politics robert mueller Trump

Obstruction Squared: Pat Cipollone Has Lots Of Totally Exculpatory Documents, But You Can’t See Them, Because No ‘Do-Overs’!

If you think this is laughable, you're not alone and you're not wrong, either.

Trump and his allies are working to block more than 20 separate investigations into his actions as president, his personal finances and his administration’s policies.

That’s from the Washington Post and it lays bare the lengths this White House is going to in an effort to obstruct congressional oversight.

Counting Richard Neal’s Friday move aimed at compelling Steve Mnuchin to produce the president’s tax returns, Trump is staring down subpoenas from the Ways and Means, Judiciary, Oversight, Financial Services and the Intelligence Committees.

Just last week, the White House asserted executive privilege over the unredacted Mueller report and watched as Jerry Nadler’s House Judiciary Committee voted to hold William Barr in contempt.

On Monday, White House counsel Pat Cipollone rejected Nadler’s request for records and in the letter that accompanied that rejection, Cipollone challenged Congress’s authority to investigate Trump for obstruction. Cipollone essentially parroted the same line the administration has rolled out as a catch-all – namely that Congress has no legislative purpose.

That is of course a ridiculous claim, and equally ridiculous is Cipollone’s contention that somehow, Congress isn’t permitted to make its own determination on whether the president committed an impeachable offense.

“Congressional investigations are intended to obtain information to aid in evaluating potential legislation, not to harass political opponents or to pursue an unauthorized ‘do-over’ of exhaustive law enforcement investigations conducted by the Department of Justice”, Cipollone wrote to Nadler.

There’s just one problem: Robert Mueller did not make a determination on obstruction. Indeed, he explicitly said the probe did “not exonerate” Trump in that regard. The special counsel laid out voluminous evidence to support an obstruction case and it is by no means clear that Mueller intended for Attorney General Barr to make the final call. In fact, Mueller’s irritated letter to Barr suggests the opposite.

Read more: Mueller To Barr: ‘You Did Not Capture The Context And Substance Of My Work’

Barr refused to testify before Nadler’s committee and so far, we’ve yet to hear from Mueller, but based on the report itself and also based on what we know about the correspondence between Barr and the special counsel in the days following Barr’s decision to exonerate Trump on obstruction, there’s a strong argument to be made that Mueller did in fact intend for Congress to make the final call.

But really, it doesn’t matter what Mueller intended, because Congress is supposed to serve as a check on the executive and the Justice Department is clearly engaged in an attempt to shield Trump from any and all accountability with regard to anything (i.e., not just with regard to the specific evidence laid out in the Mueller report).

Remember, Nadler’s request for documents from 81 individuals and entities associated with the president and his businesses was sent on March 4, three weeks prior to Mueller handing over his report to Barr and nearly six weeks prior to the public release of the redacted version.

So, the idea that Nadler’s request constitutes an attempt at a “do-over” (as Cipollone put it on Wednesday) is patently false.

Read more: Obstruction, Public Corruption, Abuses Of Power: House Judiciary Committee Begins Long Journey To Impeachment

“The appropriate course is for the Committee to discontinue the inquiry,” Cipollone wrote. “Unfortunately, it appears that you have already decided to press ahead with a duplicative investigation, including by issuing subpoenas, to replow the same ground the Special Counsel has already covered.”

But, again, Nadler was looking to “plow” that ground before he knew when the Mueller report would be delivered, and the whole reason the House Judiciary Committee decided to hold Barr in contempt (forcing Trump to assert executive privilege) was because the attorney general refused to turn over the unredacted report and the underlying evidence. Given that, it’s pretty hard to suggest that Nadler is pursuing a “duplicative investigation” when he’s been denied the materials he would need to conduct such a superfluous probe. How does one “press ahead with a duplicative investigation” when the people who were investigated won’t give you all the evidence that was used in the investigation that you are supposedly duplicating? Good question, no?

Of course, a lawyer surely realizes how silly that is, which means Cipollone is just spewing nonsense in order to protect Trump. That makes Pat just like everyone else at 1600 Penn.

“In the Wednesday letter, Cipollone argued that the request for testimony and records from 81 individuals and agencies is intrusive and seeks to pull back the covers on reams of confidential discussions and sensitive law enforcement material that is normally shielded by executive privilege”, WaPo wrote Wednesday, adding that “the White House is only directly responding to Nadler’s letter to the White House [and] said its objection applies to current and former officials whose information it argues is technically the property of the White House.”

If you think this is laughable, you’re not alone and you’re not wrong, either.

These attempts to explain why Congress isn’t allowed to see anything and why lawmakers aren’t allowed to talk to anybody and why Trump would rather sue Deutsche Bank and Elijah Cummings to block Congress from getting their hands on purportedly clean financial records and why Trump’s hand-picked attorney general is the final word on obstruction, are becoming so belabored that they’re giggle-inducing. Trump is obstructing justice in an effort to keep Congress from figuring out if he obstructed justice – it’s obstruction squared.

Perhaps the “best” passage from Cipollone’s letter reads as follows:

The White House will not participate in the Committee’s ‘investigation’ that brushes aside the conclusions of the Department of Justice after a two-year-long effort in favor of political theater pre-ordained to reach a preconceived and false result.

Two things: 1) Just last week, the White House asserted executive privilege so the Justice Department could deny the committee’s request to see the evidence Barr relied on to come to the “conclusions” Cipollone claims the committee is ignoring, and 2) the only person saying the results of Nadler’s investigation are “pre-ordained” is Cipollone, who, by characterizing the assumed result as “false”, just accidentally admitted that the requested documents do not paint a flattering picture of the president.


Full letter from Cipollone




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