Maine Writer

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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Donald Trump tweets correlate with hate crimes

Religion News Service echo by Emily McFarlan Miller

Researchers find link between Trump tweets and spike in anti-Muslim hate
(RNS) — It may be a law of nature: President Trump tweets something about Islam. Anti-Muslim hate crimes follow.

That’s according to a working paper by University of Warwick researchers Karsten Müller and Carlo Schwarz.

Their conclusions correspond with anecdotal reports collected by Muslim civil rights and advocacy groups, too.

“Whether it’s a tweet or whether it’s in a policy (Trump is) introducing, or if it’s in a policy someone in his administration is introducing, I think it all comes together to create this kind of environment where targeting Muslims is acceptable or has become acceptable,” said Madihha Ahussain, special counsel for anti-Muslim bigotry at Muslim Advocates.

Müller and Schwarz examined publicly accessible data such as the weekly nu
mber of anti-Muslim hate crimes recorded by the FBI in their paper, “Making America Hate Again? Twitter and Hate Crime Under Trump.”

The data showed a rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes since the start of Trump’s presidential campaign, concentrated in counties with high Twitter usage. It also showed a correlation between the number of Trump’s tweets in a given week that used keywords related to Islam and the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes that followed. 

The researchers were curious whether what happens online motivates action offline. While people seemed to agree hateful rhetoric on social media was dangerous, Schwarz said, they were “surprised nobody had ever looked at it.”

But, Schwarz added, Trump shouldn’t get all the blame.

“Our idea is not basically that it’s just Donald Trump’s individual tweets that are causing this entire effect,” he said. “His tweets are widely shared, the news are discussing it and a lot of people are just exposed to this kind of rhetoric. This is just spreading through social media and in particular Twitter.”

Social media’s ability to deluge users with negative sentiments may push people “who were already on 
the edge” to commit hate crimes, according to the researcher.

And it’s happening beyond the United States.

Müller and Schwarz, who are German, previously wrote a study looking at Facebook posts by right-wing political party Alternative for Germany (AfD) and how it may be associated with anti-refugee crime in Germany.

The “social media effect” is the same, and it vanished with internet outages in certain areas or Facebook outages that impacted the whole country, according to Schwarz.

“It shows that the mechanism we are thinking about, the effect we observe, is not specific to a particular country, and it’s not specific to an individual person,” he said.

“So far it looks like this polarizing effect of social media might be happening independent of the country, basically of the setting, and independent of the minority groups.”

BuzzFeed News also recently analyzed the way many “sensationalized, misleading, or outright false 
reports about Muslim communities” are spread online between Europe and North America.

Despite their research, Schwarz said he and his colleague were “torn” about possible solutions. Leaving it up to private companies like Facebook to determine what is “acceptable” is worrying, as are laws like Germany’s that fine networks up to $60 million for each post they decline to remove that is deemed hate speech.

Turning off the internet may help, he joked, but that’s not realistic.

Muslim Advocates published a 2014 report titled “Click Here to End Hate” looking at ways to combat anti-Muslim bigotry online. 

Even as the authors were writing it, Ahussain said, the organization knew it quickly would become outdated as social media platforms and their use evolved.

But, she said, they hoped it would encourage people to report content they thought violated those platforms’ terms of service and, in calling for greater accountability, demonstrate why it’s important. The group has become more diligent about holding accountable platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, too, she said.

“It’s not just about the president,” Ahussain said. “We don’t know that the president will ever be suspended from any of these platforms, but what the conversation should be about is how do we monitor and hold accountable the people who are sharing this type of hatred and bigotry and encouraging violence on the platform?”

After communicating with Twitter about far-right group Britain First’s use of the Twitter platform, she said, Muslim Advocates was notified the platform had suspended the accounts of leaders Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen. Trump had infamously retweeted inflammatory anti-Muslim videos posted by Fransen.

In May, Facebook also agreed to a civil rights audit that Muslim Advocates had asked for, Ahussain said.

“They are under a lot of pressure right now, and it seems as the pressure mounts, they’re more likely to try to come up with strategies that will be responsive to those concerns,” she said, “but I think we have a long way to go.”

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Monday, April 29, 2019

Alternative facts and bullshitting- Donald Trump lies

Trump isn’t lying, he’s bullshitting – and it’s far more dangerous an echo opinion published in The Conversation.

By Lauren Griffin the Director of External Research College of Journalism and Communications, University of Florida

If you’ve been paying attention to the news over the past week or so, you know that over the weekend America was introduced to the concept of  “alternative facts.” 

After the Trump administration's (failed) Press Secretary Sean Spicer rebuked the media for accurately reporting the relatively small crowds at President Donald Trump’s inauguration, senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Spicer wasn’t lying; he was simply using “alternative facts.”

News outlets are still working through the process of figuring out what to call these mischaracterizations of reality. (“Alternative facts” seems to have been swiftly rejected.) Many outlets have upped their fact-checking game. The Washington Post, for instance, released a browser extension that fact-checks tweets by the president in near real-time.

