Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.
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Noah Bookbinder: Mueller’s Damning Report
It lays out everything Congress needs to investigate the president for obstruction of justice.
The final report by the special counsel Robert Mueller is devastating for the president. Far from the “total and complete exoneration” that President Trump prematurely claimed when Attorney General William Barr released his four-page summary of Mr. Mueller’s work, the special counsel’s report, over the course of 400-plus pages, lays out a compelling case — even absent a prosecutive conclusion — of obstruction of justice by the president.
The report makes clear that the president’s obstruction of the F.B.I. and special counsel investigations crossed constitutional boundaries that could have merited criminal prosecution, if not for the Justice Department’s policy against indicting sitting presidents. Mr. Mueller’s report notes that his office explicitly considered absolving the president of obstruction of justice, but emphatically chose not to. [..]
Far from ending the matter, the Mueller report is an unmistakable act of deference to Congress’s primary jurisdiction over accountability for the president. The House Judiciary Committee must now pick up where Mr. Mueller left off and begin holding proceedings to determine whether Mr. Trump abused the powers of his office.
Paul Krugman: Bernie Sanders and the Myth of the 1 Percent
The very rich are richer than people imagine.
A peculiar chapter in the 2020 presidential race ended Monday, when Bernie Sanders, after months of foot-dragging, finally released his tax returns. The odd thing was that the returns appear to be perfectly innocuous. So what was all that about?
The answer seems to be that Sanders got a lot of book royalties after the 2016 campaign, and was afraid that revealing this fact would produce headlines mocking him for now being part of the 1 Percent. Indeed, some journalists did try to make his income an issue.
This line of attack is, however, deeply stupid. Politicians who support policies that would raise their own taxes and strengthen a social safety net they’re unlikely to need aren’t being hypocrites; if anything, they’re demonstrating their civic virtue.
But failure to understand what hypocrisy means isn’t the only way our discourse about politics and inequality goes off the rails. The catchphrase “the 1 Percent” has also become a problem, obscuring the nature of class in 21st-century America.
Democrats can win the spin on this report in the coming days—there’s enough there. But if they use this to start howling for impeachment, they’re going to blow it.
Well, after all that, the bad news is that this changes nothing.
And the good news? This changes nothing.
Donald Trump is not going to be perp-walked out of Mar-a-Lago next weekend. Trump defenders and Julian Assange acolytes and deep-state paranoiacs can crow.
On the other hand, the Mueller Report has plenty of chapter and verse on sleazy behavior by Trump and his subordinates—and, interestingly, it documents some incidents where subordinates refused to do sleazy things Trump clearly wanted them to do.
It does not clear Trump. Here’s the last sentence of text of the whole thing, on page 180 of Volume II, the obstruction part: “Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” [..]
And that’s where the report has left us, more or less where we were before it hit, with a few damning new details and the certainty that the courts aren’t going to resolve this. So now what?
This is what I meant above when I wrote that the good news is that nothing changes. Democrats should still pursue their investigations. They need to get Bill Barr, who dirtied himself further Thursday morning in breathtaking ways, back up on the Hill. They need to hear from Mueller. They need to keep pushing for an unredacted or less-redacted report—huge chunks of the Wikileaks section in particular are blacked out—as Jerry Nadler vowed they would do at his press conference Thursday afternoon.
So it turns out that, indeed, President Trump was not exonerated at all, and certainly not “totally” or “completely,” as he claimed. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III didn’t reach a conclusion about whether Trump committed crimes of obstruction of justice — in part because, while a sitting president, Trump can’t be prosecuted under long-standing Justice Department directives, and in part because of “difficult issues” raised by “the President’s actions and intent.” Those difficult issues involve, among other things, the potentially tricky interplay between the criminal obstruction laws and the president’s constitutional authority, and the difficulty in proving criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt.
Still, the special counsel’s report is damning. Mueller couldn’t say, with any “confidence,” that the president of the United States is not a criminal. He said, stunningly, that “if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.” Mueller did not so state.
That’s especially damning because the ultimate issue shouldn’t be — and isn’t — whether the president committed a criminal act. As I wrote not long ago, Americans should expect far more than merely that their president not be provably a criminal. In fact, the Constitution demands it.
Eugene Robinson: Only Congress can hold Trump accountable now
There is a mountain of evidence that President Trump obstructed justice. There is considerable evidence that the Trump campaign embraced and encouraged Russia’s attempt to interfere in the 2016 election. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III laid out the facts — and now Congress has a solemn duty to confront them.
Contrary to what Trump says, the long-awaited Mueller report is not an exoneration. The report makes that clear more than once, verbatim, including this passage in Volume II: “Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Nor does the report indict Trump for obstruction. But that is because Mueller took as his starting point the Justice Department opinion that a sitting president should not be made to face criminal charges. “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” Mueller wrote. “We are unable to reach that judgment.” [..]
The Mueller report establishes that the Russians massively interfered with our election and that the Trump campaign cheered and encouraged that hostile act. It lays out ample evidence that Trump obstructed justice. Only Congress can hold the president accountable.
Thus far, Pelosi has resisted any move toward impeachment. Politically convenient or not, that’s where Mueller’s road map leads.