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Barr Is Right About Everything. Admit You Were Wrong.

Barr Is Right About Everything. Admit You Were Wrong.

Postby smix » Fri Apr 19, 2019 10:35 pm

Barr Is Right About Everything. Admit You Were Wrong.
The New York Times

URL: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/18/opin ... trump.html
Category: Politics
Published: April 18, 2019

Description: After Trump’s vindication, the liberal media and its allies in government should face a reckoning. I’m not holding my breath.
The American political and media elites that spent the first two years of the Trump administration promoting the Russian collusion hoax have some explaining to do. And not merely explaining: They owe the president an apology. As Attorney General William Barr said on Thursday before releasing the Mueller report, “After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the special counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes.” And yet nearly the entire complex of elite media was actively complicit in promoting the biggest political conspiracy theory in American history: that Hillary Clinton lost the election because Donald Trump conspired with Vladimir Putin to — well, that was always a moving target — but to somehow deprive Mrs. Clinton of victory. What we now know definitively is that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, and a team of very accomplished, mostly Clinton-supporting, prosecutors were unable to find evidence of a conspiracy that had been taken as an article of faith by Trump haters. Journalists don’t like being called “fake news,” but too many of them uncritically accepted the Trump-Russia narrative, probably because of their strong distaste for Mr. Trump himself. But that lack of objectivity represents a major professional failure, and it’s Exhibit A in why Mr. Trump’s taunt resonates with so many Americans. Gallup polling shows that for 69 percent of Americans, trust in the media has fallen over the last decade. Among Republicans, it’s 94 percent; for independents, it’s 75 percent and for moderates it’s 66. Only among self-identified liberals and progressives does a majority continue to trust the media. They like what they hear. I’ve spent countless hours on radio and television since the fall of 2016 explaining to respected journalists why the Russian collusion story doesn’t get much, if any, traction in Middle America. This is because the allegations of collusion are not true and because most people who are not deeply committed to irrational Trump hatred see them for what they are: an inside-the-Beltway story being used as a political weapon to undermine the president and overturn — or at least neutralize — the 2016 election. The whole ordeal had a detrimental effect on the president and the country. As Mr. Barr put it Thursday morning, “The president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.” He was right. And it was obvious in places like Arizona (where I live), but not in Washington or New York. For nearly four years, members of America’s ruling class, especially those in the media, the academy and government, have operated on one central, unquestioned assumption: orange man bad. This stifling orthodoxy led to a blind, counterfactual faith in the theory that Mr. Trump had somehow colluded with “the Russians” (never well defined) to win the election. Again, the specific charges were always amorphous — plastic enough to change as needed. That’s hardly surprising: That’s the way conspiracy theories always work. The Russian collusion hoax was in fact nothing more than a massively multiplayer coping mechanism for people who couldn’t accept the results of the 2016 election. But why is it not enough to simply acknowledge that you dislike Mr. Trump and disagree with his policies? What psychological purpose does adding the fiction of a conspiracy serve? The French philosopher and literary critic René Girard held that such scapegoating and ritual sacrifice is an essential part of group identity and solidarity. That seems to apply here. Mr. Trump ran against American elites and their insular culture. Their response was to load onto him all of the sins they see in American society and attempt to sacrifice him to appease their gods. Mr. Girard asked a question that is pertinent today: “Why is our own participation in scapegoating so difficult to perceive and the participation of others so easy? To us, our fears and prejudices never appear as such because they determine our vision of people we despise, we fear, and against whom we discriminate.” But the ritual sacrifice of Donald Trump didn’t work — at least not in the sense of removing him from office. It certainly did have the effect of catalyzing and uniting his opponents. Still, one of the many ironies here is that the Trump-hating media has handed him an incredibly powerful weapon for the 2020 campaign, one that may ensure his re-election. Again, the operating principle was that of the zealot: Believe the narrative regardless of the lack of evidence, squint to see justifications where there are none and then in an intoxicated frenzy of moral superiority use any weapon at hand to destroy your enemy. Shortly after Mr. Mueller concluded his investigation without any indictments related to Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, Representative Adam Schiff, now the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, did not admit he was wrong — far from it. He brazenly doubled down, saying during a committee hearing, “You may think it’s O.K. how Trump and his associates interacted with Russians during the campaign. I don’t. I think it’s immoral. I think it’s unethical. I think it’s unpatriotic. And yes, I think it’s corrupt.” The problem is that the Mueller investigation, as Mr. Barr explained, “did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes.” Mr. Schiff must know this. He must have known it for a long time. But he has persisted in slandering innocent people for personal political gain. His selfishness has led to a level of civil discord and political acrimony not seen since the late 1960s. That is what I call immoral, unethical, unpatriotic and yes, corrupt. As technology advances, will it continue to blur the lines between public and private? Explore what's at stake and what you can do about it. Too many politicians and journalists were eager, whether cynically or gullibly, to take the bait. The list of collusion Truthers is long. The politicians include not only Mr. Schiff, but people like his congressional colleagues Maxine Waters, Eric Swalwell and Richard Blumenthal. The media enablers included Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, Rachel Maddow (who built her show around Russia Trutherism), David Corn, Michael Isikoff, Manu Raju, Brian Stelter and many others. These people represent themselves as straight journalists who are fair, independent, oriented around facts. What a lot of Americans have seen instead is political partisans. And then, of course, there is the recently arrested Michael Avenatti, who was eagerly embraced by Trump haters. He appeared on CNN and MSNBC an embarrassing 108 times in a 64-day period in 2018. How could they not see him for what he is? There are three types of people who promoted Russian collusion hoax. First, those who knew it was false all along, but promoted it for money, power, prestige or dopamine hits from Twitter high-fives. Second, the journalists who had a responsibility to dig into this story rather than just repeating what they hoped was true and what the story’s promoters were telling them. Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN Worldwide, is emblematic of the problem. “We are not investigators,” he said last month. “We are journalists, and our role is to report the facts as we know them, which is exactly what we did.” Has anyone ever seriously thought that investigation was not a core function of journalism? And then there is the Kool-Aid brigade. These are the people outside of politics, the people who couldn’t wait to hear what Rachel Maddow had to say, who believed every breathless prediction on cable news that “new revelations could spell the end for Trump,” and who shared these nuggets with a mixture of indignation and ecstasy on social media. But the collusion truthers were not all on the left. Trump-hating neoliberals at some of the old, legacy conservative publications were eager to believe it too. They believed the worst of Mr. Trump because they wanted to, and it led them astray. And none of them have owned their mistake yet, meaning that, as night follows day, they will be duped again. To the public figures who promoted the collusion story, I say: Own it. Just admit you were wrong. It won’t feel good at first. But when the initial sting passes you will find it liberating. And people will respect you for it. The media and political elites have a lot of work to do if they want to regain the trust of the American people. Confessing a major error that needlessly turned Americans against one another is a good place to start.
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The Russian collusion story is a reminder of why media should ‘wait and see’