Other outlets have resisted labeling Trump’s misstatements as lies. Earlier this year, for instance, the Wall Street Journal’s editor-in-chief Gerard Baker insisted that the Wall Street Journal wouldn’t label Trump’s false statements “lies.”

Baker argued that lying requires a “deliberate intention to mislead,” which couldn’t be proven in the case of Trump. Baker’s critics pushed back, raising valid and important points about the duty of the press to report what is true.

As important as discussions about the role of the press as fact-checkers are, in this case Baker’s critics are missing the point. Baker is right. Trump isn’t lying. He’s bullshitting. And that’s an important distinction to make.

Bullshitters, as philosopher Harry Frankfurt wrote in his 1986 essay “On Bullshit,” don’t care whether what they are saying is factually correct or not. Instead, bullshit is characterized by a “lack of connection to a concern with truth [and] indifference to how things really are.” Frankfurt explains that a bullshitter “does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.”

In addition to being unconcerned about the truth (which liars do care about, since they are trying to conceal it), Frankfurt suggests that bullshitters don’t really care whether their audience believes what they are saying. Indeed, getting the audience to believe something is false isn’t the goal of bullshitting. Rather, bullshitters say what they do in an effort to change how the audience sees them, “to convey a certain impression” of themselves.

In Trump’s case, much of his rhetoric and speech seems designed to inflate his own grand persona. Hence the tweets about improving the record sales of artists performing at his inauguration and his claims that he “alone can fix” the problems in the country.

Likewise, his inaugural address contained much rhetoric about the “decayed” state of the country and rampant unemployment (a verifiably false statement). Trump then proceeded to claim that he was going to rid the country of these ailments. The image of Trump as a larger-than-life figure who will repair a broken country resonates with his audience, and it doesn’t work without first priming them with notions of widespread “carnage.”
A stinky, slippery slope

There are several problems with Trump adopting the bullshit style of communication.

First, misinformation is notoriously hard to correct once it’s out there, and social media, in particular, has a reputation for spreading factually inaccurate statements and conspiracy theories.

One study, for instance, examined five years of Facebook posts about conspiracy theories. The authors found that people tend to latch onto stories that fit their preexisting narratives about the world and share those stories with their social circle. The result is a “proliferation of biased narratives fomented by unsubstantiated rumors, mistrust, and paranoia.” Another study examined Twitter rumors following the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. These researchers explored how misinformation about the identity of a suspected terrorist abounded on the social media platform. They found that although corrections to the error eventually emerged, they didn’t have the same reach as the original misinformation.

Second, because Trump’s communication style relies heavily on anger, people who are predisposed to his message may become even less critical of potential bunk. Research suggests that when people are angry, they evaluate misinformation in a partisan way, typically accepting the misleading claims that favor their own political party. One study, for instance, primed participants by having them write essays that made them feel angry about a political issue. The authors then presented them with misinformation about the issue that either came from their own party or the opposing party. Participants who felt angry were more likely to believe their party’s misinformation than people who were primed to feel anxious or neutral.

Finally, a communications strategy based on bullshit inherently makes enemies of anyone who would seek to reinstate the truth and expose his statements as bunk. Journalists, scientists, experts and even government officials who disagree with him are subject to charges of ineptitude, partisanship or conspiracy. They’re then threatened with restrictions on funding, access and speech. We’ve already seen this happening with the suggestion that Environmental Protection Agency data may undergo review by political appointees before being made public.

In fairness, Trump may very well believe the things that he’s saying. He was recently quoted as saying “I don’t like to lie.” And people can convince themselves of things that aren’t true.

There’s some evidence, for instance, that he avoided information that Muslims in New Jersey didn’t actually celebrate the terrorist attacks on September 11th, as he claimed. Like all of us, Trump may be putting up psychological defenses to avoid accepting information that challenges his worldviews, as research suggests all of us do. So although he’s corrected frequently by journalists and on social media, it’s a very real possibility that he’s simply shut out anyone or any source of information that threatens his way of seeing things.

But this is of little comfort. Trump has an affinity for speaking mistruths with little consideration for their factual accuracy. Combine this with his relentless efforts to discredit anyone who challenges his declarations and his heavy use of social media – where posts and tweets can go viral with little context and no fact-checking – and it sets the stage for a dangerous turn in American political and civil discourse.

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Donald Trump impeded justice - no exoneration: echo opinion

Sally Yates: If Trump Weren’t President, ‘He Would Likely Be Indicted On Obstruction’

WASHINGTON, DC— There is a mountain of evidence that Donald Trump obstructed justice. There is considerable evidence that the Trump campaign embraced and encouraged Russia’s attempt to meddle in the 2016 election. Special counsel Robert Mueller laid out the facts — and now Congress has a solemn duty to confront them.

