|TOM BRENNER FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES|
So you've finally peeled yourself off the floor in the wake of Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivering his long awaited final report on the Russia scandal, Donald Trump triumphantly declaring total vindication and becoming the presumptive frontrunner in the 2020 race despite more than two years of a presidency built on crime, crap and corruption. What to do now? To use a divine piece of street slang, "Stay woke," which means be aware and remain involved amidst the shitstorm over releasing of the full Mueller report.
As I wrote here,Trump has much to fear from Congress -- and by extension you and I -- learning what is in the full and unredacted report.
Indeed, The Washington Post and The New York Times reported on Thursday that some of Mueller's otherwise tight-lipped prosecutors say Attorney General William Barr failed to adequately portray the contents of the full report and never was asked to rush out a summary of the report because it was assumed that it would be made public, something that the White House and Barr will resist.
Trump, meanwhile, has begun walking back his claim that he would not stand in the way of release of the full report.
The contents of the full report are "alarming and significant" as it pertains to Trump's efforts to thwart the investigation and "much more acute than Barr suggested," according to The WaPo, and "more troubling" for the president than has been revealed, according to The Times.
Why else would Barr be madly scrubbing the nearly 400-page report, in all likelihood to remove material damaging to Trump, and the Republicans who dragged Mueller through the mud for 22 months are now worshipfully saying that he did a helluva job and the AG's obtuse four-page letter summarizing the report is all anyone needs to see.
Can you imagine? It took Mueller nearly 400 pages to say nothing to see here, America, move along.
As someone who has been deeply immersed in the Russia scandal for the last two and a half years but nevertheless felt gut-punched by Barr's summary of the report, as incomplete as it was, I know that Trump's wrongdoing didn't necessarily fit into the context of criminal charges against a sitting president. This is because the Constitution that Trump loves to hate extends ample protections to him and a Justice Department ruling (made in the wake of the Clinton impeachment circus and Ken Starr's prosecutorial overreach) states that a he cannot be indicted for misdeeds preceding his presidency.
I believe that the full report is chockablock with wrongdoing, as well as prosecutorial insight into how Vladimir Putin has leveraged Trump, which would not necessarily make him a Russian agent in the classic sense, but will provide much-needed insight into his fawning acquiescence to the Russia leader.
I also believe that Congress -- and again, you and I -- will prevail at the end of the legal confrontation over releasing the full report.
That fight is just getting under way as Barr whitewashes and the House Judiciary Committee voted 24-17 long party lines on Wednesday to issue a subpoena demanding the full report, including all-important grand jury testimony it is entitled to see, as part of its ongoing investigation into obstruction of justice, abuse of power and corruption within the Trump administration.
In addition to authorizing a subpoena for the full report, the Judiciary Committee approved subpoenas for five key witnesses.
They are Donald McGahn, a former White House counsel who spoke extensively with Mueller's investigators; Stephen Bannon, the president's former chief strategist; Hope Hicks, a former White House communications director; Reince Priebus, the president's first chief of staff; and Annie Donaldson, a McGahn deputy who took detailed notes on the president's behavior during key episodes in the administration's efforts to curtail the various Russia investigations.
The five were among 81 individuals, companies and government entities from which the Judiciary Committee requested documents last month. While some individuals have said they would cooperate, including Hicks, the White House is refusing to do so. The Democratic chairmen of six House committees also are insisting that Barr, who of course is following Individual No. 1's orders, testify immediately and not in early May, when he has suggested he might be available.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler noted after the vote that in 1998 Congress had received Independent Counsel Ken Starr's 445-page report and underlying evidence on Bill Clinton without incident.
The confrontation between Congress and Trump and Barr almost certainly will climax with a Supreme Court ruling, but to what end and when?
As you probably are tired of hearing me say, although the Watergate scandal was only 45 years ago, it seems like 450, but certain parallels can be drawn and United States v. Nixon, the paramount legal ruling of that era, is instructive.
Four months after the legal fight over Richard Nixon refusing to turn over secretly-made Oval Office tape recordings and other subpoenaed materials commenced and three weeks after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments, it ruled unanimously that Nixon had overstepped the bounds of executive privilege -- and executive privilege will be at the heart of Barr's refusal to cough up the full Mueller report -- and ordered him to deliver the subpoenaed materials. He resigned 16 days later.
I anticipate the high court upholding U.S. v. Nixon and ruling against Barr, although I do not think for a moment that Trump will resign.
That will put congressional Democrats on the spot. Will they continue to foot drag over initiating impeachment proceedings or get down to the nasty and drawn-out business of ridding America of Donald Trump?
In the meantime, stay woke.
Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.