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The evidence that Barr is a tool and Mueller was signaling to the congress

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The evidence that Barr is a tool and Mueller was signaling to the congress

by digby

The redacted Mueller report released Thursday makes clear that he and his prosecutors viewed the OLC opinion to mean they also could not come to a conclusion about whether the president had committed a crime because it would violate Justice Department standards of fairness to make such an accusation — even secretly — without giving the person a chance to fight the accusation.

The special counsel’s report laid out evidence of potential obstruction of justice for Congress, but the attorney general says there was no crime. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

Barr disagreed.

In releasing the report Thursday, the attorney general told reporters that Justice Department officials asked Mueller “about the OLC opinion and whether or not he was taking the position that he would have found a crime but for the existence of the OLC opinion.”

“He made it very clear, several times, that he was not taking a position — he was not saying but for the OLC opinion he would have found a crime,” Barr said.

Mueller’s approach to the question of whether the president tried to obstruct justice has created tension inside the Justice Department, according to current and former officials. Privately, some senior officials at the Justice Department have been unhappy that Mueller did not reach a conclusion about whether Trump’s conduct rose to the level of a crime, said the officials, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of ongoing sensitivity surrounding the probe.

Barr, according to officials, first learned at a meeting with Mueller on March 5 that the special counsel would not make a decision about whether the president had committed a crime. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who tapped Mueller to take the job nearly two years ago and has overseen it since, has told others that he, too, was surprised by Mueller’s comments in early March, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The Mueller report suggests that the OLC opinion weighed heavily on his team’s thinking, and said the special counsel’s office “conducted a thorough investigation in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary materials were available,” suggesting that perhaps another prosecutor could file a charge against Trump after he leaves office.

At other points the report implies — but never says outright — that Congress should assume the role of making prosecutorial decisions when it comes to the president.

“The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law,” Mueller’s team wrote.

[Barr under fire for news conference that was a boon for Trump, and often featured one of his preferred terms]

Legal analysts said they were hopeful Mueller would clarify why he left open the question of whether he believed Trump obstructed justice — perhaps during congressional testimony next month.

Barr was attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration, when Mueller headed the Justice Department’s criminal division, and Barr has said he considers the special counsel a friend. It is unclear to what extent, if any, they have discussed recent events. Barr said at his news conference that he had not spoken with Mueller directly about the decision that Trump did not obstruct justice, but he understood it was his “prerogative” to make the call.

Mueller, Barr said Thursday, “did not indicate that his purpose was to leave the decision to Congress,” and added: “I hope that was not his view, since we don’t convene grand juries and conduct criminal investigations for that purpose.”

Mueller undoubtedly understood what Barr was going to do. After all, all the way back in June of 2017:

Barr also called the obstruction investigation “asinine” and warned that the special counsel risks “taking on the look of an entirely political operation to overthrow the president.”

I suspect Mueller knew the game was over the minute Barr was named and understood that he’d have to close up shop quickly or would be shut down. It’s not as if Barr tried to hide his intentions.

The weird unwillingness to call the crime a crime was designed to throw it to a co-equal branch to finally decide because it was clear that he would be overruled by Barr anyway.

The House simply must have Mueller up to the hill as soon as possible and not just for an afternoon of showboating by the committees. Nadler and Schiff should assign the questioning to certain members of, better yet, have legal staff do the questioning. This is no time for the usual bullshit.

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