Contrary to what Trump says, the long-awaited Mueller report is not an exoneration. The report makes that clear more than once, verbatim, including this passage in Part II: “Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Nor does the report indict Trump for obstruction. But that is because Mueller took as his starting point the Justice Department opinion that a sitting president should not be made to face criminal charges. “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” Mueller wrote. “[W]e are unable to reach that judgment.”

Trump and his apologists will try to paint the report as equivocal, but the evidence it cites strikes me as definitive. One representative passage from Part II, page 157:

“Our investigation found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian-interference and obstruction investigations. The incidents were often carried out through one-on-one meetings in which the President sought to use his official power outside of usual channels. These actions ranged from efforts to remove the Special Counsel and to reverse the effect of the Attorney General ‘s recusal; to the attempted use of official power to limit the scope of the investigation; to direct and indirect contacts with witnesses with the potential to influence their testimony.”

Mueller does not explicitly say that Congress must now judge the president’s conduct. But he draws a detailed road map for such an exercise, including not just the voluminous evidence he gathered but also the legal reasoning for viewing some of Trump’s actions — including his firing of then-FBI Director James Comey and his attempt to get then-

White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller — as patently illegal.

Mueller's report was released by Attorney General William Barr, who, in the process, destroyed what was left of his own credibility. 
William Barr's Mueller pre-report "spin conference"
Pre-spinning (at the "spin conference"), he skewed the document before anyone had a chance to read it. In his spin, Barr parroted Trump’s favorite talking point and said Mueller found no “collusion” between the Trump campaign and the Russians. The report, however, says no such thing. It notes that “collusion” is not a federal offense and seeks instead to determine whether there is evidence of conspiracy, which is a statutory crime. Mueller did find such evidence, but not enough to bring criminal charges.

Barr flat-out lied when he said that Mueller’s decision not to charge Trump had nothing to do with the Justice Department opinion that effectively gives immunity to a sitting president. The report states clearly that this opinion has everything to do with Mueller’s choice to lay out the evidence without reaching a conclusion.

Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided to declare the matter of obstruction closed because Trump was understandably “frustrated and angered” at the very existence of the investigation, and thus may not have had the requisite intent to commit a crime. But Barr was confusing two different concepts, motive and intent. Trump’s motive for trying to fire Mueller, for example, may well have been anger and frustration. But his legal intent may have been to obstruct justice.

Barr so embarrassed himself that Fox News anchor Chris Wallace seemed appalled. “The attorney general seemed almost to be acting as the counselor for the defense, the counselor for the president, rather than the attorney general, talking about his motives, his emotions,” Wallace said. “Really, as I say, making a case for the president.”

The report notes that Trump “lambasted” former Attorney General Jeff Sessions when Sessions recused himself from involvement in the Mueller probe, telling him “‘you were supposed to protect me’ or words to that effect.” Barr obviously is determined not to make the same mistake.

Now responsibility shifts to Congress, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a decision to 

The Mueller report establishes that the Russians massively interfered with our election and that the Trump campaign cheered and encouraged that hostile act. It lays out ample evidence that Trump obstructed justice. Only Congress can hold the president accountable.

Thus far, Pelosi has resisted any move toward impeachment. Politically convenient or not, that’s where Mueller’s road map leads.

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Troubling and dangerous times - Georgia echo opinion

Trump’s behavior a national disgrace- echo opinion published in, in Georgia.

Trump isn’t lying, he’s bullshitting – and it’s far more dangerous- by Lauren Griffin published in The Conversation

Reader from Savannah- I have tried to be more uplifting and positive in my recent letters, but recent headlines make it extremely difficult. The first letter I wrote on this subject was so filled with vitriolic anger that I had to start over for there is already too much of that swirling around. A dear friend helped me to recenter myself when she recently commented with words to the effect that she feels so bad for what President Donald Trump must have gone through in his young life that has caused him to be what he is today, a deeply wounded man. That is a legitimate way to look at Trump. However, this is bad enough for anyone to be so hurt but it’s beyond just bad or unfortunate when that person is president of the United States and by that office, leader of the free world.

We live in troubling and dangerous times, but these are not new challenges to the nation. Hopefully the institutions that our founding fathers created will save us from the turmoil that confronts us today, but we must do everything in our power to ensure that President Trump will not win a second term, either by the ballot in 2020 or impeachment and conviction or by the 25th amendment. My 80-year-old conservative cousin commented that he is so terribly saddened by the thought that he might not live long enough to see Trump gone from the presidency. That palatable sadness is what got me started on this letter, for I love that thoughtful and intelligent cousin like a brother. The other thing that made me so irate was Trump’s treatment of a dead man.

Everyday I think that he can’t get any worse, but then he does. He takes on a dead man, a national hero to most of us, and ridicules him before the nation, before our allies, before our enemies, and he seems incapable of stopping himself. I truly believe that the most understanding and compassionate thing I can say about Trump is that he is not just wounded; he is sick.

We can debate the legitimacy or illegitimacy of Trump’s policies till the cows come home, but as much as I disagree with most of his policies, I am most concerned about the behavior of the man. He has disgraced his office, this nation and himself.