Postby smix » Sat Apr 20, 2019 3:15 am

The Russian collusion story is a reminder of why media should ‘wait and see’
Washington Examiner

URL: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opin ... it-and-see
Category: Politics
Published: April 19, 2019

Description: The special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has been a uniquely stupid chapter in news media history. Newsrooms got some of it right. They also got a lot wrong. One of the worst aspects of the press' two-year-long exercise in speculation and rumormongering was social media, particularly Twitter, which provided reporters and political commentators with public platforms to spout off half-cocked for every new allegation and detail regarding the investigation. It's almost as if these people have never heard the phrase "wait and see." And now that the investigation has concluded, we can truly appreciate the absurdity of some of these by-the-minute takes from the people who pretended to understand what was happening. Washington Post columnist Max Boot, for example, went out on a limb on March 28 when he asked (with a straight face, I presume) how Attorney General William Barr and his team of legal professionals could have possibly read and understood the 400-plus-page Mueller report in less than 48 hours, as the Justice Department claimed.
How on earth was Barr able to digest and summarize a 300+ page report in less than 48 hours?
— Max Boot (@MaxBoot) March 28, 2019

Funnily enough, the following tweet also comes from Boot, who apparently was able to do all by his lonesome self what he could not comprehend from the Justice Department. “Having read the Mueller report, I can see why Trump was so eager to discredit the investigators – and why Barr felt compelled to spin in advance. And it’s not because the report proves ‘No Collusion - No Obstruction!’ It proves the very opposite,” he claimed less than 12 hours after the report was released to the public.
Having read the Mueller report, I can see why Trump was so eager to discredit the investigators—and why Barr felt compelled to spin in advance. And it’s not because the report proves “No Collusion - No Obstruction!” It proves the very opposite. My column:
— Max Boot (@MaxBoot) April 18, 2019

