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March 26, 2019

Hal Brown’s blog on Donald Trump and More - Mar-23, 2019 to ?

April 5-6, 2019 Read, comment on story

Conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin writes in her April 5th OpEd “William Barr’s stunt has backfired:”
The Justice Department seems to be engaged in prolonged gamesmanship both to keep the report bottled up and to rationalize Barr’s interference with Congress’s right to see the information. Once it became known that “the summaries the Mueller team had prepared were intended to be ready for public consumption in a timely manner, because the redactions could have been done fairly quickly,” the Justice Department had to respond.
However, its retort was too cute by half. “Justice spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement Thursday that every page of Mueller’s confidential report was marked with a notation that it may contain confidential grand jury material, adding that it ‘therefore could not be publicly released.’” That’s nonresponsive and misleading. The summaries, according to the prosecutors, were prepared in such a form to allow quick transmission (e.g. attach them to Barr’s original letter). Barr refused to do this, just as he has refused to request the court give permission to send the whole report to Congress.
I wasn’t sure exactly what too cute by half meant. Here’s what Urban Dictionary says: 
  • A phrase to denote the subject to be excessively sneak or cute.
  • That is, if the subject were being HALF as sneaky (cute, clever) as they had been, it would have still been considered excessive or too much.
Indeed, I have to agree.

I hope Rubin is right when she concludes that:
Even if the feds never charge Trump, that could leave considerable territory for New York state prosecutors to charge Trump under state law. 
You see, simply because Trump and Barr want to wish away the Mueller report doesn’t mean it’s gone. To the contrary, its release might prove even more debilitating to them both. The information it contains, along with any additional evidence prosecutors in the Southern District of New York uncover, will not vanish. The facts are the facts. Voters will render one verdict; down the road state and federal prosecutors might seek others. Trump can run, but he cannot hide forever.

Leave it to Trump toady William Barr to make an oxymoron of the motto of the DOJ Qui Pro Domina Justitia Sequitur, or roughly translated “ he (meaning the AG) who prosecutes on behalf of (Lady) justice.
Northwestern University Neuropsychologist Dr. Sandra Weintraub joins John Williams to address President Trump’s recent verbal gaffes, and what they mean about his neurological health. That’s in response to some of the public’s belief that these blunders are symptoms of such diseases as dementia or aphasia. This is modified support for what John D Gartner, Bandy Lee and others have been saying. She seems very objective, not as alarmed as others. The interviewer spends inordinate time on exactly why he said oranges instead or origins. He even mentioned Oliver Sachs. They didn't get into the worsening patterns Trump has exhibited over the past few years.

Click image to read story

Michael Cohen offers Democrats 14 million files on Donald Trump in bid to delay prison sentence By my calculation, if each file was on an 12 inch piece of paper, laid end to end they would run for over thousands of miles.

April 4, 2019

 - Daily Kos story - GOP will wait 'til Trump rails against evil "orangutans" before they make sure he gets a neuro exam

The Cottage physician (1892) a gift from Dr. Howard Bornstein : best known methods of treatment in all diseases, accidents and emergencies of the home. The object of The Cottage Physician is fourfold : 1, to prevent sickness ; 2, to promote health ; 3, to diminish human suffering ;4, to lessen the expense of maintaining the blessing of health in the home.

April 3, 2019

"Chris Hayes is what every man would be if feminists ever achieve absolute power in this country: Apologetic, bespectacled and deeply, deeply concerned about global warming and the patriarchal systems that cause it." Tucker Carlson

Below: DonkeyHotey caricatures with my background. 

When that shark bites with her teeth, dear
Scarlet billows, they begin to spread
Fancy white gloves though AOC, dear
So there's rarely, never one trace of red

I've been telling friends this for a long time: Mar-a-Lago is a spies dream come true.

Trump has been photoshopped into this painting many times, often erroneously attributed to Hieronymus Bosch. Here's my darker version. Note Christ on the left.

A past president of the American Psychoanalytic Assoc. was on Lawrence O'Donnell last night. O'Donnell has had other psychology experts on before: John D Gartner, Lance Dodes, and Bandy Lee on discussing Trump's mental unfitness. She was addressing Trump's possible mental deterioration indicated by twice saying his father was born in Germany and using word orange instead or origins (of investigations) also twice.
During a bizarre meeting with the NATO Secretary General Trump lied about his father, Fred Trump, being born in Germany and demanded to know the “oranges” of the Mueller report, when he meant to say “origins.”