Preston Hodges, Thunderbolt, Georgia

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Sunday, April 28, 2019

Demeanor in chief - never allow Donald Trump to be elected again: echo opinion from California

We the People Must Take Control! 

An echo opinion published in the Fresno Bee
“We the people” must never allow a demagogue like Donald Trump to be elected to office again.

Because of an archaic electoral system and clever gerrymandered districts in state after close-call states, plus a strident and relentless campaign of demeaning attacks and outright baloney designed to appeal to the dissatisfied masses, he “won.” I don’t think anyone was more surprised than Trump himself.

As president he has tried to rule his new political domain like a fiefdom, as he was used to doing at the top of his economic empire, employing those willing to act as lackeys and toadies, like serfs of old who benefit from the “system.” Our democracy has suffered much from this divider-in-chief, this daily liar-in-chief, this demeaner-in-chief who panders to some of the rankest elements among us, and who knows all the wily ways of demagoguery.

The way forward is to see through this miasma of bombast and false rhetoric. Let the blind see and the deaf hear! Please! 

This is our only salvation. 

We, the citizens of this great and promising American society, owe it to ourselves to turn this fraudster out and elect someone of good character and ability.

Jim Cooney, Fresno California

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Founding Fathers "all men are created equal"- leaders too

An echo opinion letter published in The Morning Call, in Allentown Pennsylvania 

Donald Trump and his illegal behavior does not put him above the law, just because he and his #fakeBarr attorney general says so.

What would George Washington do?

The Morning Call letter- In the Declaration of Independence, it states “… that all men are created equal." Can anyone picture the Founding Fathers agreeing with the prerogative that a president cannot be indicted while in office? This thought, I believe, would have been inconceivable to them as men of honor dedicated to the country.

What would their words of wisdom be if they were to see the current state of affairs? To mind comes George Washington’s “guard against the impostures of pre
tended patriotism," and, may I add “even those in high places.”

Xavier Faura from Lower Macungie Township, Pennsylvania

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House of Lords in London enforces political transparency - Russia and China in particular

Crackdown on lords in pay of Russians and Chinese

Peers must come clean about ‘red money’

Peers in the House of Lords face having to declare the full extent of their Russian and Chinese business interests

LONDON- Ministers are to launch a sweeping clean-up of public life in an effort to stem the tide of “red money” from Russia and China swirling through parliament, lobbying firms and the City.

In a two-pronged assault on what some are calling “the new Cold War”, the government is backing a change in House of Lords rules to force peers to declare the full extent of their Russian and Chinese business interests.

Ministers also plan to introduce an espionage law to crack down on foreign spies working for banks and other businesses in Britain.

Legislation has been drawn up to make it easier to kick foreign intelligence officers out of the country, even if they are here on legitimate visas.

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Donald Trump Culture of Charlottesvile - white supremacy extends hate crimes coast to coast

Hate Crimes - evil in Charlottesville, Pittsburgh and now in.....

- Who Is John T. Earnest? Suspect in Poway Synagogue Shooting? He is a chillingly evil white supremacist who has admitted to previously committing hate crimes.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore confirmed that the suspect in the Poway synagogue shooting is 19-year-old (white male) John T. Earnest, from San Diego.

According to a manifesto, published online shortly after 10 a.m. PST on Saturday, Earnest also takes responsibility for an Escondido Mosque arson, a month prior

During that incident, Earnest spray-painted messages referencing the New Zealand mosque shooting.

The synagogue shooting and the mosque arson were less than 9 miles apart.

Filled with racist rants and quotes from the Bible, Earnest praises the suspects responsible for the New Zealand mosque and Pittsburgh synagogue shootings and adds they were his inspiration for the planned shooting in Poway.

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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Florida echo about Russian 2016 election interference

Efforts led by the Russians to assist the Trump campaign via foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, initiated the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) surveillance of Trump in July 2016 and subsequent FISA approved surveillance of Carter Page.
"Russia if you are listening!," said Donald Trump.From left, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. President Donald Trump, and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak, in the White House.
Fact-check it!
A special counsel was appointed to determine if the Russians impacted our 2016 election. 
In my opinion, the 2016, Russian interference was trial tested in prior elections. Frankly, it's impossible for me to believe that 2016, was the first time the Russians just happened to show up.
In fact, the Special Counsel Mueller Report, with a focus on how Russia interfered int he US 2016 election, was well-worth the Americans' time and cost. 
Because it proved that a foreign government with numerous liaisons with the Trump campaign attempted to influence an American election. It resulted in several indictments, guilty pleas, jail time and the spin-off of several other crimes and wrong-doings to other law enforcement jurisdictions.

Mueller, a Republican, appointed by a Republican U.S. Assistant Attorney General, could not exonerate Trump because the evidence uncovered potential crimes and obstruction of justice. However, Mueller could not declare Trump guilty because Mueller believes that a sitting president is immune from prosecution which has to be adjudicated.