Call me a cynic, but my guess here is that Boot’s real position is the opposite of whatever benefits the Trump administration. Speaking of “whatever it is, I’m against it,” let us also consider freelance journalist and New York Times contributor Jared Yates Sexton, who once wrote a sort of winding paean to Mueller in 2017. "Important to remember: Robert Mueller is an independent special prosecutor tasked with investigating possible collusion. He is not a partisan tasked with destroying Trump. That’s what conservatives want people to believe,” he wrote. “Do not fall into the trap of talking about this in the terms conservatives want you to. This is as much a PR battle as a legal one." "The battle Republicans want here is to define it as a partisan witch hunt. It’s not, at all. But words and tone matter," Yates concluded. “If Mueller didn’t find evidence, he’d walk away. His job isn’t to invent or distort. This seems obvious, but is massively important." On April 18, just hours after the report’s release, Sexton then tweeted: "In the midst of all this, it's unbelievably important to remember Robert Mueller is a lifelong, dedicated Republican. A Republican prepared this report. A Republican laid the groundwork for the impeachment of a Republican president." As it turns out, “wait and see” is a good rule to live by precisely because it saves you from publicly repudiating yourself. It saves you from having the general public realize that even you don't pay attention to what you say. It also saves you from looking like a partisan hack.
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Robert Mueller Did Not Merely Reject the Trump-Russia Conspiracy Theories. He Obliterated Them.

Postby smix » Tue Apr 23, 2019 7:19 am

Robert Mueller Did Not Merely Reject the Trump-Russia Conspiracy Theories. He Obliterated Them.
The Intercept

URL: https://theintercept.com/2019/04/18/rob ... ated-them/
Category: Politics
Published: April 18, 2019

