- On Friday, Mueller handed in his report on whether or not Trump’s team colluded with Russia during the election to Attorney General William Barr, recommending no further indictments.
- In a summary on the report, Barr says that Mueller concluded that there was no collusion, but did not say one way or the other about obstruction of justice.
- Trump is counting this as a big win for himself, but Democrats want the full report released to the public.
Robert Mueller’s report concluded that President Donald Trump’s campaign did not conspire with Russia during the 2016 election. However the report did not exonerate Trump from obstruction of justice, according to Attorney General William Barr.
On Friday, Special Counsel Mueller turned in his report on his two-year-long investigation into Russia’s interference with the 2016 election to the attorney general. At the time, he recommended no additional indictments.
On Sunday, Barr released a letter to Congress that contained a four-page summary of Mueller’s report. Barr’s summary said the report was broken down into two parts, the first being Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
According to Mueller’s findings, there were two main efforts by Russia, one from the Internet Research Agency, and one from the Russuian government. The investigation has already resulted in arrests regarding both of these efforts.
The investigation did not find, however, that Trump or his colleagues aided these efforts. Barr quoted Mueller’s report, saying, “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
The second part of the report centered around obstruction of justice, but the findings were not conclusive.
“The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction,” Barr said in his letter.
He also went on to quote the Special Counsel, which said in their report, “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
So what does this mean? In their report, the Special Counsel outlined the various activities investigated, and the arguments on each side. They drew no conclusions, and instead left it up to Attorney General Barr to decide if the actions constituted as criminal behavior.
In his letter to congress, Barr said he discussed the report with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and that they “concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
What Does This Mean for Trump?
Many view this as a big win for Trump and his administration. The Special Counsel found there was no conspiracy or collusion in the campaign, and while they did not say either way if he obstructed justice, the Attorney General said there was not enough evidence, which was enough for Trump to take to Twitter to make a statement.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders went on the TODAY Show on Monday morning, backing up Trump’s comments. Anchor Savannah Guthrie asked Sanders, “Would you acknowledge that it is incorrect for the president to call this a total exoneration?”
“Not at all. It is a total and complete exoneration,” Sanders said. “And here’s why. The special counsel, they said they couldn’t make a decision one way or the other. The way that process works is that they then leave that up to the AG. The AG and the Deputy AG went through and based their decision on Mueller’s investigation.”
Push to Release the Report
On the other side, democrats are arguing that Mueller’s full report should be released.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released a joint statement calling for the report to be made public, given biases the Attorney General may have.
“Attorney General Barr’s letter raises as many questions as it answers,” the statement read. “The fact that Special Counsel Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay. Given Mr. Barr’s public record of bias against the Special Counsel’s inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.”
Others like Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris took to Twitter to demand the full report.
The democratic leaders are not alone in wanting the report to be made public. Earlier in the month, the House voted 420-0 to demand the Department of Justice release Mueller’s full investigation to lawmakers, and as much as possible to the public. This vote was non-binding and does not mandate anything, but it does put pressure on Barr.
So will we ever get to see the report? That still remains unclear. In his letter to congress, he said the report remains confidential, but also added that he was aware of the “public interest in this matter.”
“For that reason, my goal and intent is to release as much of the Special Counsel’s report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies,” Barr stated.
What those laws, regulations, and policies could limit is also unclear, but material in the report is likely relevant to other investigations, or could be a security risk. So if the public were to see it, there is a good chance that there would be heavy redactions.
Many are also debating whether or not Trump would be able to use Executive Privilege to prevent the public from seeing certain parts of the report. This could include internal communications and private conversations involving the president. But right now, whether or not he could use it is up in the air. It is also unclear if he would want to, as in the past he tweeted in support of the Republicans voting for transparency regarding the report.
If the Department of Justice were to not make the report public, Representative Jerry Nadler said he would be willing to take legal action. On CNN, he said he would go so far as to take it to the Supreme Court if necessary.
Well we will try to negotiate and we will try everything else first,” said Nadler. “But if we have to, yes, we will certainly issue subpoenas to get that information.”
“And you’re going to be willing to take that up to the supreme court if you have to,” anchor Dana Bash asked.
