Friday, October 23, 2020
Miles from the Mainstream
D. R. ZUKERMAN, proprietor

Reasons for Some Questions on
The Mueller Report

September 19, 2019 --

LPR is puzzled by statements found in footnotes to Mueller Report, by the failure of the Report to express concern about possible leaks, and by redactions as to sources alleging Russian meddling in the 2016 election by social media, political rallies and hacking.

LPR would note that allegations of Russian interference were first raised by June 2016, five months before the election, and only intensified after Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the presidential contest. Did Russia meddle to the extent alleged by the anti-Trump media and the Clinton campaign? Was the Russian-meddling narrative the fictitious work of senior intelligence figures in the Obama campaign intended, first, to defeat Donald Trump and, thereafter, to undermine his capacity to govern? The answer to these questions must await the results of investigations by Attorney General William Barr on the origins of Russiagate.

The Executive Summary to Volume I of The Mueller Report begins: "The Internet Research Agency (IRA carried out the earliest Russian interference operations identified by the investigation -- a social media campaign designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States." Calls from the left for the impeachment of President Trump alleging that he threatens democracy cannot be considered conducive political and social harmony in the United States. On September 12, the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve an impeachment inquiry and chairman Nadler was quoted as saying "The conduct under investigation poses a threat to our democracy." What conduct is the chairman referring to? LPR wonders that the "conduct" is simply the fact that Donald J. Trump is president, with the impeachment exercise part of the left's strategy to prevent the re-election of President Trump.

For present purpose, LPR asks clicksters to consider the following discrete references to The Mueller Report, references that may lead to calling in question the bona fides of the Mueller probe.

The Mueller Report relied, in part, on articles that appeared in the media. For example, the following sentence appears early in Volume II of the Report: "During the 2016 campaign, the media raised questions about a possible connection between the Trump Campaign and Russia." This assertion is tagged with footnote "7." This footnote states, in pertinent part: "This section summarizes and cites various news stories not for the truth of the information contained in the stories, but rather to place candidate Trump's response to those stories in context."

The text went on to report that Mr. Trump, after the election, continued to deny any connections to Russia and privately expressed concerns that reports of Russian election interference might lead the public to question the legitimacy of his election." The statement is tagged with footnote "8." Footnote 8 reads, that while the investigation noted a number of links between Russian officials and the Trump campaign, "the evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election." (The text of both volumes of the Report states that the investigation did not find that the Trump Campaign coordinated with Russian officials or "that the President committed a crime....")

LPR does not recall that either of these footnotes was called to the attention of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, during this testimony before the House Judiciary an House Intelligence committees, the past July 24. Clearly, the gist of these footnotes is that Mr. Trump 1) was not dissembling when he denied reports that he conspired with Russia to win the election, and 2) that those reports may not have been accurate.

Another confusing footnote, "594" was tagged to the description, in Volume I of Dmitri Simes as editor of The National Interest. This footnote refers to a Michael Isikoff article on Carter Page that appeared at Yahoo News, September 23, 2016. This Isikoff story had nothing to do with Dmitri Simes or his publication. (A similar discrepancy applies to footnote 595 in Volume I. he text refers to the board and advisory council of the Center for National Interest and the footnote alludes to Carter Page.)

One media reference in the Report seems to have been based on a leak from the special counsel's office: "On the evening of June 14, 2017, the Washington Post published an article stating that the Special Counsel was investigating whether the President had attempted to obstruct justice."

LPR does not recall that the special counsel was asked about this leak during his appearances before the Judiciary and Intelligence committees, July 24. Mr. Mueller's Report did note that the Post article "was the first public report" that he was being investigated by the special counsel.

The Mueller Report, early in Volume II, suggests that allegations of coordination between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government were based on Mr. Trump's comments hoping for improved relations with Russia and that such comments were favorably received in Russia. In this context, however, as Prof. Stephen F. Cohen has noted, on the John Batchelor Show and in The Nation, President Trump is being consistent with Republican interest in detente with Russia, going back to President Eisenhower and continued by President Reagan.

The Mueller Report, in Volume II, also asserted that blame for the hacking of Democratic National Committee computers was first attributed to Russia on June 14, 2016, by a cybersecurity firm working for the DNC and, soon after Wikileaks posted hacked DNC documents, July 22, 2016, the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton "publicly contended that Russia had hacked the DNC emails and arranged their release in order to help candidate Trump."

The Mueller Report added that four days later, The New York Times reported that intelligence agencies told the [Obama] White House they had "'high confidence" that the Russian government was responsible for the DNC hacking.

(LPR would point out that references in The Mueller Report, to Russian sources in the hacking context are redacted, however, "for Investigative Technique" or as "Harm to Ongoing Matter." LPR would also note that there was a time -- in the 1970's, after Watergate -- when the declarations from intelligence agencies were not accepted without question.)