Frankly, that is a problem; no citizen should be above the rule of law.

Any traffic cop witnessing a bank robbery cannot turn an eye to the bank robbery playing out before them,  just because they are directing traffic. Indeed, the cop must arrest the bank robber or call for back-up.

Indeed, the time the special counsel’s report took to investigate Donald Trump is less time than it has taken for Trump to let his fellow citizens see his income tax returns. Actually, Trump may owe his fellow citizens more in back taxes than the cost of the Mueller inquiry.

The best, or worst, is yet to come. (MaineWriter says Vote Blue!)

Choice Edwards, Clermont Florida

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Donald Trump listen up! "No fake news in Mueller Report!"

Editorial echo from The Middletown Press, a Connecticut newspaper: Mueller report shows who gave ‘fake news’

Most Americans were in agreement about whether Trump lied to the public about the matters under investigation by Mueller — 58 percent believe he did so, reports Vox by By Gabriela Resto-Montero

Dateline:  DONALD TRUMP- more lies.
Redacted pages.....and redacted pages in the Mueller Report, censured by #fakeBarr, but the narrative exposes Trump lies.
This shining truth is evident in the much-anticipated Mueller report released Thursday — there was no so-called “fake news.”
Read all about it. No Fake News in the Mueller Report!
As Special Counsel Robert Mueller began his investigation into areas of conduct by Donald Trump nearly two years ago, the news media pursued its own in-depth reporting on the administration. For every revealing story reported and published in some of the most respected media outlets in the country — The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN — the president would cry “Fake News.”

But he was wrong, and that diversionary tactic is exposed now for what it is — another lie.

The 400-plus pages of the report released by Attorney General William Barr, with redactions of classified material and referrals to criminal courts for further investigation, merit close scrutiny. The American people, for whom Mueller worked, need for him to appear before Congress and explain his reasoning.
The investigation centered on two overarching areas — did the president or his campaign collude with the Russians to influence the 2016 election, and did the president obstruct justice in the investigation? On the face of it, the answer appears to be no on both counts.

Whether Mueller determined there was insufficient evidence of obstruction of justice because others in the White House tried to thwart the president’s attempts should be explored.

But for now we are focusing on the integrity — and necessity — of journalism in contrast to the lies and manipulation by the president and his circle.

It was not “fake news” that a foreign country tried to influence the American election, and succeeded. This should scare everyone. It was not “fake news” that Donald Trump Jr. and others met with Russian operatives in Trump Tower during the campaign season. It was not “fake news” that Trump ordered his attorney, Michael Cohen, to pay off a porn star and keep his extramarital affair secret.

Democracy can teeter on the edge of autocracy when the ruler tries to discredit the truth and baldly attempts to turn the American people against the institution working on their behalf — the press. Remember President Trump calling the media “the enemy of the people?” That is chilling, and couldn’t be further from the truth.

Instead, the Mueller report shows, “fake news” — lies — came from the White House. Under oath, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders admitted that she made up the assertion that many rank-and-file Justice Department personnel had lost faith in their leader at the time, James Comey. This was fabricated as an excuse for President Trump to fire him.

That is one example. We do not have enough space to get into all the lies put forth by the (MaineWriter #fakePresident Donald Trump. (The website PolitiFact does a good job of that.)

Whether you describe yourself as conservative, liberal, progressive, whatever — journalism is for the people. Be informed.

A free and unfettered press, one that does not shirk from reporting on those in 
power, is essential to democracy.

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Friday, April 26, 2019

Countless questions raised by the #fakeBarr spin - a legal echo

William Barr threw his credibility in the gutter
By Elie Honig reported on CNN

Mueller report is quite the page-turner
When it finally came to light this week, special counsel Robert Mueller's report seemed to animate everyone -- and satisfy no one.

This is an echo opinion published on

#fakeBarr gave a "spin" summary with misleading information about the Robert Mueller Special Counsel report about Donald Trump
In this weekly column "Cross-exam," Elie Honig, a former federal and state prosecutor and CNN legal analyst, gives his take on the latest legal news and answers questions from readers. Post your questions below. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. Honig answers reader questions on "CNN Newsroom" at 5:40 p.m. ET Sundays.

(CNN) Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report is here. 

In fact, the report is more than 400 pages long, and raises countless new questions -- so many, in fact, that we decided to run a special installment of "Cross-exam" to answer them. Let's dig in.

Stan in Montana: Mueller spent two years investigating. Why did we need a meaningless summary filtered by Attorney General William Barr?  "Meaningless" would have been an improvement. 

Now that we've seen the report itself, we know that Barr's four-page summary -- which he later claimed was not actually a summary -- was misleading and manipulative.
Two main things jump out about how Barr used his letter to preemptively distort perceptions of Mueller's report. First, Barr told us that Mueller could not decide the obstruction issue, which "leaves it to the Attorney General." 

