A Complete Analysis Of Trump’s 114th Unpresidented Week As POTUS
Attorney General William Barr’s summary says more about his expansive view of presidential power than it does about Mueller’s report.
Trump’s first major typo after winning the election was spelling Unprecedented incorrectly. He infamously tweeted “Unpresidented.” This typo is a personification of his administration: An impulsive, frantically thrown together group of characters with virtually no oversight. After Trump was sworn in, I started writing the weekly “Unpresidented” column, analyzing his every move. This is week 114.
What we are now witnessing is an emboldened Donald Trump. In the past week, the Trump Administration has ordered the Justice Department to argue that Obamacare should be struck down entirely. President Trump threatened to close the southern border with Mexico. The administration moved to cut US aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Finally, the Trump campaign circulated an enemies list and promised to “punish” those who reported on the very real ties between Russia and Trump. This is Trump going full MAGA as he celebrates what pundits are calling the best week of his presidency – despite polling showing the American people’s opinion of him remains unchanged. President Trump is celebrating before he crosses the finish line.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, a potential conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign, and obstruction of justice is completed. But, the public has not seen it. Instead, we got a 4-page summary that only cited 101 words of Mueller’s nearly 400-page report. The summary allegedly detailed the key conclusions Mueller came to. When it comes to conspiracy, Attorney General William Barr claims Mueller did not find evidence of a “tacit or express” agreement between Russia and Trump. As for obstruction, Mueller did not reach a conclusion so Barr, after less than 48 hours of reviewing the evidence, took it upon himself to clear President Trump of obstruction of justice.
Barr’s summary says more about his expansive view of presidential power than it does about Mueller’s report. What Barr is essentially arguing, much like the 19-page memo he wrote before being appointed Attorney General, is that the President of the United States is incapable of committing obstruction of justice (tell that to Richard Nixon’s ghost). By clearing the president, Barr is essentially saying that it is ok for the President of the United States to request loyalty from the FBI Director in charge of the Russia investigation, request that he back off the National Security Adviser, and then subsequently fire the FBI Director.
Barr is saying it is ok for that same president, the very next day in the Oval Office, to tell Russian officials that the pressure from the probe is taken off and a few days later admit on NBC News that he fired the FBI Director because of the Russia investigation. Barr is saying that it’s completely fine for the president to then send out countless tweets over the next 22 months attacking the Russia investigation and displaying what legal experts argue is corrupt intent. And throughout all of this, the president sides with the Russian president responsible for the attack on US democracy over the US intelligence community.
In a passionate speech this week, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) outlined the collusion evidence and showcased how although it may not be criminal, the contacts between Russian nationals and Trump associates were corrupt, unpatriotic, and immoral. I say the same of President Trump’s endeavor to obstruct justice which belittled the American people’s trust in their institutions and emboldened a foreign adversary. Whether it was criminal or not should be the decision of the US Congress, not the decision of a political appointee who had his mind made up before he even saw a shred of evidence.
The weeks to come will be consequential as we await the Mueller report.
Let’s dive into another Unpresidented week.
This comprehensive column sources great reporting from top news organizations, but it’s also built on brilliant analysis from my team at Rantt Media. We are independently-owned and take pride in being reader-funded so that we are beholden to you, not corporate interests. If you like the work we do, please consider supporting us by signing up for a monthly subscription. Below, you’ll see daily breakdowns that are derived from our exclusive Rantt Rundown newsletter, which you can subscribe to:
Breaking Down Barr’s Summary
Day 795: Monday, March 25
On Sunday, less than 48 hours after receiving Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, Attorney General William Barr released a 4-page summary to Congress. In the summary, Barr sought to characterize the key conclusions of Mueller’s findings when it came to a potential conspiracy between the Russian government and the Trump campaign as well as obstruction of justice.
After the summary of the report was released, elected Democrats immediately demanded Mueller’s full report and underlying evidence be released. Republicans gloated about “total exoneration,” and unsurprisingly the media overcorrected. Among those in the Democratic base who put many of their hopes in Mueller, there was a lot of disappointment.
Here’s why Barr’s summary isn’t the end of the world:
1. Mueller didn’t reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice.
In spite of the Trump administration’s claim that Mueller’s report is a “total exoneration” of President Trump, Barr’s summary claims that Mueller’s report states the following when it comes to obstruction of justice: “‘…while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’”
Mueller left the question of obstruction unanswered, laying out evidence on both sides of the case. It’s likely Mueller was laying this out for Congress to determine, but Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (who wrote the memo justifying the firing of FBI Director James Comey) took it upon themselves to clear President Trump of obstruction of justice within 48 hours of receiving the report. It’s since been reportedthat Mueller told Barr 3 weeks ago he would not reach a conclusion on obstruction of justice.
