Small “d” democracy
By Mark Lurinsky
I bought the Washington Post edition of the report, which is now available for under $10. There are at least three versions in print. I’m not sure that it matters which one you read. My own preference however is not to begin by reading any publisher’s introductions or additional materials, at least until you have gone through the report itself, since the whole point in something like this which is the subject of so much controversy is to get your own understanding without being influenced by anyone else’s spin.
The report’s two volumes and four appendices run to 448 pages, but I would guess that at least a quarter of the space is taken up by the 2,400 or so footnotes, which are certainly optional reading once you get an understanding of the kinds of sources the investigators used. Perhaps another 5% of the text is accounted for by the redactions. So the task of reading The Mueller Report is actually considerably less daunting than it sounds.
The executive summaries of the two volumes are a wonderful resource, and, together with the short introductions, come to only seventeen pages altogether. I hope many millions of Americans will read the full Mueller report, but if you read nothing else, read these. They are a great place to start reading, in any case, and then you can see what other parts of the report you may want to tackle. Lawfare has done us all a service by posting the full text of the two executive summaries in its blog.
I assume that report’s organization into two volumes relates to it being a legal document. While each volume has its own table of contents, unfortunately, neither one has an index. This means that it requires a bit of work if you want to follow any specific subject, like say, the convicted Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, for example, as a complete area, from his connection to Russian interference (Volume I) through to his relationship to Trump’s obstruction (Volume II). If this type of a deep read is important to you, you might consider getting an e-book edition which has a word search capability.
There are four types of redactions: Investigative Techniques, Personal Privacy, Grand Jury and Harm to Ongoing Matter. I don’t think it’s necessary to get terribly hung up on the redactions to get a good grasp of the investigation. [The need for our representatives in Congress to have full access to an un-redacted version is another matter.] Please note that some journalists have made a well-educated guess that a good chunk of the “Harm to Ongoing Matter” redactions are related to Roger Stone, a key figure as a possible intermediary between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks/the Russians. The fact that the investigation was not able to resolve Stone’s role before the report was completed may be highly relevant to further investigations.
Mueller is writing as a prosecutor
Remember that Robert Mueller is writing as a prosecutor, and, specifically, a prosecutor working under the DOJ regulations. Although he was not permitted to and did not attempt to reach a conclusion in any instance about whether Trump committed a crime “beyond a reasonable doubt,” all his training goes in that direction and that’s the framework he used.
That is actually quite different from what Congress may wish to do in a potential impeachment investigation, which might use a “more likely than not” or preponderance of the evidence standard, or from a common sense standard the U.S. people may want to use in considering whether Trump should be trusted for a second term. Most of us aren’t lawyers, and although it was tempting for me to do so at times, I would not advise anyone to try to get too far into speculating what an eventual jury might find. However, we should also keep in mind that more than 1,000 former Republican and Democratic-appointed federal prosecutors have already signed a statement that the facts outlined in the report would result in multiple felony charges against Trump except for his status as the sitting president.
I think it’s similarly unnecessary for non-lawyers to get too far into all the details of the final 22-page section of the obstruction volume, entitled Legal Defenses to the Application of Obstruction-of-Justice Statutes to the President, in which Mueller takes great pains to refute the arguments of Trump’s lawyers, and, not coincidentally, of William Barr, that as president, Trump should be in most respects “above the law.” If we believe in democracy, I hope it should be obvious that Trump isn’t above the law.
Mark Lurinsky has been an activist on matters of public policy since 1968. He is currently a member of BlueWaveNJ’s Electoral Reform Working Group and is co-chair of the Healthcare Committee.
Under the blog title Small “d” democracy, Mark will continue to weigh in on the current issues that define how our country can become a more just, equal, and democratic society.
 Stone was arrested in January and indicted on seven counts, including obstruction, false statements and witness tampering, but his trial isn’t scheduled to start until this November. (The indictment is also available on the Special Counsel’s site at www.justice.gov/sco.)