Predictably, and true to his previously stated hostility to Mueller's obstruction inquiry, Barr gave a thumbs-down -- declaring that obstruction charges do not apply to Donald Trump as potus.
However, Mueller likely had no intention for Barr to jump in. 

Nowhere in the report does Mueller call on the Attorney General to decide the obstruction issue. Rather, Mueller notes that he specifically "determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes" (Volume 2, Page 2) because Department of Justice policy prevents indictment of a sitting president.

Given that Justice Department policy ties Mueller's hands on charging Trump criminally, Mueller appears to refer the obstruction matter to Congress: "[w]ith respect to whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has the authority to prohibit a President's corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice." (Volume 2, Page 8).

This line is somewhat ambiguous. Mueller appears to refer the obstruction inquiry to Congress to consider impeachment proceedings, (Just MaineWriter opinion, I don't believe any incidental language wass intended in the Mueller report.), though he might simply be mentioning that Congress has the power to take legislative action (see MaineWriter parentheses!). 

Either way, it is notable that Mueller invoked Congress in his analysis of the obstruction issue. Yet in his four-page summary, Barr made no mention of Mueller's call to Congress on obstruction -- which might be the single most significant line of the entire report.

Second, Barr quoted the Mueller report selectively and strategically to protect Trump. For example, Barr told us the good news for Trump on Russia: Mueller found that "the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."

Yet that quote from Barr turns out to be only the second half of a complete sentence. In the first half of that same sentence -- which Barr clipped off -- Mueller tells us, "Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts..." (Volume I, Page 1-2). This kind of intentional, selective quotation would get an ordinary lawyer torn apart by a judge.

For nearly a month since he first received Mueller's report, Barr gave Congress and the American people an inaccurate and disingenuous account of Mueller's findings. Now that the report has been released, we can clearly see how Barr issued a selective summary of Mueller's findings that benefited Trump. Through his handling of the Mueller report, Barr has thrown his credibility and independence in the gutter.

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

William Barr behavior criticized - opinion published in Indiana

"It is a huge disappointment to see careerist and respected lawyer Barr acting simply as a shield for the president," quote by Terry H. Schwadron, published in the DC Reporter.

Rather than building transparency and trust in his judgment, William Barr went before two congressional hearings this week and showed himself to be all but an agent of Trump.

CNN reported William Barr threw his credibility in the gutter

MaineWriter- I enjoy blogging about opinions published in what might be considered conservative state newspapers.  

E.J. Dionne is a Washington Post columnist and his opinion about William Barr was published in the Indianapolis Star.

E.J. Dionne: Mueller report puts Trump in 'greater jeopardy':  Echo opinion published in the Indianapolis Star "Indy Star".

The report will only embolden House Democrats who are already investigating the president and may increase pressure to launch formal impeachment inquiries.

The report from special counsel Robert Mueller provides a devastating portrait of President Trump’s behavior that may invite the beginning of an impeachment inquiry and a constitutional confrontation. A collision of some kind between the president (along with his attorney general) and Democrats who control the House of Representatives is now inevitable.

The report’s bottom line is easily lost in the details about Trump himself: that the United States has a president whom Russia actively intervened in our politics to elect. The Russian-controlled Internet Research Agency, Mueller’s report concluded, created “a targeted operation that by early 2016 favored candidate Trump and disparaged candidate [Hillary] Clinton.”

Mueller also clearly did not in any way encourage Attorney General William Barr to end further inquiry into whether the president obstructed justice. On the contrary, Mueller went out of his way to tell Congress that it has every right to decide that issue itself. “Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice,” he wrote.

Mueller also noted: “The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.”

The report will only embolden House Democrats who are already investigating the president and may increase pressure to launch formal impeachment inquiries, even though Democratic leaders have been reluctant to move in that direction.

Barr’s behavior has been truly shameful. From the moment he issued his letter on March 24 suggesting that the final Mueller document would clear the president — now we know it has done quite the opposite — Barr has behaved less like an attorney general than as a defense lawyer doubling as the president’s spokesman.

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Hours after the report was released, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said that “Attorney General Barr appears to have shown an unsettling willingness to undermine his own [Justice] Department in order to protect President Trump” and that Barr had been “disingenuous and misleading.” Barr’s behavior continued until the last moment before the report was made public. At a wholly unnecessary news conference that ended roughly an hour before the document was released, Barr spoke as though Mueller had resolved the entire matter in Trump’s favor and repeated the president’s battle cry, “no collusion,” four times.

But Mueller — perhaps anticipating the importance of the word “collusion” in Trump’s propaganda — was explicit in saying that “collusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States Code, nor is it a term of art in federal criminal law.”

In fact, Mueller detailed many conversations and ties between the Trump circle and Russia. “In sum,” he wrote, “the investigation established multiple links between Trump Campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government. Those links included Russian offers of assistance to the Campaign. In some instances, the Campaign was receptive to the offer, while in other instances the Campaign officials shied away.”

