MSNBC Analysts PANIC Over Barr Letter: There’s No Complete Sentences from Mueller!

Whether you’re a liberal analyst, anchor, commentator, host, or something in between, Sunday wasn’t exactly the day you hoped with Attorney General Bill Barr’s letter to Congress that revealed the Mueller team didn’t find Trump-Russian collusion and the latter determined that the President did not obstruct justice.

For the so-called legal analysts on MSNBC, they were not satisfied, offering hot takes on everything from the lack of complete sentence excerpts from the Mueller report to just flatly not accepting the findings from either person on obstruction.

 

 

The Beat host Ari Melber suggested that it’s for the Democratically-controlled House to decide whether or not the President obstructed justice (click “expand”):

The comparison I'm making is that the House was the decision-maker on determining obstruction, meaning, whatever you think happened. Let’s say you, you say for sake of argument President A didn't obstruct and President B did. Who decides that? Well, in our constitutional system the reason why these probes are volatile without predetermining anything about this letter, it is typically the House that deals with presidential abuses of power if they are investigated or believed to have occurred. And so Barr let's make no mistake here, he's within his lawful authority. We've been reported he's been doing it by the book but he is making a judgment call that ultimately, in cases there have been find abuses of power, it's not the attorney general with the last word. So, that's him coming out of the gates in this letter and saying I'm quoting Mueller found no election conspiracy. Boom. I’m quoting that Mueller came to a middle ground, that is to say did not reach a final conclusion saying the President did or didn't commit obstruction and now I'm going to tip on that and say he didn't and whether our system of government and whether the Congress wants to deal with that or not I think is a big open question today. 

Like she was with Brett Kavanaugh during his second Senate hearing, MSNBC legal analyst Cynthia Alksne was not pleased with how things panned out: “[T]he big, bizarre thing here is that Bob Mueller does all of this work and then on obstruction, what’s the most obvious happening in plain sight? I mean, apparently he’s not even allowed to give an opinion.”

On Barr, she complained that Barr “has always had a kooky interpretation of obstruction,” so “[t]hat’s why it's really important to have a traditional prosecutor's answer about if there's obstruction.”

Melber returned during the next hour for PoliticsNation and took issue with how there weren’t full sentence excerpts from Mueller in Barr’s letter (click “expand”):

And I've got my copies and I'm sure many people around the country do, this is four pages. There's not a single full sentence in here that's quoted the Mueller report. Every quote from the Mueller report itself is a partial sentence. Now some of them are, as just discussed, quite important partial sentences, like no election collusion conspiracy. We started reporting the implication of that Friday night, because there were no election collusion conspiracy indictments....Mueller spent 22 months on it. I could do it in under 48 hours and go beyond the Mueller report's findings. So [Barr] is relaying one finding on no election collusion conspiracy. That's big and then he's going beyond the other finding, which was that there was evidence of obstruction, that the President is not exonerated but also not accused of a crime....I think this opens up questions about what were the sentences before and after. Why are they partial sentences? What this selective quoting? And on the obstruction, is that something the House wants to look at based on the evidence or take this sort of book report summary from the weekend work by the Attorney General. Do you want the book or are you satisfied with the book report? 

MSNBC legal analyst Danny Cevallos jumped in a few moments later (click “expand”):

The principles of federal prosecution have long held that just because you have probable cause that a crime was committed, that's not enough. That's just a threshold issue. You have to go on, keep investigating and mere probable cause. 51 percent, maybe enough to get you an indictment, but federal prosecutors need more. He may be telling us something in referencing those not once, but twice and part two is what you just said. He says explicitly, I didn't reach the issue of whether or not a sitting president can be indicted. But what he doesn't mention is whether a sitting president can obstruct justice and we know that Barr is aware of this issue, because it was his magna opus. It was his muse when he submitted an unsolicited memorandum that helped him get his job. So if the President cannot obstruct justice and he doesn't mention whether that went into his calculus, what do we know about whether he really made a determination as to whether there was obstruction and how will the House deal with that? 

Before going to a special edition of The Beat, investigative correspondent Tom Winters expressed hope that this would have ended with a report for the public like we saw with — get this — the Sandy Hook school shooting that “was so helpful to look at the search warrant returns, to look at the investigative steps they took in that investigation” and “[t]he interviews they conducted.”

Seriously. This is the example Winters held up.

Again, what a bad day for the liberal media.