“Absolutely,” Nadler responded.
See What Others Are Saying: (Wall Street Journal) (Washington Post) (CBS)
Bernie Sanders Wins Nevada Caucus
- Bernie Sanders won the Nevada Caucus by a landslide, receiving more than 46% of the vote. Joe Biden came in second with just over 20%.
- Pete Buttigieg, who came in third with 13.9%, attacked Sanders for being too polarizing, though entrance polls showed that Sanders pulled in a broad coalition of voters.
- Buttigieg’s campaign also complained about “inconsistencies” with the election in a letter to the Nevada Democratic Party.
- Sanders separately received criticism for comments he made about Fidel Castro on 60 Minutes Sunday night, reigniting the debate over his left-leaning views and electability.
Sanders Wins Nevada
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) won a decisive victory in the Nevada Caucus on Saturday, beating his competitors in a landslide vote.
With 96% of precincts reporting on Monday morning, Sanders has received 46.8% of the vote, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden with 20.4% and South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 13.9%.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who got 9.8% of the vote, was below the threshold to take home any delegates, as were billionaire Tom Steyer and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who received 4.6% and 4.2% respectively.
Sanders’ sweeping win in Nevada is significant. Throughout his campaign, one of the major questions surrounding Sanders’ candidacy has been whether or not he can pull in voters outside of his base.
Now, entrance polls from Nevada show that a diverse group of voters turned out to support the Democratic Socialist senator.
“Sanders won not only with voters under 30 and people who identify as very liberal, but also with men, women, Hispanics (overwhelmingly), voters 45 to 64 and people with and without college degrees,” NPR reported.
According to CNN, Sanders won 53% of Latino voters, which is three times as much as Biden, who won the second-highest amount with 17%.
Sanders appeared to hit on this point while giving his victory speech on Saturday.
“In Nevada, we have just put together a multi-generational, multi-racial coalition which is going to not only win in Nevada, it’s going to sweep this country,” he said.
Buttigieg’s Speech & Letter
Despite Sanders’ broad coalition, Buttigieg spent most of his post-election speech going after the senator for being too polarizing.
“I believe the best way to defeat Donald Trump and deliver for the American people is to broaden and galvanize the majority that supports us on critical issues,” he said. “Senator Sanders believes in an inflexible, ideological revolution that leaves out most Democrats, not to mention most Americans.”
“We can prioritize either ideological purity or inclusive victory,” he continued. “We can either call people names online or we can call them into our movement. We can either tighten a narrow and hardcore base or open the tent to a new and broad and big-hearted American coalition.”
Separately, Buttigieg’s campaign sent a letter to the Nevada Democratic Party late on Saturday night, claiming that there were “material irregularities pertaining to the process of integrating early votes into the in-person precinct caucus results.”
“Given how close the race is between second and third place, we ask that you take these steps before releasing any final data,” the campaign wrote.
At the time, about half of the results had been publicly reported and showed Biden firmly in second place with 19% percent of the vote to Buttigieg’s 15%.
The state party’s communications director Molly Forgey responded to the letter in a statement on Sunday.
“We laid out our early vote and Caucus Day processes step by step, and we communicated these processes to all campaigns,” she said. “We are continuing to verify and to report results.”
“We never indicated we would release a separate breakdown of early vote and in-person attendees by precinct and will not change our reporting process now,” Forgey continued. “As laid out in our recount guidance, there is a formal method for requesting a challenge of results.”
Sanders 60 Minutes Interview
But criticisms of Sanders’ polarizing nature and left-leaning politics resurfaced again after an interview the senator did with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes aired Sunday evening.
During the segment, Sanders responded to a clip of an interview he gave in the 1980s, where he claimed the Cuban people did not rise up against former leader Fidel Castro because of policies he implemented regarding education and healthcare.
“You know, when Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did?” Sanders asked. “He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”
“There are a lot of dissidents imprisoned in Cuba,” Cooper responded.
“That’s right. And we condemn that,” Sanders said. “Unlike Donald Trump — let’s be clear — I do not think that Kim Jung Un is a good friend. I don’t trade love letters with a murdering dictator. Vladimir Putin: not a good friend of mine.”