Last year, Barr wrote a 19-page memo lambasting Mueller’s obstruction of justice case against President Trump. Barr was subsequently nominated and confirmed as Attorney General and swiftly cleared Trump of obstruction of justice. Given the fact it appears Barr appears to have made his choice before analyzing evidence, he will likely be called to testify on how he came to the conclusion to clear the president within 48 hours of seeing Mueller’s final product. Barr has a DOJ budget hearing with the House Appropriations Committee on April 9th, so this topic may come in that hearing.
2. You might see the full report and hear from Mueller himself.
When it comes to obstruction of justice, Mueller’s report was inconclusive. According to Barr, Mueller is far more definitive when it comes to conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. Barr quotes the report as saying “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
A footnote defines “‘coordination’ as an ‘agreement—tacit or express–between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference.’” Just because there wasn’t a criminal “tacit or express” agreement between Russia and Trump to conspire does not void all of the suspicious contacts we saw in public. We know there were at least 14 Trump associates who had over 100 contacts or meetings with Russian nationals during the course of the campaign and transition. We know the Trump Campaign knew about Russia’s efforts to help them via Donald Trump Jr.’s emails, and we also know the Trump Campaign knowingly promoted Wikileaks dumps and sought out updates on future dumps from Roger Stone.
Calls for the full report to be released have surged, and there are also calls for Mueller to testify before Congress about his findings. The full report and Mueller’s testimony would provide the American people a better accounting of what he found as well as insight into why he didn’t levy conspiracy charges. Just because there wasn’t a criminally chargeable conspiracy, does not mean the Trump Campaign’s openness to accept help from Russians was not improper.
3. The reporting on Trump-Russia was accurate and you aren’t crazy.
As Republicans attack the media and claim victory, many reporters are already heavily overcorrecting and behaving as if they were wrong. Many have been running with the idea that the press needs to reflect on their Trump-Russia coverage. They don’t. Their reporting on the ties between the Trump Campaign and Russia was largely accurate and mainstream outlets never reported definitively on a “criminal conspiracy” between the campaign and Russian government. What Republicans fail to mention is the fact this development equally undermines their false “deep state” narrative claiming Mueller and the Justice Department has been out to take him down. If anything, the report was the great equalizer.
4. Mueller’s findings aren’t as bad for Democrats in 2020 as people think.
Many people are speculating that Mueller’s conclusions will have a negative impact on Democrats’ 2020 prospects. While it is accurate to say that the Russia collusion related probes in the House will have less credibility, it’s inaccurate to say this will thoroughly damage Democrats at the ballot box. The 2018 midterm polling showed voters care about the issues significantly more than this investigation. Democrats win on the issues. It goes without saying, but Barr’s letter doesn’t change the fact that the Republican Party’s policies are unpopular with most Americans.
Another thing to keep in mind about 2020 is the fact Trump voters are deeply motivated by fear, anger, and grievance – not successes. Trump no longer has his “deep state” fight. The more Trump has to fight against, the better he’ll do in 2020. Trump now has one less fight.
5. It was always going to come down to you.
While many in the Democratic base looked to Special Counsel Robert Mueller as their potential savior, they were always going to have to be their own saviors. Liberals should pay attention to the other corruption probes but they should do so without the emotional investment that they will bring down this presidency. It all comes down to your vote and organizing efforts ahead of 2020. Trump is no less corrupt, indecent, or incompetent after this development. Trump has governed for the wealthy, targeted the vulnerable, capitulated to dictators, and ignored climate change. The American people won’t forget that on November 3, 2020.
In other news…
- Rantt Media: McConnell Blocks Resolution Calling For Mueller Report To Be Made Public
- NBC News: Nadler begins conversation about timing for Barr appearance on the Hill
- NBC News: House committee chairs demand full Mueller report by April 2 deadline
- The Washington Post: Supreme Court won’t hear appeal from company resisting Mueller subpoena
- CNN: Michael Avenatti charged with trying to extort more than $20 million from Nike
Trump’s Mission To Throw The Healthcare System Into Chaos
Day 796: Tuesday, March 26
In a Monday federal appeals court filing, President Trump’s Justice Department announced its support of a December appeals court decision that would invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA). Not only will this effort to take down the ACA in court harm vulnerable Americans, it’s yet another move by the President that circumvents Congress in the pursuit of an unpopular policy goal.
If successful, this effort could cause 21 million Americans to lose their coverage and tax credits. Obamacare contains protections that guarantee Americans with pre-existing conditions can get coverage. 52 million Americans have pre-existing conditions.
This isn’t the first time the Trump administration and the GOP have targeted America’s healthcare system. President Trump has already ended healthcare cost-sharing reduction subsidies, the Republican Party has held dozens of votes to repeal the ACA, and Trump’s new budget proposal aims to cut $1.5 trillion from Medicaid and $845 billion from Medicare.