To see the relevant transcript from March 24's MSNBC Live, click “expand.”

MSNBC Live
March 24, 2019
4:18 p.m. Eastern

ARI MELBER: My reaction is the most important parts of this letter are the direct quotes from the Mueller report. Everything else is Barr's views and conclusions, which are also significant, since he's Mueller's boss but are not the Mueller report everyone's been waiting for and anyone in any field knows that there's plenty that could be done with characterizing conclusion. So, in those direct quotes there is clearly as you've been reporting, there is clearly good news for the Trump campaign and President Trump if in that it echo what's we knew as a clue from Friday night because it ended without any indictments on collusion eviction conspiracy and here we see a quote of a finding that there was not a collusion election conspiracy between the Russian government and the Trump campaign and associates. Now, there isn't supposed to be one. That’s something most campaigns take for granted. They’re not even suspected of, but it is obviously after a 22-month probe a significant finding. Second I think where we'll see a huge fight and this is what I've been reading into in the letter, is we see already gap distance between Mueller's take on obstruction — what he carefully did and what we understand to be his conclusions and Barr going further, so let me tell you what I mean and we can get into it more if you like or have time. We see clearly as you discussed with the overstatement by the White House that Bob Mueller looked at potential obstruction, looked at that evidence, went through it and investigated it and said the President is not exonerated nor is he, in the view of Mueller, guilty of a federal crime within the ambit of his probe. So that is to put it simply, a middle ground and this letter then goes well beyond that. It accurately quotes, so credit to Barr that we only know because he quoting and I — I don’t have any reason to think he’s misquoting it, but then having said that, Barr goes much further saying now today after we know to be a short time, two days, has concluded on his own that there's no obstruction by the president. Now, if that rings in people's ears it should because people may remember in the ways of President Clinton or President Nixon, the questions around presidential obstruction as a potential high crime are genuinely dealt with or as lawyers say adjudicated by the House, not by the President's own Justice Department and so that right there is a glaring sign and that I think is interesting. 

KATY TUR: Well, what they had with Bill Clinton, he perjured himself. There was a difference there. 

MELBER: Well, I'm not referring to the underlying facts. The comparison I'm making is that the House was the decision-maker on determining obstruction, meaning, whatever you think happened. Let’s say you, you say for sake of argument President A didn't obstruct and President B did. Who decides that? Well, in our constitutional system the reason why these probes are volatile without predetermining anything about this letter, it is typically the House that deals with presidential abuses of power if they are investigated or believed to have occurred. And so Barr let's make no mistake here, he's within his lawful authority. We've been reported he's been doing it by the book but he is making a judgment call that ultimately, in cases there have been find abuses of power, it's not the attorney general with the last word. So, that's him coming out of the gates in this letter and saying I'm quoting Mueller found no election conspiracy. Boom. I’m quoting that Mueller came to a middle ground, that is to say did not reach a final conclusion saying the President did or didn't commit obstruction and now I'm going to tip on that and say he didn't and whether our system of government and whether the Congress wants to deal with that or not I think is a big open question today. 

(....)

4:37 p.m. Eastern

KATY TUR: Well, let’s talk about the point that Tom made a moment ago that DOJ doesn't typically charge obstruction if there is no underlying crime and they — and Bob Mueller found no underlying crime of conspiracy or collusion. 

CYNTHIA ALKSNE: Yeah, but the statute doesn’t say underlying crime. The statue says pending or proceeding. So, to me, that's — not controlling whatsoever and the big, bizarre thing here is that Bob Mueller does all of this work and then on obstruction, what’s the most obvious happening in plain sight? I mean, apparently he’s not even allowed to give an opinion. 

TUR: Well, are you saying not allowed — or did he choose not to?

ALKSNE: Well, I don't really know and I think that's the big question for me. As I looked at this, I just — I was confused by that. Why didn't he make an opinion about that? He's an experienced prosecutor. 

TUR: Doug what do you think? 

DOUG BURNS: Well, first of all, I agree with the statement on the law. In other words, if you're investigating something and I say to a witness, you know, go in there and lie, you know that can be obstruction, regardless of the underlying, but Tom makes a very good point, though, because I think coming out of this letter, I think it is very important that when you have the main issue is this a question of coordination or collusion, and they conclude fairly strongly, face it, put politics aside a minute legally, then obstruction is that much weaker as Tom explained and I agree with them, but Cynthia is right. Legally it's not an absolute flat prohibition. You’re right.