Description: The two-pronged conspiracy theory that has dominated U.S. political discourse for almost three years – that (1) Trump, his family and his campaign conspired or coordinated with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, and (2) Trump is beholden to Russian President Vladimir Putin — was not merely rejected today by the final report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. It was obliterated: in an undeniable and definitive manner. The key fact is this: Mueller – contrary to weeks of false media claims – did not merely issue a narrow, cramped, legalistic finding that there was insufficient evidence to indict Trump associates for conspiring with Russia and then proving their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That would have been devastating enough to those who spent the last two years or more misleading people to believe that conspiracy convictions of Trump’s closest aides and family members were inevitable. But his mandate was much broader than that: to state what did or did not happen. That’s precisely what he did: Mueller, in addition to concluding that evidence was insufficient to charge any American with crimes relating to Russian election interference, also stated emphatically in numerous instances that there was no evidence – not merely that there was insufficient evidence to obtain a criminal conviction – that key prongs of this three-year-old conspiracy theory actually happened. As Mueller himself put it: “in some instances, the report points out the absence of evidence or conflicts in the evidence about a particular fact or event.” With regard to Facebook ads and Twitter posts from the Russia-based Internet Research Agency, for example, Mueller could not have been more blunt: “The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated with the IRA’s interference operation” (emphasis added). Note that this exoneration includes not only Trump campaign officials but all Americans: To get a further sense for how definitive the Report’s rejection is of the key elements of the alleged conspiracy theory, consider Mueller’s discussion of efforts by George Papadopoulos, Joseph Misfud and and “two Russian nationals” whereby they tried “to arrange a meeting between the Campaign and Russian officials” to talk about how the two sides could work together to disseminate information about Hillary Clinton. As Mueller puts it: “No meeting took place.” Several of the media’s most breathless and hyped “bombshells” were dismissed completely by Mueller. Regarding various Trump officials’ 2016 meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Mueller said they were “brief, public and nonsubstantive.” Concerning the much-hyped change to GOP platform regarding Ukraine, Mueller wrote that the “evidence does not establish that one campaign official’s efforts to dilute a portion of the Republican platform was undertaken at the behest of candidate Trump or Russia,” and further noted that such a change was consistent with Trump’s publicly stated foreign policy view (one shared by Obama) to avoid provoking gratuitous conflict with the Kremlin over arming Ukrainians. Mueller also characterized a widely hyped “meeting” between then-Senator Jeff Sessions and Kislyak as one that did not “include any more than a passing mention of the presidential campaign.” Regarding one of the most-cited pieces of evidence by Trump/Russia conspiracists – that Russia tried once Trump was nominated to shape his foreign policy posture toward Russia – Mueller concluded that there is simply no evidence to support it: In other crucial areas, Mueller did not go so far as to say that his investigation “did not identify evidence” but nonetheless concluded that his 22-month investigation “did not establish” that the key claims of the conspiracy theory were true. Regarding alleged involvement by Trump officials or family members in the Russian hacks, for instance, Mueller explained: “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” As for the overarching maximalist conspiracy – that Trump and/or members of his family and campaign were controlled by or working for the Russian government – Mueller concluded that this belief simply lacked the evidence necessary to prosecute anyone for it: And Mueller’s examination of all the so-called “links” between Trump campaign officials and Russia that the U.S. media has spent almost three years depicting as “bombshell” evidence of criminality met the same fate: the evidence could not, and did not, establish that any such links constituted “coordination” or “conspiracy” between Trump and Russia: Perhaps most amazingly, even low-level, ancillary, hangers-on to the Trump campaign that even many Russiagate skeptics thought might end up being charged as Russian agents were not. All the way back in March, 2017, in reporting that even anti-Trump intelligence officials were warning Democrats that there was no solid evidence of a Trump/Russia conspiracy, I predicted that the appointment of a Special Counsel (which I vehemently favored) would likely end up finding evidence of financial impropriety by Paul Manafort unrelated to the 2016 election, as well as a possible indictment of someone like Carter Page for acting in concert with the Russian government: But so vacant is the Mueller investigation when it comes to supporting any of the prevailing conspiracy theories that it did not find even a single American whom it could indict or charge with illegally working for Russia, secretly acting as a Russian agent, or conspiring with the Russians over the election – not even Carter Page. That means that even long-time Russiagate skeptics such as myself over-estimated the level of criminality and conspiracy evidence that Robert Mueller would find: In sum, Democrats and their supporters had the exact prosecutor they all agreed was the embodiment of competence and integrity in Robert Mueller. He assembled a team of prosecutors and investigators that countless media accounts heralded as the most aggressive and adept in the nation. They had subpoena power, the vast surveillance apparatus of the U.S. government at their disposal, a demonstrated willingness to imprison anyone who lied to them, and unlimited time and resources to dig up everything they could. The result of all of that was that not a single American – whether with the Trump campaign or otherwise – was charged or indicted on the core question of whether there was any conspiracy or coordination with Russia over the election. No Americans were charged or even accused of being controlled by or working at the behest of the Russian government. None of the key White House aides at the center of the controversy who testified for hours and hours – including Donald Trump, Jr. or Jared Kushner – were charged with any crimes of any kind, not even perjury, obstruction of justice or lying to Congress. These facts are fatal to the conspiracy theorists who have drowned U.S. discourse for almost three years with a dangerous and distracting fixation on a fictitious espionage thriller involved unhinged claims of sexual and financial blackmail, nefarious infiltration of the U.S. Government by familiar foreign villains, and election cheating that empowered an illegitimate President. They got the exact prosecutor and investigation that they wanted, yet he could not establish that any of this happened and, in many cases, established that it did not.
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The anti-climactic ending of the Mueller investigation is particularly stunning given how broad Mueller’s investigative scope ended up being, extending far beyond the 2016 election into years worth of Trump’s alleged financial dealings with Russia (and, obviously, Manafort’s with Ukraine and Russia). There can simply be no credible claim that Mueller was, in any meaningful way, impeded by scope, resources or topic limitation from finding anything for which he searched. Despite efforts today by long-time conspiracist theorists to drastically move goalposts so as to claim vindication, the historical record could not be clearer that Mueller’s central mandate was to determine whether crimes were committed by Trump officials in connection with alleged Russian interference in the election. The first paragraph of the New York Times article from May, 2017, announcing Mueller’s appointment, leaves no doubt about that:
The Justice Department appointed Robert S. Mueller III, a former F.B.I. director, as special counsel on Wednesday to oversee the investigation into ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, dramatically raising the legal and political stakes in an affair that has threatened to engulf Mr. Trump’s four-month-old presidency.

