Saturday, April 20, 2019
By Andrew C. McCarthy
April 18, 2019
Robert Mueller, Donald Trump and William Barr
The most remarkable thing about special counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report is how blithely the prosecutor reversed the burden of proof on the issue of obstruction.
To be sure, President Trump’s conduct outlined on this score isn’t flattering, to put it mildly. For example, the special counsel’s evidence includes indications that the president attempted to induce White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire the special counsel (in June 2017), and then (in January 2018) to deny that the president had made the request.
Mueller’s report further suggests that the president dangled pardons. He made ingratiating comments about Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen when they appeared to be fighting the cases against them (and presumably fighting the prosecutor’s efforts to get them to cooperate) but then turned on Flynn and Cohen when they decided to plead guilty and provide testimony for Mueller.
On the other hand, there is evidence that cuts sharply against obstruction. The president could have shut down the investigation at any time, but he didn’t. He could have asserted executive privilege to deny the special counsel access to key White House witnesses, such as McGahn. To the contrary, numerous witnesses were made available voluntarily (there was no need to try to subpoena them to the grand jury), and well over a million documents were disclosed, including voluminous notes of meetings between the president and his White House counsel.
Most important, the special counsel found that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and that the president’s frustration wasn’t over fear of guilt — the typical motivation for obstruction — but that the investigation was undermining his ability to govern the country. The existence of such a motive is a strong counter to evidence of a corrupt intent, critical because corrupt intent must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in an obstruction case.
In his report, Mueller didn’t resolve the issue. If he had been satisfied that there was no obstruction crime, he said, he would have so found. He claimed he wasn’t satisfied. Yet he was also not convinced that there was sufficient proof to charge. Therefore, he made no decision, leaving it to Attorney General William Barr to find that there was no obstruction.
This is unbecoming behavior for a prosecutor and an outrageous shifting of the burden of proof: The constitutional right of every American to force the government to prove a crime has been committed, rather than to have to prove his or her own innocence.
This is exactly why prosecutors should never speak publicly about the evidence uncovered in an investigation of someone who isn’t charged. The obligation of the prosecutor is to render a judgment about whether there is enough proof to charge a crime. If there is, the prosecutor indicts; if there is not, the prosecutor remains silent.
If special counsel Mueller believed there was an obstruction offense, he should have had the courage of his convictions and recommended charging the president. Since he wasn’t convinced there was enough evidence to charge, he should have said he wasn’t recommending charges. Period.
Anything else was — and is — a smear. Worse than that, it flouts the Constitution.
Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, is a contributing editor of National Review.
Friday, April 19, 2019
April 18, 2019
Good God, free at last, free at last.
Donald Trump is now free to be president without the cloud that hovered over him since his election. No president ever faced, let alone survived, a probe as fierce and determined as this one.
Cleared of false charges that threatened to end his presidency, Trump can be forgiven for gloating and rubbing a little salt into the wounds of his tormentors with a jab about serving another “10 to 14 years.”
Naturally, the hysterics are hysterical over that one. They can’t even take a joke.
Yet Trump’s great victory is not his alone. The release of the special counsel report marks a day of freedom for all of America and sends shock waves around the world.
As Attorney General William Barr said, the finding by special counsel Robert Mueller that nobody in the United States knowingly helped Russia interfere in the 2016 presidential campaign “is something that all Americans can and should be grateful to have confirmed.”
Take that, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. Deal with it, Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler. You should be celebrating the outcome, not denouncing it.
The reality was that, while Russia dangled the bait, no one from the Trump campaign or anyone else took it. Those findings stand as a refreshing testament to the character of our people and the sanctity of the election.
So hide your head in shame, Hillary Clinton. You started the false charge of collusion because you couldn’t accept defeat, and now your name will be synonymous with the most destructive hoax in American history.
But reaching this uplifting conclusion took 23 months and held the entire nation hostage for half a presidential term over the possibility that the president had conspired with a foreign power to steal the election, then illegally sought to hide the evidence.
The unprecedented accusations carried the horrifying possibility that the president was a traitor, a finding that would have been catastrophic for our country and its standing in the world.
Had any of the charges been true, the president would have been impeached, convicted and removed from office. He likely then would have faced criminal charges as a private citizen. There would be no pardon to a man of historic venality.