“My father is German, was German,” Trump falsely stated. His father was born in New York. “Born in a very wonderful place in Germany, so I have a great feeling for Germany.” His grandfather was born in Germany.

He also ranted about the “oranges” instead of "origins" of Robert Mueller‘s investigation.

April 2, 2019

Interesting article but worth looking at
if only for the GIF - click image above

Cody Fenwick: 

New report says Republicans find Trump’s ‘erratic behavior’ to be ‘maddening’ — but there’s a reason they still defend him

 But is this really the best explanation for the Republican Party’s devotion to Trump? It’s not exactly a secret that Trump is a schmoozer — he tells people what they want to hear, he makes them feel important. It’s part of what helped him win the 2016 Republican primary; he didn’t feed voters information that was hard to hear but instead stoked their pre-existing prejudices and desires. It’s part of what made him successful as a self-promoter and brand manager — he could convince people of his own greatness. 

And though these are certainly skills of a sort, they’re not particularly impressive. They’re the trade of grifter, the con artist. Someone who is good at making everyone think he’s on their side should be treated with skepticism and scrutiny; it’s exactly when you’re most at ease that they’ll double cross you. 
That’s what Trump is doing to the Republican Party. He doesn’t care about its long-term power, only what it can do for him in the moment. His new health care push is spectacularly poorly planned, just as his government shutdown was. His personal corruption has made him an open target for congressional investigators, and his coddling of dictators undermines national security. He values almost nothing that Republicans actually care about.
Apr. 1, 2019
I don't have a caption for this. Just expressing my feelings.

McConnell might be a more dangerous Trump manipulator than Putin ever was, by Hal Brown

DonkeyHotey caricature artified by me with BeFunky

McConnell sets stage for 'nuclear option' to change rules on judges is a story which should remind us of the way the senate majority leader has been using Donald Trump to advance his far-right agenda and shape the federal judiciary for generations to come. Briefly, he is introducing a resolution would reduce the amount of floor time that must elapse between when the Senate votes to invoke cloture on a  federal district court judge nominee so when a final vote is held the hearing time is reduced from the current 30 hours to two hours. 
The DonkeyHotey caricature illustrates the relationship between the sane and systematic McConnell as he blissfully ignores the unbalanced an impulsive rage-fueled president. 
McConnell will go down in history, along with Paul Ryan and Devin Nunes as one of the three members of Congress who functioned as rubber stamps for Trump most authoritarian, dangerous and inhumane executive decisions. With the possible exception of Nunes (who conservative  Max Boot in his Washington Post OpEd today called an “unscrupulous sycophant and unhinged partisan,” they knew full well that Donald Trump was so unstable, so driven by a combination of his need for self-aggrandizement and sometimes revenge, that he was unqualified to be president.
They allowed him to destroy our reputation among our allies (Israel is another story). They allowed him to empower white nationalists here and around the world. The list goes on.

Vladimir Putin manipulated Trump in an attempt to further Russian interests. He only succeeded to the extent that he caused chaos and divisiveness here, but he got little else for Russia. McConnell has already made his mark on the Supreme Court (where only the survival of Ruth Bader Ginsberg keeps it from being a total right-wing court) and the rest of the federal judiciary, which significantly is the only of the three branches of government not accountable to the voters.

George Conway shows no mercy:

‘A hypernarcissistic, sociopathic clown’: George Conway shows no mercy in his latest Trump takedown

I don't think Mayor Pete will end up as a front-runner in the 2020 primary. His time to be president may turn out to be eight years from now especially if he ends up with supreme irony considering his feud with then Gov. Pence in Indiana as vice president. HB

Mar. 31, 2019
For all the Trump bluster and braggadocio, the rally cult calls to “lock them up” and Guilliani and Pirro wanting to send his accusers to prison, the evidence already presented in the Mueller proves that Russia tried to influence the election. It proves that people involve in the Trump campaign were at the very least aware of this, if not actively involved.
The only question still unanswered is whether Trump was in on the plot or an unsuspecting dupe. In other words, to reduce the question to an alliteration, was he a spy or a stooge?
Pope Quote:
“He who raises a wall ends up a prisoner of the wall he erected. That’s a universal law in the social order and in the personal one. If you raise a wall between people, you end up a prisoner of that wall that you raised. Yes, I defend my autonomy, yes, but you’re left alone like a mushroom.” Pope Francis in interview with Spanish journalist.