This didn’t stop President Trump from sending out a tweet that depicts the opposite of reality.
The Republican Party will become “The Party of Healthcare!”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2019
The Justice Department made this move less than 48 hours after Attorney General William Barr dropped his summary of the Mueller report that sparked a positive news cycle for the administration. Healthcare is the number one issue Americans said they cared about during the midterms. Trump hasn’t seen a bump in support after the Mueller report summary either. To say this was an inadvisable political move for President Trump would be an understatement.
In other news…
- Vox: The Pentagon is putting $1 billion toward the wall — and House Democrats can’t stop them
- NBC News: Betsy DeVos grilled in Congress over proposed elimination of Special Olympics funding
- NBC News: AG Barr to release Mueller report in ‘weeks not months’
- The Washington Post: Trump complains to senators that Puerto Rico is getting too much hurricane relief funding
- NBC News: Mike Pence talked Dan Coats out of quitting the Trump administration
McConnell Against Transparency
Day 797: Wednesday, March 27
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) once again blocked the non-binding resolution calling for the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. The report would give the American people more insight into Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Trump Campaign’s contacts with Russians, and potential obstruction of justice on the part of the President.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) made the effort to pass the non-binding resolution, with unanimous consent, which originally passed in the House in a 420-0 vote. Feinstein delivered a statement on the Senate floor:
“The fact is that a four-page summary cannot possibly illuminate what this thorough of an investigation uncovered. I find it so disappointing that so many are rushing to judgement without being able to see the full report or all of the underlying facts.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (R-NY) previously introduced the non-binding resolution calling for the Mueller report to be publicly released on Monday. McConnell blocked the effort claiming he wanted to give Attorney General William Barr more time to decide what parts of the report to make public. Barr reportedly intends to “scrub” grand jury material from the report, but there are questions as to whether he will be an honest broker.
As we reported earlier this week, in spite of the Trump administration’s claim that Mueller’s report is a “total exoneration” of President Trump, Barr’s summary claims that Mueller’s report states the following when it comes to obstruction of justice: “‘…while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’”
Barr claims Mueller outlined evidence of obstruction of justice but did not make a prosecutorial decision. Barr, with the help of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, then took it upon himself to clear President Trump of obstruction of justice. There has been speculation that Mueller’s intention was to leave that determination to Congress, not Barr. Barr’s involvement in the decision has raised skepticism given the fact he wrote a 19-page memo lambasting Mueller’s case for obstruction of justice before he was appointed.
Democrats and legal analysts have also been interested in seeing the counterintelligence components of the report. Six House Committee Chairs have sent a letter to Barr demanding the full report be released by April 2. A Politico/Morning Consult poll found 82% of Americans want the report to be made public, 47% think President Trump tried to obstruct the investigation, and 52% still believe Russia has compromising information on the president.
In other news…
- Axios Scoop: Kevin McCarthy tells Trump new health care push makes no sense
- NBC News: Betsy DeVos grilled in Congress over proposed elimination of Special Olympics funding
- Politico: Mueller grand jury ‘continuing robustly,’ prosecutor says
- The Washington Post: ‘Undoubtedly there is collusion’: Trump antagonist Adam Schiff doubles down after Mueller finds no conspiracy
- The Daily Bast: Elijah Cummings Seeks 10 Years of Trump’s Financial Records
- Forbes: Trump Campaign Chief Outlines $1 Billion Strategy For 2020 On Trip To Romania
Day 798: Thursday, March 28
After Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee called on Chairman Adam Schiff to resign, he gave a passionate speech. Schiff touched on the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and then-Campaign Chairman Paul Manafrot where they sought dirt on Hillary Clinton from Russian operatives. From there, he laid out all of the most significant evidence of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
After outlining the evidence in the most compelling narrative weaved by a lawmaker thus far, Schiff said to his Republican colleagues:
“You might say that’s all ok. You might say that’s just what you need to do to win. But I don’t think it’s ok. I think it’s immoral. I think it’s unethical. I think it’s unpatriotic. And yes, I think it’s corrupt and evidence of collusion. Now, I have always said the question of whether this amounts to proof of conspiracy was another matter… but I do not think that conduct, criminal or not, is ok and the day we do think that’s ok is the day we will look back and say that is the day America lost its way.”
While we await the release of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, The New York Times has reported that it is 300 pages long – which means Attorney General William Barr allegedly reviewed 300 pages, hundreds of thousands of documents, and a significant amount of data in two days and then cleared the president of obstruction justice. A reminder that Mueller did not claim there was no evidence of collusion, he said there wasn’t a criminal conspiracy.
You can watch the clips of Schiff’s speech below.
