse to answer in every case.

    In bobby b.’s well-stated example, you might well say ‘Of course, I would answer such questions. It’s my civic duty!’. Until you answer all the questions, and then the officer turns around and says ‘Well, the person you say was driving has told us that he was not, and, in fact, that you were driving, and, as we smell the odour of an alcoholic beverage on your breath, and you have already told us that you were present and saw the incident, we are now going to arrest you for DUI, with a view to upcharging you all the way to vehicular homicide with a DWI enhancement if we can find more evidence to back up his story. Turn around and place your hands on your head.’

    Unlikely? Sure. But not unknown. This, and more-bizarre turns-of-events than this, have happened and do happen. What do you think now?

    I have to go. They are calling my flight. I’ll be home later and will add more.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Nico

    @Snorri: cool. I know I keep harping on that here, and before this thread no one seemed to notice 🙂 As to talking to the police… you don’t necessarily know whether they “like you for” a crime when they are talking to you. The right thing to do is to say you want your lawyer present. Mind you, there are cases where you must speak to police — when filing a complaint, for example.

    @Dyspeptice: oh yeah, the Plame affair was absolutely infuriating.

    We shouldn’t necessarily not have process crimes, but it should be a crime for prosecutors to entrap, and victims need more legal defenses to process crimes. That’s what happened in the Plame case. Fitzgerald knew Scooter had committed no crime but questioned him in the hopes that they could get him on a lying to an officer, or perjury, charge, and lo’, they got him on lying. It’s trivial to get people to lie without being conscious of it. With more legal defenses to process crimes prosecutors wouldn’t bother as often.

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby b, sound though your advice is, there is a big downside to pissing off the police (or feds.) They can usually find some sort of crime to charge you with, and pull you down the station, make you stay overnight, cost you thousands of dollars in legal bills and then just drop the utterly unfounded charges with no consequences. (And that is if you are lucky.)

    So some caution is appropriate, and you have to find a risk reward ratio. So if I am driving, get pulled over and the cops ask to see in my trunk, I have a couple of choices. I can let them look (and that is ok because I know that it is empty) or I can stand up for my rights to say no to a search whereupon the cops can make my life very difficult. So one has to balance the risks on both sides. For sure when you are in a police station, shut the hell up. But the police have tools to screw with you and cost you a lot even if you are entirely innocent, and just pissing them off for the crime of demanding your rights.

    I clearly remember one of my first observations of American police in the City of Chicago when I first moved here. They were dragging some guy off telling him that “he had disrespected the police”. Apparently, that is a crime in Chicago, or actually it isn’t. But getting dragged off by the police for this non crime will really spoil your day, or week, or month, or year.

    As we see with a lot of these guys charged by Muller the income tax code is a great source of fake crimes. A million pages of meaningless legalese, and if they want to get you they can pick through seven years of your records and they will find something (not to mention the immense cost of defending yourself.) In America if you evade taxes the penalty is considerably worse than if you killed someone. What is it? A million years in jail… you are a lawyer remind me.

    (Oh and lets not even mention the horrendous blackmail prosecutors use against your loved ones. Cohen is a perfect example of this — he flipped because of tax evasion, and apparently the threat was to throw his wife in the pokey for a million years because she signed the form. It is worse than a real blackmailer — pay up or we will hurt your wife or kids (kids was how they got Flynn.) At least a blackmailer knows he is a criminal thug, the IRS and DoJ do it “for your own good.” There are few so cruel, merciless and remorseless than those who think they are acting righteously.)

    BTW, because prosecutors have so many horrible tools, that is why I am absolutely shocked that they couldn’t get Trump. They can pretty much get anyone if they try hard enough, and with Trump he came up squeaky clean? I have no idea how that is even possible.

  • Nico

    @Snorri

    Another thing to keep in mind regarding the deficits is that the old gold standard’s main function was to balance trade: for no nation would allow itself to bleed out all its gold, therefore they must not keep a trade deficit for long, which means that nations can’t keep a trade surplus for long either because all exports must equal all imports on a global basis! So in a real gold standard you expect balanced trade.

    Well, we do, in fact, have a gold standard of sorts, only instead of gold it’s the U.S. dollar. That means that trade must and *does* balance: to balance trade we export treasury notes! All trade must be settled, so if it’s not settled in gold or similar then it must be settled in some “reserve currency”, which today is the dollar, and since no one wants to pay the issuer float, and since it’s hard to buy lots of good-yielding and safe assets in the reserve currency, all trade imbalances in today’s world must be paired -approximately- with budget deficits in the reserve currency issuer nation.

    Economics doesn’t have a lot of zero-sum games, but world trade is zero-sum: all exports minus all imports == zero.