Such a traumatic experience could have driven a stake through the heart of American exceptionalism and killed the image of a shining city on a hill. The beacon to the world would have been seen as just another corrupt country, a laughingstock worthy of contempt.
On many days, fears of that outcome dominated the headlines, as when the media reported this or that development suggesting Trump’s goose was cooked. We now know those reports, nearly all based on anonymous sources, were wrong either in their facts or import.
Take that, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC.
By abandoning their standards, Big Media got the biggest story wrong and misled their readers and viewers — yet refuse to admit it. They are the true dead-enders, still searching for a thread to justify their jihad against Trump.
There were other ramifications, too. Members of Congress of both parties surely calculated the odds of Trump’s survival in deciding how to vote on tax cuts, the border and other matters.
Perhaps last year’s midterm election would have turned out differently if voters knew then what they know now.
Think how much of the stark polarization we see every day is owing to the lingering possibility that Trump might be an illegitimate president. Think how families and friendships have been torn asunder, how many heated arguments took place in offices and factory floors and classrooms over the prospect that a puppet of Vladimir Putin sits behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.
To this day, many people who despise Trump can’t articulate why, other than that they believe the election was somehow tainted. They were 100 percent wrong.
The decent, fair-minded people among them will now concede their error.
And what of international affairs? There can be little doubt that both friends and adversaries gave consideration to the investigation when determining their relationship with the United States. They would be fools not to.
Did the probe affect China’s position on trade, or North Korea’s on nukes? You can be sure that Iran is not happy that Trump has been cleared. That tells us something.
We can’t know all the possible ramifications, but we don’t need to know them. The bottom line is settled.
The Mueller report, like the investigation itself, is exhaustive in chasing down every possibility that somebody, anybody, linked to the Trump campaign sold out America.
The probers put the screws, often unfairly, to tangential players on the chance that they would give up the president in exchange for leniency.
None did because they had nothing to give up.
Certainly Michael Cohen tried. Trump’s former lawyer and fixer made it his mission to bring down the man he had sworn to take a bullet for. Cohen, in a bid to save himself, switched sides and fired all his bullets at Trump, to no great effect.
Even Thursday he was still trying to sell his soul, but there were no takers. He begins his prison sentence next month.
In fairness, Trump does not escape the Mueller report unscathed. He apparently did lie to the press about whether he helped draft a statement on behalf of Donald Trump Jr., and media reports were correct that he wanted to fire Mueller and searched for ways to make it happen.
Yet the president who is notorious for churning through staff was lucky that some aides were brave enough to ignore disastrous orders. Former White House counsel Don McGahn refused to fire Mueller, and Trump was unsuccessful in getting others to do it, too.
Lucky for him. Had he gotten his way, Trump might be facing an obstruction charge.
Yet it must also be noted that not only was Trump innocent of collusion, and so had no corrupt reason to obstruct justice, but also fully cooperated with Mueller.
Not once did he assert executive privilege or try to stop anyone from testifying. Indeed, McGahn spent a remarkable 30 hours with Mueller’s team, with Trump’s approval. Clearly, the president believed he had done nothing wrong and had nothing to hide.
This is not the end of Russia, Russia, Russia. Democrats in Congress can’t let go because they have put all their eggs in the rotten basket. They will do all they can to delay the inevitable, but eventually must get back to governing instead of fetishizing impeachment — or they will find themselves in the political wilderness.
More important is the hope that the other side of the story will be investigated with the same intense scrutiny. America needs to know whether law enforcement and intelligence agencies under Barack Obama tried to tip the election to Clinton, then undermine Trump’s presidency.
Get a good lawyer, Jim Comey. You, too, John Brennan and James Clapper.
Much evidence already gathered says they are guilty, but we are far from a certain conclusion. Thankfully, Barr has pledged himself to the painstaking task of investigating the investigators.
So it matters not whether we are at the end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end. All that matters is that, sooner or later, somehow or another, America gets the full, unbiased truth of what happened in 2016.
In this season of holidays, pray for that.
Thursday, April 18, 2019
By Colette Bancroft
April 11, 2019
When Season 5 of Amazon Prime Video’s longest-running series, Bosch, drops on April 19, fans will see Harry Bosch as they’ve never seen him before.
“This is something different,” Michael Connelly says, “Bosch with no badge.”
