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.