Too Incompetent to Obstruct Justice?

With there being a holiday this weekend and my legal issues earlier this week, I don't have a lot of energy to write new posts. There are a number of things I'd like to discuss though, so for now, I'll go with a simple one. The Mueller report was released recently (with heavy redactions). There are a lot of people putting a lot of work into spinning the narrative around the report, but to me, it seems one point is clear: Donald Trump did not obstruct justice, even though he tried really, really hard to.

I'm not sure what to make of it. Trump repeatedly gave unlawful orders to his staff only to find his staff ignored the orders or refused to carry them out. Trump seems to be protected from criminal prosecution primarily because he is too incompetent to get his own staff to do what he tells them to do. That seems more damning a criticism than any charge of criminality ever could have been.

74 comments

  1. I don't see how justice can be obstructed when there wasn't a prosecutable crime at the core of the investigation. As for "unlawful orders" unless they were carried out, it's only so much hot air.

    Trump doesn't have the temperament or experience to be a classical type of President, but then we don't have a classical situation in D.C. His chaotic behavior echoes the chaotic scene in that crazy town. While they're biting and clawing each other, they don't have a lot of time to pass bad laws. Of course, they don't have time to fix real problems, but they don't want to do that anyway so I'll take half the loaf.

  2. Is it true that in general, attempting to obstruct justice but failing to succeed exempts someone from criminal prosecution?

    Also, I think it's at least questionable that firing the head of the FBI for not ending the investigation, and firing the AG for failing to un-recuse himself, might not have been attempts to obstruct justice that succeeded (in their proximal goal. Failure to have those successful obstructions not result in the ending of the investigation doesn't mean that he failed in to obstruct through those two acts).

    I think the primary reasons he avoided prosecution are his status as president, and existing DOJ policies. Seems that Mueller's report isn't unambiguous in that regard, but it is strongly implied. Even if his administration members had carried out his orders, the results would likely have been the same to this point. The main difference might have been a create chance that Pubz in the House would have impeached - even if the chances of the Senate convicting would have likely remained unchanged (he'd have to do something like assassinate Clinton for the Pub sycophants to convict).

    Probably the clearest resolution w/r/t obstruction will be to see if he's prosecuted for obstruction once he leaves office.

  3. . I don't see how justice can be obstructed when there wasn't a prosecutable crime at the core of the investigation.

    If he acted to prevented investigation into any series of events where he didn't commit a criminal act, for personal or political reasons (for example, if he thought he could prevent his son from being exposed for lying, perhaps under oath), of course that could be obstruction of justice. Check out Martha Stewart, for example. That doesn't necessarily mean that what Trump did (without an underlying crime) would result in a successful prosecution.

  4. From findlaw:

    Elements of an Obstruction of Justice Charge

    The elements required for a conviction on an obstruction of justice charge differ slightly by code section. For instance, prosecutors must prove the following elements for a conviction under section 1503 of the federal statute (influencing or injuring an officer or juror):

    1. There was a pending federal judicial proceeding

    2.The defendant knew of the proceeding; and

    3.The defendant had corrupt intent to interfere with or attempted to interfere with the proceeding.

    But regardless of the specific section of federal law (1501 through 1521) cited in a particular case, the prosecution need not prove any actual obstruction -- the defendant's attempt to obstruct is enough. The element of intent, which is central to such cases, is also usually the most difficult to prove; although memos, phone calls, and recorded conversations may be used as evidence to establish this.

  5. Gary:

    I don't see how justice can be obstructed when there wasn't a prosecutable crime at the core of the investigation.

    Suppose a person thought they'd be prosecuted for some action they engaged in so they actively sabotaged the efforts of investigators. Now, suppose the investigators concluded what they had been investigating wasn't actually a crime. Do you think that excuses the defendant's efforts to obstruct any investigation?

    If you actively sabotage an investigation with the intent to disrupt a person's ability to investigate your (supposed) criminal offenses, does it really matter if the offenses being investigated were criminal?

    As for "unlawful orders" unless they were carried out, it's only so much hot air.

    It's nice to know you think the President of the United States giving orders to his staff means nothing as it is just "hot air." I'm pretty sure there is no legal body in the world who'd agree with that assessment, but it's nice to know. If Donald Trump ordered the Secret Service to murder someone, you'd apparently say, "That's just hot air since the Secret Service would never assassinate people." In other words, it's okay to issue illegal orders since people won't actually carry them out.

    Now pardon me while I order an employee to lie about the amount of hours they worked so I don't have to pay them as much. I'm sure they'll refuse so my order isn't actually illegal.

  6. Joshua:

    Is it true that in general, attempting to obstruct justice but failing to succeed exempts someone from criminal prosecution?

    Nope. The mere effort to obstruct is enough to sustain a convinction. That's a simple matter of law. It just doesn't matter to a lot of people.

    Probably the clearest resolution w/r/t obstruction will be to see if he's prosecuted for obstruction once he leaves office.

    I'd estimate there is a 0% chance Donald Trump is prosecuted for obstruction of justice after he leaves office (whenever that is). It's like the situation with Richard Nixon. Prosecuting Nixon could certainly be justified in legal terms, but in "practical" terms, it would never fly. I think prosecuting Trump would turn out to be the same (for the things we currently know Trump has done). I don't think it'd ever happen, regardless of whether or not it "should" happen.

    By the way Joshua, I think you might find the recent exchanges over at lucia's blog interesting, starting with my first comment. I don't think it shows anything "new," but I do think it shows things in a clearer light than before.

  7. Brandon -

    I saw that over at Lucia's. As I've said to you in the past. I think that people have a fairly large measure of control over the kind of reactions they get when they wade into blog discourses. As such, I think you could have handled it better. The argument that you poisoned the well, at least to some degree, with your opening comments I think has some merit

    That said, of course jdOhio's post was a hit job. He's the same dude that wrote that ridiculous post at The Blackboard about Clinton's Parkinsons, and he got exactly as much due diligence pushback from the Blackboard Denizens on the Clinton post as you should reasonably expect for his post on Mueller's investigation. The level of paranoid conspiracy ideation that flies there with no pushback is quite remarkable.

    I was actually surprised to see the level of "Deep State" paranoia that started popping up there (and I'm someone has had been pretty critical of Russiagate, if not quite Matt Taibbi, Aaron Mate, Glenn Greenwald, Noam Chomsky level critical) early on in Trump's presidency.

    Of course, there are some differences among commenters there, but I had thought that on the whole the denizens there would at least pay more lip service to a non-partisan, non-Trump sycophant posturing. But when it turned out I was wrong about that, I realized that the political roots associated with the issue of climate change ran even deeper than even I had suspected.

    The Clinton/Parkinsons reaction turned out to be a pretty good signal of things to come. They actually even creduously swallowed those obviously doctored videos and "expert" opinons of obvious hacks.

  8. Brandon -

    I'm not sure the Nixon parallel applies, where Nixon was followed by a Pub president.

    It's possible that Trump will be immediately followed by a Dem president. Unless Trump pardons himself (his ability to do so could be settled by the courts, certainly he is the sort of person who might attempt to do so), I think there's a chance that he could be prosecuted - certainly by some State Attorney General (for obstruction and maybe other crimes).

  9. Joshua:

    saw that over at Lucia's. As I've said to you in the past. I think that people have a fairly large measure of control over the kind of reactions they get when they wade into blog discourses. As such, I think you could have handled it better. The argument that you poisoned the well, at least to some degree, with your opening comments I think has some merit

    I disagree, not because I think I couldn't have "handled it better," but because I challenge the idea I have any responsibility for how other people behave. The truth is I >b>intentionally chose a hostile tone in my initial comment. I intended to provoke provoke users with my first comment. The point of my first comment was to say, "I don't think you guys are interested in hearing from viewpoints so different from yours, but..."

    Could I have posted in a different way that ogt a "more produoctive" response? Perhaps. But ultimately, does my posting style shape how other people's behave? No. People will behave how they behave. All I can do is try to "play the game" in such a way that I can "get" people to behave in the way they ought to for a short discussion.

    I don't care for such games. That's why I was up front from the start at that site. My point from the start was, "I don't think you guys care to hear views which contradict your own, but I'm going to try to show you what they could be." I didn't think it'd go well. I expected the reaction I got. But I wanted to give people the opportunity to try to take a different approach, to say, "Hey, I know we have very different views, but let's try to work together to figure things out."

    Too long, didn't read: I posted in a semi-hostile manner to give the denizens of The Blackboard the opportunity to prove me wrong about the closed-mindedness of the site. They took that opportunity to prove me right.

  10. Joshua:

    I'm not sure the Nixon parallel applies, where Nixon was followed by a Pub president.

    It's possible that Trump will be immediately followed by a Dem president. Unless Trump pardons himself (his ability to do so could be settled by the courts, certainly he is the sort of person who might attempt to do so), I think there's a chance that he could be prosecuted - certainly by some State Attorney General (for obstruction and maybe other crimes).

    I think it's entirely possible people would want to do as you describe. I simply don't think thereis any chance it would happen, even if people might like for it to. That's not a statement of "right" or "wrong." It's just me stating that I think if anyone were presented with that decision, as president, they'd decide pursuing any prosecution of Trump would cause more problems than it'd solve.

    (Mind you, that is based on the things currently alleged of Trump. If in time accusations of a more serious manner were to arise, I might change my opinion. As it stands now though, I just don't see any administration concluding it would be beneficial to the country to pursue actions in regard to the many offenses Trump has committed.)

  11. Brandon -

    I didn't mean to suggest that you're responsible for their actions. They could have chosen to respond differently.

    And yes, the outcome may have been similar had you entered the discussion in a less provocative manner. Particularly since you have a history there. But you pretty much locked it in.

    If you really wanted to see if they were open to critical analysis of JD Ohio's reasoning, entering in a less provocative manner woukd gave been a different, perhaps better test. it's theoretically possible that opening in a provocative manner increased the likelihood that they'd respond in a tribal manner, and defended his analysis just as a reflexive matter if tribal defense. Again, nothing forced them to react the way they did, but for me as a reader it would be more interesting to see how they'd react under a challenge from more optimal conditions. It could be a more interesting test of their ability to control their biases.

    The thing is, i think in general they respect your intelligence and analytical skills (they kind of have to, since you have written stuff about climate change that resonates with their tribal allegiances). So they have a problem if you write something that challenges their political tribalism directly. When you lead with that kind of attitude, you kind of give them an easy out to dismiss your challenge.