Many people on both sides of the aisle condemned Sanders for his remarks.
“He’s wrong about why people didn’t overthrow Castro,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) wrote on Twitter. “It’s not because ‘he educated their kids, gave them health care’ it‘s because his opponents were jailed, murdered or exiled”
“The literacy rate in Cuba was already high before Castro (and many other countries have achieved 100% literacy without, you know, murdering and imprisoning dissidents),” Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro tweeted.
A number of Democrats and more liberal figures also slammed Sanders’ comments about the Cuban leader.
Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) said she wished Sanders would “take time to speak to some of my constituents before he decides to sing the praises of a murderous tyrant like Fidel Castro.”
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, himself a 2020 contender, also criticized Sanders’ remarks in a tweet.
Highlights From the Nevada Democratic Debate
- Six 2020 presidential candidates took the stage at the Democratic Debate in Nevada ahead of the state’s highly anticipated caucus this Saturday.
- Here are some highlights from Wednesday’s debate.
Candidates Target Bloomberg
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg made his first debate appearance, and the other candidates used it as an opportunity to target the controversial political figure right out of the gate.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) all went after Bloomberg in their opening statements.
Sanders and Biden criticized the mayor for expanding New York City’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy, which gave police the authority to stop and search anyone they suspected of committing a crime and disproportionately targeted people of color.
Warren, for her part, had some of the sharpest rebukes of the former mayor.
“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against, a billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians.’ And, no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg,” she said.
“Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women, and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop-and-frisk,” she continued. “Look, I’ll support whoever the Democratic nominee is. But understand this: Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another.”
Bloomberg’s Nondisclosure Agreements
Warren also questioned Bloomberg’s record with sexual harassment after a moderator asked him about “sexually suggestive remarks” he had made when confronted about the fact that several former employees of his company had described the workplace as hostile for women.
“The mayor has to stand on his record. And what we need to know is exactly what’s lurking out there. He has gotten some number of women, dozens, who knows, to sign nondisclosure agreements both for sexual harassment and for gender discrimination in the workplace,” she said.
“So, Mr. Mayor, are you willing to release all of those women from those nondisclosure agreements, so we can hear their side of the story?” she asked.
“We have a very few nondisclosure agreements,” he responded.
“None of them accuse me of doing anything, other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told,” he continued. “There’s agreements between two parties that wanted to keep it quiet and that’s up to them. They signed those agreements, and we’ll live with it.”
Warren continued to push Bloomberg to release the individuals from their nondisclosures, a demand that was eventually echoed by Biden.
Klobuchar and Buttigieg Spar
Warren was not the only person who sparred with the other candidates.
Another notable moment from the night came from a tense interaction between Klobuchar and Buttigieg, after one of the moderators asked Klobuchar about an interview from last week where she was unable to remember the name of the president of Mexico and had trouble discussing his policies.
Klobuchar said that a moment of forgetfulness did not reflect what she knows about Mexico.
“I said that I made an error,” she added. “I think having a president that maybe is humble and is able to admit that here and there maybe wouldn’t be a bad thing.”
Buttigieg, however, saw it as an opportunity to pounce.
“But you’re staking your candidacy on your Washington experience. You’re on the committee that oversees border security. You’re on the committee that does trade,” he said. “You’re literally in part of the committee that’s overseeing these things and were not able to speak to literally the first thing about the politics of the country to our south.”
“Are you trying to say that I’m dumb? Or are you mocking me here, Pete?” Klobuchar responded.
“I have passed over 100 bills as the lead Democrat since being in the U.S. Senate. I am the one, not you, that has won statewide in congressional district after congressional district,” she continued. “And I will say, when you tried in Indiana, Pete, to run, what happened to you? You lost by over 20 points.”
Buttigieg Goes After Sanders’ Supporters
Buttigieg, who is competing with Sanders for the title of frontrunner after the elections New Hampshire, also used his time on stage to attack Sanders and his supporters.
Sanders supporters, also known as “Bernie Bros,” have come under fire recently for their response to a flyer made by Nevada’s Culinary Workers Union that said Sanders would “end Culinary Healthcare” under his Medicare-for-all policy.
