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If Donald Trump were the president of any private or public entity — if he were the president of anything, that is, except the United States — he would be under indictment today for obstruction of justice, intimidating witnesses, and conspiracy at a minimum. That is what the Mueller Report, even in redacted form, tells us in no uncertain language.

“No obstruction”? That’s merely another ridiculous Trump lie, repeated by his public relations flack, Bill Barr, who operates in the guise of the U.S. attorney general.

The rules that govern the Justice Department prohibit criminal prosecution of a sitting U.S. president. Fortunately for him, but unfortunately for our country, that means Trump will escape the usual consequences of nearly a dozen instances of felonious behavior outlined by Mueller.  Ordering around his subordinates like an old-time mob boss, the president repeatedly attempted to curtail Mueller’s investigation.

Anyone who has been paying attention saw several of these interventions unfold, starting with his attempt to prevent the prosecution of former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and his dismissal of James Comey, the uncooperative FBI director, and his public efforts to bully Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who showed surprising backbone by insisting on his own recusal from the Russia probe). But Trump’s malfeasance went far beyond those more-or-less public incidents.

Based on extensive, credible, and corroborated testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn, Mueller reveals several attempts by Trump to have the special counsel fired and end the investigation. On a June Saturday in 2017, McGahn recalled the president phoning him from Camp David and ordering him to call Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein with instructions to fire Mueller. Instead McGahn wisely called Reince Priebus, then chief of staff, and lamented that the president had told him “to do some crazy sh*t.”

So insistent was Trump —  barking “Mueller has to go” and “you gotta do this, you gotta call Rod” — that McGahn considered resigning. He didn’t want to be remembered in history as a pawn in a crooked president’s Saturday Night Massacre.

When everyone thought the president just spent all his time watching Fox News, tweeting, and eating burgers, he was apparently occupied with incessant attempts to disrupt or end the Russia probe. As the report notes:

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.

Like McGahn, several of the others caught up in Trump’s obstruction efforts, including former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, deflected his bullying — which probably saved them from indictment.

But the notion that the president’s failure to derail the probe somehow mitigates his obvious guilt is wrong. Obstruction doesn’t have to succeed to be worthy of indictment. It is just as wrong as the notion, articulated by the hackish Barr, that if there was no underlying crime of conspiracy with the Russians, there could be no obstruction charge. In fact, nearly every legal expert dismisses that theory as pure nonsense. Many people have gone to prison for obstruction without any underlying crime.

Were there underlying offenses of conspiracy with a hostile foreign power? The report’s first part details many shameful instances of collusion between Russians and the Trump inner circle, which “expected” help from that foreign adversary. According to Mueller, however, no crime could be proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

But consider what we now know Trump himself said to Sessions when first told of the special counsel’s appointment. He knew what his son Don Jr. and his son-in-law Jared Kushner had done; he knew that he had lied about Trump Tower Moscow, and many other things. He knew what Manafort — whom he succeeded in silencing with a promised pardon — had done.

“Oh my God. This is terrible,” he said. “This is the end of my Presidency. I’m f**ked.”

He had motive, method, and many opportunities to obstruct justice, exactly as Nixon did. The question that every honest member of Congress now faces is whether he has earned the same fate.


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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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