  12. As for Trump prosecution...

    Although I think what we know about what he has done is contemptible and reprehensible, I also think that as a legal question (of obstruction), it's certaibky not a slam dunk. As such, yes, for that reason prosecution after he leaves office may be unlikely. I think they'd only prosecute a strong case.

    But I think the jury is still out, somewhat, w/r/t the illegality of what was reported in the Mueller report. If, for example, Mueller testifies that Trump's actions would merit prosecution for obstruction after he's out if office (but not while in office because of DOJ policy), that might change the picture.

    Yes, there may be other issues uncovered in states' attorneys investigations that could result in prosecution after he's out if office. For example, setting up a dummy organization to pay off woman may be wire fraud, or lying on loan applications may be bank fraud. Yes, that wouldn't be prosecution for obstruction, so it wouldn't match what I spoke of originally.

  13. Brandon -

    I thought this clip of Giuliani was a rather remarkable encapsulation of the tactics employed by the Trump administration, and Trump toadies (as displayed by some of the folks in the threads over at Lucia's).

    https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/21/politics/rudy-giuliani-trump-russia-cnntv/index.html

    I'm not suggesting that there's anything new about these tactics - in fact they are somewhat standard for politicians; but I do have the sense that they have elevated that tactical form by codifying and operationalizing the tactics in a very specific manner, as a plan and a strategy (to isolate their supporters from, and/or undermine, any sort of critique or any critical entity - no matter the legitimacy of the criticism). Indeed, there is evidence (i.e., as described in Trump's book) that they are at least more explicit in identifying and operationalizing the tactics. Maybe what I'm saying that they cross from "tactics" to "strategy" in a way that is unprecedented.

  14. Brandon,

    Strawman arguments. I don't debate hypotheticals, especially when delivered with snide sarcasm. Really, it's beneath you.

  15. Gary -

    Strawman arguments.

    How do you distinguish between troubling situations where the president orders people to do illegal or unethical [edited] things that they don't carry out, and a lot of hot air?

    Are there any situations where the president would order people to do things, and those people would refuse to carry them out, that would trouble you? What are the inclusion/exclusion criteria for "hot air?".

    Why do you thing that Mcgahan refused to carry out Trump's orders? How about when people refused to lie, as Trump ordered? Is that just hot air?

  16. Gary:

    Strawman arguments.

    If my characterization of what you said is inaccurate, why not give an accurate characterization so people could see what I got wrong.

    I don't debate hypotheticals,

    If you don't debate hypothetical, how do you ever set standards? Standards are almost universally created by examining hypothetical situations and debating on how they should be handled. How do you propose people determine what is right and wrong without ever debating hypotheticals?

  17. Joshua:

    If you really wanted to see if they were open to critical analysis of JD Ohio's reasoning, entering in a less provocative manner woukd gave been a different, perhaps better test.... it would be more interesting to see how they'd react under a challenge from more optimal conditions. It could be a more interesting test of their ability to control their biases.

    The point of my opening remark was to say, "I expect you guys will refuse to listen or try to understand what I have to say, but I could be wrong so here goes." I also wanted to point out my expectations were the longer things went on, the worse they'd get.

    My goal was not to see if people would potentially be open to critical analysis of the post. My goal was to present an opportunity to engage in critical analysis and let them decide if they'd accept or reject the opportunity. By being provocative I expected I'd get them to make the decision quickly.

    Could I have increased the chance of the maccepting the opportunity? Perhaps. But suppose I was less provocative at the start and things turned out the same way, just after a few days and a dozen comments. How much more time would I have wasted? I figure there's a good chance my approach saved me five, six hours of time.

    Yes, there may be other issues uncovered in states' attorneys investigations that could result in prosecution after he's out if office. For example, setting up a dummy organization to pay off woman may be wire fraud, or lying on loan applications may be bank fraud. Yes, that wouldn't be prosecution for obstruction, so it wouldn't match what I spoke of originally.

    There's also the remainder of Trump's term in which he will have ample opportunity to break the law. There are also any number of potential issues Mueller didn't investigate because they weren't tied to Russian affairs. Given Trump issued a number of illegal orders in regard to Mueller's investigation, it would hardly be surprising if he gave illegal orders ni regard to other matters too. And who knows, maybe some of them were followed.

  18. >attempting to obstruct justice but failing to succeed exempts someone from criminal prosecution?

    In general no, but it depends on the details. For example, if Trump said I want to bribe a witness into not testifying, and then Rudy Giuliani tells him this is perhaps a bad idea, and then Trump doesn't do it, this would not get a prosecution. To order the firing of Mueller, but it doesn't happen, would not get an obstruction charge. On the other hand, firing Comey to shut down an investigation, but the investigation doesn't get shut down, is a different situation.

    The objection to charging Trump with obstruction of justice is not just that the President can't be indicted, but that the President cannot obstruct justice, as Barr explained in a memo before becoming attorney general.
    Even if you ignore that, to charge obstruction of justice, you would have to argue one of the following provisions.
    https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/part-I/chapter-73
    Mueller primarily chose 1512c2 to argue obstruction.
    Barr says he does not agree with the theory that 1512c2 applies, but even if it did the evidence is not solid.

    Mueller makes a case in the report that a President can be charged with obstruction of justice, where the counterargument is that a law has to specifically say it applies to the President. Mueller points to case law that shows bribery can be charged contrary to this principle.
    However, this is more of a unique case, especially since it is included in the impeachment provision. To argue obstruction because of a President using powers given to him is not valid. Impeachment would be the only remedy for a President who corruptly uses the pardon power or fires people to stop investigations.

  19. MikeN -

    but that the President cannot obstruct justice, as Barr explained in a memo before becoming attorney general.

    If you're going to present yourself as an expert on these matters, it would help if you paid due diligence to facts. Stating your opinions, is of course fine:

    In his testimony at his confirmation, Barr clearly indicated (even if he didn't quite state explicitly) that a president can obstruct justice by, for example, destroying evidence, intimidating a witness, etc. He also said it would be a crime if the president tampered with a witness to suborn testimony.

    He also said it would be unconstitutional for Trump to shut down an investigation to protect himself or his family. Good luck with arguing that a president "cannot obstruct justice" from clearly unconstitutional actions (where there was unarguable evidence that he shut down an investigation specifically for that purpose).

    I also think that a conversation would be better served if you presented Barr's opinions as opinions (of an expert, of course), rather than statements of simple fact.

    To argue obstruction because of a President using powers given to him is not valid.

    I'd say that such a simplistic isolation, devoid of any context, is useless for any real discussion. Again, I suppose it might be arguable whether as an example, if a president clearly fired an AG to prevent an investigation into a clearly illegal act committed by a family member and there is clear evidence that he did so for that specific reason, he could be indicted for obstruction - but for you to state that it would be "invalid," without any contextualization would, IMO, suggest you have an inaccurate impression of your own expertise.

  20. As to a couple of specifics to what you said:

    For example, if Trump said I want to bribe a witness into not testifying, and then Rudy Giuliani tells him this is perhaps a bad idea, and then Trump doesn't do it, this would not get a prosecution. To order the firing of Mueller, but it doesn't happen, would not get an obstruction charge.

    My impression, mostly based on interpretations of what Mueller wrote - which seems to be in contradiction to your "expert" statement of fact - is that this isn't clearly a slam dunk in either direction. I'm not inclined to dismiss the expert opinion of someone like Mueller, who wrote what he wrote in consultation with a large stable of experts.

    Now some people are inclined to just dismiss what Mueller and his team wrote, on the basis of a conspiratorial view that they're a bunch of hacks that are only out to get Trump.

    Now while I'm not terribly inclined to trust, at face value, any arguments that members of the intelligence community would present, I'm also not inclined to believe in conspiracies that they'd write opinions that are so obviously false that non-experts such as yourself could clearly and easily see their error (of course, considering your own obvious biases) - simply because they're members of the "deep state" that are "out to get Trump."

    I'm also not inclined to trust, at face value, the opinions of other people who are clearly highly partisan, like Barr. I always find it ironic when people who think that opinions of someone like Mueller should be dismissed because of his putative biases present the opinions of people like Barr to support an argument that the opinions of people like Mueller should be dismissed because Mueller's highly partisan.

    That particular conspiracy theory (the "Mueller deep state theory"), like many conspiracy theories, IMO, is highly implausible. While I can't prove it's impossible, I tend to give more credence to theories when they accompanied by more plausible arguments.

    In this particular situation I think that opinions of people like George Conway, or Glenn Greenwald, are rather interesting - because they are making arguments that run contrary to what we might assume from looking at their biases (and, of course, I think that the extreme confidence with which people argue about Mueller's biases against Trump are outright laughable).

  21. MikeN:

    >attempting to obstruct justice but failing to succeed exempts someone from criminal prosecution?

    In general no, but it depends on the details. For example, if Trump said I want to bribe a witness into not testifying, and then Rudy Giuliani tells him this is perhaps a bad idea, and then Trump doesn't do it, this would not get a prosecution.

    This example is confusing as you quote me saying "attempting to obstruct justice" then offer an example where no attempt to do anything is made. Trump saying, "I want to bribe a witness" is obviously different from Trump saying, "Giuliani, go bribe that witness."

    I don't know how you change giving an unlawful order with the intent of it being carried out (only to have your staff refuse to carry it out) to merely expressing a desire.

    The objection to charging Trump with obstruction of justice is not just that the President can't be indicted, but that the President cannot obstruct justice, as Barr explained in a memo before becoming attorney general.

    While that memo did help Barr get his job as Trump liked the argument, it seems awkward to cite Barr's memo when nearly every legal expert to comment on the issue disagrees with it. It is certainly not some established legal fact like you try to portray:

    To argue obstruction because of a President using powers given to him is not valid. Impeachment would be the only remedy for a President who corruptly uses the pardon power or fires people to stop investigations.

    Leaving aside how you simply state as fact a legal claim widely disputed, the idea the president is immune to prosecution simply because the power he used is granted to him as the president is absurd. As the president, Donald Trump has the right to talk. That does not make it invalid to argue him lying to prosecutors could justify obstruction charges. In actuality, most obstruction charges come from people who exercised authority/rights they had. The fact a person has the authority to do something doesn't mean they can do it in a way which breaks some law.

    By the way MikeN, since you stopped by, I should correct what you said about me over at lucia's place. It is not arguing in bad faith to intentionally make a flawed argument in order to bait a person into responding in a way you can can hammer them on. Ironically, the example you cited was an argument I made to show you were intentionally refusing to respond to things I said in order to create a misleading narrative. That actually might qualify as arguing in bad faith. Simply baiting you into making a bad argument does not.