  • Nico

    @Fraser

    They couldn’t get Trump because a) there was no underlying crime, b) his people were mostly very careful and did not commit process crimes, c) he got really lucky as to (b), d) Mueller must be incompetent because I don’t believe (b)…, e) Trump did not talk to them. (e) being the most important item. If he had said just the word “the” to Mueller, they’d have found a way to make it a lie.

    I’m discounting the possibility that Trump has something on Mueller and friends because if so the Mueller would not even have dithered as to obstruction. So I’m going with the above, mostly (d) and (e). But who knows. It’s can all only be speculation for now.

  • Failing to control government spending is no small thing Perry

    Quite so, it is a huge thing. It is just not relevant to this particular article 😉

  • bobby b

    “They couldn’t get Trump because a) there was no underlying crime . . . “

    Don’t need one.

    18 US Code Section 1503 contains an Omnibus Clause – a sort of catch-all clause which expands the coverage beyond the main purpose the statute was originally designed to cover – which states that a person who:

    “corruptly or by threats of force, or by threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice”

    is guilty of the crime of obstruction of justice. ( https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1503 ).

    Basically, if you knowingly lie to influence or obstruct a federal investigation, you’ve committed obstruction. You have corruptly (you were lying), by communication (note that “threatening” isn’t applied to “communication”), impeded the due administration of justice. If the feds are asking you about your friend who supposedly robbed a bank on Monday and you tell them (dishonestly) that he was with you all day, you have obstructed justice, even if your friend had nothing to do with the bank robbery and is cleared. This is roughly the Martha Stewart story.

    (ETA, in order to remain on OP topic – and this is why the “now debunked story” has little to do with whether Trump COULD be charged with obstruction.)

    Fraser Orr
    April 24, 2019 at 8:55 pm

    @bobby b, sound though your advice is, there is a big downside to pissing off the police (or feds.)

    Completely agree. Power beats right, at least temporarily. If you KNOW your trunk is clean, why not let them search it? (At least, that’s what one of my clients thought, until he found out too late that his son had borrowed the car earlier and left his coke in a gym bag in the back.)

    I just tell cops that ask to search my car that, if I were to consent, all of my friends from law school would make fun of me forever. That works about 80% of the time – it’s easy to ask for consent, and most people give it, so why not try, but it’s usually not worth the hassle if they have to provide probable cause. (One of my cars attracts police attention and I get sort of careless about haircuts, which is why cops like to search me.)

    Anyway, if a cop really really wants to search your car, he’s going to. I had one peer through my window and announce that he saw marijuana residue in my ashtray. Instant PC. In a clean and closed ashtray!

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Perry — again with great respect, we are just going to have to disagree about the relevancy.

    In your original post, you requested “Educate me”. If one focuses only on the legal aspects of the debunked ‘Russian collusion’, one would miss the main point from an American perspective — that this failed legal investigation has in fact been a major political success for the anti-Trump Democrat Establishment.

    The Democrat bogus investigation scared other elected Republicans into distancing themselves from Trump, and severely limited Trump’s ability to use the Presidency in his first 2 years to effect change on key issues, from budgets to trade to immigration. Now the Establishment has a Democrat Congress which will take over the duty of hobbling his presidency and preserving the status quo, such as excessive government spending.

  • Nico

    @bobby b: my list was a conjunction.

  • Fraser Orr

    One of the things that I never really understood about the Muller investigation is the almost unquestioned belief (apparently relayed also in the actual report) that the Russians wanted Trump to win. That contention is utterly laughable on its face for anyone familiar with Russian foreign policy goals which has keeping the price of oil high (given that it composes something like 50% of their export dollars.) Can anyone say, with a straight face, that Clinton would have been more focused on keeping down the price of oil?

    AFAIK, the goal of the Russian government, insofar as they had one was to sow chaos and discord, something they have achieved in spades thanks to their unwitting (and perhaps witting) dupes on the left, in the media.

    And the truth is that they actually made so little attempt ($160k?) that I think closer to the truth is that they were just going through the motions rather than some big conspiracy plan. I don’t imagine they thought Trump would win any more than Obama did, but for sure they could screw with us, and cause a lot of discord. And that, for sure, is to their benefit.

    I mean that seems to me to fit the facts.

  • Chip

    1. The dossier was funded by Clinton
    2. The admin knew it was
    3. They knew it was garbage
    4. They wanted a cover for their surveillance and unmasking of political opponent communications
    5. They used this to seed the media with false narratives to destroy their political opponent
    6. When he was elected anyway they shifted into the Mueller investigation, which would cover their abuses while hoping to trap the president in process crimes and destroy his presidency

    It was not a mistake. It was not incompetence. It was treason.

  • bobby b

    Nico
    April 24, 2019 at 10:53 pm

    “@bobby b: my list was a conjunction.”

