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The Biggest Mystery in the Mueller Report

The Biggest Mystery in the Mueller Report

The Mueller Report is the strangest legal document I’ve ever read that hadn’t been crafted by an inmate. Insightful and intelligent, while at times frustratingly obtuse and byzantine, it almost approaches poetry. It is 400 pages of blockbuster revelations that goes nowhere.

Miles Davis explained that jazz is about the notes you don’t play. Well, an unplayed note hangs over this otherwise methodical, scripted performance: Where’s the money?

There is not a single direct reference in the entire report to any information gleaned from Trump’s finances. The report makes painfully apparent, through Cohen, that Trump’s denial of  Russian contacts was a lie, but it simply drops the thread, as it would do so many times on other subjects. It fails to describe any of Trump’s actual business dealings in any direct reference. Nothing. Not a bank record. Not a tax return. Not even a corporate registration. The only financial information cited comes from personal testimony, mostly from Cohen. That’s very odd, since these crimes hinge on the “thing of value” element.

If this were a report produced by Congress or journalists, one might excuse them for missing the financial side of this story. However, this investigation was conducted by officials with deep experience prosecuting financial crimes. They didn’t just overlook the business angle.

Redactions cannot explain the absence of financial references. If the Special Counsel had investigated Trump’s finances, the data would have influenced entire topic headings. It’s not there. Why?

Trump’s accountant was cooperating with federal prosecutors under an immunity deal, but that cooperation was limited to matters around the Cohen investigation (bribing porn stars). IRS officials were enlisted by the Special Counsel, but their work seems only to have extended to Trump surrogates like Manafort. We have nothing from the prior public record or this report to suggest that the Special Counsel gathered any information whatsoever about Trump’s businesses, the sources of his loans, his already well-documented tax fraud, or any other financial matters. In other words, the Special Counsel appears not to have investigated the only matters about which Trump feels any genuine concern.

How can you even pretend to investigate the intentions of Donald Trump without addressing financial interests? How do you determine whether Trump received a “thing of value” without looking at his finances? That’s strange.

To be clear, the Special Counsel did not go lightly on the President. This is a R-rated report that makes Donald Trump look like a ghetto King Joffrey. Barr flat out lied about the report’s conclusions. It exonerated no one, from anything. It held back from accusing anyone of collusion, while describing an awful lot of collusion, and explicitly did not absolve any of the players. It went on to lay out a damning, readily prosecutable case for obstruction of justice against the President, then finished with redacted references to numerous related prosecutions referred on to other authorities.

If this is someone’s idea of a smokescreen for the President, they did a terrible job. So why did they fail to open the one line of inquiry which might have produced real answers?

It’s hard to imagine that they didn’t try to obtain information about Trump’s finances, but there is no mention either of any efforts to gather that data, or problems gaining access. Nowhere do they explain why they didn’t subpoena Trump’s tax records (as they did with other figures) or alternatively why such a subpoena was sought and denied.

The report is set down in a pattern around an invisible wall protecting the secrecy of the President’s finances. Never is this limitation referenced in any manner, though it’s the cul de sac into which all these many inquiries lead. The Special Counsel lays out his response to the most crucial questions about collusion in pure jazz. The outline is there, but the pattern is laid down in silence.

Why? Someone needs to ask him.


  1. So, in another sign that the fascists and their libertarian ideologue allies/ enablers (aka koch brothers et al) have won, saw this tidbit on the CNN site today.

    Social Security is going to have to start giving out payments of 75% of entitlements in 16 years. Think about that..16 years…that is nothing in the timeline of bureaucracy.

    The criminalization of the poor continues apace.

    1. Dins,
      Nothing new here! Thanks to the tax cuts for billionaires, and the refusal by Republicans to do anything to help SS, a program they fought tooth and nail to stop when it was proposed, I guess I am not going out on a limb by saying this will happen.
      One does wonder tho where all the voters are! This will impact millions of people! And it seems no one cares!
      Cutting SS has been a dream of Republicans for years, decades actually! Right after the 2017 tax bill was passed, both Ryan and McConnell said we would have to cut SS and medicare because of the deficits!