  22. By the way, I don't want to harp on the cringe fest that is going on at The Blackboard, but it's truly staggering how paranoid some things being said there sound even though the people there act like they're perfectly normal. The most striking to me is stuff like:

    As Steve points out, the two-hop rule means that the Page warrant could be used to spy on Trump. I see no other plausible reason for that warrant. Here is how it works: https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/256333/fisas-license-to-hop
    "What this means in practice is that, under a single warrant, anyone Page had a text or phone call with in the Trump campaign during the brief months of his association with it in 2016, was fair game, as a direct connection, all the way through the end of the last warrant-extension period on Page in October 2017. The second-hop connections of those initial contacts—meaning everyone that those people had contact with—are also fair game. In other words, it’s likely that almost everyone on the Trump campaign staff was included in the universe of first- and second-order contacts of Carter Page. The entirety of their correspondence is therefore also covered by the initial warrant, regardless of whether or not they ever met or corresponded with Carter Page, or whether that correspondence referred to him in any way, directly or indirectly."

    And:

    My position *is* true, and it is so obviously true to anyone who has any knowledge (even superficial) of FISA law, that it makes your criticism of JD Ohio not stating when the FISA warrant on Page was issued both silly and irrelevant. The FISA warrant allowed the FBI to pretty much spy on the whole of the Trump campaign via the ‘two hop’ rule…. which I suspect was the whole point of getting the warrant. Let’s see, Page had communicated with Manaford, and Manaford had regular communication with every important person in the Trump campaign… including Trump himself. Bingo!

    To users there, it seems not only plausible the FBI used the FISA warrant for Carter Page to read all the communication of the Trump campaign, but actually likely. In reality, and despite the attitude of users like the one who wrote that second excerpt, the law doesn't work that way. The "two hop" rule for FISA warrants applies to telephony metadata. I repeat, metadata. It doesn't do anything for the contents of any communication. MikeN, you're guilty of this, having said:

    Brandon, the two-hop rule would have made the date of Page's leaving irrelevant. Unless there were limits placed in the redacted portion of the FISA order, the warrant would have allowed them to retroactively look at e-mails and whatever else they had, as well as surveillance of the campaign.

    This just isn't true. The "two-hop rule" would allow the FBI to see who Carter Page contacted and who those people contacted, but it would not allow the FBI to see the content of that communication. Not only is the idea the FBI read all the e-mails of the Trump campaign not based in any fact and dripping of paranoia, it doesn't begin to make sense. If that had actually happened, Trump would know now since he is president. So would his staff. They'd have told the world in an instant.

    Apparently people at The Blackboard think Trump and his staff either don't realize all e-mail communication in the Trump campaign were read or Trump and his staff realize that but just haven't told the world it happened. Neither of those is remotely plausible. And even if they were, the idea is objectively untrue as a matter of law. Yet when a user there says it is not only true, but that, "anyone who has any knowledge (even superficial) of FISA law" knows it is true, nobody makes a peep. Because at The Blackboard, paranoid rambling is apparently normal.

  23. Brandon -

    Once you've accepted the premise that "the fbi" was motivated by a desire to get Trump, everything else can fall into place.

    With that premise, the reason the FBI got warrants to surveil Page was to harm Trump, even if was freakin' after he left the campaign, that's why Page's significance was a fabrication of the FBI even if Trump spoke of him as a primary foreign policy advisor, why Mueller is a hack minion of Clinton even if he is a lifelong Republican who was praised by Republicans for decades etc. (it's funny to watch them jump back and forth over whether Rosenstein is a Clinton minion deep state hack).

    Even Comey's actions that harmed Clinton's chances can be explained away because...well, because he was out to get Trump...he was part of the "Deep State"... and so.... Trump is a victim.

    "DEEP STATE, DEEP STATE, DEEP STATE" is its own self-justifying, self-sealing, recursive loop of logic, just like "BENGHAZI, BENGHAZI, BENGHAZI" was a few years ago.

    Working backwards from that premise, you can justify anything Trump did (because he was angry that he was victimized) and justify anything anyone who supports Trump did (because they're also victims of the deep state).

    Graham and Grassley and Barr are unbiased defenders of civil liberties, not biased politicians.

    That's what makes the obviously transparent "I wish he wouldn't tweet," or "he's not a nice man," attempts to rationalize support Trump so pathetic. Anyone who wasn't a Trump sycohphant would see the inane "Deep State out to get Trump" nonsense for what it is, and not accept the conspiracy ideation without pushback.

  24. Brandon, I quoted Joshua, not you. I did intend to include an order to bribe a witness that doesn't get followed, though reading the Mueller Report I think you have it right this would count as obstruction. I left out an additional problem with obstruction of justice charges is that DOJ guidelines and court rulings do not include FBI investigations as something that can be obstructed. The Mueller Report in talking about Flynn talks about a pending grand jury proceeding as being obstructed, not the investigation. I also don't think it's the case that 'nearly every legal expert to comment on the issue disagrees with it.' as I have seen many that do agree with it. If by 'it' you are referencing 'The President cannot obstruct justice' in its broadest form, I will concede that. 'most obstruction charges come from people who exercised authority/rights they had.' Barr is arguing that the President cannot be charged based on use of authority. Lying to prosecutors is not a use of executive authority.

    Joshua, you say I should present Barr's opinions as opinions, not fact. I said "The objection to charging Trump...as Barr explained"
    "Barr says he does not agree with the theory", "where the counterargument is".

    You are correct that there are a number of ways that a President can obstruct justice. I was using the phrase with regards to the things being accused here. Maybe Barr didn't say it in his confirmation hearings, but he did say it in his memo. I was going to add the qualifier, but at the time I thought Barr might have gone further and excluded all obstruction of justice. https://www.lawfareblog.com/special-counsels-constitutional-analysis is my source for the critique of Mueller's constitutional analysis along with Barr's letter. https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5638848-June-2018-Barr-Memo-to-DOJ-Muellers-Obstruction.html

    While I do believe in a conspiracy theory of spying against Trump, as well as a conspiracy involving Trump against the first set of conspirators, I don't use that to ignore Mueller's arguments. Some of what I said comes from Mueller's report. Indeed, I am not sure if Mueller belongs to the first set of conspirators or the second, or neither.

    When I say argument is not valid, I did not intend to say, "I'm an expert and it is not valid for you to argue the subject." Rather, it was in context of what Mueller is arguing in his report. I think it is not valid for a prosecutor to claim obstruction of justice when a President uses his executive powers, including the example you give. I thought the 'clear evidence that the President did so' might suffice, but looking at page 17 of Barr's memo, it looks like it still comes up short. Reading Barr's memo, I am surprised to see that he essentially said it is not valid to argue obstruction, specifically that Mueller should not even ask Trump about obstruction of justice, or investigate it, unless he has first established the underlying crime.

    Barr's testimony “If a president attempts to intervene in a matter that he has a stake in to protect himself, that should first be looked at as a breach of his constitutional duties.” is not the same as saying you can make a criminal charge. Barr said so with regards to pardon power, when it involved a witness in exchange giving false testimony, which is a crime of either suborning perjury, bribery, or witness tampering.

    You said it was not a slam dunk wither way with regards to ordering the firing of Mueller, if the order doesn't get followed. Reading the Mueller Report, I have changed my mind about this, and this fits with the category of attempted obstruction. Technically what I said is right about not producing a charge, but for a different reason.

  25. Joshua, the idea FISA warrants let the FBI read all communications (past and present) of anyone the target has communicated with or anyone those people have communicated with is the way they're justifying saying this was an attempt to spy on Trump. The fact that is completely untrue would seem to be a problem with their theory. I'm curious what new justification they'd come up with if they came to accept their paranoid claims about FISA warrants are totally unfounded.

    It's crazy to think anyone could take that idea seriously. Suppose Carter Page ordered a pizza with his phone. According to the people at The Blackboard, that's all it would have taken for the FBI to be able to spy on (their wording) everyone who called the same pizza place, past or present. They could monitor the pizza place and every customer who ever went there.

    It is staggering to realize how obscene of a constitutional abuse the people at The Blackboard are casually alleging happens as a matter of course under FISA law. Calling it paranoid doesn't do it justice.

  26. By the way, I want to be clear when people at The Blackboard talk about "spying on" Donald Trump and his campaign, they are not simply using odd language to refer to the collection of metadata on who Carter Page (and who those people called). They are doing things like directly comparing it to wiretapping:

    Here is the the funniest part: from Wikipedia:
    "On March 4, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump wrote a series of posts on his Twitter account that accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping his phones at his Trump Tower office late in the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump called for a congressional investigation into the matter…"
    .
    In light of the Page FISA warrant, Trump may have been substantially correct, since the FISA warrant application and its renewal applications were all approved by Obama appointees at DOJ and the FBI, even after Trump assumed office in January 2017 (at DOJ, it was Sally Yeats, then Ron Rosenstein). So Trump may have been continuously monitored at Trump Tower, and everywhere else, starting from the first effective date of the warrant through July of 2017, when the third warrant expired. I really do not think most of the public understands how insidious and potentially corrupting the FISA law is. IMO, it is a really bad law that needs to be substantially modified or simply revoked.

    This is just insane. Aside from monitoring Page himself, the FISA warrants allowed the FBI to view information about who Page contacted and when, then see the same information about those people. That is not remotely comparable to wiretapping. One may be able to make coherent arguments as to why the FISA law is bad, but the idea a single FISA warrant lets people monitor hundreds of people via the "two hop rule" is nuts.

    The strangest thing about all this is the rule in question doesn't really involve authorizing the monitoring of anything. The monitoring is already happening. All the information is being collected already. All the FISA warrant does (in regard to this) is let authorized agents access metadata that's stored in their database.

  27. Other than your assertion, I see nothing that says metadata is the only thing authorized. There are additional protocols, according to the link above from your quote, that says typically metadata is as far as they look, but there is more available.

    In successive posts, you have:
    "think Trump and his staff either don't realize all e-mail communication in the Trump campaign were read or Trump and his staff realize that but just haven't told the world it happened."
    " Trump wrote a series of posts on his Twitter account that accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping his phones"

    Trump moved his entire transition team out of Trump Tower after getting a visit from NSA head Mike Rogers. Page/Strzok text messages shows one mentioning the meeting to the other after the move.

  28. MikeN -

    Joshua, you say I should present Barr's opinions as opinions, not fact. I said "The objection to charging Trump...as Barr explained"
    "Barr says he does not agree with the theory", "where the counterargument is".

    and

    but that the President cannot obstruct justice, as Barr explained in a memo before becoming attorney general.