As recently as one month ago, former CIA Director and current NBC News analyst John Brennan was confidently predicting that Mueller could not possibly close his investigation without first indicting a slew of Americans for criminally conspiring with Russia over the election, and specifically predicted that Trump’s family members would be included among those so charged:
John Brennan has a lot to answer for—going before the American public for months, cloaked with CIA authority and openly suggesting he’s got secret info, and repeatedly turning in performances like this. pic.twitter.com/EziCxy9FVQ
— Terry Moran (@TerryMoran) March 25, 2019

Obviously, none of that happened. Nor were any of the original accusations that launched this three-year-long mania — from an accusatory August, 2016 online commercial from the Clinton campaign — corroborated by the Mueller Report:



Indeed, so many of the most touted media “bombshells” claiming to establish Trump/Russia crimes have been proven false by this report. Despite an extensive discussion of Paul Manafort’s activities, nothing in the Report even hints, let alone states, that he ever visited Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy, let alone visited him three times, including during the 2016 election. How the Guardian could justify still not retracting that false story is mystifying. Faring even worse is the Buzzfeed bombshell from January claiming that “President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow” and that “Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.” Mueller himself responded to the story by insisting it was false, and his Report directly contradicts it, as it makes clear that Cohen told Mueller the exact opposite: Equally debunked is CNN’s major blockbuster by Jim Sciutto, Carl Bernstein, and Marshall Cohen from last July that “Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, claims that then-candidate Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower.” The Mueller Report says the exact opposite: that Cohen had no knowledge of Trump’s advanced knowledge. And the less said about the Steele Dossier, pee-pee tapes, secret meetings in Prague, and indescribably unhinged claims like this one, the better:

meadow-russians.jpg

But beyond the gutting of these core conspiracy claims is that Mueller’s investigation probed areas far beyond the initial scope of Trump/Russia election-conspiring, and came up empty. Among other things, Mueller specifically examined Trump’s financial dealings with Russia to determine whether that constituted incriminating evidence of corrupt links:
Because Trump’s status as a public figure at the time was attributable in large part to his prior business and entertainment dealings, this Office investigated whether a business contact with Russia-linked individuals and entities during the campaign period—the Trump Tower Moscow project, see Volume I, Section IV.A.1, infra—led to or involved coordination.

Indeed, Mueller’s examination of Trump’s financial dealings with Russia long pre-dates the start of the Trump campaign, going back several years before the election: Mueller additionally made clear that he received authorization to investigate numerous Americans for ties to Russia despite their not being formally associated with the Trump campaign, including Michael Cohen and Roger Stone. And regarding Cohen, Mueller specifically was authorized to investigate any attempts by Cohen to “receive funds from Russia-backed entities.” None of this deep diving to other individuals or years of alleged financial dealings with Russian resulted in any finding that Trump or any of his associates were controlled by, or corruptly involved with, the Russian government. Then there is the issue of Manafort’s relationship with the Ukrainians, and specifically his providing of polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, an episode which Trump/Putin conspiracist Marcy Wheeler, along with many others, particularly hyped over and over. To begin with, Mueller said his office “did not identify evidence of a connection” between that act and “Russian interference in the election,” nor did he “establish that Manafort otherwise coordinated with the Russian government on its election-inteference efforts”: Also endlessly hyped by Wheeler and other conspiracists were the post-election contacts between Trump and Russia: as though it’s unusual that a major power would seek to build new, constructive relationships with a newly elected administration. Indeed, Wheeler went so far as to cite these post-election contacts to turn her own source into the FBI on the ground that it constituted smoking gun evidence, an act for which she was praised by the Washington Post (nothing Wheeler claimed about the evidence “related to the Mueller investigation” that she claimed to possess appears to be in the Mueller Report). Here again, the Mueller Report could not substantiate any of these claims: The centerpiece of the Trump/Russia conspiracy – the Trump Tower meeting – was such a dud that Jared Kushner, halfway through the meeting, texted Manafort to declare the meeting “a waste of time,” and then instructed his assistant to call him so that he could concoct a reason to leave. Not only could Mueller not find any criminality in this meeting relating to election conspiring, but he could not even use election law to claim it was an illegal gift of something of value from a foreigner, because, among other things, the information offered was of so little value that it could not even pass the $2,000 threshold required to charge someone for a misdemeanor, let alone the $25,000 required to make it a felony. Neither the Trump Tower meeting itself nor its participants – for so long held up as proof of the Trump/Russia conspiracy – could serve as the basis for any finding of criminality. Indeed, the key Trumpworld participants who testified about what happened at that meeting and its aftermath (Trump Jr. and Kushner) were not even accused by Mueller of lying about any of it.
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None of this is to say that the Mueller Report exonerates Trump of wrongdoing. Mueller makes clear, for instance, that the Trump campaign not only knew that Russia was interested in helping it win the election but was happy to have that help. There’s clearly nothing criminal about that. One can debate whether it’s unethical for a presidential campaign to have dirt about its opponent released by a foreign government, though anyone who wants to argue that has to reconcile that with the fact that the DNC had a contractor working with the Ukrainian government to help Hillary Clinton win by feeding them dirt on Trump and Manafort, as well as a paid operative named Christopher Steele (remember him?) working with Russian officials to get dirt on Trump.