Then came the one line in the report that Trump unambiguously liked and on which he wants to hang his entire argument: “Ultimately, the investigation did not establish that the Campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities.” But given the sentences that came before, it’s clear that not “establishing” conspiracy is not the same as having found no evidence of cooperation.

Here again, Mueller’s caution about leveling charges against the president still leaves Congress — particularly the House Intelligence Committee — with ample room to probe the “multiple links” with Russia that Mueller documented.

Oddly, Trump may have been protected from even more damaging conclusions about obstruction by staff members who refused to do what he asked. “The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful,” the report found, “but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.” Whatever this is, it is not exoneration of Trump.

The Mueller report paints a broad picture of an administration that systematically lied to just about everybody, including the public and the media. It describes a president prepared to do whatever was necessary to close down inquiries into his behavior and Russian ties. And it noted that “some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated — including some associated with the Trump Campaign — deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption.”

Mueller’s findings do not end Trump’s troubles. On the contrary, he is now in greater jeopardy because we know even more about what he did. Congress must take all the further steps required to ensure accountability.

E.J. Dionne is on Twitter: @EJDionne.

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Excellent announcement video - Mr. Joe Biden is presidential

Echo opinion editorial published in the Orlando Sentinel, in Florida by Jules Witcover

Joe Biden drops the other shoe -- on Trump
MaineWriter- In my opinion, America needs Joe Biden! 

He is presidential quality, he is qualified by his experience.

America needs to regain our leadership after the disastrous reign of terror we witnessed with the failed Trump administration. 

Yes, this blog echoes my personal feelings and more or less summarizes my endorsement of Mr. Biden. I like all of the Democratic candidates who are ganging up on the unqualified Donald Trump, but Mr. Biden is the one who will lead America out of our current political sink hole.  

Joe Biden gave a clear message about why he wants to be President Biden. He dropped the shoe directly on Trump.
WASHINGTON, DC -- Joe Biden in announcing his candidacy for president took dead aim at Donald Trump , declaring "we are in the battle for the soul of this nation."

Citing the president's observation on the violent 2017 demonstration in Charlottesville, Va., by "alt-right" activists that there were "some very fine people on both sides," Biden cast Trump as a defender of white supremacy and made clear he intends to sell himself as the Democrats' best vehicle to defeat him in 2020.

"In that moment," Biden said in a novel video launch of his campaign, "I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had seen in our lifetime. The core values of the nation, our standing in the world, our very democracy, everything that has made America America, is at stake."

At this point, the former vice president clings to a narrow lead in most polls over Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as well as, a flock of other Democratic hopefuls posting single digits, including a surprising newcomer, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana.

Mr. Biden plans to visit Pittsburgh Monday, followed by key Rust Belt states such as Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, where Trump secured decisive electoral votes in 2016 while losing the national popular vote. That focus could be central to Biden's 2020 prospects.

Despite his residual support in the early polls, Biden's campaign begins under a cloud of two previous presidential defeats and the question of whether his age and old-school liberalism are now out of step with growing progressivism in the party.

He insists he is the most progressive candidate in the field, while focusing on reviving the party's identity as champion of the American working stiff. He stands with one foot planted on each plot of ideological turf, while being a tough political in-fighter for all his celebrated conviviality, ready and able to take on the bombastic Trump.

Former Vice-President Joe Biden made a professional announcement where he explained why he is qualified to be President.
From the outset, much speculation about Biden has focused on his age; if elected, he'd take office at age 79, which would make him the oldest American president. Sanders is a year older, and looks it, but his age hasn't been treated as a handicap for him.

A prominent strategist and aide to Democratic and Republican presidents, David Gergen, has suggested that Biden might be wise to declare that if elected he will serve only a single term. He would commit himself to applying his wide experience of 36 years in the Senate and eight years as vice president as a calming and unifying influence in the wake of the chaotic first Donald Trump term, and then step aside. But others note that such a gesture would only make Biden, if elected, a premature lame duck president.

If he has any clearly discernable advantage over the other contenders on issues, it is his wide and personal connections and experience with the major world players and controversies in foreign policy. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a globe-trotter, and then as vice president, he was Obama's point man coping with the most difficult world crises.

This experience uniquely prepares him to debate his Democratic opponents in a series of scheduled televised events in June, sponsored by the Democratic National Committee. 

By the same token, Biden will be a target based on a mixed record of successes and stumbles.

Still, he brings to the challenge the same indomitable spirit and feistiness that has convinced many Democratic loyalists that he could be the country's most able challenger, by experience and temperament, to end the Donald Trump era.

The president has already amply demonstrated his willingness to go toe to toe with Biden, who once said he'd like to meet Trump "behind the gym." To which Donald replied that he'd "love it." But much more is at stake than which of these two septuagenarians (neither of whom walks softly) carries the bigger stick.

If Joe Biden as a strong voice in the Democratic conversation can somehow contribute to what should be a bipartisan effort to return normality back to American politics, his decision to run will have been the right one, whether he wins the presidency or not.

