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It is said the coverup is worse than the crime, and Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr and his Republican congressional sycophancy certainly are testing the limits of that cliché. But as epic as the coverup may be, not to mention efforts to cover up the coverup, the crime they are trying to cover up is enormous.
It took about 10 days from the time Barr hastily released a four-page summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's final report for otherwise tight-lipped Mueller investigators to begin hinting that the report they prepared after 22 months of hard-nosed work that netted 37 indictments and 199 criminal charges is rather different than the sanitized version that Barr is trying to peddle.
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 Washington Post, and "more troubling" for the president than has been revealed, according to The New York Times.
Barr has clearly overstepped his authority, and some investigators are particularly upset that he did not release official summaries of the report that their team had prepared for public consumption, The WaPo additionally noted.
One investigator told the newspaper that the special counsel report was written in such a way that would have allowed "the front matter from each section . . . [to be] released immediately — or very quickly" to the public. So why did Barr draft his own summary rather than use Mueller's? Because he is not dealing from the top of the deck.
Trump, meanwhile, had said initially that releasing the full report would be a "disgrace" but then reversed field and said that he would not stand in the way of its release after House Republicans unanimously backed a Democratic resolution calling for its release. But he has begun walking back that claim as it becomes obvious the report is not the "complete and total exoneration" he claims it to be.
"According to polling, few people seem to care about the Russian Collusion Hoax, but some Democrats are fighting hard to keep the Witch Hunt alive," Trump tweeted on Thursday. "They should focus on legislation or, even better, an investigation of how the ridiculous Collusion Delusion got started -- so illegal!"
Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, dismissed the concerns of Mueller's investigators.
"They are a bunch of sneaky, unethical leakers," he told Fox News host Laura Ingraham. "And they are rabid Democrats who hate the president of United States."
In stonewalling House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler on providing a redaction-free report, Barr's fig leaf is that it contains classified material, secret grand-jury testimony and information related to ongoing federal investigations that must remain confidential.
The AG is implying that unlike Watergate grand jury testimony and the Kenneth Starr report on Bill Clinton, both of which were released to Congress, only he and not a congressional committee sworn to due diligence in carrying out its oversight responsibilities should determine what stays secret. Which is why the standoff -- just one aspect of what already is being called the Subpoena War -- will end up before the Supreme Court.There also is the public relations war being waged by Barr and Republicans, who hope that delaying release of more of the full report will cement first impressions that the report was largely positive for Trump and curtail other investigations into the president's conduct. That, however, probably is a non-starter since polls, contrary to Trump's tweet, show that an overwhelming majority of voters across the political spectrum want the full report released.
Let's also not forget that Trump nominated Barr after he wrote a spurious 20-page memo last June 8 that he shared with a Justice Department official and the president's legal team challenging the legitimacy of Mueller's obstruction inquiry in which he called the special counsel's theory on obstruction as being "fatally misconceived" and "legally unsupportable." Barr said at his January confirmation hearing that there was no follow-up with Justice after he submitted the memo, but The Guardian reported on Friday that Barr in fact met with several Justice officials on June 27.
The upshot is that we have an attorney general who is a political appointee, and possibly a perjurer, undermining a special counsel who is not a political appointee and is independent of the Department of Justice in deciding that Trump did not commit a crime in repeatedly interfering with Mueller's investigation, which began after the president fired FBI Director James Comey, which is a textbook case of obstruction.
My immediate reaction to Barr stating in his March 24 summary letter to Congress on Mueller's final report -- a rather crude effort to downplay and cover up --- that Mueller had concluded Trump's campaign did not collude with Russia was that candidate and campaign did not need to reach out to Moscow because they already were getting help. A link already had been established. Since then, my view has been reinforced by others of a like mind who note that because Trump used cutouts, dangled pardons and threatened witnesses, Mueller was unable to clear the high bar to presenting a prosecutable case of collusion, or criminal conspiracy in legalspeak.
Nevertheless, "the findings paint a picture of a campaign whose members were manipulated by a sophisticated Russian intelligence operation," one investigator told NBC News.
Other aspects of the Subpoena War include the Democratic committee-led effort to force the IRS to release Trump's personal and business tax returns, investigations into Trump's inaugural committee, his family's personal finances, approval of security clearances for son-in-law Jared Kushner and others although they were deemed security risks, and records from Trump's accounting firm that he used when seeking loans said to contain exaggerations and inaccuracies so flagrant that the firm would include notes with its presentments saying it was not responsible for the accuracy of the information.
Mueller has handed off to federal prosecutors in New York and Washington investigations into hush money payments made to Trump's squeezes, the Trump Organization, foreign lobbying, Russian agent Mariia Butina and the National Rifle Association, and illegal influence by the Turkish government. New York state prosecutors are investigating the Donald J. Trump Foundation and Trump's use of illegal tax schemes, and there are emoluments lawsuits and the defamation suit filed by Summer Zervos.
Complete and total exoneration, my ass.
The House Republicans who had voted unanimously to support release of the full report are in panicked retreat.
Trump poodle Devin Nunes even introduced a new term on Fox News, calling the final report the "Mueller Dossier."
Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.