The Aardvarks have returned from their cruise. (Fortunately, we did not choose a Norwegian destination on the Viking Sky. The Aardvarks do not relish being plucked by helicopter from the deck of a ship without power, bouncing around in the icy seas.)
We have returned just in time for Mr. Mueller to hand over his memorandum—of unknown length, ten pages?, 100 pages?, 1000 pages, no one knows—to Attorney General Barr, and for the latter to prepare a summary of less than four pages.
The occasion seems to call for some commentary, so I will make five brief points.
Mr. Barr’s Book Report and the Aardvark Hypothesis
First, I have previously hypothesized that Barr came to Washington to work out a deal whereby Trump would resign from office in exchange for immunity from prosecution. The document released this weekend does not lend support to my hypothesis, and is generally in tension with my hypothesis, but does not in any sense conclusively disprove my hypothesis. So, we shall see what we shall see.
One Slippery Eel
Two: whatever his motivations and intentions may be, Mr. Barr is an able lawyer and a master of the semantic dodge. These are two ways of saying much the same thing. What he leaves unsaid may well be as important as what he says explicitly. Thus, his weekend piece, though short, will probably bear as much scrutiny as a New Testament scholar would give to one of the more Delphic passages in the Gospel of Thomas. (But that doesn’t mean I’ll offer that level of scrutiny in this post.)
“No Collusion or Coordination,” or, Mueller’s Got Some Splain’ To Do
Three: the Barr book report tells us, in a surprisingly clear cut way, that Mueller found no collusion or coordination between Russia and that Trump campaign. Barr’s summary of Mueller’s conclusion is probably a very shorthand account of what may be a lengthy exposition by Mueller.
There were in fact about a hundred contacts between the campaign and the Ruskies. And quite a few people lied about those contacts. How, then, does Mueller conclude there was no collusion or coordination? We need to see the Mueller report to form an intelligent judgment.
A Blessing in Disguise for Democrats?
Four: some of the talking heads are saying this evening that the no collusion conclusion is a great gift to Democrats, in that they will now be compelled to talk about policy issues like health care and climate change, that people care about, rather than esoteric issues about what amounts to campaign collusion—issues that are muddy, not to mention beyond the ken and beyond the concern of the proverbial man in the street.
I suspect that the talking heads have a pretty good point.
Five: Mueller’s report says that he could have gone either way on obstruction, but left the issue to the Attorney General. At which point, Trump’s Attorney General, in an entirely objective and disinterested distinction between balls and strikes, called it a ball.
Prosecutors are not supposed to prosecute unless they think they are highly likely to meet the difficult beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard of proof of guilt. Here, Barr’s alleged doubt about the ability to obtain a conviction may have been made on the facts, or on the law, or both. At this point we just don’t know.
I could add a sixth point: the investigation of Trump’s business practices, which look like a poster child for RICO, goes on.
An Interesting Question
Lastly, here’s an interesting little question. Having spent so much effort tweeting against Mueller, will Trump’s perverted mind conclude that he came off as well as he did because he succeeded in threatening and bullying Mueller?
And, having drawn that conclusion, how will that affect Trump’s future behavior?