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Saturday, May 4, 2019

No, Mueller's Not Disappointing Us

On his interview show on Wednesday, Bob Cesca interviewed Gaslight Nation co-host Sarah Kendzior. Sarah is extremely skeptical that Bob Mueller is doing any good, and even said that he might be complicit. I thought that was nuts, and posted my reactions on Bob's Patreon page. I wanted to put them up here, because they reflect thoughts that I'm tweeting way too much the last couple of days, and I'd rather have them live here. So here's a slightly-cleaned up compilation of three posts I wrote:

I still don't get the frustration with Mueller. We really do know now that he was always skating on thin ice as far as his investigation being shut down. I don't know what he could have done better, and I think this will play out over the coming months as the other investigations that he helped initiate move along.... it's kinda like at the end of Rogue One, with Mueller as the dude who's running from Vader before the doors close trying to hand off the Death Star plans.

As of tonight, it seems that, as I predicted on the day the Barr letter came out, Barr shut Mueller down early. He went as far as he was allowed to go -- remember, he had just requested six months' more funding just a few weeks before; I think he was meaning to more or less continue full force, and then Barr, as Vader, chased him down and he got out the best report he could. But now those investigations, plus Congress, know the Death Star weak points, and we're going to see TIE fighters [JASON'S NOTE, 5/3/19, 11:22 PM -- Jesus Christ, I meant X-Wings. Idiot. Thanks, Elliot.] fanning out to go after them in the coming months. Of course, in Star Wars, those TIE fighters got off a one-in-a-million shot to destroy the Death Star. This may not work, but it's giving us a better chance than a lot of people seem to think.

Maybe I'm being pollyannish -- I'm certainly being dorkish -- but I saw a *LOT* from Mueller that I liked, and his work just felt to me to be way beyond the 9/11 Commission, or Fitzgerald, or any of the other kinda half-assed investigations we've seen in our lifetimes.

Additionally, it sucks, but aside from Mueller working within the constraints of Mueller's job, Democrats are always working under the constraints of the media. If the Dems don't move at the right pace and lay out their case to the public carefully, the media just doesn't believe them, the public tunes it out, and the GOP jumps all over the Dems about jumping to conclusions. I believe strongly that Pelosi is planning impeachment hearings, but is waiting for a few things to happen (or be blocked from happening by the GOP, making themselves look worse) before she launches them. Those include getting the unredacted Mueller report (that appears to be blocked), having Barr testify in front of the House (also blocked), having Mueller testify (Barr could probably figure out a way to block him), and having McGahn testify (he's a private citizen now and I'm not sure how Trump could stop him short of jailing him, incapacitating him, or blackmailing him. I expect to see each of these things play out one way or another over the next 4-6 weeks.

The interview reminded me why I have some issues with Kendzior. She says things that make sense for a while, and then kind of like Rand Paul, just moves into Crazytown. I'm certainly open to the possibility that I'm wrong, and that Mueller didn't take things seriously enough, but I don't think for one damned minute that he's *complicit*. That's ridiculous. And, unlike what Sarah said, we found out yesterday that Mueller *is* still on the DOJ payroll. What are the penalties for violating their policies? I bet they're steep.

She's right that the Mueller report is incomplete, but as I said above, I believe that's because his work was cut short. He was investigating a LOT more than was in the report, things that led me to believe that he was being pretty comprehensive, but that didn't get mentioned in the report. He WAS investigating Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and even Brexit. We knew that based on who he was interviewing.

And as for the lack of indictments, I believed that Kushner, Junior, and Ivanka would get indicted later in 2019. Mueller was headed there. He didn't get the time he expected to have in the end. If he'd  indicted any of them without an airtight case, once again, the media would've been all over him. Additionally, does anyone think his work had nothing to do with getting Assange arrested right near the end?

Mueller's not a superhero. But the work he did was a productive part of a collaborative effort that is giving us a true shot at making things better. Trump wanted to fire him over and over and over for a reason. Short of, say, evidence that he really was working with the GOP, it'll be really difficult to convince me otherwise.