( Jules Witcover 's latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power," published by Smithsonian Books. You can respond to this column at

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Essay- Russian interference: Mueller opened more questions about 2016 election

Why did Trump have such a strong bond with Putin? Did Trump have a personal reason, not some foreign policy reason, to favor Russia? Why did Trump push Flynn to be favorable to Russia?

"...the version of the report released is only the start of wide-ranging and intensive House investigations." - Charles Tiefer
Professor of law, University of Baltimore

The release on April 18 of a redacted version of the Mueller report came after two years of allegations, speculation and insinuation – but not a lot of official information about what really happened between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Nor had there been much light shed on whether the president tried to obstruct the investigation into his campaign.

The report prepared by special counsel Robert Mueller and issued by the Justice Department provided greater detail about those questions. And it offered more information about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The Trump administration will want to argue that the release of the Mueller report is the end of investigating the Russia scandal.

On the contrary, the version of the report released is only the start of wide-ranging and intensive House investigations.

I served as special deputy chief counsel of the House Iran-contra investigation of the Reagan administration. We did months of hearings on the type of material that is either incomplete or redacted, as today’s Congress will find, in the Mueller report.

Here are some of the ways the House will likely follow up with more investigation.

Bring in witnesses to testify

The House will call some of the witnesses mentioned in the report for their full story, not just their cameo appearance in this incomplete report.
 the version of the report released is only the start of wide-ranging and intensive House investigations.

But, until we get a House public hearing with Flynn as a witness, we will not know the full story.

Why did Trump have such a strong bond with Putin? Did Trump have a personal reason, not some foreign policy reason, to favor Russia? Why did Trump push Flynn to be favorable to Russia?

The report does not say.

With Flynn, as with many others, the report is the start, not the finish, of getting the full story.

2. Intelligence committee investigation

Attorney General Barr has announced that a “less redacted” version is, or will be, prepared for a few congressional figures. Presumably he means that the classified parts of the report that describe secret intelligence, which have been redacted, will be shown to the congressional leadership.

But, the leadership cannot itself undertake an investigation.

This is the kind of material that normally goes to the entire House Intelligence Committee. That committee can follow up with demands for documents and closed hearings. And that committee has the trusted expertise to determine that the conclusions of their inquiry can be made public, either via open hearings or by report to the House and the public.

The committee could determine what is actually known by investigators about how Russia viewed Trump and what Russia may have done that secured Trump’s favor.
3. Release grand jury information

Furthermore, the report redacts not just classified information, but grand jury information as well. And Barr may well have omitted, rather than redacted, invaluable grand jury evidence, especially documents.

These could be released by the attorney general to Congress with a court order under what is called Federal Criminal Rule 6(e).

Barr refused at congressional hearings to seek such an order. But, under sufficient pressure from Congress – against the background of a public that wants the full report and the full story – he could reconsider.

In the Watergate scandal, the prosecutors got exactly such a court order so they could make invaluable evidence available to the House Judiciary Committee.

4. Limit what’s limited by ‘HOM’- Harm to Ongoing Matter
There is a great deal of key material redacted in the report with Barr’s label, “HOM” or “Harm to Ongoing Matter.” That means the redacted material likely relates to an ongoing investigation by law enforcement.

This appears to have been done with a very broad brush. Under pressure from the House, backed by the public, this could be treated by Barr with a fine scalpel instead.

For example, one of the most promising avenues to investigate is the potential overlap between Russia’s attempts to help Trump, WikiLeaks’ dissemination of material embarrassing to Hillary Clinton, and Trump’s requests for help in making material damaging to Clinton public. Who can forget Trump shouting, “I love WikiLeaks”?

Yet, Barr’s broad-brush redactions wipe out a whole section on WikiLeaks. Presumably Barr is saying, by this redaction, that the case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is an ongoing matter.

As the recent arrest of Assange makes clear, there is currently an investigation into his actions by the U.S., which has charged him with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. That means that WikiLeaks’ interaction with the Trump campaign is not the heart of that judicial matter. Rather, the heart is about Assange working with hackers who stole the damaging material.

So the House should be allowed to pursue the part – WikiLeaks and its interactions with the Trump campaign – which is central to the House’s concerns but peripheral to prosecutors of Assange.

5. Documents, documents, documents

Finally, this is just Mueller’s report

Behind it is much more that would be of vital interest to congressional investigators and the public.

This 400-plus page report is not the underlying information alluded to in the report, like copies of emails or other documents, that provides broader information about so many matters.

The House has every reason to seek and to receive the underlying information.

These various examples are just the beginning of what the House can seek to find as it takes off from the incomplete and redacted Mueller report.

When I was an attorney for the House Iran-contra Committee, we received far more encouragement and cooperation from independent counsel Lawrence Walsh than is promised by Barr. And we went on to dig up striking material during months of hearings.

I believe the House will now pick up where the Department of Justice has left off.

"Russia, if you're listening!" And indeed they were. 

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