Making the click-through worthwhile: the cold, hard facts about the Mueller report and the review and redaction process; Pete Buttigieg’s moment and the country’s not-always-healthy yearning for a “fresh face” in presidential politics; and a full-throated defense of our Andy McCarthy, not that he asked for it.
Just Share the Page Count with Us, Mr. Attorney General!
Attorney General William Barr could do himself, the administration, and the country a favor by immediately releasing one small piece of information about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
How many pages is it?
People who are familiar with these kinds of investigation feel comfortable saying that it’s long, with speculation that it could be “thousands” of pages.
The first factor holding up the release of the Mueller report is the sections that deal with grand-jury testimony. The people on Capitol Hill screaming “Release the whole report now with absolutely no redactions whatsoever!” are demanding that Barr break the law.
Earlier this year, the Congressional Research Service published a detailed summary of the grand-jury process, and why it operates the way it does:
Traditionally, the grand jury has conducted its work in secret. Secrecy prevents those under scrutiny from fleeing or importuning the grand jurors, encourages full disclosure by witnesses, and protects the innocent from unwarranted prosecution, among other things. The long-established rule of grand jury secrecy is enshrined in Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), which provides that government attorneys and the jurors themselves, among others, “must not disclose a matter occurring before the grand jury.” Accordingly, as a general matter, persons and entities external to the grand jury process are precluded from obtaining transcripts of grand jury testimony or other documents or information that would reveal what took place in the proceedings, even if the grand jury has concluded its work and even if the information is sought pursuant to otherwise-valid legal processes.
As the report notes, a grand jury works differently than the juries that the public is familiar with from Twelve Angry Men or Law and Order: “The grand jury meets behind closed doors, with only the jurors, attorney for the government, witnesses, someone to record testimony, and possibly an interpreter present.” Because there is no defense attorney, no one speaks for the accused, cross-examines witnesses, or presents exculpatory evidence. The aim of the grand jury is not to determine guilt or innocence; the aim is to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to charge someone with a crime. It is not considered particularly difficult to persuade a grand jury to indict someone; you may have heard the legal joke that grand juries can be persuaded to “indict a ham sandwich.” This is not because of the notorious criminality of ham sandwiches but because when a grand jury only hears one side of a story (the prosecutor’s), they’re likely to agree with that version of events.
Very few of the currently furious Democrats want to talk about this, and it’s not hard to figure out why. They bet heavily on Mueller finding something nefarious and worthy of impeachment. When Barr’s letter quoted the Muller report declaring, “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” it hit Congressional Democrats like a ton of bricks.
They’re left insisting that Mueller declaring that his investigation “did not establish” conspiracy doesn’t mean that the conspiracy didn’t happen. Or hoping that the section on obstructing justice will make Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s conclusion that “the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense” look unjustifiable.
With Mueller’s report sounding about as good for President Trump and his administration as they could hope for, Democrats are desperate to create a new narrative that Barr didn’t summarize the report accurately, or that he’s now going through the report and redacting all the portions that paint the president in a bad light. The Democrats are making this argument, as if Robert Muller had somehow disappeared, and as if Mueller and his team wouldn’t come out and correct Barr if his lied, misled, or otherwise obscured key findings.
Barr’s office has said that the review and redaction process will take “weeks, not months.” That sounds reasonable, but that deadline would make even more sense if we had a general sense of the length of the report. Two-to-three weeks sounds like plenty of time for a 200-page report; it sounds like a tight deadline for a 2,000-page report.
But wait, there’s more. Democrats say they want “all of the underlying evidence” in Mueller’s investigation.
Mueller’s team issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants and interviewed more than 500 witnesses. That means the special counsel likely compiled thousands, if not millions, of documents and pieces of evidence . . .
In one Mueller case, that of longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone , the government said it had turned over 9 terabytes of discovery — an amount so large that Stone’s lawyers said if it were on paper, it would pile as high as the Washington Monument, twice.
If all of that was delivered to Congress, the House Judiciary Committee might need to invest in a larger office space. But lawmakers say that what they really want is documentation of everything — and an idea of how that evidence guided Mueller’s conclusions.