      1. Republicans are “all in” for eliminating all “welfare” as they consider Social Security etc. However, I think they are misjudging even their own base that really likes Medicare and Social Security. Dems need to frame what’s happening and use it to demonstrate the differences in their values. The unpaid for $1.5 T tax cut proved decisively that republicans really really aren’t concerned about deficits (which they won’t be paying for). What’s the real difference between a tax cut that is deficit spending and benefits most the top ten percent of Americans and deficit spending for social security that benefits all Americans? It is this: power. He who has the gold, rules. It is all welfare.

  2. What is even more hysterical about the destruction of democracy in the U.S., and worldwide, is the normalization of treasonous behavior.

    A quote from a CNN article today: “There’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians,” Giuliani said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

    The fascists have won folks. You can talk all you want about working at the neighborhood level all you want. But when the DoJ, SCOTUS, the federal and about 30 state governments are working directly against you, anything you do within the confines of “the law” is pointless, given these guys now decide what is legal.

    Now, that said, I have already been proven partially wrong, since I did not think the Mueller report would be publicly released at all, even this redacted version. But given that the regime and their lackeys in the DoJ and IRS are now saying “pound salt” on any further demands, I feel pretty confident this is as far as disclosures go.

    The SDNY may bring to light a ton of stuff, but this regime now has so much judicial muscle plus a willing propaganda machine in fox, it all will be irrelevant. Factor in a Democratic Party that just can’t help shooting at each other, and well…good luck folks.

    1. Ah, those financial records….How important are they to trump? This. “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the kings horses and all the kings men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again “.

      We are in for some really ugly politics.

      1. Mary, the lawsuit was filed in federal court in DC. I can’t read the WaPo article, and can’t find much online. Does the DC court deal with this lawsuit, and is that circuit bought and paid for by the fascist party?

        The chief judge, Howell, was appointed in Dec 2010, so if my math and history is correct, means she was installed by Obama and a Democratic Senate. But I have no clue if she hears this case, or one of the other judges.

  3. Concerning the question of whether or not a president can be indicted by the DOJ, a while back I saw a clip from fox News, a conversation with either Shep Smith or Mike Wallace, where Judge Napolitano said there are three DOJ memos about this subject. One says the president can be indicted, two not! But Napolitano did say they all agree that if a statute is about to toll, then the president can be indicted.
    i have no idea if this is correct and i am not an attorney.
    That said, i think to be indicted, the AG would have to sign off on the action. I think with this guy Barr in charge, that prospect is slim to none!
    Of course, Trump can be indicted by NY state. And that is where a lot of his offenses took place.

  4. All my assumptions regarding this SCO investigation has been wrong. I agree its unfathomable that there is no mention of the money…which is why Trump breathes. My next best assumption is that the 14 investigations referred out concern the money. The report indicates Mueller was only looking at potential crimes involving the Russian conspiracy and farmed out everything else. Benjamin Wittes over at Lawfare has a running diary on his read of the report itself which contains some interesting ideas I hadn’t considered.

    I’m not as angry as I thought I would be reading the Mueller report. Its more of an overwhelming sense of sadness that we are not the people we told ourselves. Perhaps best to accept that truth and move on to becoming the country we want. It will take more time than I probably have to build the institutions we’ll need going forward but even putting someone else in the WH in 2020 is not going to fix whats been broken…it may only stem the damage.

    1. That’s like asking “how I can resist arrest if I’m not guilty.” You can obstruct justice without even being the target of an investigation.

      Like Trump, Nixon was never indicted for any “primary” crimes (like the break-in), but he was about to be indicted for obstruction of justice. Obstruction is on the books specifically to deal with characters like Nixon, Clinton and Trump, senior political figures who are in a position to enable others to commit their crimes for them, then use their power to conceal those crimes.

      Nixon’s indictment was sealed until 2017. It makes an interesting read.

  5. It’s hard for me to see where you’re coming from on this post, Chris. In truth, I haven’t read the Mueller report, and likely won’t (guess I’m about Trumped out) but I did listen to loads of talking heads last night. Best I can unravel is that Mueller went to the edge of his mandate (and maybe beyond) but he really teed the ball up nicely for another player (read: Congress) to hit a hole in one if they are so inclined. They have in this report hundreds of avenues to travel on the road to finding further corruption, and hopefully enacting legislative solutions. We’ll see. For a multitude of reasons, I doubt that Mueller could have made much more progress than he actually did. His charter had to do with Russian intrusion into our electoral process, and he nailed that one very well. Problem is, while insidious, it’s not especially sexy to the media so it gets short shrift — but it is of great importance.

