‘The Russians Have Clearly Won’; MSNBC Melts Down Mueller Chose to ‘Abdicate’ Responsibility

As NewsBusters illustrated all day on Sunday, MSNBC’s nonsense was shooting out into the ether like water from a fire hose. During the 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour, so-called experts offered hot takes such as “the Russians have clearly won” and “Mueller basically seemed to abdicate or punt on” the obstruction portion of the investigation.

And concerning the letter from Attorney General Bill Barr, one MSNBC panelist claimed that Barr had placed “five fingers on the scale[s]” of justice to save the President.

 

 

Former Obama administration U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade fretted that she’s “never seen anything like this before” found “it really curious that Robert Mueller was not the one to make the recommendation as to whether this did or did not constitute an offense for obstruction of justice” because “[t]he whole point of having a special counsel insulated from supervision in the chain of command.”

She added that while obstruction cases are “hard....in all contexts because not only do you have to show that the person did things to obstruct an investigation, but you have to show that they did so with a corrupt intent” but it shouldn’t have necessarily ended with a decision to clear Trump.

The Beat host Ari Melber replied that he too found that “wild.”

Going to The Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand (who was distraught on Friday), Melber reiterated his complaint from previous hours of coverage about how there were only a few direct quotes from the Mueller team and Bertrand responded in kind (click “expand”):

MELBER: [I]t has I count basically four quotes from the Mueller report. None go longer than a full sentence, but it attempts and we'll find out whether it works it resolves everything here...[Y]ou were someone who is saying things that some of the viewers thought might mean there were going to be collusion indictments.

(....)

BERTRAND: [T]he obstruction side of all of this is really interesting to me based on what Barbara said at the end there, which is they say that while the President — “the evidence does not establish that the president was involved in the underlying crime related to Russian election interference, therefore, the absence of such evidence bears upon the President’s with intent with respect to obstruction.” That does not really — you can't really — how do you square that circle, right? Because they couldn't find evidence that the President directly engaged in a conspiracy with Russian government officials, which I think is also a very important sentence to parse, right? They said that there was no evidence to establish that there was collusion between the campaign and the Russian government — is — is enough for them to say, well, then the President could not have obstructed here because there was no crime. 

“[S]o for Mueller to have left this conclusion to Barr to be made is really, really — is interesting and I think that maybe in the full report we might get a better understanding of why he chose to do it that way. But it just seems like you're leaving the fox in the hen house in this case,” she added.

Former Obama intelligence official and MSNBC partisan Jeremy Bash was like McQuade in expressing shock that Mueller didn’t conclude the President obstructed justice and that Barr made the decision that he did:

[Barr] is a presidential appointee. He was appointed by Donald Trump. He — he — he led his confirmation hearings with the point is that I'll be fair and impartial and I basically won't put my thumb on the scale and here is putting five fingers on the scale on the most important question which is did the President of the United States abuse his office, abuse his power[.] 

But perhaps there was no one more distraught than MSNBC contributor Malcolm Nance considering all the nonsense he’s uttered over the last few years. 

When Melber asked if he accepts the conclusion that there was “no chargeable collusion,” Nance played the role of O.J. Simpson searching for whomever the real killers were (click “expand”):

Well, you know, I saw all of the collusion and conspiracy in plain sight. The question is Robert Mueller's standard for that, which is a legal standard, which to him was if there is no a wink and a nod that I can see or technically a signed FSB contract, then I can't bring them up on the charges. But we’ve seen the things occur and in any other standard, the person would have been arrested, they would have been polygraphed and they would have been put out or — or brought to trial. So, I found that a high standard and you know, maybe it's a legal standard we need to take a look at, but I want to hear him tell me why the Russia if you're listening speech was a — did accept it as a joke? Did he accept the changing of the Georgian platform as a joke? The handing off of data to Konstantin Kilimnik, a GRU, you know, asset as a joke, somebody’s got to explain these things and if it was I couldn't get a 100 percent slam dunk then the Russians have clearly won on a very well planned and coordinated operation even by Mr. Mueller's standards. 

In the hours final minutes, New York Times reporter Katie Benner demanded “that we should start asking ourselves why did Robert Mueller basically seem to abdicate or punt on” obstruction while former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks channeled Nance “that there’s too much evidence in plain sight” that Trump’s guilty.

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

MSNBC’s The Beat
March 24, 2019
6:14 p.m. Eastern

BARBARA MCQUADE: I have never seen anything like this before. In fact, I find it really curious that Robert Mueller was not the one to make the recommendation as to whether this did or did not constitute an offense for obstruction of justice, that he said here are the facts and I leave it to you to make the call, Mr. Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General to make that call. The whole point of having a special counsel insulated from supervision in the chain of command is so that that decision can be made objectively and with public confidence and so I find it rather odd that he would just gather up the facts and say there you go, you make the decision.