Ukraine election: Comedian leads presidential contest - exit poll

 Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that when it comes to the contacts members of President Donald Trump's campaign team had with Russians during the 2016 election, "the issue is not whether it's ethical."

Mulvaney's comment was in response to statements House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff made last week about the ethics surrounding contacts Trump's team had during the election with individuals offering dirt from Russians. On Thursday, Schiff said, "I don't think it's OK. I think It's immoral, I think it's unethical, I think it's unpatriotic, and yes, I think it's corrupt, and evidence of collusion."

"Again, the issue is not whether it's ethical," Mulvaney told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union, later adding that he thinks "the voters are going to decide about the ethics and morality of the people they vote for on either side."

Mar. 30, 2019
Click image to enlarge

if. fucking. only.

Monica Lewisnky's response to this makes the news: 

Monica Lewinsky sounds off on the Mueller report

Imagine if the Starr Report had been provided only to President Clinton's Attorney General, Janet Reno, who then read it privately and published a 4-page letter based on her private reading stating her conclusion that President Clinton committed no crimes

Turns out she also appreciates Viktor Frankl, a seminal thinker in existential and humanist psychology.

Mar. 29, 2019

"The Democrats now have to decide if they want to keep defrauding the public with ridiculous bullshit and partisan investigations, or whether they will apologize to the American people," he told his supporters in Grand Rapids.

Georgetown psychology professor Justin Frank
 was given 30-odd hours of Trump audio interviews
 to listen to. Frank concludes, “My diagnosis is
 he’s Donald Trump. He’s one of a kind. 
He shows lots of qualities that are very disturbing.
 He’s impulsive, he has a very thin skin. 
He’s paranoid. And every time he says,
 ‘Believe me,’ you have to say, ‘Don’t believe
 that,’ because he’s a professional liar,
and he’s our president. God help us.”
Today's Jennifer Rubin, from "The dangers of playing to Trump's neediness"

President Trump’s constant need for affirmation prompts him to exaggerate or lie about everything from his wealth to the economy to his North Korea diplomacy to the results of Robert S. Mueller III’ Russia report. The thirst to be the richest, the greatest diplomat and the exonerated victim compels him and his apologists to seek temporary applause from their base at the expense of later revelations that disprove his claimed accomplishment and reaffirm his compulsion to lie.

After the short-term relief and “Mission Accomplished" celebration, they will soon have to deal with facts -- lots of them that as Mueller said, do NOT exonerate Trump of obstruction and reflect evidence that, while perhaps not criminal (at least not indictable for a sitting president), confirm much of the reporting of misconduct, disloyalty to the United States and lying.

Trump’s neediness feeds an endless cycle of exaggeration and lying, revelation and underperformance. Indeed, that’s pretty much the story of Trump’s life -- the snake oil salesmen doesn’t really have the goods.

Rubin is an almost daily commentator on MSNBC and one of the most articulate and prolific anti-Trump Republicans. She considers herself to be a conservative. The has a BA in history and a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley. You can follow her on Twitter (you don't need to be a member).

President Donald Trump attacked Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California as speaking to supporters in Michigan, and called the Democratic lawmaker a "little pencil-neck." Really? He wishes he had a neck himself.

Ancient saying: don't celebrate your "victories" around a bonfire on thin ice.

Sharp eyes will notice the Boeing logo on the spaceship


His (Trump's) extreme narcissism makes him impervious to reality, as we can see daily, and he is incapable of taking responsibility for his actions. We can observe this pattern of behavior, obvious already prior to his presidency, when Donald Trump is being taken to task for some questionable action.
The pattern is to deny, deny, deny; claim his greatness; push the narrative of wounded innocence, presenting himself as the victim; and deflect attention by repeatedly attacking his perceived enemies, often accusing them, via projection of his own sins, and advocating their punishment, such as Hillary Clinton.
We have examples of modern tyrants facing the wrath of their society — Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, the Ceausescus — who, to the very moment of their executions, believed and claimed that they were the beloved saviors of their people. In their own eyes, they were always the innocent greats.
Pathological narcissism distorts the truth to protect the narcissistic leader from it, and unfortunately his sycophants function as enforcers of this dangerous distortion. If anything, Donald Trump’s behavior is predictable. His responses to everything are about just one thing: protecting his delusions of grandeur and his sense of aggrieved entitlement.

