How to Read the Mueller Report

“Even before Barr releases the report, those planning on reading it would do well to reflect on what it is — and what it is not. It is, by regulation, a report on the prosecutions and declinations the Mueller team took during their tenure.

It is not supposed to be, contrary to many claims, a report on everything that Mueller discovered. Already there have been hints that it will not include the second half of Rod Rosenstein’s mandate to Mueller — to figure out the nature of links between Trump’s team and Russia. If that stuff is excluded, then it probably will get reported, secretly, to the Intelligence Committees and no further. That’s important because the stuff that would compromise Trump — but would not necessarily implicate him in a crime — may by definition not show up in this report (though the stuff specifically relating to Trump may show up in the obstruction case).

Finally, it’s unclear how much Mueller will include about referrals and ongoing investigations. I expect he’ll include descriptions of the things he and Rosenstein decided deserved further prosecutorial scrutiny but did not fit under the narrow rubric of whether Trump’s team coordinated or conspired with the Russian government on the hack-and-leak.”

—Marcy Wheeler, “How to Read the Mueller Report.” emptywheel.net. April 15, 2019.

The House Democrats’ “Rebuke” of Rep. Ilhan Omar is a Fraud For Many Reasons

It is, for instance, beyond dispute that what Omar is saying is true given that the very first bill passed by the U.S. Senate this year was one that allowed punishment for American citizens who boycott Israel, while U.S. citizens in 26 states are formally punished for boycotting this foreign nation, as we reported last month in the case of a Texas elementary speech pathologist who lost her job for refusing to sign a pledge not to boycott Israel (to keep her job with Texas, she’s allowed to boycott any other nation or even an American state: just not this one favored foreign nation).

Thus far, the two federal courts to rule on such laws have struck them down as unconstitutional violations of the free speech rights of American citizens on behalf of Israel.

How can anyone possibly pretend that it’s invalid or offensive to observe, as Congresswoman Omar did, that some in America demand allegiance to a foreign nation when American citizens are allowed to boycott American states but are punished for boycotting this one specific foreign nation?

—Glenn Greenwald, “The House Democrats’ ‘Rebuke’ of Rep. Ilhan Omar is a Fraud For Many Reasons, Including its Wild Distortion of Her Comments.” The Intercept. March 5, 2019.

And while there is a lot of speculation that President Trump might by compromised and be an agent of Russia, let’s not overlook the fact that there is a large contingent of the U.S. Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, that appear to be agents of Israel.

It’s a lie to equate criticism of the Israeli state with anti-Semitism. Government cannot be religious, only people can. Further, there is a lot of behaviors to criticize in respect to Israel, from their unwillingness to acknowledge their possession of nuclear weapons and sign on to the nonproliferation treaty, the committing of war crimes on a captive civilian population, the West Bank barrier, Arabs as second-class Israeli citizens, etc. But, here’s the one I’d like to talk about:

“To date, the United States has provided Israel $134.7 billion (current, or noninflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding.

—Jeremy M. Sharp, “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel.Congressional Research Service. April 10, 2018.

How is this accomplished? Campaign contributions to members of Congress.

AIPAC is a significant player in terms of lobbying, accounting for the vast majority of lobbying spending by pro-Israel groups, spending more than $3.5 million in 2018. The organization was staunchly opposed to the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2015, lobbied extensively against it and supported the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the agreement.

Other pro-Israel groups are also prominent and active political spending forces each cycle. The 2018 midterms saw groups in the movement contribute more than $14.8 million, the highest total for them in a midterm since 1990. Contributions went predominantly towards Democrats who received 63 percent. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) received by far the most money from pro-Israel groups in 2018 with $546,507. In comparison, McCarthy received just $33,200 from pro-Israel groups in the midterms.

In all, 269 members of the House and 57 members of the Senate received some monetary contributions from pro-Israel interests in 2018.”

—Raymond Arke, “AIPAC doesn’t contribute directly to candidates. Which pro-Israel groups do?OpenSecrets.org. February 11, 2019

So, over half of Congress is in the pocket of pro-Israel groups for millions during the election cycle, which in turn, ensures that Israel continues to get billions of “foreign aid” from the United States every year. And to point out this fact is “anti-semitic”? It takes the freshman, first Muslim woman to Congress to get up the gumption to point to this outrageous fact, and she’s the one getting “rebuked”?

Can we get a little daylight between the United States and Israel? Our interests are not the same. I, and many other Americans, certainly don’t want billions to be sent to Israel, Saudi Arabia and others to fund military actions like the Gaza War, the current catastrophe in Yemen and so forth. It’s a travesty, and no one is going to say anything about it, Democrat or Republican, because so many members are bought and paid for by a powerful lobby. The fact that this lobby is primarily Jewish is besides the point.

To paraphrase Upton Sinclair a bit, “it is difficult to get a [Congressperson] to understand something, when [their campaign contributions] depends on [their] not understanding it.” So long as the difference in election outcomes is determined by these contributions, there will never be serious discussion and debate about U.S. foreign policy and Israel, which is part of the point of this “rebuke,” to make sure anyone thinking of bringing up will think it is more trouble than it is worth.

Facebook & Cambridge Analytica

“A whistleblower—a former Cambridge Analytica employee—presented a dossier of evidence to reporters that, according to the Observer, “includes emails, invoices, contracts and bank transfers that reveal more than 50 million profiles – mostly belonging to registered US voters – were harvested from the site in the largest ever breach of Facebook data.” The story is surprising on a number of levels. It suggests that Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, intentionally made misrepresentations in recent testimony to the British Parliament. It implicates the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah, who together played a major role in the Trump campaign. But more than anything, it calls into question Facebook’s handling of what is clearly a massive breach of user privacy. ”

—Justin Hendrix, “Follow-Up Questions For Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Trump Campaign on Massive Breach.” Just Security. March 17, 2018.

It makes as much sense to leave Facebook today, as it did a year ago. Except, today, we know that many of our worse suspicions were true.

Fair Representation Act

“Virginia Democratic Rep. Don Beyer authored and introduced the Fair Representation Act, which would enact a series of reforms designed to make our elections more competitive and open them up to more parties. Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna of California and Jamie Raskin of Maryland have co-sponsored the legislation.

The bill would do three things: require all congressional districts to be drawn by independent redistricting commissions, establish multi-member districts, and have all districts use what’s known as ranked-choice voting (RCV).”

—Jilani, Zaid. “New House Bill Would Kill Gerrymandering and Could Move America Away From Two-Party Dominance.” The Intercept. July 5, 2017.

Sounds like a good idea, except invariably democratic reforms of this sort always have unintended consequences. For example, it’s not too hard to imagine that this might break up the major parties leaving small, radical blocks with decisive votes on the Congressional level or multi-member districts where even members cancel themselves out and odd number groups have a microcosm of tyranny of the majority and the problems of faction outlined in Federalist Paper No. 10.