(....)

6:18 p.m. Eastern

MCQUADE: These are hard cases to make in all contexts because not only do you have to show that the person did things to obstruct an investigation, but you have to show that they did so with a corrupt intent and that is for a bad purpose, whenever that may be and in this instance, to cover up some underlying crime. One of the things I found also curious is that they say that the fact that there was no underlying conclusion while not dispositive was one factor that they looked at. Ordinarily the fact that you don't — aren't able to prove the underlying crime does not exonerate a person from obstruction. 

ARI MELBER: I thought that was wild and we haven’t gotten to that yet. I'm so glad you brought that up. 

(....)

6:20 p.m. Eastern

MELBER: Here's where I want to go people are saying, what just happened? Did we get the Mueller report? Do we get the end of this? What we got is this four page letter right here — we got this four page letter, Natasha, and it has I count basically four quotes from the Mueller report. None go longer than a full sentence, but it attempts and we'll find out whether it works it resolves everything here. I’d like to continue to focus on the obstruction piece with you, which seems to be the weaker side for Barr and the President. I will turn to the stronger side with you, because there are no collusion indictments and you were someone who is saying things that some of the viewers thought might mean there were going to be collusion indictments. But sticking to the obstruction, your analysis of what you heard from Barbara and whatever else is on your mind since this is your first time tonight? 

NATASHA BERTRAND: Yeah, yeah, so I’ve been thinking a little bit more about the collusion side of things, but the obstruction side of all of this is really interesting to me based on what Barbara said at the end there, which is they say that while the President — “the evidence does not establish that the president was involved in the underlying crime related to Russian election interference, therefore, the absence of such evidence bears upon the President’s with intent with respect to obstruction.” That does not really — you can't really — how do you square that circle, right? Because they couldn't find evidence that the President directly engaged in a conspiracy with Russian government officials, which I think is also a very important sentence to parse, right? They said that there was no evidence to establish that there was collusion between the campaign and the Russian government —

MELBER: Government, yeah.

BERTRAND: — is — is enough for them to say, well, then the president could not have obstructed here because there was no crime. 

MELBER: Well, and from your reporting do know disagrees with this approach to prosecuting obstruction? 

BERTRAND: Bill Barr. 

MELBER: Well, no, I was going -- who disagrees with Bill Barr is Bob Mueller. 

BERTRAND: Right.

MELBER: Because he prosecuted Mike Flynn for obstruction crimes lying to the FBI. Full stop. Now, there may have been other stuff but the notion as a prosecutor when somebody obstructs and I'm not saying the Mueller report says that. All we know is the Mueller report leaves the question open. Which is itself interesting. For whatever reason, Mueller chose to do it that way. 

BERTRAND: Exactly. 

MELBER: When Flynn obstructed, Mueller went to court and then ultimately won a convict then through a plea by saying the crime here is lying to the FBI, obstruction, nothing else. 

BERTRAND: And we have to remember also that Barr is the one who wrote this 20 page memo outlying why the obstruction inquiry that Mueller was — was going after was really misguided and why it was not appropriate for him to be going down that road and so for Mueller to have left this conclusion to Barr to be made is really, really — is interesting and I think that maybe in the full report we might get a better understanding of why he chose to do it that way. But it just seems like you're leaving the fox in the hen house in this case.

MELBER: You look like you want to get in on this. Before I turn you to collusion, is that right?

JEREMY BASH: Right.

MELBER: Okay, go ahead. 

BASH: Yeah so on the Mikke Flynn point, I actually thinking it’s actually even a stronger case to the point you’re making Mike Flynn's underlying conduct which is talking to the Russian Federation about foreign policy issues I would argue is manifestly legal. There was nothing illegal about that. 

MELBER: Sure. 

BASH: Yet he was still convicted of obstruction, so I think that undermines the point that the attorney general is making this letter, but I think the weakest part of the letter and the one that I think will invite the most questions from Congress appropriately is this sentence on the second full paragraph of page three in which he says: “The special counsel's decision to describe the facts of his obstruction investigation without reaching a legal conclusion, leaves it to the Attorney General.” It’s that third person. I'm writing a letter referring to myself in the third person. I'm leaving it to the attorney general. Says who? Where’d he get that from?

MELBER: Yeah, let’s I’m going to slow you down to build on this. You're noting that Barr is making a claim here. Just because he's the attorney general and just cause he masterfully choreographed weekend coverage and Sunday night releases and all this doesn't mean he's the final word. You're pointing out he asserts here it would sound worse if he said "I." 