That kind of rigidly self-referential thinking is known as solipsism and is characteristic of various forms of psychopathology. It is particularly apparent in people with severely impaired conscience, whose character defect makes them incapable of empathy, of understanding other people and their experience, and, most importantly, of grasping higher human values.
Mar. 26-27, 2019

The image I decided was too much to use:

Click above to read story
Some hopefull points from Is Trump Good for Trump? by Thomas Esall, March 27, 2019 In response to his presidency, America has gotten more liberal — despite appearances to the contrary. Will it matter in 2020?

Trump's budget calls for a $845 billion cut over 10 years in Medicare, a $25 billion cut in Social Security and a $1.5 trillion cut in Medicaid — programs that benefit the old, the disabled and the poor. (And the first two vote, HB)

There are defections in the Midwest among Trump voters, as well as a shift to the left among all voters on issues of race, immigration and spending on the poor.

While millions of suburban whites who voted for Trump in 2016 cast ballots in 2018 for Democratic House and Senate candidates, “the defection runs much deeper than that,” Morris said. Not only did better-off suburbanites defect, “but more important so did working class whites.”

In 2018  7 percent of white voters without a college education left Trump’s side.

There has been a  modest, increase in social and cultural tolerance in 2018 among all voters.

The national religious landscape is changing in a direction favorable to the left.

Twice as many Trump voters flipped to supporting Democrats in 2018 as Clinton voters switched to Republicans.

Hosts like Rachel Maddow have seen their ratings notably increase as the investigation unfolded, while other anchors like Ari Melber have built major elements of their shows around interviews of witnesses of the investigation to get their perspective on Mueller’s probe. But the release of Barr’s summary letter threw a wrench into the narrative that has driven the network’s coverage and called into question what the primary narrative would be for the network going forward.  Click image to read story.

Related - White House gloats over their perceived win over the media.
Click above  to enlarge

Now Team Trump is out for vengeance: It's crucial that Democrats push back, hard. by my favorite columnist Heather "Digby" Parton

Excerpts: Too much has probably been written about Donald Trump's twisted psychology. It's clear he has many "issues." But while it's interesting to try to unravel what makes him tick, it may be more useful to consider his philosophy if one wants to figure out how to successfully oppose him. Many people assume that the Trump ur-text "The Art of the Deal" offers a window into Trump's worldview. But that book and the others that followed were ghostwritten to sound like something Trump would believe, not what he actually thinks.
It seems clear that Trump's philosophy of life is zero-sum primitive domination and not much else. And there is one credo in "The Art of the Deal" he does live by: "I fight when I feel I'm getting screwed, even if it's costly and difficult and highly risky." Over the years that's evolved into something a little bit more elemental. It's no longer about just fighting. It's about vengeance.
The New York Times reported that Republican strategists "share the president’s grievances, including the suggestion that anyone involved in the Russia investigation’s origins had engaged in treasonous behavior," and are now hoping for investigations.
This isn't just the president sounding off. So far, the Democrats don't seem to be too spooked by the Republican threats. They are too busy fending off the high-velocity spin about the Barr letter that Salon's Amanda Marcotte aptly compares to the Iraq WMD propaganda. But the mere fact that the president and high-ranking members of Congress are pushing this ugly idea of wreaking vengeance should sharpen the Democrats' own survival instincts and allay any inclination to ease off on oversight. They cannot allow the country to be held hostage by this authoritarian "lock her up" mentality.
Conclusion: Liberals aren’t alone in imagining a savior figure and perpetuating him through silly memes; what’s more interesting, perhaps, is how differently the fantasies of salvation manifest in different political camps. As images of, say, Mueller’s face photoshopped onto Beyoncé in Lemonade proliferated on the liberal side, what many reflected was a need for an omniscient arbiter who would legitimize the findings of an imperiled system. 

Mueller’s military record features prominently in these comparisons. He’s shown laughing at Trump as the president says no one can see his taxes, or as a dad about to discipline (read: beat) his disobedient child. These are distasteful fantasies of surveillance and abuse, but they’re quite American, and the underpinnings are weirdly consistent: They’re about catching wrongdoers. The liberal fantasy was that Mueller would embody the democratic function of the institution. It’s Superman turning the criminal over to the cops; his superpower exists to bolster existing norms and practices.

The staggering number of Trump-as-Christ memes suggests that the conservative fantasy is a little different. In that analogy, there is no civic institution Trump responds to, no democratic principle the “savior” figure necessarily upholds.