Because this is a public investigation, Congress has every right to see it, but let’s be honest about what’s going on here.
The Pete Buttigieg Moment
Pete Buttigieg — it’s pronounced “boot-edge-edge,” not “booty judge” — certainly seems to be “having a moment.”
Buttigieg just scored his highest Democratic primary national poll number to date at 4 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaning registered voters, according to Quinnipiac University. That easily beats his old high of 1 percent in a live-interview national poll. A jump of 3 points may not seem like a lot, but, because the margin of error shrinks significantly the closer you get to 0, the move from 1 percent to 4 percent is likely statistically significant.
What’s going on here? For starters, Buttigieg is young — really young, at 37 — and Democrats like young candidates — John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama. Buttigieg sounds like a normal human being, a trait that many politicians never manage to pull off. People know almost nothing about him, which makes him a bit of a blank slate — they can project onto him what they’d like to see. He’s got some genuinely admirable traits, like enlisting in the U.S. Navy and serving in Afghanistan, as well as returning to his old hometown and trying to rejuvenate it, when his resume == Harvard, Oxford, McKinsey consulting — could have taken him anywhere.
I’ve even heard from conservatives who look at Buttigieg and think that by the standards of the Democratic party, he doesn’t seem that bad.
That’s the good news for him. The bad news for the rest of us is that Buttigieg is one of those ambitious young men who’s been envisioning his rise to the top since his teen years. He’s been mayor of South Bend — roughly the 300th largest city in America — for five years; while his constituents love him, it’s fair to ask just how much better life in the city is compared to before Buttigieg arrived. By virtue of being from Indiana, Buttigieg is one of those Democrats who the media describes as being “centrist,” “moderate,” or even “conservative’ without ever finding evidence that he deviates from his party’s orthodoxy. (He joins Tulsi Gabbard, Sherrod Brown, and John Hickenlooper in this category.)
A popular joke on Twitter lately is that Buttigeg is what Beto O’Rourke is supposed to be. It’s satisfying to see the O’Rourke bubble bursting at least somewhat, and a belated recognition among some Democrats and the media that for a guy who’s supposed to be the Next Big Thing in Democratic politics, O’Rourke is . . . just some guy.
I realize the era of Donald Trump allegedly blew up all expectations of what kind of experience is needed for a president, but I wonder if some voters will look at Buttigieg, who looks so young that he probably still gets carded at the liquor store, and five years of working out sewer management with the South Bend City Council and wonders if he’s really ready to handle whatever problems come America’s way starting in January 2021. The mood in many corners of the American electorate now seems to be that experience is a liability — it accumulates setbacks and defeats and times you’ve disappointed people by voting the way they didn’t like on a tough issue or introduced an initiative that went nowhere. But experience is, generally, how we learn and get better at things.
Would Buttigieg be a stronger or weaker candidate, 12 years from now, with a term or two of being a governor or senator under his belt? And if Democrats (and America as a whole) is more enamored with the “fresh face” of an obscure 37-year-old mayor than a familiar 49-year-old two-term governor or senator . . . what does that say about our criteria for selecting a president?
Anyway, if you want to know more, here’s twenty things about Pete Buttigieg.
ADDENDUM: USA Today’s editorial page wouldn’t accept opinion pieces that cited the analysis of our Andy McCarthy? As they say on ESPN, “Come on, man!” You don’t have to agree with everything he says to recognize that he’s a smart, experienced prosecutor who kept up with every twist and turn in the Mueller investigation and whose analysis was always worth considering. He started as a deputy marshal in the witness protection program, worked as a paralegal in the U.S. attorney’s office, became a federal prosecutor in 1986, successfully convicted the Blind Sheik behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, won the Attorney General’s Exceptional Service Award and the Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award, wrapped up 18 years as an assistant U.S. attorney, worked as an adjunct professor at both New York Law School and Fordham University’s School of Law. He knows how investigations progress and proceed, how prosecutors think, and what kinds of arguments are likely to sway a grand jury.
Come on. Come on. If Andy McCarthy can be dismissed as having no value on this topic . . . who does USA Today think is worth listening to about this topic?
I see earlier this week they ran a piece by . . . Tomi Lahren.
Come on, man!