Thursday, April 18, 2019


The Mueller report was released today.  The version made available to the public is partly redacted.  Attorney General Barr described it as minimally redacted, but partly redacted is more correct.  There are some sections of the report that are heavily redacted.  This includes the sections on the Russian "active measures" and social media campaign, as well as on the Russian hacking and dumping operations.

There are four primary categories of the redactions.  First, the materials from grand jury proceedings have been redacted as secret.  The second category relates to intelligence materials, particularly where officials are concerned that public release would reveal how the United States obtained the information.  The third category relates to information regarding ongoing investigations, like the New York City case against President Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen.  Finally, the last category relates to derogatory information about "peripheral" individuals.  This is the broadest and potentially most abused category.  While it is designed to protect people who were part of an investigation but not accused of a crime, it's unclear how high up officials are being protected under this.  It is not clear whether the president's family members or high-ranking members of his campaign have been covered by this exception.  Further, because his family is so involved in his campaign and administration, it is unclear how much protection they should be afforded as public figures.

Redactions can be a very powerful tool in protecting information.  They can be used as a blunt force object, blocking out large sections of material and covering up as much information and context as possible.  They can also be used in a very surgical manner, covering only the information necessary and providing as much context as possible.  It's a delicate balance and there are valid tactics behind each approach.

From what I can see in the overview of the page scans, it seems Attorney General Barr and his team took the blunt force approach, applying mass redactions to large sections of the report.  And to me, that always raises the question of why.  What required such heavy redactions in those sections?  That will be Congress' question now, as they have access to a version with lighter redactions.  It will be in there hands to see whether the extent of redactions was necessary.

Here's what we do know - though though the report does not find collusion with Russia and did not decide to proceed on obstruction, it did find many instances of impropriety in the President's actions.

"We concluded that Congress has authority to prohibit a president's corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice."

"Our investigation found multiple acts by the president that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including Russia-interference and obstruction investigations.  The president engaged in a series of targeted efforts to control the investigation."

"Unlike cases in which a subject engages in obstruction of justice to cover up a crime, the evidence we obtained did not establish that the president was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference."

"The injury to the integrity of the justice system is the same regardless of whether a person committed an underlying wrong."

After Trump directed McGahn to tell Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein "Mueller has to go" - "In response to that request, McGahn decided to quit because he did not want to participate in events that he described as akin to the Saturday Night Massacre."

"The President's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or acede to his requests."

So, we've avoided a second Watergate because the President's subordinates refuse to follow his orders.

Thank God for personal integrity.

Let's hope Congress proceeds in the same manner.

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