Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

This is not to call out longtime TPM Reader EB, with whom I just had a good exchange about this. But I reprint a portion of EB’s note because many other readers seem to be under the same misimpression. And it is a very important one. I’m happy to say our team got this right. But it’s eluded most other news outlets, at least inasmuch as the story gets reduced to headlines and glosses about Mueller’s judgment on obstruction of justice. To be clear, by the end of the day, a lot of the big outlets had this right. But it’s not how it played in headlines or the quick cable news summaries. From EB

I think it’s safe to assume that from the get go Mueller had no intention of indicting Trump because of the DOJ policy. Then he comes out and says, from what I can tell without reading the full report on my own, that there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him with a crime. What’s up with that? He never saw his job as indicting and prosecuting Trump, so why come a conclusion regarding criminality?

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I’ve seen a number of headlines today saying the Mueller Report puts Democrats on the spot. What are they going to do about? Are they duty bound to impeach? I remain in the same place on impeachment – more an indulgence than a step forward as long as there’s so much that needs investigating and Republicans remain in lockstep support of the President’s criminal behavior. I stress what should be obvious: impeachment is no more than inviting the Republican Senate to remove Trump from office. Claiming that the Report puts Democrats on the spot is akin to those miserable homes where no one has the power to take on the abusive raging father so they start abusing the dog because they need someone to lash out at. The simple fact is that the only reason we’re seeing even one word of Mueller’s Report is because Democrats won a House majority in November.

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I’ve seen a lot of people still asking this question today: if there wasn’t proof of a crime or if there wasn’t a crime, why all the President’s lying and efforts to obstruct the probe? This is a case where it’s helpful to step back and see the forest and not just the countless trees. President Trump knew he was guilty of numerous bad acts and repeatedly lied about those bad acts. So he did everything in his power to obstruct, fight or derail the investigation to prevent his bad acts and lies from becoming known. It’s really that simple.

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Many have already noted this. But I wanted to just flag that we can now see the clause of the sentence Barr quoted in his exoneration letter along with the rest of the sentence. It’s not a good look for Bill Barr.

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It’s a given at this point that Bill Barr has been willfully deceptive about the contents of this report. But even taking that as a given this passage is critical in understanding the standards Mueller applied to the “collusion” part of the investigation. Indeed, he says explicitly, contra Barr, that he didn’t use that standard.

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So one big finding so far, following up on David’s note below. It’s in the “Introduction to Volume II”, the obstruction part. It’s very specific and detailed. But it’s only two pages. You can read it yourself. It’s pages 213-14 in the PDF, pages 1 and 2 of that volume of the report. The gist though is that the Special Counsel decided not only that they couldn’t indict a sitting President but that it would not be fair even to accuse him of a crime without indicting him. They also say that if they decided he shouldn’t face prosecution (under the normal standards that would apply to a non-President) that they would say so. They did not. The gist is that the whole non-finding of obstruction seems to rest on the DOJ/OLC belief that a sitting President cannot be indicted – quite contrary to Barr’s claim.

We’ve broken out both introductions here.

From an ex-prosecutor reader …

The bizarre Barr defense of Trump on obstruction (he was frustrated) echoes the defense used (unsuccessfully) in the obstruction case against former LA Sheriff Lee Baca. Worth checking out. Interesting parallels. Unfortunately for Baca, he didn’t get to choose his prosecutor.

As in his earlier letter, Bill Barr made very specific and technical claims as part of trying to exonerate the President. His argument tied to Wikileaks and the hacked emails is one you need to listen very closely to. He gives a blanket exoneration because he argues – plausible in legal terms – that the only way a Trump associate could have committed a crime is if they had already participated in the hacking of the DNC computers.

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Rush transcript of key part of Barr’s remarks, essentially justifying Trump’s behavior because he thought the investigation wasn’t fair.

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We’re maybe 6 or 7 minutes into Bill Barr’s extended summary of the Mueller Report. And it’s basically an extended version of the Barr Letter, Barr making maximal ‘no collusion’ claims. Same highly technical language.