    Seems I may have misread your tone. Happens a lot in blog exchanges and If so, apologies. I still think what you wrote read the way I interpreted it - that Barr is in a position to "explain" what is and isn't fact, and that it is a fact that the president cannot obstruct justice - but obviously only you know for sure what you intended...

    I was using the phrase with regards to the things being accused here.

    Which would, arguably, include firing Comey and attempting to fire Mueller, to protect his own self-interest because of a perception that the investigation would expose him or his family to harm, whether reputational or otherwise. Again, my sense is that if taken to higher courts, that would be a hard argument to make, although given how political predilections influence how judges rule, not an impossible one to make. I do think, however, that arguing that the framers intended for a president to able to exercise his power in such a way that protected him any potential ramifications of criminal investigations, to be a pretty tough argument to make.

    Maybe Barr didn't say it in his confirmation hearings, but he did say it in his memo.

    So what does that mean? Does it mean that there is some clear conclusion (as you stated)? I think not.

    As for the Blackman article from Lawfare...

    Sure, as a non-expert, I think he makes a compelling argument. But his isn't the only argument that I find compelling.

    for example:

    https://www.lawfareblog.com/how-can-president-obstruct-justice

    Which leads to:

    https://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/californialawreview/vol106/iss4/5/

    and there's also

    https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/06/even-the-president-can-obstruct-justice/561935/

    So my feeling is that if experts have such differing views, anyone who just formulates their opinion from Google searches, and states that opinion with absolute certainly is, to borrow a phrase full of "hot air." (what happened to Gary, anyway?).

    My guess is that if this goes further, it will be an issue that will be settled in higher courts, and that there will be a variety of opinions - mostly predictable by ideological predilection.

    While I do believe in a conspiracy theory of spying against Trump, as well as a conspiracy involving Trump against the first set of conspirators, I don't use that to ignore Mueller's arguments.

    So this is what gets me about all of that. Do people who believe in this conspiracy theory even consider the implausibility? In order for this conspiracy to play out, there wouldn't be ANY whistleblower among those many who might be involved, which would include hundreds of FBI agents and investigators, and career IC and DOJ employees, as well as lifelong Republicans such as Comey and Mueller. Absolutely NONE of them could be Trump supporters, or even Trump haters who weren't willing to sell the principles that they've worked under for their entire careers down the drain for benefit of a slim chance of turning the tide against Trump. Not to mention that many of these people would have been acting when it seemed unlikely that Trump would win, and that none of them could have had legitimate concerns about Russian election interference and Russian dealings with potential administration officials. It would require that somehow Rosenstien would both be a part of the conspiracy and not a part of the conspiracy, as well as he would have to know in advance whether Mueller and his team might or might not sign on for the conspiracy (before he tapped him to lead the investigation).

    Sorry, but that seems pretty implausible to me. And the only explanation I can come up with is that people are driven by an ideological affinity to Trump to sign up for highly implausible beliefs. Of course, such processes aren't remotely unusual. In fact, they're quite common.

    One of the things that I look at are the Seth Rich components, and the selective manner that "deep state" conspiracy mongers ignore any contradicting elements, such as the texts where Strzok criticize Clinton (yet somehow are Clinton minions), or Comey's actions that strongly pushed the election in Trump's direction (despite him being a Clinton minion).

    Indeed, I am not sure if Mueller belongs to the first set of conspirators or the second, or neither.

    That's fairly amusing to me, that you'd have to announce that you're "not sure" that he's part of the vast conspiracy. It's funny because by contrast, there are quite a few others at Lucia's who seem entirely sure. It makes sense to me that people wouldn't be sure, and it makes absolutely no sense to me that people would be sure.

    I think it is not valid for a prosecutor to claim obstruction of justice when a President uses his executive powers, including the example you give.

    And yet, we have experts who think it is valid, including Mueller. And we have Barr saying things that are inconsistent on the subject between his testimony and the memo he wrote.

    Reading Barr's memo, I am surprised to see that he essentially said it is not valid to argue obstruction, specifically that Mueller should not even ask Trump about obstruction of justice, or investigate it, unless he has first established the underlying crime.

    An odd argument, IMO (and in the opinion of many experts), and reflective of, perhaps, an odd inconsistency between his testimony and his memo - unless you consider that he's a political actor, something that the "Deep State" people seem to readily dismiss as they attribute all manner of implausible outcomes to the putative political motivations of everyone, and I mean everyone, whose opinions they disagree with.

    You said it was not a slam dunk wither way with regards to ordering the firing of Mueller, if the order doesn't get followed. Reading the Mueller Report, I have changed my mind about this, and this fits with the category of attempted obstruction. Technically what I said is right about not producing a charge, but for a different reason.

    I couldn't quite follow what you were saying there.

  29. MikeN:

    Other than your assertion, I see nothing that says metadata is the only thing authorized.

    That would be because there's a thing called the burden of proof. When people make a claim, especially a major claim, about what a law allows, it is incumbent upon to demonstrate that claim is true.

    There are additional protocols, according to the link above from your quote, that says typically metadata is as far as they look, but there is more available.

    This does nothing to contradict what I said. Of course there is data other than the telephony metadata. That is covered by other rules. Most notably, Section 702 of the FISA law is what people think of when they think "spying." That section enables things like wiretapping, but the rules for that section do not have a two hop rule.

    I honestly don't know why you think I am somehow obligated to disprove the crazy claims of the mass spying of hundreds of individuals authorized by a single warrant, but fortunately, I can. I actually know a thing or two about the FISA process. For instance, the "two hop" rule was first introduced (formally) in this Director of National Intelligence 2015 report, with this paragraph:

    To begin this transition, the Intelligence Community in February 2014 began operating the telephony metadata collection program under new constraints directed by the President to provide enhanced privacy protections, including seeking advance approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for each query term (except in an emergency) and limiting the results of queries to two “hops” (or steps removed from a phone number associated with a terrorist organization) instead of three, limiting the number of potential results from each query.

    This is listed under Section 215, Bulk Telephony Metadata Program. This was, as noted at The Blackboard, a change from three "hops" to two "hops." As both the section name and statement the intelligence community "began operating the telephony metadata collection program under new constraints" makes it abundantly clear the two hop rule only applies to the telephony metadata program.

    I could go on to describe the actual process of accessing such telephony metadata, including the massive red tape and hurdles in place for CYA purposes, but... I'm not going to. This is stupid. People make insane claims without offering the slightest basis for them, and to you, that's enough. And I think we both know the fact I am right and what's been said at The Blackboard is delusional doesn't matter. Nobody is going to change their opinions or behavior based on it, and it certainly won't do anything like get users to stop insulting me for failing to agree with them.

  30. By the way MIkeN, I have no idea what your point in saying this:

    Trump moved his entire transition team out of Trump Tower after getting a visit from NSA head Mike Rogers. Page/Strzok text messages shows one mentioning the meeting to the other after the move.

    Is. The fact the Trump campaign moved out of Trump Tower in no way supports claims the two hop rule allowing the FBI to spy on the entire Trump campaign. If the FBI did have the authorization to do that sort of spying, the location of Trump's campaign would have been irrelevant. The FBI would have been able to spy on them in any location. The worst this would do is force them to plant new hardware like wiretaps. Of course, we know there were no FBI wiretaps if the Trump Tower because if there were, Trump's team would have found them and shown them to the world to prove he was right.

    Similarly, while I have no idea what text message/meeting you may be referring to, the fact two FBI agents might talk about a meeting the head of the NSA had with Trump and his staff indicates nothing. It certainly doesn't indicate there was some sort of spying going on or that such supposed spying is why Trump moved offices. You've posted this factoid like it is supposed to demonstrate something, but that is a really obnoxious way to approach discussions since you've done nothing to explain what it could demonstrate. Please try to make your arguments with words that express the thoughts underlying those arguments.

    For the record, Trump may have moved locations because he thought he was being wiretapped (I wouldn't put delusions like that past him), but he is now President of the United States. If there had been wiretaps in Trump Tower, he has the power to easily find out. He also has the power to declassify any material he wants in order to prove it happened. Trying to support the idea he was being spied on by pointing to his 2016 beliefs (if that's what you're doing) is obscene given he's had more than a year in which he'd easily be able to confirm/disconfirm those beliefs.

    There was never any basis for believing the Trump campaign was being spied on by the United States intelligence community, and it is abundantly clear now it never happened. The hurdles people jump through to keep promoting the idea are insane. That's not rhetoric. I mean the arguments are divorced from any rational thought.

  31. Sorry for the triple post, but I should mention something. I could be wrong about this as it's been a while since I spent much time on the topic, but if I remember correctly, the telephony metadata in question doesn't even contain people's names.

  32. >he did say it in his memo.
    I'm referring to what you said above about thing that constitute obstruction of justice by a President.

    >> I was using the phrase with regards to the things being accused here.

    >Which would, arguably, include firing Comey and attempting to fire Mueller... if taken to higher courts, that would be a hard argument to make,
    It is precisely the argument Barr is making.

    >the framers intended for a president to able to exercise his power ...criminal investigations
    The DOJ did not even exist until 1870, and until 1850s, the AG was paid less than other cabinet members and would run a private law practice on the side.

    I interpret Barr's statements to Congress as saying that certain behavior would be grounds for impeachment. The President is not taking care that laws are executed faithfully. However, this is not in Barr's opinion a criminal case, as explained in page 17 of his memo, that 'corruptly' refers to corrupt method not corrupt intent. The exception was when he said pardons for favors constitutes a crime. This is because of corrupt method of bribery or suborning perjury not corrupt intent. Using his powers with corrupt intent would not be a violation of obstruction of justice rules but would be a violation of the President's constitutional duty.

    >"not sure" that he's part of the vast conspiracy. It's funny because by contrast, there are quite a few others at Lucia's who seem entirely sure.

    It helps to know what the conspiracy theories are. I'm suggesting that Mueller and Rosenstein might have been working for Trump all along. Commenters at Lucia's would be sure because they are behind the curve(though I think I posted the counterconspiracy theory there before). I am surprised, not that they are conspiratorial, but because I have been posting this stuff there for awhile, and the response was muted. Now suddenly, everyone is agreeing 100%, and if anything I am putting brakes on. Where were they before?

    > not producing a charge, but for a different reason.
    Just that no charge was actually produced. However, my original argument why this isn't grounds for obstruction of justice, because the attempt failed, I now think is wrong and this behavior fits with what I said would be obstruction.