After posting the flyer on Twitter, the union accused Sanders’ supporters of “viciously” attacking members of the group, and the organization’s top leaders told reporters they received threatening phone calls, emails, and tweets and that their personal information was doxxed.
“We have over 10.6 million people on Twitter, and 99.9 percent of them are decent human beings, are working people, are people who believe in justice, compassion, and love,” Sander’s said of his supporters. “And if there are a few people who make ugly remarks, who attack trade union leaders, I disown those people. They are not part of our movement.”
“Senator, when you say that you disown these attacks and you didn’t personally direct them, I believe you,” Buttigieg said. “But at a certain point, you got to ask yourself, why did this pattern arise? Why is it especially the case among your supporters that this happens?”
“I think you have to accept some responsibility and ask yourself what it is about your campaign in particular that seems to be motivating this behavior more than others,” he continued.
Court Rules Florida Can’t Bar Felons From Voting Over Unpaid Fines and Fees
- On Wednesday, a federal appeals court in Florida upheld an injunction on a law that bans felons from voting if they haven’t paid their legal fees.
- In 2018, Florida voters passed Amendment 4, which granted ex-felons the right to vote once they’ve completed all terms of their sentence.
- Then, in 2019, Florida’s legislature and Rep. Gov. Ron DeSantis passed a law mandating former felons to pay all court costs before getting access to voting polls.
- With the help of voting rights groups, 17 felons sued DeSantis and other state officials in an effort to overturn this law.
- The latest ruling only applies to the 17 felons in the lawsuit, but it is still seen as a victory for all Florida felons who wish to vote.
A federal appeals court in Florida said on Wednesday that for now, felons can no longer be barred from voting if they haven’t paid fines or fees from their cases.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a preliminary injunction of a state law that requires convicted felons to settle all legal fines and fees before they are able to get reinstated to vote. The panel agreed to suspend the law until there’s a final ruling on it.
The decision of the appeals court only applies to the 17 felons who sued Rep. Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state officials in an effort to overturn the law. The plaintiffs and the voting rights groups that represent them argued that the legislation equates to an unfair poll tax.
The appeals court judges agreed, and said that the legal financial obligations (LFOs) law “punishes those who cannot pay more harshly than those who can—and does so by continuing to deny them access to the ballot box.”
While Wednesday’s ruling only applies to the 17 felons in the lawsuit, it is still seen as a victory for all Florida felons. A trial for the plaintiffs is still pending but slated to begin in April, and that’s when the overall constitutionality of the LFO law will be decided.
“This is a tremendous win for our clients and for our democracy,” Sean Morales-Doyle, a senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice, told NBC.
Background on Felon Voting Restrictions
Until recently, Florida automatically prohibited all felons from the right to vote ever again. This changed in late 2018 when an overwhelming majority of Florida voters passed Amendment 4, which granted ex-felons the right to vote once they’ve completed all terms of their sentence. Those with murder or felony sex convictions were exempt from this change.
The passing of Amendment 4 restored voting rights to an estimated 1.4 million people.
Last year, the Republican-led legislature and Gov. DeSantis passed the law that mandated that former felons pay all court costs before getting access to voting polls.
Supporters of the LFO law argued that Amendment 4 was not meant to restore voting rights for all felons, but only those who have “paid their debt to society,” including monetary fees.
Helen Aguirre Ferré, the Communications Director for DeSantis, responded to the Wednesday decision in a tweet.
“We disagree and will appeal en banc,” Ferré said.
Looking Ahead to 2020 Election
The recent ruling is especially significant as the 2020 presidential election approaches. Wednesday’s decision means that the 17 plaintiffs in the lawsuit are eligible to vote in Florida’s presidential primary next month, though other felons with outstanding legal fines or fees are still not.
However, it is possible that by the end of the upcoming April trial, the legal financial requirement law will be deemed unconstitutional, which will allow all Florida felons to vote whether or not they’ve paid the fines and fees from their cases. But if that’s the case, DeSantis and the defendants are still likely to appeal that ruling as well to a higher court.
It is unclear how this is all going to end. Some believe that the courts will move quickly to get it settled before the 2020 election, but the timeline is not fully set. Many expect that this particular case could be taken all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and ultimately be decided on there.