We’re awash in superheroes these days, and the liberal pipe dream that Mueller would “save” America is built on a questionable foundation, certainly, but one we should recognize since it’s one of our more powerful comic myths. The idea was that a superhero would think America so great that he’d serve it—usually by turning the bad guys over to a legal system his powers entirely and obviously transcend. Subsequent superhero stories have rightly questioned that overenthusiastic premise. Superheroes are a proud and unreasonable American institution; it makes sense for America to resort to them in emergencies, even and especially when the savior fantasy contains the seeds of un-democracy or defeat.

American Prospect: 

So Trump Didn’t Collude -- He’s Still the Most Dangerous President in U.S. History

EXCERPT: When great nations topple, it’s usually because they’re rotting from within, with one set of their residents pitted against another. Trump’s chief contribution has been to accelerate America’s rot by demonizing a large portion of the nation’s citizenry. His deep-seated racism has resonated with many anxious, provincial whites and set the stage for the rise we’ve seen in hate crimes. His fragile narcissism—deeming anyone, dead (John McCain) or alive, who fails to extol him to be an enemy worthy of destruction—has poisoned an already vituperative public discourse.

Mar. 25, 2019


I think Democrats have to be extremely careful and avoid the perception that it is all “sour grapes” when they use their power in the House to investigate Trump and associates. However, they would be remiss in their duty to let things slide just because of this perception. They have a duty to exercise their authority of oversight. They just need to assure that they are highly selective in the investigations they open. I lean against their relitigating the Russia issue unless damning evidence of obstruction comes to light when they read the entire Mueller report. It already appears that Mueller couldn’t find any indictable evidence of a conspiracy involving anyone besides those we already knew about.
We are lucky indeed that New York, both city and state, have jurisdiction over many of the likely Trump illegalities still within the 10-year statute of limitations (bank, real estate, tax fraud for example) that won’t touch on double jeopardy. New York is firmly in Democratic hands. Both NY State AG Letitia “Tish” James and NYC District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. have indicated an interest in looking into illegal activities that might have been committed by Trump and his various enterprises. For all we know grand juries have already been convened. There is little the Justice Department under William Barr can do to stop their investigations. Barr’s role as AG may not even allow him to be the one to claim executive privilege. That may be left to Trump’s White House counsel Don McGahn. He would probably try to limit access to evidence by using the excuse of executive privilege. It is likely that New York attorneys have and are anticipating this. 

I assume that his personal attornies Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow will defend him in any New York proceedings.

It may be too soon to sing "if they can break Trump anywhere, they can break him in New York, New York, it’s a wonderful state.”  Patience, grasshopper, patience. Hal Brown


The (Boring but Necessary) Case for a Depth Psychology

To speak meaningfully about psychopathology is generally to assume (with varying types of justification) that in and through abnormal utterances and behaviors, there is something that is being communicated, and that some measure of translation is possible. If we want to be able to say that there is some explanation, some truth that is being spoken in and through the narcissist’s pathology, then we need to be able to at least entertain the idea that the neurotic’s utterances and behaviors can be read and interpreted.
Depth psychology is simply the premise that the mind (yours, mine) needs to be understood as something of an “undiscovered country.”

I am not here to grind an axe either for or against psychoanalysis, Freudian or otherwise. In fact, I have literally nothing to say about the possibility that some forms of neurosis can be “cured,” (greater integration, less suffering?) that people who are suffering can find their way, through transference with an analyst and through self-reflection, to some measure of enduring recovery. I also have no attachment to some sort of structural theory of the human mind that suggests the “real existence” (whatever that means) of an Id, an Ego, and a Superego. I take these to be names for functional relationships and patterns that are used to describe things that are observed in clinical practice.

Donald Trump won the election by 79,646 votes cast in three states, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Trump won those states by 0.2, 0.7 and 0.8 percentage points, respectively.
It is easy to see how a third party candidate far to the right on social issues than Trump, for all his barely veiled racial animus and thinly disguised pandering to white supremacists, would have swung the electoral college to Hillary Clinton.

If an unabashedly white nationalist independent party ran candidates, for example, Rep. Steve King and Laura Ingraham, they might siphon off enough votes in a close election to throw it to the Democrats.