  33. >called the burden of proof. When people make a claim, especially a major claim, about what a law allows, it is incumbent upon to demonstrate that claim is true.

    I thought you were disproving a conspiracy theory, and mocking people for believing something based on something 'completely untrue'. I concede that if the two hop rule works as you suggest, the 'get a warrant to spy on Trump' argument is destroyed. If you are saying you are unconvinced by the arguments because of this thing that is 'completely untrue', fair enough. However, I am not convinced that it is 'completely untrue.' They get two hops of telephone metadata, and possibly e-mail as well. What are they then allowed to do with this information? You are correct that the phone metadata is usually provided without names attached, but there are methods for unmasking.
    Snowden said that he could get anyone's e-mail very easily, which at the time I thought was absurd and proof he was lying. It turns out they were vacuuming up this e-mail.
    I think the two hops gives them license to do surveillance on these people, including retroactively looking at whatever they have already collected.

    > really obnoxious way to approach discussions since you've done nothing to explain what it could demonstrate.
    Yet you figured out what I thought it demonstrates.

    >we both know the fact I am right

    I don't know this fact, and if it were a fact it would change the tenor of discussion at The Blackboard and elsewhere.
    It wouldn't be the first time something that is taken as fact in this theory turns out to be wrong.
    I have already had a part in debunking one claim that was equally accepted as fact by the conspiracy theorists, not at Blackboard, which is more downstream.
    It was reported as fact by many for a long time(and perhaps still is by some) that Rudolph Contreras approved a FISA warrant on Carter Page, and this is why he recused from the Michael Flynn investigation. I pointed out it was false, based on Adam Schiff's memo, and eventually the originator stopped making this claim, albeit without acknowledging the error.
    I am also not as convinced as the rest that Joe Pientka was the second agent who interviewed Michael Flynn.

    > never any basis for believing the Trump campaign was being spied on by the United States intelligence community,

    That is different from saying they got the warrant to spy on Trump. I think there is considerable basis for believing this, since it is known they sent spies at people in the campaign, specifically targeting the behavior of the campaign. Stefan Halper has been acknowledged for nearly a year.

  34. MikeN -

    It helps to know what the conspiracy theories are. I'm suggesting that Mueller and Rosenstein might have been working for Trump all along. Commenters at Lucia's would be sure because they are behind the curve(though I think I posted the counterconspiracy theory there before). I am surprised, not that they are conspiratorial, but because I have been posting this stuff there for awhile, and the response was muted. Now suddenly, everyone is agreeing 100%, and if anything I am putting brakes on. Where were they before?

    I'm confused by a couple of things you wrote.... but I really cant follow that comment in particular.

    So you're saying it wasn't a "Deep State" conspiracy to get Trump, but that actually there was a conspiracy among Trump, Rosenstein, and Mueller to protect Trump? A conspiracy to do what in service of protecting Trump? Was there anyone else involved? What do you see as evidence of that conspiracy?

    Are you saying that everyone at Lucia's now agrees about the reality of that conspiracy? And now you're advising caution because they're more certain about that conspiracy than you are?

    I'm thinking I must not be understanding what you're saying.

  35. MikeN:

    I thought you were disproving a conspiracy theory, and mocking people for believing something based on something 'completely untrue'. I concede that if the two hop rule works as you suggest, the 'get a warrant to spy on Trump' argument is destroyed. If you are saying you are unconvinced by the arguments because of this thing that is 'completely untrue', fair enough.

    I'm not especially interetsed in disproving any conspiracy theories. My interest is certainly in mocking people for believing certain crazy ideas (whether those idea should be labeled conspiracy theories or not is something which doesn't interest me), but as far as disproving things, my only interest is in disproving a few select claims to show why I mock those people.

    In other words, I'm saying, "This idea is so crazy I think it demonstrates why I won't be taking the time to discuss any other ideas coming from the same narrative."

    However, I am not convinced that it is 'completely untrue.' They get two hops of telephone metadata, and possibly e-mail as well. What are they then allowed to do with this information? You are correct that the phone metadata is usually provided without names attached, but there are methods for unmasking.
    Snowden said that he could get anyone's e-mail very easily, which at the time I thought was absurd and proof he was lying. It turns out they were vacuuming up this e-mail.
    I think the two hops gives them license to do surveillance on these people, including retroactively looking at whatever they have already collected.

    You're free to believe whatever you want, without any evidence. Please understand, however, I am free to mock you for such. The fact e-mails are stored in bulk is not surprising or new information. The details of such activities are fairly well known and documented. There are legitimate concerns about this and the FISA process, which many knowledgeable people have spent a lot of time talking about. That includes many people who are critical of both.

    If you wanted to know the truth of the matter, it'd be easy for you to find it out. The details of the FISA law have been widely discussed and debated. You are free to choose to simply believe things are true rather find out if they are, but if that's your plan, I don't see what kind of discussion you expect to have.

    Yet you figured out what I thought it demonstrates.

    Did I? I assumed that wasn't what you meant because it was so ridiculous. Regardless, even if I can figure out what you mean when you post in an obnoxious way that consists of not explaining what you think, it's still obnoxious to post in a way that consists of not explaining what you think. Also, congratulations on not addressing the explanation I gave as to why your claim was wrong.

    You did the same thing when I pointed out your accusation that I argued in bad faith with you was wrong. There's a case to be made this sort of behavior is in fact arguing in bad faith. You might want to ponder that.

    I don't know this fact, and if it were a fact it would change the tenor of discussion at The Blackboard and elsewhere.

    Given how your selective quotation completely changes the meaning of what you quoted, I'm not sure what there is to say about this remark of yours. Please don't do things like this. It's really obvious when you do so it isn't even interesting to deal with the misrepresentation.

    That is different from saying they got the warrant to spy on Trump. I think there is considerable basis for believing this, since it is known they sent spies at people in the campaign, specifically targeting the behavior of the campaign. Stefan Halper has been acknowledged for nearly a year.

    If you are claiming having someone speak to a couple members of the Trump campaign constitutes "spying" on the Trump campaign, then there is no reason to even talk about "spying" on the Trump campaign. That's all Stefan Halper did, and it is no different than the sort of thing any organization wanting insight on the Trump campaign might do. At the point you label that "spying," you might as well call every lobbyist who ever took a political aide out to dinner a "spy" because they tried to gain insight into some politician's views/goals.

    I get playing stupid rhetorical games with semantic trickery to label anything and everything "spying" may be useful in that it allows one to create juicy talking points, but the cost of doing so is it makes all of your talking points utterly meaningless.

  36. Joshua, like I said, I believe in two conspiracy theories, spying on Trump, and a conspiracy against these conspirators. Blackboard is behind the curve, and I don't think anyone has gone beyond 'Deep State vs Trump'.

    > quotation completely changes the meaning
    Wasn't sure what you meant, but I think I addressed both meanings.

    >details of the FISA law have been widely discussed
    Yes, but the government is reluctant to produce things in detail. FISA order(not the application) redacts what authority was given to FBI.
    You have omitted details of 702. Much of the discussion I have seen describes things as the conspirators have said, including the Tablet article. It is not just wiretapping, and has a substantial database portion. Again, difficult to find details.

  37. Can you explain more about your conspiracy against the conspirators (which assumes the reality of Deep state conspiracy against Trump to begin with).

    Is a fascinating theory. I asked you a couple of questions about that. They could be a place to start.

  38. Trump tweeted, "Obama tapped my wires", originally seen as cleverly getting the liberal media to declare he wasn't under investigation.
    The idea is he knew he was being spied on, and planned a counterattack from before he was President. Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan, Rod Rosenstein, Sessions, Mueller, are possible conspirators. The people in the spying conspiracy have been fired. Meanwhile, Trump constantly attacks Sessions, Mueller, the IG, etc. and Democrats leap to their defense. Sessions acts like he's a sleeping elf, while secretly conducting leak hunts and a separate prosecution team, with James Wolfe one prominent arrest. theconservativetreehouse.com is a source, though disagreeing strongly on the set of counterconspirators, especially Mueller, Rosenstein, and Sessions.

  39. Wow. I love it. Much better than the deep state conspiracy.

    It's remarkable that you (and apparently some others) actually believe there's any possibility of that being true.

  40. And thanks for the website. Comments are top shelf.

    I see they call it the Weissmann/Mueller report. So I guess the theory is that Mueller is just Weissmann's minion?

    Hmmm.

  41. MikeN:

    >details of the FISA law have been widely discussed
    Yes, but the government is reluctant to produce things in detail.

    It really is not. The government doesn't like to give details on the methods of "spying" on people, but in therms of the amount of authority it's allowed and what steps it must take to be authorized to use it, it's fairly transparent. I think any claim of government secrency would be more believable if you demonstrated even a basic understanding of what is common knowledge regarding FISA.

    You have omitted details of 702.

    You say this like you think it has some significance. It does not. As I explicitly stated, the "two hop rule" in question only applies to a different section. Section 702 allows for far more than Section 205, which is why the "two hop rule" is only for Section 205, not Section 702.

    I have seen describes things as the conspirators have said, including the Tablet article. It is not just wiretapping, and has a substantial database portion. Again, difficult to find details.

    I am certain you have seen such things as it is trivially easy to find people saying nutty things. For instance, I am certain you have seen plenty of untrue things said at The Blackboard. The fact nutty people say nutty things isn't very relevant though. That Tablet article is simply wrong. It's written by a person who either intentionally lied to readers or simply doesn't have the slightest idea what they're talking about (a description which applies to many people commenting on this topic).

    What's relevant is what is actually true. I get if you stick to reading things written by nutty people it may be hard to find details, but the text of the FISA law is available to read. Simply reading that is enough to find out these crazy claims of mass spying being authorized by a FISA warrant are untrue. If one isn't satisfied with that, there are also numerous reports released by the DNI giving additional information (I've linked to one already), as well as dozens of testimonies given in open Congressional hearings available to read (and often watch) online.

    The FISA law does not authorize the behavior which is described at the Blackboard. There is no factual basis for suggeting it does. If you wish to believe it might simply because you feel it is difficult to find details, you can, but you can only sustain that position by actively avoiding looking at a great deal of publicly available documentation.

    Of course, you could shortcut this entire process by applying a bit of basic reasoning. If a FISA warrant actually allowed full surveillance of people "two hops" out, it would create an impossible to believe situation. Under that belief, an FBI agent could e-mail Carter Page (or anyone else subject to a FISA warrant) and e-mail anyone else then use himself as the "first hop" to create a bridge to that someone else as they'd be the "second hop."

