Mueller May Delay Trump Obstruction Decision

I have long been worried that Special Counsel Bob Mueller's investigation will effectively, even if not intentionally, create loads of time and space for Republicans to so thoroughly consolidate power that they won't have to care about his conclusions, even if they do eventually recommend serious, meaningful repercussions for the Trump administration, Donald Trump's associates, and/or people who colluded to influence the 2016 election.

Every time I express this view, I'm 'splained at along two axes:

1. That I'm a dum-dum who doesn't understand that investigations take time and hey haven't I heard how long the Whitewater investigation took.

2. That I'm a dum-dum who doesn't understand that Mueller needs to be super methodical to make a case so airtight that the Republicans will be forced to take action upon his recommendations.

In either case, I'm definitely a dum-dum.


1. I do know that investigations take time and I do know how long the Whitewater investigation took. I also know, however, that this investigation is fundamentally different than the Whitewater investigation in several key ways, the two most important of which is are:

A) Unlike Whitewater, Mueller's investigation isn't a meandering, vengeful, partisan attack on a president because the opposing party doesn't like him and his wife, but a targeted investigation of election meddling which has expanded to corruption and obstruction because the president's corruption and obstruction has obliged it.

B) Unlike Whitewater, which was a meandering, vengeful, partisan attack on a president because the opposing party didn't like him and his wife, there are real consequences to Mueller's investigation that go well beyond a president's fitness and ethics, and into a president's very loyalty to the nation and willingness to protect our democratic institutions vs. turn the republic into an authoritarian state.

The point is, Ken Starr could have taken forever investigating Whitewater (and nearly did), because there wasn't nearly the same urgency. And that's because the stakes were far lower.

That investigation was about impeding a president and trying to make it impossible for him to do his job. This investigation is about the possibility that a president conspired with a foreign adversary and is still under the influence of that adversary's reach, potentially compromising the nation, its democracy, its people, and their most basic safety.

So I don't really give a good goddamn how long Whitewater took, as an argument against advocating much greater urgency from Mueller, and neither should you.

2. I do know that Mueller has to be methodical, but it must be balanced against urgency — and suffice it to say that I don't find it a compelling argument to be condescendingly told that he must take as much time as he needs in order that Republicans will be convinced to take his findings seriously.

I'm sorry, what? I'm the one who's stupid in this equation? The one who doesn't believe that the Republicans will do the right thing just so long as the documentation is thorough? Whoops.

The fact of the matter is that Congressional Republicans will never be convinced to follow Mueller's recommendations based on how meticulously documented they are. If they follow his recommendations, it will be because they've determined that Trump is no use to them anymore and it makes more sense to get rid of him than spend the political capital to keep defending him.

Unless Mueller makes those recommendations while there's still an outside possibility of the Republicans being pressured into doing the right thing by the combined efforts of the Democrats, the public, and the press.

But the longer this investigation drags on, the less combined power that the Democrats, the public, and the press actually have. That is chilling, but true.

Republicans are working hard and fast to consolidate their power behind the presidency of Donald Trump. If Mueller doesn't move swiftly, they won't have any reason at all to regard his conclusions with any more seriousness than they regard their duty to check and balance the executive branch, and we won't have any power to persuade them otherwise.

The midterms are looming — and Russia will interfere in them to aid Republicans, as there has been zero consequence for that interference last time around, and zero prevention measures taken to stop it happening this time around. Between Republican voter suppression and Russian meddling, a "blue wave" is far less likely.

Mueller has to know that. The case for urgency is clear.

* * *

All of that is prelude to this report by Chris Strohm and Shannon Pettypiece at Bloomberg: [Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] Mueller Weighs Putting Off Trump Obstruction Decision.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into whether [Donald] Trump obstructed justice is said to be close to completion, but he may set it aside while he finishes other key parts of his probe, such as possible collusion and the hacking of Democrats, according to current and former U.S. officials.

That's because Mueller may calculate that if he tries to bring charges in the obstruction case — the part that may hit closest to Trump personally — witnesses may become less cooperative in other parts of the probe, or the president may move to shut it down altogether.

The revelation is a peek into Muller's calculations as he proceeds with his many-headed probe, while pressure builds from the president's advisers and other Republicans to show progress or wrap it up.

The obstruction portion of the probe could likely be completed after several key outstanding interviews, including with the president and his son, Donald Trump Jr. The president's lawyers have been negotiating with Mueller's team over such an encounter since late last year. But even if Trump testifies in the coming weeks, Mueller may make a strategic calculation to keep his findings on obstruction secret, according to the current and former U.S. officials, who discussed the strategy on condition of anonymity.

Any clear outcome of the obstruction inquiry could be used against Mueller: Filing charges against Trump or his family could prompt the president to take action to fire him. Publicly clearing Trump of obstruction charges — as the president's lawyers have requested — could be used by his allies to build pressure for the broader investigation to be shut down.
First, a caveat: We don't know that this report is accurate. There is good reason to greet it with some skepticism, as its source is not even the familiar "person(s) close to the investigation," which often means a strategic leak.

Instead, the source here is "current and former U.S. officials." Particularly with regard to the current officials, that could mean someone loyal to Trump or someone not loyal to Trump wants us to believe (for some reason) that Mueller may delay the obstruction case against Trump.

If we take the report at face value, and it's accurate that Mueller may delay the obstruction case, that does not assuage my fear that Mueller is not moving with enough urgency.

If we regard the report as a plant by someone with an ulterior motive who wants to influence public perception of the investigation and possibly even influence Mueller's investigation itself, that also does not assuage my fear that Mueller is not moving with enough urgency.

Either way, I remain solidly concerned that we are at grave risk of staking all our hopes for accountability and prevention of further erosion of our democratic systems and norms on the outcome of an investigation that by no means is certain to deliver any of that.

And the odds decrease the longer this goes, because of the nature of how this all works. Mueller doesn't conclude his investigation and release his findings to the public. He gives a confidential report to Rod Rosenstein, who then decides whether the report will be released to the public in full or with redactions or not at all — and if, for example, that report includes a recommendation for impeachment, then the majority party in Congress takes that recommendation under advisement but is under no legal obligation to take any action.

Something significant needs to happen sooner rather than later with this investigation. And I will continue to say that, not because I am an impatient, ignorant child who can't abide waiting and doesn't understand how anything works, but because I am a well-informed adult woman who has been writing about the Republican Party's slow-moving takeover of my country for nearly 14 years and who refuses to ignore that haste is the only chance we have to save this republic.

I hope that Bob Mueller agrees and is fixing to surprise us all in short order. And I fear that isn't the case. And I would very much like to be wrong about that.

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