    To me, impeachment is a no-go proposition here. I was deeply involved in the Clinton impeachment process 20 years ago, part of the GOP investigation team looking for financial misdeeds in the Clinton campaigns, specifically foreign money. Worked with the likes of Dave Bossie, then a neophyte, now a big shot in the Trump camp. Then, as now, a person with a very small world view. The Dems could probably succeed with impeachment, but most people seem unaware that is only the start: it’s like an indictment; there is still a trial in the Senate. Well, that’s in GOP control and there is Zero chance of obtaining the required 67 votes to convict. Zero. It’s a waste of time and effort.

    1. I, too, listened from morning until late last night to all of the discussion surrounding the release of the Mueller Report. The lack of attention to the financial elements was explained (adequately to me) that it was not within the purview of the very narrow scope of the investigation charge, and Mueller is a stickler for playing by the rules. I’m not an attorney so cannot offer anything of legal value other than my own lay perception, which follows.

      I am reading the report – as I can – it’s so disheartening yet affirming of everything this man is capable of, that I’m taking it slowly so as to not be completely depressed. I figure I probably will still be reading it when the full report is released.

      My simple views on this are as follows: Mueller is a strict DOJ conservative. He followed existing DOJ policy regarding indictment of a sitting potus. From the analysts who I heard, Mueller felt all he could do was what he did, i.e., offer a roadmap for the appropriate party (Congress) to pursue.

      It is my opinion, that the appropriate committees should pursue hearings on the report’s findings and evidence. I have great respect for Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler and believe they have the legal and legislative skill to properly advance additional serious discussion. It was stated that calling AG Barr to testify is a waste of time as he has already lied and will continue to aid and abet trump as he can. Don’t give him a platform to spin more lies for trump’s base. Cummings has a role but I am concerned with his control of his committee, especially the freedom caucus members (Jordan et al) who are disruptive. I agree with Nadler’s decision to subpoena the full report and it is my hope that Schiff and Nadler will subpoena witnesses named in the report who can add to the public’s appreciation of the gravity of the charges. Until and unless the House and the Senate receive the full unredacted (as possible) report, time will have to be spent on hearings of what is known.

      Of great concern is preservation of evidence in the event that trump is charged once he leaves office and returns to private life. I would not put it past either trump or Barr to destroy it. As it is likely SCOTUS will become involved at many points, it will be interesting to see if Chief Justice Roberts will stand on precedent or if the entire quintuple conservative block will sell their souls.

      Comments yesterday indicated that the financial dealings Chris references are accessible in the evidentiary links contained in the report footnotes. We all knew what this man was when he campaigned, what he would likely do once elected, yet it is all worse than any of us could imagine. I can tell you that trump supporters are already clamering for the investigation of Hillary and Comey and McCabe…the democrats (not really, but…) are behind all of this. So, nothing learned there.

      I am deeply concerned that this president has held up a bill in Congress that addresses voting security. Worked for him, didn’t it, but how can any member of Congress not react to Mueller’s forceful statement about the sweeping intrusion by Russia into our 2016 election? Why would anyone think they would stop their nefarious activitiese when they have been so hugely rewarded? The silence to the Mueller Report on the right is disgusting. Thank god for Bill Weld.

    2. Joseph- How would the five year statute of limitations impact the ability to indict trump under existing DOJ rules if he wins a second term? By winning could he escape all liability?

      I want to address your point that dems shouldn’t going through the impeachment process because of the 67 GOP Senate majority. The impeachment process is slow and there is a possibility that Democrats could win a senate majority. Wouldn’t having a “ready” case expedite the senate vote? Of course, in a better world, the House should proceed because it is their job and as a matter of principle. We are not living in those times.