    The FBI cannot bypass the requirement to get a search warrant simply by sending an e-mail to the person they want to "spy on" and someone they have a FISA warrant for. The idea it could is beyond insane.

  42. MikeN -

    Sure, I've seen Scott's nonsense before.

    It's interesting that so many of his readers agree with his theories about Trump's popularity - even thought Scott ignores the large body of evidence that things like Trump's exploitation of white resentment, his use of racist tropes like Obama's non-citizenship, public resentment towards immigrants, Trump's name-recognition as a reality TV start, Trump's general stoking of animosity and hatred, Trump's use of degrading nicknames, etc., help explain Trump's political success, and instead Scott goes with some magic-like Just-So story about Trump's hypnotism skills for casting spells.

    It's also interesting that people apparently agree with Scott's statements such as:

    What I see is bluntness, honesty, ... New Yorkers tend to say whatever they think is true to ... and compared to the liars on stage with him, you might get hooked on hearing his honest opinions.

    given that Trump is a stone cold liar, who will say basically anything at all for the sake of political expediency. It's interesting how Trump supporters conflate lying about almost everything and anything with honesty and openness about his opinions. This vision of Trump as some unvarnished, non-politician truth-teller is one of the enduring myths that his supporters like to tell themselves, even though Trump lies for the sake of political expediency (like most politicians) constantly in the most obvious and easily provable ways. It's almost as if Trump's supporters like Scott seem to think that because his lies are so obvious they can't be lies, and they must be his actual opinions. Of course, if you read about Trump's history, you will know that he has an explicit strategy of lying and telling people whatever they want to hear and whatever he wants them to believe.

    It's also interesting that Scott is such a fan of Trump's ability to hypnotize people even though he's an historically unpopular president, who lost the popular vote, and who was fortunate enough to run against another extremely unpopular candidate.

    There is not doubt, I don't think, that a perception of Clinton's in-authenticity, and a general impression that his primary opponents were inauthentic, helped Trump. But the view of political candidates as inauthentic (and in particular the candidates people don't support) has always been the case in the political arena. what is curious is why Scott and so many other Trump supporters have convinced themselves that Trump is any way even remotely authentic even though he just might be the most consistently, and obviously inauthentic politician, perhaps, in American history. I guess we can just chalk it up to the general power of motivated reasoning/confirmation bias, but more specifically I suspect there might be some kind of inverse mechanism going on whereby it is the outrageous obviousness of Trump's inauthenticity that somehow leads his supporters to wall off their unshakable belief in his authenticity.

    Here's my theory: They have to work so hard to believe that the candidate they support isn't just a stone cold liar, who will pander and say anything at all to win their support (even if it directly contradicts something he said just a few minutes ago) , that they become impervious to any of the obviously conflicting evidence. It's like since they have to work so extraordinarily hard to believe the completely absurd stuff he says, their openness to critical analysis is even less available than is typical with supporters of politicians. Of course, the growth of Trump's state media and the echo chamber aspect of social media are also likely a big component.

    What do you think about my theory?

    Anyway, I'm still curious as to whether you really, really believe any of part of that Trump/Mueller conspiracy stuff you've been talking about. Or maybe you're just pulling my leg?

    Also, I'm not really interested in reading more of that website - although I appreciate finding out about its existence. I'm hoping that you could explain to me the "Weissmann/Mueller" syntax without me having to go wading through the rest of that nonsense at that site? Am I right that there's some kind of theory that Weissmann is pulling the strings? I have to admit it strikes me that maybe there's some link to antisemitic tropes that Jews are in control of the country behind the scenes - at least for some (maybe minority) of the conspiracy believers (although they'd unlikely say so explicitly)? What do you think?

  43. I don't remember the underlying facts, but the idea is that Mueller didn't pick his team, they picked him. This cuts against the theory that Rosenstein picked Mueller to take the case away from the conspirators, the basis of which is that Trump and Rosenstein met with Mueller the day before he was appointed special counsel, ostensibly to talk about heading the FBI, even though he had already served the max term and would need a waiver.

    The nicknames were explained by Adams as part of the toolkit, and he predicted something like 'Crooked Hillary'. It's easy to forget now, but at the time Scott was writing this, people like Nate Silver gave Trump a 2% chance of winning the nomination. I didn't see any of his stuff until around the time Trump was wrapping up the nomination, and I figured he would lose. I wasn't convinced, but I read most of it because of confirmation bias. Then I remember a certain interview Trump gave, and it matched what Scott said. Scott said that hypnotists are more effective if they reveal the method ahead of time, which makes no sense to me. In this interview, Trump said, "I like to make up nicknames for people...' Then I started to think Scott might be on to something, and then started noticing a few more details popping up.
    I'm not going to disagree with much of your critique, but I do think Trump is operating with specific psychological techniques in mind.

  44. MikeN -

    The nicknames were explained by Adams as part of the toolkit.

    If course it's "part of the toolkit." But it's not some magical hypnotic power, it's stoking hatred and animosity. It goes into the toolkit along with exploiting hatred (specifically white-resentment, which we can see in the data) and fear-mongering, and the power of victimhood. These aren't techniques that are new to Trump. Jesus, they're common at an elementary school playground. At one level or another, they're fairly standard in politics. In fact, you'll see the right wing MSM accusing the left of using those tools all the time, claims that are echoed thought the right wing ecosphere (I suspect you'll see it at Lucia's in a regular basis, for example).

    What's interesting to me is that Scott has convinced himself that Trump's banality is somehow glamorous, and that so many go along with it.

    Again, I have to wonder about the phenomenon. I think that somehow maybe people see it as a kind of liberation of their own inner juvenile. Even if they choose not to act in a similar fashion themselves, they feel a certain kind of freedom of from seeing their id manifested on stage and strutting around. And because they don't want to face up to accepting that that is what's going on, they invent myths like that Trump is an open truth-speaker (and even more amusingly, that he's speaking the truth on behalf of the non-elite).

  45. So, Rosenstein and Weissmann are two of the most major players pulling strings behind the scenes.

    Interesting.

  46. Joshua, my favorite part of those Scott Adams post is this:

    For starters, Trump literally wrote the book on negotiating, called The Art of the Deal. So we know he is familiar with the finer points of persuasion. For our purposes today, persuasion, hypnosis, and negotiating all share a common set of tools, so I will conflate them.

    Promoting a book filled with outright lies as some great example of Trump's brilliance is bad enough, but what really strikes me about this is Trump literally did not write that book. He hired someone to write it for him. Trump constantly steals credit for things other people did, and Scott Adams plays right into that.

    There are vile people who are truly good orators. Donald Trump isn't one. People just pretend he is to justify reactions to him. The reality is he is a terrible orator, a terrible negotiator and an utterly incompetent leader. He'd have been impeached already if not for his staff apparently feeling they can just ignore his orders.

  47. Brandon -

    but what really strikes me about this is Trump literally did not write that book...Trump constantly steals credit for things other people did, and Scott Adams plays right into that.

    Similar, is how his supporters support him because he's such a successful business man....who...inherited great wealth (just investing the money he inherited in an index fund would have resulted in far more money than he even claims to have), has a history of exaggerating/lying about his wealth, and has made some historically bad business decisions.

    Again, it seems to me almost like there's some inversion mechanism where his supporters have to overcome so much contradictory evidence to rationalize their support for him that there's an effect where the vast amount of contradictory evidence winds up just magnifying a backfire effect.

    The marked turnaround in the views of evangelicals on the importance of the morality of a politician's personal behaviors, pre- versus post-Trump, is a kind of example. It isn't merely that they can just say, "Well, he's a horrible person but I like the judges he's nominating for SCOTUS." They have gone further, to completely reversing absolutely fundamental beliefs about the importance of morality in politicians as reflected in certain behaviors. Again, I have to wonder if that's because he has such a long lifetime of displaying exactly those behaviors that they previously felt were disqualifying. Trump is so immoral when judged by their previous standards, they can't reconcile support for him w/o fundamentally overhauling their whole evaluative paradigm.

    So, he's an open truth teller, and a great businessman, a fighter for the working class, and a man who embodies the ideals so fundamental to their world view.

    I'm always reluctant to say that things work differently than they used to....I mean on scales of lies, Johnson's lies about Vietnam probably outweigh Trump's lies as numerous as they are...but sometimes I really do think we've gone through the looking glass.

  48. MikeN -

    I have another question for you. If you had asked me a couple of years ago if the folks at Lucia's would align with the alt right and 4hchan and Reddit conspiracy theories like the DEEP STATE conspiracy, that actually has a lineage that stretches back to the Joe McCarthy and mob lawyer Roy Cohn, which has been promoted for years by hucksters like Jerome Corsi and Roger Stone (who was recently promoting the theory that that Mueller's goal was to remove Trump and Pence and put Pelosi in as president and Clinton as vice-president) and Alex Jones, I would have probably said no, they wouldn't sign on for nonsensical theories where they'd have to go so far into a suspension of disbelief. I would have thought they'd be more diligent about testing the theories they sign on for, for probability - and that they'd reject theories that have been promoted for years by the likes of Corsi and Stone and Jones.

    But now here we are.

    So here's my question... Do you see some line of differentiation between the Swift Boat stuff and the Obama birth certificate stuff or Pizzagate stuff,and stuff like this:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/latest-from-the-trump-conspiracy-factory-bill-clintons-black-son/2016/11/01/d05e321e-a070-11e6-a44d-cc2898cfab06_story.html?utm_term=.6b6ea7793862

    or stuff like this:

    https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/roger-stone-refuses-to-drop-seth-rich-conspiracy-theories-despite-family-pleas-9374123

    and the anti-Trump Deep State theory...especially given that Roy Stone has been closely connected with Trump for decades, and worked with Trump to evaluate a political campaign for decades?

    What might that line of distinction be? Do you think they'd sign on for all those other theories as well? If not, then given that they are promoted by the same characters as those other conspiracy theories, how are the lines drawn?

  49. I don't understand your question or how Joe McCarthy fits in. I would say social media has magnified things considerably and given breathing room for lots of crazy stories that wouldn't have done so before.

    Swift Boat is not a conspiracy theory. Obama birth certificate isn't one either, unless they are claiming Hawaii government joined in, or that Obama's mom's dad worked for the CIA, and even that is not a conspiracy theory. The story was started by Obama, spread by Hillary, then seized on by some people making money by claiming it could lead to Obama's impeachment. In this respect, it is closer to how Dan Jones collected 50 million from anti-Trump people to continue the collusion investigation with Chris Steele and Fusion GPS.
    Pizzagate is way out there. Clinton's black son is straight out of Primary Colors.

