The unspoken addendum: They’re never going to be there. As expected, House Judiciary chair Jerrold Nadler announced this morning that he will issue subpoenas to get the fully unredacted report from Robert Mueller this morning, as well as to Mueller and William Barr. Nadler tells ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that “it’s not up to me” to conclude whether Donald Trump obstructed justice, an answer which momentarily throws Stephanopoulos:
Asked whether he could open impeachment proceedings, House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler tells @GMA, “We’re not there.”
— ABC News (@ABC) April 19, 2019
Nadler seems rather confused in this interview. He claims that the Mueller report shows that the Trump campaign was “collaborating with a foreign power,” when in fact the Mueller report specifically found no evidence at all of that charge. Page 181 of the Mueller report:
For that reason, this Office’s focus in resolving the question of joint criminal liability was on conspiracy as defined in federal law, not the commonly discussed term “collusion.” The Office considered in particular whether contacts between Trump Campaign officials and Russia-linked individuals could trigger liability for the crime of conspiracy-either under statutes that have their own conspiracy language (e.g. , 18 U.S.C. §§ 1349, 195l(a)), or under the general conspiracy statute (18 U.S.C. § 371). The investigation did not establish that the contacts described in Volume I, Section IV, supra, amounted to an agreement to commit any substantive violation of federal criminal law- including foreign-influence and campaign-finance laws, both of which are discussed further below. The Office therefore did not charge any individual associated with the Trump Campaign with conspiracy to commit a federal offense arising from Russia contacts, either under a specific statute or under Section 371 ‘s offenses clause.
The word “collaborate” appears a grand total of one time in the entire (redacted) report, and it has nothing to do with the campaign. It references an effort during the transition to open a dialogue with Russia, one which involved a friend of Jared Kushner:
Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive officer of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, was among the Russians who tried to make contact with the incoming administration. In early December, a business associate steered Dmitriev to Erik Prince, a supporter of the Trump Campaign and an associate of senior Trump advisor Steve Bannon. Dmitriev and Prince later met face-to-face in January 2017 in the Seychelles and discussed U.S.-Russia relations. During the same period, another business associate introduced Dmitriev to a friend of Jared Kushner who had not served on the Campaign or the Transition Team. Dmitriev and Kushner’s friend collaborated on a short written reconciliation plan for the United States and Russia, which Dmitriev implied had been cleared through Putin. The friend gave that proposal to Kushner before the inauguration, and Kushner later gave copies to Bannon and incoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
No one was charged with a crime for this either, and no one connected to the campaign or the transition was involved in the “collaboration.” There is no evidence of any “collaboration” with Russia, and indeed the conclusions in Volume I of the Mueller report make that very clear. Nadler’s flogging a dead horse on collusion, one that won’t take him any closer to impeachment than the nag has managed to get to this point.
The subpoenas aren’t much better in the lively-equine department, but they do hold some promise of short-term notoriety. Nadler now has access to everything in the report except grand-jury testimony, which courts have protected except when grand juries write their own reports (such as in US v Nixon). Mueller’s grand jury didn’t write reports, which means that Nixon won’t apply in this case. Nadler’s likely to find himself out of luck on that and on the evidentiary demands as they relate to grand-jury testimony. He might do better on some other evidentiary demands, though, and Nadler might have some luck in creating mischief for the White House with that.
None of that will get Nadler any closer to impeachment, though, and he knows it. That’s why he’s still flogging collusion even though Mueller clearly says he didn’t find any evidence to suggest it. Democrats sold impeachment on the basis that Trump rigged the election with the Russians. Now that the collusion narrative has collapsed, they don’t have enough support to push through impeachment — even though Nadler would dearly love to try.
Mueller’s testimony will be interesting to watch, though. Nadler knows from the tone of the report, especially in Volume II, that Mueller can emphasize many episodes in which Trump comes off looking bad. Those hearings will be the last big risk for the White House before voters tune out the Russiagate pseudo-scandal once and for all — if they haven’t already.
Addendum: The subpoenas have gone out now, according to multiple news reports.