    Yeah, I understood that, and I agree with the overall point of your comment – Trump not talking to them and his staff not getting sucked into the process-crime blackmail escalation being key – but I’ve seen people talk about this “no underlying offense” issue so often (such as the “now debunked accusations” phrase in the OP) that I thought it useful to chime in. Didn’t mean to disparage your comment.

  • llamas

    The reason that the advice is very-specific to the FBI is that they have a unique approach to interviewing people.

    In most cases, they do not audio or video-record interviews. Instead, the agents record their version of the interview on what’s called a 302 form – straight out of the 30s. Their record does not have to be contemporaneous, they get to go back and edit it later, and they can record all sorts of non-rebuttable opinions, subjective observations and unsubstantiated junk. The interview subject does not get to review or challenge this record.

    In any sane criminal-justice system, such a record would be laughed out of court on at least a half-dozen very-valid grounds. Yet for some reason I cannot fathom, this risible tripe passes as good as gold in the Federal courts, and absent the most-compelling evidence that challenges it, is generally accepted as the true and complete record of the interview.

    Knowing that, nobody in their right mind would talk to any FBI agent without a lawyer present. About anything.

    As regards refusing to answer an officer’s questions – in most cases, a polite but firm refusal to answer questions or consent to searches or other evidence-gathering approaches will often end the matter. But officers are experts at manipulating these situations, and may escalate when voluntary cooperation is not forthcoming. But you should still refuse all requests for information or cooperation that is not required by law – on balance, you have very little to gain and an awful lot to lose by volutarily assisting an officer as he attempts to develop probable cause to use against you. If you ask any police officer what they tell their family members to do when faced with requests for voluntary ‘cooperation’, the answer will be universally the same. Answer no questions, do not consent to any searches, ignore all threats, refuse to cooperate in any way without the advice of counsel. Is this beneficial to a civil society? No, it’s not – but lawmakers and the criminal justice system have created this horrible mess of end-runs around the 4th and 5th amendments, and we as citizens should not be expected to cooperate with such blatant attempts to subvert our rights.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Snorri Godhi

    What Fraser said:

    They can pretty much get anyone if they try hard enough, and with Trump he came up squeaky clean? I have no idea how that is even possible.

    Replies to my question were appreciated. I have nothing to add, except that i was aware that the police might make me believe that i am a witness, when in fact i am a suspect.

    I did talk to the British police a couple of times, once about the theft of a photocopier at work, and once briefly over the phone about an elderly lady whom i had found dead on the doorstep of her row house. I’d like to forget both experiences, but not because of the police.

  • Eric

    Probably a good time to post this: How to Avoid Going to Jail under 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 for Lying to Government Agents. It’s really easy to talk yourself into jail in the US for the reasons llamas outlines, even if you’re innocent.

    That form 302 business is an outrage in an age of cheap recording devices. I can see no reason the agency would cling to a system like that beyond its potential for abuse in their favor.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Eric, thanks very much for posting this.

  • Paul Marks

    We are all wrong Perry!

    The ultra-clever “liberals” of the Economist magazine have informed their readers in this week’s issue that President Trump is not vindicated at all – on the contrary President Trump should be impeached for his (imaginary) crimes. And the fact that Republicans are allowed to hold one chamber of Congress (how dare people be allowed to vote Republican!) and could defeat impeachment just proves what an evil Fascist country America is, with President Trump being put “above the law” and not punished for his (imaginary) crimes.

    Personally I think the editor of the Economist magazine should be sent to prison for INCEST and CANNIBALISM – “but I have not done these things” cries the “liberal” lady.

    Not relevant little lady – as your own magazine makes clear (every week) the fact that President Trump has not actually done what you accuse him of, does not alter the “liberal” fact that he should be punished for his (imaginary) crimes anyway.

    As for America – it must be Fascist, because it has Freedom of Speech (1st Amendment) and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (2nd Amendment), both of which the Economist magazine detests. The fact that real Fascists were AGAINST Freedom of Speech and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms does not alter the “liberal” fact that it is Fascist to support the 1st and 2nd Amendments.

    And remember, boys and girls, to support ever more “Entitlement” schemes (such as Obamacare) and ever more taxes and regulations is what the Free Market is about – the Economist magazine is very clear on this.

    All Hail the European Union and its war on Freedom of Speech! Supporting a “United Europe”, indeed a “United World”, and the crushing of Freedom of Speech under the heel of the jackboot is what being “anti Fascist” is all about – according to the Economist magazine.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Gavin, April 24, 2019 at 10:24 pm:

    That is an excellent point, I’m very sorry to say. It hadn’t occurred to me to look at it that way. Thanks.

    .

    Paul: Yes, indeed. Well said.

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