    If you are asking what separates, I would go with how much prominent conservative media and bloggers are signing on. Hannity went with Seth Rich, and Fox News made him walk it back. They were on board with Swift Boat, which is just a personal attack on a candidate.

    I'll throw out one that I think if social media had existed at the same level 12 years ago, would have been prominent- Barack Obama did not write Dreams From My Father, Bill Ayers did.

  50. MikeN -

    Swift Boat is not a conspiracy theory. Obama birth certificate isn't one either.

    Does that mean you think that the Swift boat stuff was legit, and that Obama is Kenyan?

    Pizzagate is way out there.

    So what is the differentiation? The Swift boat and birther stuff and pizzagate stuff and the deep state stuff all come from the same sources. A collection of political operatives/conspiracy theorists that have been associated with each other (and Trump) since the Mccarthy Era (I suppose Alex Jones is a more recent addition). Why do you believe in the deep state stuff (and maybe the birther stuff and the Swift boat stuff? ) but think the pizzagate stuff is "way out there? "

  51. >Does that mean you think that the Swift boat stuff was legit, and that Obama is Kenyan?

    No, I am saying that 'conspiracy theory' should not be used in place of 'crazy theory' and that I don't see a conspiracy in either one. Trump-Russia collusion is a conspiracy theory. Deep State spying on Trump is a conspiracy theory. Trump counterattack against the conspirators is a conspiracy theory.

    I don't think Obama is Kenyan, but I do think he lied about his biography from that time in some minor details for political benefit. I don't rule out that more significant details are false, like the identity of his father.
    I should note that Jerome Corsi is involved in at least 3 stories listed here.

    Swift Boat looks like a smear organized by Karl Rove, fitting his MO of going after an opponent's strong point. However, some of it was accepted as true by the Kerry campaign. I think it was Corsi, but at the time I saw one of them on TV and he sounded ridiculous. Something about a guy probably fell off the boat because Kerry drove away.

  52. MikeN:

    No, I am saying that 'conspiracy theory' should not be used in place of 'crazy theory' and that I don't see a conspiracy in either one. Trump-Russia collusion is a conspiracy theory. Deep State spying on Trump is a conspiracy theory. Trump counterattack against the conspirators is a conspiracy theory.

    How do you allege Obama would have gotten an American birth certificate despite having been born in Kenya without a conspiracy? It's not the sort of thing a single person could pull off on their own.

  53. Joshua:

    The marked turnaround in the views of evangelicals on the importance of the morality of a politician's personal behaviors, pre- versus post-Trump, is a kind of example. It isn't merely that they can just say, "Well, he's a horrible person but I like the judges he's nominating for SCOTUS." They have gone further, to completely reversing absolutely fundamental beliefs about the importance of morality in politicians as reflected in certain behaviors. Again, I have to wonder if that's because he has such a long lifetime of displaying exactly those behaviors that they previously felt were disqualifying. Trump is so immoral when judged by their previous standards, they can't reconcile support for him w/o fundamentally overhauling their whole evaluative paradigm.
    ...
    I'm always reluctant to say that things work differently than they used to....I mean on scales of lies, Johnson's lies about Vietnam probably outweigh Trump's lies as numerous as they are...but sometimes I really do think we've gone through the looking glass.

    I don't think there's anything different in the sense people's nature have changed. It's much simpler than that. People convince themselves they had certain standards. As long as nothing forces them to confront that belief, they continue to believe it. When that belief gets challenged, they then have to decide if they truly hold those standards. In this case, Donald Trump came along and his behavior led to a lot of people showing they didn't really hold the standards they claimed to hold. That's because when push comes to shove, a lot of standards people claim to hold get discarded.

    It's not that people have changed in nature. The people who've changed like you observe were always willing to make this change. They just never had enough of a reason to so they convinced themselves they never would. Trump gave them a reason.

  54. Joshua, a detail on evangelicals- a close look at primary results shows Trump did the weakest in areas with the highest churchgoing rates. The people who claimed to be evangelicals but don't go to church much, loved Trump. Once he locked up the nomination, most of the rest came aboard, with the strongest resistance coming from Mormons.

  55. Brandon, I think a birth certificate could have been gotten by a single person back then, though with the specific details here would likely involve multiple people. However, what I remember is the theorists were not talking about a conspiracy. Instead they were saying Obama was born in Kenya, not really thinking about the details, and saying he is not producing his birth certificate because he doesn't have one. Only after he produced his long form birth certificate, was there a claim of forgery by someone Hawaii's government or maybe his campaign. Granted, no one was accusing Obama of doing this personally, so it would be a conspiracy theory.

  56. MikeN:

    Brandon, I think a birth certificate could have been gotten by a single person back then, though with the specific details here would likely involve multiple people. However, what I remember is the theorists were not talking about a conspiracy. Instead they were saying Obama was born in Kenya, not really thinking about the details, and saying he is not producing his birth certificate because he doesn't have one. Only after he produced his long form birth certificate, was there a claim of forgery by someone Hawaii's government or maybe his campaign. Granted, no one was accusing Obama of doing this personally, so it would be a conspiracy theory.

    Supposing we reduce the moving parts as much as possible, at a minimum, getting a birth certificate for Obama would have required Obama's parents lie during immigration to smuggle him into the country, lie about his place of birth, then convince someone to lie about witnessing Obama's birth in an at-home birth (I believe the minimum the state required was a midwife or doctor attest to an at-home birth). By getting someone to lie about witnessing his birth, a conspiracy would be born. And that's assuming the Obamas somehow snuck the infant into the country without any outside help, something that seems impossible. This isn't some case where a casual accident could have been responsible. It would have required a conspiracy. (Especially after the fact as nobody in the Obama family ever said a word, lying by omission to further the conspiracy.)

    That all said, I think it's fascinating you responded on this issue MikeN. There are a lot of other issues which haven't been resolved in this thread, including some basic factual ones. You seem unwilling to go near them. At the same time, you seem happy to discuss the semantics of what constitutes a "conspiracy theory." That is a textbook example of arguing in bad faith.

    (Yes, I am still bringing up your false accusation of me arguing with you in bad faith.)

  57. MikeN -

    I did ask a number of questions (and made a few points) I'd be curious about the answers to.

    a close look at primary results shows Trump did the weakest in areas with the highest churchgoing rates.

    That's interesting. Do you have a link for that?

    This is what I was thinking of:

    Over the past five years, Americans have shifted toward a more accommodating stance. In 2011, only 44 percent believed that politicians could be immoral in private and still perform their public duties in an ethical manner. Now, this position commands 61 percent support. It is endorsed by 61 percent of Democrats (up 12 points since 2011) and by 70 percent of Republicans (up a whopping 34 points).

    The breakdown along religious lines is instructive. Americans without any religious affiliation haven’t shifted much—63 percent in 2011, 60 percent today. Catholic acceptance of politicians’ personal misconduct has increased from 42 to 58 percent. White mainline Protestant support is up by 22 points, from 38 to 60 percent.

    These large shifts are dwarfed, however, by the change among white evangelicals. In 2011, only 30 percent believed that personal immorality was consistent with an ethical performance of official duties. Today, 72 percent of white evangelicals—up an astounding 42 points–believe that the two can go together.

    In a related change, fewer white evangelicals now believe that strong religious beliefs are very important for presidential candidates—49 percent today, versus 64 percent just five years ago.

    The survey did not go on to ask why people have changed their minds. But the data are suggestive. Yes, the general public’s center of gravity has shifted toward greater acceptance. But white evangelicals have shifted more than twice as much. As recently as 2011, white evangelicals were the least likely of any religious group (including unaffiliated Americans) to say that personal immorality was compatible with an ethical political life. Today, they are the most likely to affirm this.

    Here’s another data point from PRRI’s research. In 2011, 64 percent of white evangelicals said that it was “very important” for presidential candidates to have strong religious beliefs. But now, only 49 percent take this position.

    What could have happened to so alter the sentiments of white evangelicals on matters so central to their understanding of the relation between morality, faith, and public life? I can think of only one credible answer: the candidacy of Donald Trump, whose new-found positions on religious liberty, abortion, and the Supreme Court have moved evangelicals to set aside, perhaps only temporarily, their long-held views on the moral and spiritual prerequisites for political office.

    https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2016/10/19/has-trump-caused-white-evangelicals-to-change-their-tune-on-morality/

    It will be interesting to see if the trend among evangelicals reverses once Trump is no longer in office.

  58. MikeN -

    Another question.

    I see that over at Lucia's, you mentioned that Gowdy has seen the warrant.

    You you do know that after seeing it, he said that it had nothing to do with Trump, that they weren't spying on Trump, and that the FBI did exactly what we'd want them to do, right?

    I mean I wouldn't doubt that Gowdy would have some criticisms of how the warrant was obtained, but how do you see the fact that Gowdy said all of that fitting together with the conspiracy mongering at Lucia's, where folks are so sure this was all about a conspiracy of Clinton minions out to get Trump?

    Do you think that Gowdy was lying, or do you think that maybe there's something a bit improbable about the conspiracy being batted around at Lucia's?

  59. Joshua, I think you are right about evangelicals changing their views. Once Trump won the nomination they largely supported him. I expect their views would change back after Trump leaves, but maybe not.

    I'm aware of Gowdy's comments. He also said the warrant would not have been granted without the dossier. However, overall Gowdy's comments do go against the 'spying against Trump' argument.

  60. Brandon, keep in mind the conspiracy theory on Obama's birth centers around he doesn't have an American birth certificate, or that one was forged when he was older, sometime between 1980 and 2011.

    I agree it would likely involve multiple people for his mom to produce a US birth certificate. I was thinking get him to the US with a Kenyan birth certificate, Kenyan passport, and US visa, all legit, then try and make a US birth certificate with a new date, with a skilled person could fake supporting records as needed, and they were more lax back then.

  61. Joshua, I never saw pizza stories, except for people attacking the people who believe it.
    Main reason for believing Swift Boat is because I remember the Kerry campaign accepting some of their statements. Overall I'd say they were reaching to attack all of Kerry's medals.

    Brandon, I disagree with, ' It is not arguing in bad faith to intentionally make a flawed argument...'

    I do this all the time, and I concede it is arguing in bad faith. Particularly, when I say, "It is wrong to say Hillary is more qualified than Trump. After 25 years she told the FBI that she didn't know the meanings of basic details of classified info, like the meaning of 'C' in the markings."
    Bad faith, because I don't believe her to be less qualified. I believe she lied to the FBI.