A number of people have said that Mueller should've held a press conference by now. He can't do that, potentially under penalty of prison, as long as he's still employed by the government, which we didn't know for sure he was until a few days ago. I was expecting since the first day Barr's letter dropped that he had Mueller handcuffed in some way, and that appears to be one of them.

So, instead, soon after we get to see (85% of) Mueller's report, "someone" leaks Mueller's letter to Barr (and the fact that Mueller memorialized his thoughts on this in a letter is seen as a pretty serious step in that context) the day before Barr goes up before the Senate and two days before he goes up before the House. Barr ends up looking like a fool and a liar in front of the Senate on an eight hour nationally televised event, and then has to bail on the House. Then the Democrats in the House, who are not handcuffed the way Mueller would be because Barr can't fire them or jail them, and also, unlike Mueller, can actually take action against Barr by holding him in contempt (which they apparently will do, probably most wisely after sending him a subpoena and giving him a week or two to defy it on the record), and then have options after that -- they could put him in the clinker, which they probably won't, they can impeach him and conduct full-on hearings, or they can use it as evidence in an upcoming impeachment of Trump. And neither Barr nor Trump can stop them from doing these things.

Kenzior said that Mueller isn't really "playing chess." I believe he is, but he understands that if he moves his rook diagonally to try to check the king, it's his rook that gets taken off the board, not the king. Or probably more accurate, in a game that's bigger than one person, he *is* the rook. Nancy's the queen (ooh, I do love this metaphor), and she's waiting for the right opening to start SMASHING pieces. I have found in chess that novice players get so eager to use their queen early because it's so powerful, but when they're playing a more experienced player, that queen is off the board in like the next five moves because the player discounts the fact that the queen, while it has a greater variety of moves than the other pieces, it's just as vulnerable as any of the others, and the better player is quietly watching that piece for that vulnerability to be exposed. Once that queen is gone, the novice player is pretty much fucked and because he was betting everything on the queen, and it all just goes irreversibly downhill from there.

We cannot afford to lose the queen, so we need to properly build up to the point where she can make her biggest moves by taking some of the GOP's pieces, who could otherwise capture her, off of the board. And that would be bad, because our king is basically this country's democracy. So, use our rook (Mueller) to castle the king and play some offense (like taking pieces like Flynn and Manafort off the board), let our pawns (in this case, let's say people like Liz Warren who has a platform but not much direct power make some noise about impeachment and start to move towards the other end of the board, where, if they make it, can turn into more powerful pieces), use knights and bishops like Nadler, Schiff, Waters, and Harris to turn up the heat on Mad King Trump at an appropriate pace by issuing subpoenas and daring him to defy them and taking his plays off the board (like turning people like Cohen and McGahn against him). Then you give yourself options for paths to victory (the narrow chance of getting so much horrible shit out on Trump that when you impeach the Senate has to convict, one of the other jurisdictions indicting him, or leaving him isolated and flailing alone for 20 moves until he runs out of steam in November 2020).

I don't play chess much because I don't have the patience (and I suck), but I understand the rules and the hypothetical strategies. I *THINK* I see the strategy the real players are playing here. Trump and his people will keep on thinking they're making big moves while they're actually making things worse for themselves (like being excited in March when they quickly move Barr up the board and then watch helplessly as Kamala Harris captures him and they can't play him, at least as effectively, anymore), and the Dems and their non-corrupted allies in law enforcement are subtly setting a trap to be sprung at the correct time. Republicans hate our whole system so badly that they can get away with overturning the board and declaring victory. Democrats cannot overturn the board, because, frankly, we care about living to play another day.

OK, that's a lot of chess. But, bottom line is the result. I'd rather use impeachment in 2-3 months when we've worked things to the point that the media and even a few Republicans are in the in our column than gamble from less of a position of strength today. I *think* it has a better chance to save democracy. Come three months from now, if I don't see the progress I'm looking for, I'll be more inclined to join the likes of Sarah Kendzior. But I'm optimistic. This feels more like 1974 than 2005.