ALKSNE: No, it’s not totally and especially when Barr came in and Neil Katayl is right. He — he has always had a kooky interpretation of obstruction. That’s why it's really important to have a traditional prosecutor's answer about if there's obstruction. 

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s PoliticsNation on March 24, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s PoliticsNation
March 24, 2019
5:20 p.m. Eastern

ARI MELBER: And I've got my copies and I'm sure many people around the country do, this is four pages. There's not a single full sentence in here that's quoted the Mueller report. Every quote from the Mueller report itself is a partial sentence. Now some of them are, as just discussed, quite important partial sentences, like no election collusion conspiracy. We started reporting the implication of that Friday night, because there were no election collusion conspiracy indictments. But it is really striking that Barr basically said I'm going to do this through the weekend. Mueller spent 22 months on it. I could do it in under 48 hours and go beyond the Mueller report's findings. So he is relaying one finding on no election collusion conspiracy. That's big and then he's going beyond the other finding, which was that there was evidence of obstruction, that the President is not exonerated but also not accused of a crime and the House, which as we were discussing earlier, Katy, is where that would usually be dealt with. The House was getting muscled out in an attempt by the new Attorney General to say I'm going to issue my own collusion on that and doing that with these four partial sentences. And so you don't need to be a lawyer or an expert at Washington power politics to say, hmmm, I wonder if these four sentences, partial, are the very best you could find in the entire Mueller report about Donald Trump in there. To the messaging Chuck Todd was speaking to and so I think this opens up questions about what were the sentences before and after. Why are they partial sentences? What this selective quoting? And on the obstruction, is that something the House wants to look at based on the evidence or take this sort of book report summary from the weekend work by the Attorney General. Do you want the book or are you satisfied with the book report? 

TUR: Yeah and is the House going to say let us make our own determination on whether we believe the President of the United States obstructed justice? We already have a number of lawmakers who have expressed their opinion one way or the other when it comes to that, based on the publicly available evidence of it. I want to go around the table. Danny Cevallos, we haven't heard from you. Ari makes a good point. There is not one line in this four-page summary that quotes the Mueller report directly. What — what William Barr and Rod Rosenstein are asking the public and Congress and everybody to do is trust their judgment and we already know from William Barr's confirmation hearings there were a lot of Democrats who had deep reaggravations about whether they could trust his judgment, especially because of the letter he sent voluntarily to the president talking about executive privilege and what he sees this investigation as.

DANNY CEVALLOS: Yes. And I think the text is key. Ari is right to study it. We should all study the text of this summary because I think Barr is telling us several things without out and out saying them. The first is that why include that statement of Mueller's, that this does not exonerate the President and then add there is evidence on both sides? And then he also makes reference several times to the principles of federal prosecution. Well, what do those tell us?

The principles of federal prosecution have long held that just because you have probable cause that a crime was committed, that's not enough. That's just a threshold issue. You have to go on, keep investigating and mere probable cause. 51 percent, maybe enough to get you an indictment, but federal prosecutors need more. He may be telling us something in referencing those not once, but twice and part two is what you just said. He says explicitly, I didn't reach the issue of whether or not a sitting president can be indicted. But what he doesn't mention is whether a sitting president can obstruct justice and we know that Barr is aware of this issue, because it was his magna opus. It was his muse when he submitted an unsolicited memorandum that helped him get his job. So if the President cannot obstruct justice and he doesn't mention whether that went into his calculus, what do we know about whether he really made a determination as to whether there was obstruction and how will the House deal with that? 

(....)

5:58 p.m. Eastern

TOM WINTERS: I have covered several investigations now where there was a final report. Whether it be a grand jury presentment, whether it be an indictment, whatever it is. In those cases I know we have always been helped by looking at all of the materials that were included. I remember the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the Adam Lanza report put out by the Connecticut State Police. It was so helpful to look at the search warrant returns, to look at the investigative steps they took in that investigation. The interviews they conducted. So I think that provides so much more context to understand the scope of it. I mean, what type of — what led them down certain investigative paths? Who provided testimony? I think would just give us a so much more clearly picture. Frankly, take out the obstruction of justice issue, take out of the issue of whether or not there was coordination with Russia. It would be great to know what Russia was doing and some of the background behind that for the next election. 

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