I’m calling it the MAWA Party, but there must be better names which haven’t been trademarked or used in the past.
Read Story from Feb. 14th
This was iinspiredby this story: 2 American women sue U.S.claiming they were detained after speaking Spanish in Montana — These bigotted ignorant thugs don’t deserve to wear a badge, let along carry a gun and have the ability to take away your freedom.

Breaking Michael Avenatti News - story

Related from just 12 days ago:

Latest pageviews by country
 Click image to enlarge
Michael Avenatti did what he did for what we felt was a righteous cause at the time but he always was a narcissistic showboat.  Once he became a household name and a hero to Democrats he even floated the notion of running in 2020.  Now we see he seem to have more in common with Donald Trump than we ever knew, so it would be more appropriate for him to run as a Republican.
If these Avenatti allegations prove to be true, and I hope they aren’t though I doubt he'd have been arrested if there wasn't a good case, it may turn out he may out that he did more harm than good. Perhaps only by chance only two weeks ago Stormy Daniels and he cut their association.

If these Avenatti allegations prove to be true, I hope they aren’t though I doubt he'd have been arrested if there wasn't a good case, it may turn out he may out that he did more harm than good. Perhaps only by chance only two weeks ago Stormy Daniels and he cut their association.


The following two commenters aways attack me when I write about the psychopathology of Trump, saying the same things again and again. The name Victor Ward is probably taken from a character in Glamoramaan "A-list model, would-be-actor and current "It boy", "an uberstereotype of the male model", Victor lives by his catchphrase mantra "the better you look, the more you see". As Harvard Crimson observes, "His lifestyle is the extreme of everything the current culture worships: he can't avoid thinking in brand names and image and speaks with lines from pop songs."

Michael Avenatti splits with Stormy Daniels for 'various reasons that we cannot disclose' 

Like all of you (who aren't pro-Trump trolls) I am depressed today because of the way Barr presented the Mueller report and knowing how Trump and Putin must be happy. My way of coping along with talking to like-minded friends where I live (a liberal senior community) is to make photoshopped images like this. I tweet them and put them on Daily Kos (below).
Link to story above
Do you think Mueller had the goods on Trump and Putin conspiring to rig the election but that he didn’ t have enough proof to make the case?
Do you think he had enough had it been anyone else but Trump (using the usual prosecutorial discretion) he’d have convened a grand jury to ask for an indictment, but William Barr in an attempt to protect the president watered down this in his letter?
Greg Sergeant in The Washington Post reminds up that even if Mueller didn’t prove a criminal conspiracy these three things are true:
  1. Donald Trump got elected president in part due to a massive foreign attack on our democracy.
  2. Even if Trump’s campaign didn’t collude with that act in a criminally chargeable manner, he committed extraordinary abuses of power to try to prevent a full accounting of that attack on our democracy from taking place.
  3. Trump’s attorney general is in the process of preventing a real public airing of the full dimensions of both of the above points.

Washington Post: Three puzzling aspects of Barr’s summary of the Mueller report


1) The first puzzling aspect of the Barr letter is its report that Mueller, after making a thorough factual investigation of evidence bearing on possible obstruction of justice, “determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment.” Mueller’s report, we are told, is rather perfectly fence-straddling, stating only that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

So Question No. 1: Why did Mueller, whose charges as a prosecutor include making precisely these sorts of judgments and bringing them to a federal grand jury, decline to do so in this case?

2) That raises the second critical question: Did Mueller ask Barr to step in? Or is Barr simply asserting a general power to reach conclusions for the Justice Department that Mueller thought he himself couldn’t or shouldn’t? While in some bureaucratic sense, the attorney general, as head of the Justice Department, bears responsibility for all of the department’s decisions, I am unaware of a single instance in my years in the Justice Department in which a final prosecutorial decision was left to the attorney general without so much as a recommendation from the actual prosecutor.

3) The final unanswered question, and perhaps the most consequential: What was the nature of the analysis that Barr and Rosenstein applied in deciding that Mueller’s evidence was not sufficient to establish that the president committed obstruction? The consensus of many scholars and commentators, based just on the publicly available evidence, has been that the case for obstruction was strong. Did some additional confidential evidence sway Barr and Rosenstein? Was it some particular legal reading of the obstruction statute?

This last possibility is unsettling. Barr’s letter says that he and Rosenstein consulted with the department’s Office of Legal Counsel before coming to their conclusion. This raises the possibility that the Barr analysis is premised on some controversial and expansive view of executive power that neither Congress nor the courts would endorse. 

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