politico-ukraine.jpg

As is true of all investigations, Mueller’s team could not access all relevant information. Some was rendered inaccessible through encryption. Other information was deleted, perhaps with corrupt motives. And some witnesses lied or otherwise tried to obstruct the investigation. As a result, it’s of course possible that incriminating evidence existed that Mueller – armed with subpoena power, unlimited resources, 22 months of investigative work, and a huge team of top-flight prosecutors, FBI agents, intelligence analysts and forensic accountants – did not find. But anything is possible. It’s inherently possible that anyone is guilty of any crime but that the evidence just cannot be found to prove it. One cannot prove a negative. But the only way to rationally assess what happened is by looking at the evidence that is available, and that’s what Mueller did. And there’s simply no persuasive way – after heralding Mueller and his team as the top-notch investigators that they are and building up expectations about what this would produce – for any honest person to deny that the end of the Mueller investigation was a huge failure from the perspective of those who pushed these conspiracies. Mueller certainly provides substantial evidence that Russians attempted to meddle in various ways in the U.S. election, including by hacking the DNC and Podesta and through Facebook posts and tweets. There is, however, no real evidence that Putin himself ordered this, as was claimed since mid-2016. But that Russia had done such things has been unsurprising from the start, given how common it is for the U.S. and Russia to meddle in everyone’s affairs, including one another’s, but the scope and size of it continues to be minute in the context of overall election spending:
To reach larger U.S. audiences, the IRA purchased advertisements from Facebook that promoted the IRA groups on the newsfeeds of U.S. audience members. According to Facebook, the IRA purchased over 3,500 advertisements, and the expenditures totaled approximately $100,000.

The section of Mueller’s report on whether Trump criminally attempted to obstruct the investigation is full of evidence and episodes that show Trump being dishonest, misleading, and willing to invoke potentially corrupt tactics to put an end to it. But ultimately, the most extreme of those tactics were not invoked (at times because Trump’s aides refused), and the actions in which Trump engaged were simply not enough for Mueller to conclude that he was guilty of criminal obstruction. As Mueller himself concluded, a reasonable debate can be conducted on whether Trump tried to obstruct his investigation with corrupt intent. But even on the case of obstruction, the central point looms large over all of it: there was no underlying crime established for Trump to cover-up. All criminal investigations require a determination of a person’s intent, what they are thinking and what their goal is. When the question is whether a President sought to kill an Executive Branch investigation – as Trump clearly wanted to do here – the determinative issue is whether he did so because he genuinely believed the investigation to be an unfair persecution and scam, or whether he did it to corruptly conceal evidence of criminality. That Mueller could not and did not establish any underlying crimes strongly suggests that Trump acted with the former rather than the latter motive, making it virtually impossible to find that he criminally obstructed the investigation.
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The nature of our political discourse is that nobody ever needs to admit error because it is easy to confine oneself to strictly partisan precincts where people are far more interested in hearing what advances their agenda or affirms their beliefs than they are hearing the truth. For that reason, I doubt that anyone who spent the last three years pushing utterly concocted conspiracy theories will own up to it, let alone confront any accountability or consequences for it. But certain facts will never go away no matter how much denial they embrace. The sweeping Mueller investigation ended with zero indictments of zero Americans for conspiring with Russia over the 2016 election. Both Donald Trump, Jr. and Jared Kushner – the key participants in the Trump Tower meeting – testified for hours and hours yet were never charged for perjury, lying or obstruction, even though Mueller proved how easily he would indict anyone who lied as part of the investigation. And this massive investigation simply did not establish any of the conspiracy theories that huge parts of the Democratic Party, the intelligence community and the U.S. media spent years encouraging the public to believe. Those responsible for this can refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing. They can even claim vindication if they want and will likely be cheered for doing so. But the contempt in which the media and political class is held by so much of the U.S. population – undoubtedly a leading factor that led to Trump’s election in the first place – will only continue to grow as a result, and deservedly so. People know they were scammed, that their politics was drowned for years by a hoax. And none of that will go away no matter how insulated media and political elites in Washington, northern Virginia, Brooklyn, and large West Coast cities keep themselves, and thus hear only in-group affirmation while blocking out all of that well-earned scorn.
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