No Sport for Dullards


Jacqueline Alemany, Power Up: ‘By the Book Bob:’ Prosecutors say Mueller will tightly hug Justice guidelines in report

Ms. Alemany, whoever she may be, gives us what purports to be—and very probably is—a granular look at the problematic procedural issues surrounding the forthcoming Mueller reports. I won’t summarize; if the topic interests you, best read it for yourself. Then, if you are still interested, you may wish to note the following Aardvark observations.

“No Sport for Dullards”

That’s how a law professor of mine described an especially challenging course. And that’s the situation Barr finds himself in, as the new attorney general. Ms. Alemany spells out the balancing judgments Barr will have to make, and the issues he will need to finesse. This is a job for a senior, high powered lawyer. Barr is a senior, high powered lawyer.

Will he do his job in a responsible way? As to all the judgment calls he will need to make, will he in fact exercise good judgment?

Time will tell.

And maybe he will surprise us, by doing the right thing.

It would certainly make a change.

The Presidential Immunity Catch-22

Leakers are leaking that Mueller will abide by Justice Department policy that no matter how many crimes a president may have committed, you can’t prosecute him—at least while he’s still president.*

Meanwhile, there is also a departmental policy—famously violated by Jim Comey in respect of the Clinton email investigation—that if you aren’t going to prosecute, then you don’t publicly disclose derogatory information about the target of your investigation.

And one more thing: it’s pretty much universally understood that, for purposes of impeachment, “high crimes and misdemeanors” in the Constitution calls for a political and moral judgment, not just a narrow criminal law judgment.

Can you hold those three thoughts in your head at the same time?

Good for you.

What conclusions do you draw?

For example, it may occur to you that it’s one thing to say that if a prosecutor investigates and concludes that the target of the investigation did some bad things, but those bad things weren’t actually crimes, then the prosecutor is supposed to just keep his trap shut. But maybe it’s another thing if the investigation shows that the target violated large swaths of the criminal code, but he or she can’t be prosecuted for an arbitrary reason, such as the fact that he or she is the sitting president. Maybe the latter situation calls for an exception, so that the public can learn about all the crimes the sitting president appears to have committed.

And it may occur to you that it’s ironic that an investigation widely understood as examining whether the president is qualified for office based on moral and national security concerns might wind up concealing information of vital relevance to those moral and national security concerns.

Attorney General Barr Addresses President Trump

See my next post for a hypothetical conversation between Barr and Trump. It’s a thought experiment based on the considerations outlined above.

*Let the record reflect my view that this Justice Department “policy” is unwise and legally unfounded. But debating that question is not the point of this post.

Does Anyone Else Think This Might not be a Good Idea?


Astronomers are asking kids to help them contact aliens

Meanwhile, quells surprise, back on planet earth, just as William Barr assumes office,

Justice Department officials are preparing for the end of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and believe a confidential report could be issued in coming days, according to people familiar with the discussions. …

Regulations call for Mueller to submit to the attorney general a confidential explanation as to why he decided to charge certain individuals, as well as who else he investigated and why he decided not to charge those people. The regulations then call for the attorney general to report to Congress about the investigation.

An adviser to President Trump said there is palpable concern among the president’s inner circle that the report might contain information about Trump and his team that is politically damaging, but not criminal conduct.

Even before he was confirmed by the Senate, Barr had preliminary discussions about the logistics surrounding the conclusion of Mueller’s inquiry, a second person said. At that time, though, Barr had not been briefed on the substance of Mueller’s investigation, so the conversations were limited. …

How detailed either Mueller’s report and the attorney general’s summary of the findings will be is unclear. Lawmakers have demanded that Mueller’s report be made public, but Barr has been noncommittal on that point, saying that he intends to be as forthcoming as the regulations and department practice allow. He has pointed, however, to Justice Department practices that insist on saying little or nothing about conduct that does not lead to criminal charges.

Trump’s Pecker in Trouble Again

Bezos Pecker

The headline pretty much sums up the situation, I think.

Meanwhile, permit my indulgence this afternoon in some confirmation bias.

For some time my intuition has been that Matthew Whitaker—lightweight, amoral, opportunistic, bottom feeder though he may be—is also a terrified, self-preserving bottom feeder

As I predicted, his terror and minimal sense of self=preservation seem to have stopped him from interfering with the Mueller investigation. Based on today’s hearing’s, Paul Waldman shares my view, and concludes, Whitaker hearing confirms it: On Mueller probe, Democrats have already won.