BASH: Yep

MELBER: But it is him, so we can go from third to first. 

BASH: Yep.

MELBER: He is saying I think I should be in charge of this decision because Mueller didn't reach a conclusion. 

BASH: That's right. 

MELBER: And historically as I noted at the top who would reach a conclusion on President's potential obstruction. 

BASH: Yeah, well, look, the mandate was to put a report to the attorney general, but the — the guidelines pertaining to the special counsel's role doesn't then say that if the special counsel is inconclusive on the important matter like whether if the President obstructed justice that that goes to the attorney general. There's nothing in the law, there’s nothing in the policy that says that it is Bill Barr’s job to substitute his own judgment for the special counsel and I think there’s a lot of reasons why he shouldn't substitute his own judgment. After all, he is a presidential appointee. He was appointed by Donald Trump. He — he — he led his confirmation hearings with the point is that I'll be fair and impartial and I basically won't put my thumb on the scale and here is putting five fingers on the scale on the most important question which is did the President of the United States abuse his office, abuse his power because, after all — 

MELBER: That's — that’s your view and I think viewers can tell you're suspicious or critical or skeptical of this issue and we'll have time to go into it. Then I want to get to collusion. 

BASH: Yes. 

MELBER: Did you honestly expect that sooner or later, someone was going to get in trouble for collusion? 

BASH: I wasn't sure why and here's why because the Trump Tower meeting, the Roger stone meetings and the outreach to Papadopoulos all kinda looked like the Russians were trying to target information to the Trump campaign but we didn't have a lot evidence of information going the other way. 

(....)

6:41 p.m. Eastern

MALCOLM NANCE: The part I'm mainly focused on is the question of conspiracy, whether there was an actual operation where as Robert Mueller put it whether there was explicit or tacit coordination in some way, shape or form and I'm sure Mr. McLaughlin can appreciate this. You know, we’ve had people who have done things before where there were, you know, there were not signs of an explicit agreement with them. One for example is former CIA officer Aldrich Ames. He started to do his treason in 1988 but it wasn't until he actually was caught making a chalk signal on the mailbox that they saw an actual explicit act and then the FBI arrested him and by this standard of — that — that —

MELBER: Do you accept there's no chargeable collusion? 

NANCE: Well, you know, I saw all of the collusion and conspiracy in plain sight. The question is Robert Mueller's standard for that, which is a legal standard, which to him was if there is no a wink and a nod that I can see or technically a signed FSB contract, then I can't bring them up on the charges. But we’ve seen the things occur and in any other standard, the person would have been arrested, they would have been polygraphed and they would have been put out or — or brought to trial. So, I found that a high standard and you know, maybe it's a legal standard we need to take a look at, but I want to hear him tell me why the Russia if you're listening speech was a — did accept it as a joke? Did he accept the changing of the Georgian platform as a joke? The handing off of data to Konstantin Kilimnik, a GRU, you know, asset as a joke, somebody’s got to explain these things and if it was I couldn't get a 100 percent slam dunk then the Russians have clearly won on a very well planned and coordinated operation even by Mr. Mueller's standards. 

(....)

6:53 p.m. Eastern

KATIE BENNER: I think that we should start asking ourselves why did Robert Mueller basically seem to abdicate or punt on one of his three major jobs. He was supposed to figure out whether or not Russia swayed the election, which he did determine happened. He was trying to figure out whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in that effort and he said that he did not have evidence to support that charge. But on the third claim, he decided to leave it to the Attorney General per this letter and we should start asking ourselves why that is and in addition to asking Bill Barr on the Hill, we should also see if Mr. Mueller will come to the Hill as well to answer that question. 

(....)

6:54 p.m. Eastern

JILL WINE-BANKS: I think we need to see the full report and all of the facts that it relies on because it may not even be that if we don't see the exact semantics that Mueller used, we’ll never know if he actually gave the power to the Attorney General, or whether he intended to give it to Congress, which seems to me more appropriate. And I also agree with Malcolm that there's too much evidence in plain sight about what could be obstruction and what could be intent. The comment to Lester Holt on air that he fired Comey to get rid of the investigation seems like a clear evidence of intent. So, when it comes to obstruction, I was asked almost two years ago as to whether I could make a case for obstruction and at the time, I answered Brian Williams with “I think I can.” I really still feel that I know I can now. I'm even stronger in feeling that there is an obstruction case. 

NBDaily Mueller Report Russia Liberals & Democrats Trump-Russia probe MSNBC The Beat with Ari Melber Robert Mueller Katie Benner Ari Melber Malcolm Nance Donald Trump Bill Barr Jeremy Bash
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