  62. MikeN:

    Brandon, keep in mind the conspiracy theory on Obama's birth centers around he doesn't have an American birth certificate, or that one was forged when he was older, sometime between 1980 and 2011.

    I agree it would likely involve multiple people for his mom to produce a US birth certificate. I was thinking get him to the US with a Kenyan birth certificate, Kenyan passport, and US visa, all legit, then try and make a US birth certificate with a new date, with a skilled person could fake supporting records as needed, and they were more lax back then.

    I was describing the simplest possibility to show that no matter what one thinks happened, it must have involved a conspiracy. That addresses your remark, "I don't see a conspiracy in either one. " Alleging a conspiracy means advancing a conspiracy theory. That addresses your remark, "Obama birth certificate isn't [a conspiracy theory] either."

    As for the idea the documentation might have been faked after the fact, I'd be curious how that theory accounts for the fact two separate newspapers announced the birth. Does that theory claim the newspaper announcements were fake? The announcements would have just used whatever information the hospital gave them for births so they are not "independent" confirmations of Obama's birth, but they are independent sources that both would have needed to be faked decades after the fact.

    Brandon, I disagree with, ' It is not arguing in bad faith to intentionally make a flawed argument...'

    You can disagree with it all you want, but simply disagreeing doesn't excuse you of responsibility for your accusations. You might recall there was a time you said what a guy was accused of wasn't pedophilia because the victim's underwear stayed on. Thought pedophilia meant something other than what it meant. Similarly, you may think "bad faith" means one thing, but that doesn't mean it actually does.

    There is a lack of clarity as to what qualifies as "bad faith" in arguments. I have no problem with people having different thoughts on exactly what qualifies. However, there is no school of thought which says intentionally making a mistake in an argument to see if people catch/respond to it is arguing in bad faith. In rhetoric, feigning weakness in one's argument to bait a desired response is perfectly normal.

    If you think what I did was acting in bad faith, you're welcome to explain the reasoning behind your belief. However, the fact you've now twice failed to do so when challenged on your accusation seems to suggest you just made a baseless accusation you now refuse to correct. Which would definitely be arguing in bad faith.

  63. MikeN -

    I'm aware of Gowdy's comments. He also said the warrant would not have been granted without the dossier.

    He also said that we will never know whether they would have obtained a warrant without the dossier.

    However, overall Gowdy's comments do go against the 'spying against Trump' argument.

    Right. So that's what I find interesting. How do the "deep state/spying against Trump" conspiracy theorists reconcile what Gowdy said? Of course, there are many, many other points of implausibility that they don't see to reconcile - some of which I've mentioned above. My point of interest is how people manage to maintain their conspiratorial beliefs despite conflicting evidence. Even people who are obviously intelligent and well-informed (to the point of near obsession for some), and who pride themselves in the objectivity of their thinking and their abilities for critical analysis.

    And it isn't as if these people are saying "Well, there's a possibility that Comey and McCabe et al. allowed their animus towards Trump to affect some of their decisions."

    No. They're saying "Comey and McCabe et al. hated Trump and so decided to get him out of office by spying on him and falsifying evidence to do so." They make such statements with total certainty - even though they lack the information needed to make such conclusions, even though there is a great deal of implausibility to their conspiracies, and even despite conflicting evidence.

    Again, They are saying that a network of people (not just one individual) who devoted their entire careers to following procedural limitations (by definition, since they rose through the ranks of the IC), and who are clearly far from flaming liberals, risked their careers and their personal legacies in order to defy the procedural limitations they had dedicated their careers to following, in order to pursue specifically political goals for which there is no convincing evidence they had over the course of their lives, and to overthrow the electoral process, and despite that they also did things like Comey did in the press conference about Clinton's emails that would only undermine those very same goals.

    And that none of their colleagues (who would likewise have been likely to be dedicated to the principles of their career pathways) would whistle-blow and provide concrete evidence of them having done so, despite the likely rewards to the public and to them personally for stepping forward to expose the illegal conspiracy to subvert our democratic processes.

    The more I think about it, the more I realize just how remarkable this conspiracy belief is.

    Joshua, I never saw pizza stories, except for people attacking the people who believe it.

    Yeah, I never heard about it either, so much as heard about the people who believed it.

    But my point is that "the people who believed it" did so because of a real life network of people who have, there is no doubt, for decades, pursued a very specific strategy of fabricating and publicizing conspiracy theories to leverage public credibility to achieve a particular set of political goals. And my point is that there is crossover there, big time, with the "deep state" conspiracists.

    Anyway, thanks for the answers. What do you think about my response to your statement that Hannity (another member of this group of conspiracy promoters) "walked back" the Seth Rich conspiracy theory?

    How do you think that the "deep state" conspiracy promoters at Lucia draw a line of distinction between Pizzagate and Seth Rich and Obama's birth certificate, etc., and the "deep state conpiracy to get Trump," especially given that the whole "deep state" mantra is largely the product of the same people who have promoted those other conspiracy theories, along with many others, for decades to pursue a specific set of political goals? How do they reconcile the overlap in their beliefs and the work of people like Corsi and Stone and Jones and Cohn?

  64. MikeN -

    This is an interesting clip...

    So, I'm curious. Is there some line between your beliefs and Divenova's determination that Mueller was a "tool of Weissmann?" Or Dobbs' view that "they were all the tool of the Democratic Party?"

    Digenova:

    ...and so what they did was, they shifted to obstruction right away, because this was not about getting at the truth. This was about getting the president. Mueller knew that when he was appointed. Rosenstein appointed him for one reason and one reason only, they knew that there was no collusion, they knew that there was only a counterintelligence investigation. That's why Mueller should never have been appointed...And that's why the report is so frustrating for Mueller and the Democrats on the so-called obstruction side...You can't a crime that doesn't 'exist...There was no basis for the investigation...When you read the report, it's an embarassment. It's very unprofessional...Mueller should be ashamed of himself He's actually, Mueller was a tool of Weissmann.

    Dobbs:

    And they were all the tool of the Democratic Party.

    Digenova:

    Indeed..

    Dobbs:

    And they did, I think it is fair to say, steal the mid-term elections...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7vpn1cOtQ4

  65. I haven't watched Hannity much over the past two years. I remember reading that Fox News had forced him off the Seth Rich story.
    I think I've seen people endorse 'Rich was murdered' at Lucia's. Regarding Weissman, consider your point about experience working with legal standards. Weissman has a history of being an aggressive prosecutor, and his theory of prosecution in the Enron case was smacked down at the Supreme Court. Mueller is controlled by Weissman is needed in the theory because they have respect for Mueller, though some bring up things in his history as well. The use of 1512c2 for obstruction of justice looks like something Weissman has done.

    I don't know that the spying on Trump theory is based on people like Corsi or Alex Jones. They boosted it, but they are not the originator. You leave out the fact that Trump is saying it. Been more than two years since he said, 'worse than Watergate'. And of course the media was saying Trump was under investigation as a Russian agent. Trump was spied on, as Barr said. The conspiracy theory is over whether the spying was legitimate investigation by the FBI and others.

  66. MikeN -


    Trump was spied on, as Barr said. The conspiracy theory is over whether the spying was legitimate investigation by the FBI and others.

    Did Barr say Trump was spied on?

    Was Trump spied on?

    I'd say one of the running conspiracy theories, perhaps the most prominent one, is that Trump was spied on.

  67. Brandon -

    Maybe I spoke too soon?

    But Trump has changed white evangelicals’ views on private morality more generally

    There is, however, more to the story. It appears that white evangelicals’ support for Trump has led to a more general change in their attitudes on private morality, even when evangelical Republicans are thinking about Clinton. Recall that, in 2011, six out of 10 evangelicals did not believe that a privately immoral official could still perform their duties ethically. In 2019, less than half that many evangelicals as a group and only 36 percent of evangelical Republicans say the same about Clinton — a president who was anathema to those on the religious right.

  68. So after reviewing the Mueller Report, I've come to realize this post is somewhat wrong. While there are cases where Donald Trump is protected by the fact his staff failed to carry out his unlawful orders, there are also cases where he (if the facts alleged by Mueller are true) clearly obstructed justice.

    Mueller says he doesn't feel he had the authority to indict a sitting president therefore he could not possibly charge Trump with any crime. That is what made Trump safe. Once Trump leaves office (whether via election, term limit or impeachment), that reasoning will no longer apply. And given the facts alleged by Mueller, it is quite possible at that time he could be found guilty of multiple felonies. (I don't think such a prosecution is politically plausible, but it would be legally possible.)

    I just wanted to clarify that as I made this post mostly for the humor. I think it's funny Trump tried to break the law, repeatedly, and nobody disputes this. It's just that Trump can't seem to get his staff to do what he orders them to do, so he has a hard time getting himself in trouble. In other words, Trump is too incompetent to commit (most of?) the crimes he attempts to commit.

  69. Brandon -

    Here's what I have come to understand. Barr got the report from Mueller, where Mueller said he wasn't issuing a finding on obstruction one way or the other. Barr then turned around and announced there was no obstruction. Now, today, Barr said that he didn't examine the evidence in making that determination.

    Huh?

    What do you think about that? Do you conclude that Barr made his decision independently of what was contained in the report?

  70. Joshua, I haven't looked closely at what Barr has been saying. His initial description of Mueller's report is definitely misleading, though it'd take some work to figure out exactly how misleading it was. As for why he has said the things he said, I wouldn't care to guess right now. There's definitely a certain bias that influences Barr's actions (it's a major reason he got the job, after all), but whether he carefully chose his words to try to spin the report or simply said whatever he wanted without any regard for the report, I can't say.

    What I can say is it isn't entirely accurate to say the report "wasn't issuing a finding on obstruction one way or the other." Mueller's position was he didn't have the authority/jurisdiction to indict a sitting president. Given he believed he lacked the authority to issue an indictment, Mueller said he felt it would be inappropriate to say the president was guilty. However, Mueller also explained if he felt the evidence exonerated the President, it would be appropriate to say so.

    Mueller did not issue a statement one way or the other. At the same time, he said if the evidence cleared the President, he would say so. This means Mueller felt at a minimum there was a reasonable case that could be used to prosecute Trump if he were not a sitting president. In effect, Mueller said, "There is enough evidence to build a case, but I am not in a position to say whether or not there is enough evidence to convict." That's pretty damning. Mueller says he'd have exonerated Trump if the evidence allowed for it, but it doesn't.

    There's a lot of spin around the report which ignores the framework Mueller was working in, including by Barr. How much of that is intentional, I don't know.

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