Brookings: Speculating Wildly, Predicting Hopefully, Analyzing Badly

by Marta Hernandez on October 11, 2017

Barry Berke, Noah Bookbinder, and Norman Eisen have been busy at the Brookings Institution. Apparently they have nothing better to do than engage in wild speculation about President Trump’s possible impeachment, and forecasting Trump will be found guilty of obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation and driven from the White House in shame! Or something.

Reading this 108 page report, one can almost see the trio grinning conspiratorially and folding their little hands in evil anticipation of the President’s shame.

The problem is that Berke, Bookbinder, and Eisen are engaging in some unfounded speculation, basing their poor excuse for analysis, on publicly available information consisting mostly of press reports. The media hasn’t exactly been reliably objective on this issue, has it, and the few public testimonies that are available and cited in this report, really don’t give a whole lot of insight into motives.

The trio admits they don’t have all the facts in evidence, which prompts me to wonder why the hell would they create a 108-page research paper forecasting the President’s alleged guilt and what can be done about it. Isn’t that a bit like putting the cart ahead of the horse?

We do not yet know all the relevant facts, and any final determination must await further investigation, including by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But the public record contains substantial evidence that President Trump attempted to impede the investigations of Michael Flynn and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, including by firing FBI Director James Comey. There is also a question as to whether President Trump conspired to obstruct justice with senior members of his administration although the public facts regarding conspiracy are less well developed.

Public record contains evidence that the President discussed these investigations with Comey, and had expressed his hope that it would all be cleared up. The problem is these three are attempting to assess motivation based on press reports, and that’s something that’s difficult to do without having access to direct transcripts or recordings of the conversation.

When I assessed Bradley Manning’s motivation for stealing and releasing more than 700,000 classified records as being one of revenge, I was basing this assessment on direct chat transcripts with hacker Adrian Lamo, who later turned Manning in for the theft.

Berke, Bookbinder, and Eisen are basing their assessment of Trump’s motivation on press reports and Comey’s recollections. There’s a big difference, and the three admit as much.

The president will certainly argue that he did not have the requisite criminal intent to obstruct justice because he had valid reasons to exercise his authority to direct law enforcement resources or fire the FBI head. While we acknowledge the fact that the president has lawful authority to take a particular course of action does not immunize him if he takes that action with the unlawful intent of obstructing a proceeding for an improper purpose. The public record contains substantial evidence that President Trump attempted to impede the investigations of Michael Flynn and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, including by firing FBI Director James Comey. That the precise motivation for President Trump’s actions remains unclear and must be the subject of further fact-finding, there is already evidence that his acts may have been done with an improper intent to prevent the investigation from uncovering damaging information about Trump, his campaign, his family, or his top aides.

This all, of course, translates to: We admit he had the legal authority. We admit we can’t prove motivation. But the press suggests there was motivation, and we have evidence of intent, although we can’t prove it, but we’re going to say there was anyway, because POTATO!

Look, Comey was in the room with his boss – the PRESIDENT! I have no doubt he felt a bit pressured and probably took Trump’s words as a directive to end the Russia investigation or at least the inquiry into Flynn. But at the same time, that doesn’t prove intent. What it proves is that Comey took Trump’s words to mean something. Thing is, given how little thought Trump seems to give to his off the cuff remarks, and how tone deaf he appears to be in certain instances, it’s not unreasonable to believe he simply didn’t consider how his words would be perceived – especially early in his presidency. Dude is not a Washington insider, and it’s taking him a while to learn that every word he utters has a specific meaning. Remember, Trump is used to being a businessman. He’s accustomed to saying what he wants. He’s not exactly nuanced, and that’s an understatement. So, to claim that he intended to do something is pretty spurious, in my opinion.

But Trump pressured U.S. intelligence chiefs to scuttle the Russia investigation! So says the press, quoting anonymous sources once again.

But hidden in those reports is DNI Coats’ testimony in the Senate. While refusing to comment specifically on his conversations with the President, as he should, given his position, Both Coats and NSA Chief Adm. Rogers denied they felt any pressure from the Trump administration to obstruct justice.

Both men said they have never felt pressured from Trump’s administration to intervene in investigations into Russian meddling into the US election, contradicting reports that the President had previously asked them to downplay the probe.

“I have never felt pressured to intervene in the Russia investigation in any way,” Coats told members of the Senate intelligence committee when asked about such reports.

So who is lying, and who is telling the truth? Chances are we will never know. As Coats said in the Intelligence Committee hearing, he would respond to questions in a closed-door session, indicating the information is likely classified or sensitive, and therefore not for public consumption. Sorry, but if you want access to classified information, get a job in the intelligence community, pass a background investigation, and work on the appropriate issues with need to know access. Otherwise, your petulant screams for “transparency” are going to fall on deaf ears. Not everything needs to be revealed, and not all truths are contained in the media. Honestly very few of them are.

And my goal here is not to make a judgment call about whether or not the President intended to obstruct justice. What I am here to do is point out the obvious bias and thinly veiled partisan glee in putting out a 108-page tome about the President’s potential impeachment, and what the possible outcomes would be, without actually having evidence to support their assessment of their motivation.

Did someone pay these three to write this dreck? If so, they might want to ask for their money back.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

GWB October 11, 2017 at 11:42 am

there is already evidence that his acts may have been done with an improper intent to prevent the investigation from uncovering damaging information about Trump, his campaign, his family, or his top aides

Which “damaging information” has never turned up. And every bit of negative information the press thought it had has turned out to be grossly untrue. (Ironically, a bunch of it coming from the Russians.)

So, tell me, boys, again, why Trump should not have tried to stop this waste of time and money?

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