And, by the way, Mr. Whitaker’s days of public service are soon coming to an end, permitting him to retire into that deep obscurity that he so richly merits. Soon, William Barr will replace him as attorney general. Please let the record reflect my continued view that Mr. Barr—who is also an opportunist, though surely not a bottom feeder—is a Man with a Plan. And that plan is not to save Donald J. Trump.

Theodore Roosevelt Steering a Ship

The Bobblehead Makes a Fateful Career Move


Today’s Michael Cohen guilty plea was a very big deal. Feels like the beginning of the end for the Trumpster. You will tell me that that it has seemed that way many times before, yet here we are. And you will be right to express that caveat.

The big picture of Trump’s wrongdoing is still being put together. I think I know what it will show, and so do you. But there would be little point in writing an essay based on gut feelings. The big picture will be what the big picture will be.

But I do think this merits mention. This afternoon WaPo reported,

Acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker was notified in advance that President Trump’s former personal attorney would plead guilty Thursday to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate project that Trump and his company pursued while he was running for president, a person familiar with the matter said.

A few paragraphs later the story noted that the newspaper doesn’t know when Mr. Whitaker got the word on the Cohen plea, what if anything he said or did about it, and what he did or didn’t tell Trump about the development—or indeed about any other knowledge he had concerning the Mueller investigation, which he nominally supervises.

But we know enough reasonably to speculate that Whitaker—the nonentity whom Trump raised to high office for the express purpose of shitcanning the Mueller investigation—looked down into the abyss and decided he did not want to go to jail for Donald J. Trump.

Many others will soon face a like personal crisis. Which will it be? Loyalty until death to Dear Leader? Or a narrow escape from the long arm of the law?

Screen Shot 2018-11-29 at 9.35.52 PM


Answering an Objection to the Preceding Post

cut the mustard

In the immediately preceding post I implied that the Trump/Giuliani legal defense—no matter what they say, just deny, deny, deny—is defective, because only ten to twenty percent of the population will buy it.

It has been objected that another ten or twenty percent won’t believe Trump, but may still support him anyway, no matter how much colluding and money laundering he has done.

This is a logical objection. But my answer is that it all may depend on just what crimes Mueller shows Trump to have committed.

The highly gullible 10-20 percent will still support Trump, because they will believe Trump despite the evidence before them.

But, for the less gullible Trump supporters, or at least for some of them, their continued support may be contingent on what Trump is show actually to have done. For those folks, the just-deny-it-all strategy won’t cut the mustard.

And that shows just how desperate Trump’s defenders are.

I had some cases like that. At this stage, we were in serious settlement talks.

Pardon Me for a Horrifying but Obvious Prediction


Well, that was nice.

Trump Says He Is Open to a Path to Citizenship for ‘Dreamers’

WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Wednesday that he is open to a path to citizenship after 10 to 12 years for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, days after rejecting a bipartisan plan with that as its centerpiece.

Mr. Trump once again seemed to undercut his administration’s message, telling reporters at the White House that he would allow the young immigrants, known as Dreamers, to “morph into” citizens over a period of time.

The reporters had gathered for a briefing from a senior official detailing the administration’s plans to stick to a restrictive immigration agenda when the president dropped in unprompted, shortly before departing for Davos, Switzerland, pre-empting the official.

“Over a period of 10 to 12 years,” Mr. Trump said, “somebody does a great job, they work hard — that gives incentive to do a great job. Whatever they’re doing, if they do a great job, I think it’s a nice thing to have the incentive of, after a period of years, being able to become a citizen.”

But here is Trump’s problem:

“A slice of the public bucks popular sentiment for young undocumented immigrants, underscoring the conflicted feelings over the issue that has stymied Congress for years.”

And that’s the very “slice” to which Trump will desperately cling when the Mueller shit hits the fan. That’s the “slice of the public” being told by Fox News and the Russian bots about the Deep State Conspiracy.

Trump won’t want to see any more headlines like the one from Britbart “News” shown above.

If Trump loses his little slice of the public, if he loses Fox, if he loses Breitbart, then his goose is well and truly cooked.

And Donald Trump is not a man to agonize over the choice between common decency and self-interest.

So I am afraid that as soon as Mueller finishes his work, ICE is going to start showing up for the Dreamers.