Wow — after all Republican members of the House Intel Committee file a letter asking @RepAdamSchiff to resign over Russiagate, Schiff ticks through the major pieces of evidence indicating collusion and says, “you might think it’s OK… I don’t think that’s OK!” pic.twitter.com/TtyUiI0w8q
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 28, 2019
SCHIFF: “You might think it’s OK that [Flynn] secretly conferred with a Russian ambassador about undermining US sanctions & then lied about it to the FBI. You might say that’s all OK — that’s just what you have to do to win… I think it’s corrupt & evidence of collusion.” pic.twitter.com/CDnyNnfWO5
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 28, 2019
In other news…
- The Washington Post: How Donald Trump inflated his net worth to lenders and investors
- NBC News: DHS to ask Congress for sweeping authority to deport unaccompanied migrant children
- Reuters: U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs bid to block Trump’s gun ‘bump stock’ ban
- Bloomberg: Puerto Rico Governor Calls Trump a ‘Bully’ as Aid Fight Escalates
- NBC News: Trump says FBI, DOJ will review ‘outrageous’ Jussie Smollett case
- The Washington Post: Next time Trump bullies someone on Twitter, the company might call him out on it
Public Opinion Baked In
Day 799: Friday, March 29
On Sunday, Attorney General William Barr sent shockwaves through the political world when he released his summary of the key conclusions in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. Barr claimed that Mueller found no criminal conspiracy between the Russian government and the Trump campaign and sparked controversy when he took it upon himself to clear President Trump of obstruction of justice. While many media pundits speculated that this was disastrous for Democrats and would give a reboot to the Trump presidency, the polls tell a different story.
A Politico/Morning Consult poll released on Tuesday found that President Trump’s favorability numbers were unchanged after Barr’s summary was released. Trump’s approval rating clocked in at 42% and his disapproval rating was 55%. The poll also found that 82% of registered voters want the report to be made public, 47% think President Trump tried to obstruct Mueller’s investigation, and 52% still believe Russia has compromising information on the president.
A CNN survey released on Wednesday found there are still several questions about President Trump’s legal trouble. 56% of respondents said, “the President and his campaign have NOT been exonerated, but collusion could not be proven.” 57% said they want the findings in Mueller’s report to be investigated and hearings to be held on them. The answer to one question warrants displaying the full breakdown:
On Thursday, a Quinnipiac University poll bolstered the above sentiment indicating the majority of Americans have already made up their minds about the president. The Quinnipiac poll found 53% of voters said they would “definitely not” vote for Trump in 2020, with only 30% saying they would. Perhaps most indicative of the effect of the confirmation of accused sexual abuser Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, 60% of women said they would “definitely not” vote for President Trump in 2020. This reflects what we saw during the midterm elections when suburban woman around the country turned on the president.
Also on Thursday, FiveThirtyEight reported on his steady poll numbers and a Harvard CAPS/Harris poll indicated President Trump’s approval rating was virtually unchanged from a poll they ran the month before. An NPR–PBS poll released on Friday found that only 36% of voters think Mueller cleared President Trump of any wrongdoing while 56% said they “think questions still exist about Trump.”
President Trump overlooked these polls and shared a Rasmussen poll, which is consistently an outlier.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 29, 2019
As we’ve pointed out in our reporting multiple times this week, the most important issue to voters in the midterms was healthcare. The least important was Mueller’s investigation. If those sentiments have held true, that could be the reason Barr’s summary has landed with minimal effect on public opinion.
Judging from the polls, you would think President Trump would triangulate as previous presidents have, but that has not been the case. Instead, President Trump ordered the Justice Department to argue that Obamacare should be struck down entirely. If successful, the move would cause 21 million Americans to lose their healthcare. Trump didn’t stop there. Rather than move on from the Mueller report, Trump has created an enemies list, House Republicans have called on House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff to resign, and the Republican National Committee reportedly plans on targeting reporters who covered Trump’s very real ties to Russia with ads.
In other news…
- The New York Times: Barr Says Mueller Report Will Be Redacted and Made Public by Mid-April
- Vox: Trump’s threats to close the US-Mexico border, explained
- The Washington Post: ‘Clearly an end-run’: Federal judge rejects Trump’s health-care plan to go around Obamacare
- Politico: Trump tests post-Mueller vengeance campaign
- The Washington Post: How the mysteries of Khashoggi’s murder have rocked the U.S.-Saudi partnership
- The Washington Post: McConnell moves to change Senate rules to speed up confirmation of Trump nominees
- The New York Times: Linda McMahon, Small Business Administrator, Resigns From Cabinet
- CNN: DeVos reverses course on Special Olympics cuts after Trump orders funding
Rantt Media’s comprehensive articles source reporting from top news organizations, but they’re also built on brilliant analysis from our team. We are independently-owned and strive for quality, not clicks. But the only way to truly have a media for the people is for media to be funded by the people. We take pride in being reader-funded so that we are beholden to you, not corporate interests. If you like the work we do, please consider supporting us by signing up for a monthly subscription.