Connelly is the author of a series — 21 and counting — of international bestsellers about the Los Angeles homicide detective. He’s also deeply involved in the TV series as an executive producer and writer, splitting time between homes in L.A. and Tampa, and between the solitary practice of writing books and the collaborative process of making television.
In earlier seasons, Connelly says by phone from L.A., “we were mining earlier books” for the TV series’ plot arcs. “This time we jumped all the way forward” to the 2017 novel Two Kinds of Truth for the Season 5 story. (The first five episodes were released to reviewers.)
In the first scene of the opening episode, viewers will see a grubby and limping Bosch (played by Titus Welliver) climbing off a cargo plane with a group of dazed-looking street people. They’ve arrived in the middle of the night at a scruffy campsite of old trailers and school buses, guarded by armed thugs.
“We thought it worked well coming off of Season 4,” Connelly says of the scene. “Bosch had lost his former wife, who he still had a thing for, and he was teetering emotionally. People will wonder what happened” to get him to the camp.
Two Kinds of Truth, like all of Connelly’s books, weaves together complex strands of plot. Its main strands are a new case involving a violent ring of opioid dealers and an old murder case of Bosch’s that’s being reviewed because of new evidence, which could threaten his career.
The TV series also has, Connelly says, “a lot of added stuff.” One element is an expanded role for Bosch’s daughter, Maddie, played by Madison Lintz. “We knew we had a very good actress, and their relationship is kind of the center of everything.” He calls it “the empathic strike zone you want to hit. That relationship is the best thing in his life, but it’s also what makes him vulnerable.”
In the books, he says, the two have “mostly a texting relationship. That’s not going to work in the visual arts, so we have her living at home for the summer, with a job in the D.A.’s office.” That job will bring out Maddie’s own instinct for investigation, as well as Bosch’s worried-dad mode.
Another subplot involves Bosch’s longtime colleagues Detectives Moore and Johnson, a.k.a. Crate and Barrel (played by Gregory Scott Cummins and Troy Evans). The two are getting the retirement push by the brass, and they are not going quietly.
“These guys are national treasures,” Connelly says. “They always bring that element of humor. I thought having their jobs in jeopardy would build a tension.”
Mimi Rogers returns as high-powered lawyer Honey Chandler, whom Connelly calls “Bosch’s heretofore nemesis.” Bosch needs an attorney because of the reopened case. In the novel, his half brother Mickey Haller took the job.
“It’s a clash of art and commerce,” Connelly says. “We don’t have the (screen) rights to Mickey because of the movie.” The 2011 film The Lincoln Lawyer was based on Connelly’s first novel about Haller. So Honey steps in, a twist she calls “too delicious.”
Sharp-eyed fans may also spot “my first official cameo,” Connelly says. “It’s kind of an Easter egg.”
With Season 5 about to drop, he’s already working on Season 6. “We just started the writers room.” The next season will be based mainly on his 2007 novel The Overlook, “with some updates. It was based on terrorism; now it involves domestic terrorism.”
There will also be some elements from Dark Sacred Night, the 2018 book that brought Bosch together with the author’s newest series character, Renée Ballard. She won’t appear in the series, Connelly says, “just Bosch’s side of the narrative.”
His latest venture is the podcast Murder Book. “It’s been fun and fulfilling,” he says, “a way of returning to my roots” as a crime reporter.
“I’m writing the scripts. There’s some journalism there, telling a true story.”
The true-crime podcast tells the story of a 30-year-old murder case, the death of a young man named Jade Clark during a carjacking. It includes witness and police interviews and trial audio, with Connelly as narrator.
“It was the perfect case for this, because it involves three detectives (Rick Jackson, Tim Marcia and Mitzi Roberts) who have been helping me with my books for years, who actually worked on the case. I hope it shows where I get my inspirations.”
Eleven episodes of the podcast are already available, with two more to come. “The prosecutor called it the never-ending case,” Connelly says. “The permutations go on and on.”
Before Season 6 of Bosch gets into high gear, Connelly is finishing his next novel. The Night Fire will be published on Oct. 22 and, like Dark Sacred Night, will alternate the narrative between Bosch and Ballard, with a role for Haller.
“My deadline is June,” Connelly says, “so I’m kind of burning the midnight candle.”
Contact Colette Bancroft at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8435. Follow @colettemb.
Stream the new season of Bosch on Amazon Prime starting April 19.
By Georgi Boorman
April 18, 2019