      1. Hi Mary: Since I’m not a real lawyer (like Don McGahan) I don’t take notes. I’m not even a pretend lawyer, like the kind Trump prefers! Therefore, I can only offer a layman’s curbstone speculation on your first question: Seems to me if God forbid he hoodwinks the people a second time, then any 5 year statute running would expire without the possibility of taking action against him as a currently incumbent president. Unfortunately.

        As to your second query, I have a better grasp on that. I worked on the Hill a long time and can say with confidence that all pending legislation dies at the end of each Congress. Period. Thus, your optimism about a potentially Dem Senate after 2020 taking up a bill of impeachment passed by this current House of Representatives is moot. Two different Congresses. Cannot happen because the impeachment bill would have been considered pending legislation that died. Nice try, though. joe

      2. If the best we can do is continue to keep pressing the mueller report hearings as a means of informing (and reminding) Democrats and swing voters of the serious, disqualifying actions of this man, we should. Nancy Pelosi will hopefully make the best decision there for the party’s future, aka, 2020 election.

        In addition, democratic candidates must run on issues that concern Americans. Healthcare is certainly at the top of the list but climate change, immigration reform, education cost/access are others. Income disparity is a huge, real problem that needs to be explained so that those impacted are motivated to become engaged in the election process.

        Trump is becoming more accomplished at wielding the power of the presidency, in ways that are shocking and destructive. This is a man who is more concerned with being embarrassed than doing the moral, best things for our country.

        Another wild card is the economy. I continue to hear his supporters tout his business acumen. I worry the federal reserve could be the next independent body to be stacked, in an overt effort to control the economic narrative. And, to prop up the long-running bull market by any means possible so that he can continue to claim credit for a strong economy – that “he” created.

        Meanwhile, I continue to read th dastardly report because facts matter more to me than ignorance.

  6. I do not know how our system of government will be rebuilt any time soon. Trump has placed right wing judges in a position to be in power for decades. And these judges have the absolute power to rule on issues as they want. All the way up to the Supreme Court!
    Look at Barr, the AG! He can stop any investigation he wants. He has no oversight. No one can stop him with the exception of an impeachment. And we all know that will not happen.
    We are about to see, in my opinion, I hope i am wrong, the Supremes decide cases all on the Republican side. And that is not the middle of the road Republican side, the right wing Republican side. No longer will there be any bar against gerrymandering, voter suppression, etc.
    And Roberts, who occasionally votes with the middle, will be irrelevant when Trump gets one more pick for the court!
    Trump has appointed judges that not long ago no one, well, not many, would have voted to approve. Now every Republican in office is scared to death of annoying the tweeter in chief, for fear they loose their primary!
    What is happening to this country is disgraceful and maybe I am too skeptical, but I see nothing happening to reverse it for quite a while.
    Hopefully the Dems will nominate a middle of the road candidate but knowing them, and the low turnout primary voters, there is a good chance the Dems will pick some one who will annoy people by his/her minority status and Trump will prevail, as he did two years ago, by people just staying home!
    And, don’t forget Trump, and the Republicans, are doing nothing to stop Putin from interfering again in the 2020 election!
    The damage to the environment, to the deficit, to civility, etc, has been significant.

    End of rant!

  7. Some of my key takeaways from the report:

    1) The only reason Trump isn’t currently being indicted is because there are still many smart and competent people who are doing everything they can to save him from himself.

    2) Trump, however, sees these people as traitors and is doing everything he can to alienate them or make them leave.

    1. There are very few of guardrails left. Think about it – who remains? I don’t know if the House will decide to pursue impeachment but it is my humble opinion that they need to go where the evidence takes them in order to uphold their responsiblities to protect democracy and the rule of law in America. Frankly, Democrats should impeach regardless whether republicans block them in the Senate. Our country deserves this principled stand. It is my hope that even with trump’s solid 40% base, the more evidence that comes into public view about trump, the greater the likelihood swing voters will be motivated to vote and vote against trump.

    1. I’ve seen several editorial cartoons that compare the Notre Dame fire to the American political system- horrific damage, but can be rebuilt, but it’s going to be a lot of long hard work.

      I’d say the Mueller has been cueing Congress to step it and take the trumpet solo, but it doesn’t look like they’ll get very daring. I don’t expect them to go for the high G (which would be impeachment).

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