Iranian Cleric Claims Country Hacked Netanyahu Family Phones

TEL AVIV – An Iranian ayatollah who is a close ally of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei claimed that the Islamic Republic has managed to hack the cellphones of Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu’s “family,” according to a report by Radio Farda.  (More)

Barr’s Startling and Unseemly Haste

We cannot yet see the report that Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted to Attorney General William Barr on Friday. But we can see its shadow in the four-page letter Barr sent to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on Sunday afternoon. The letter will be touted as vindication by President Donald Trump and his supporters, but will do little to bridge the partisan divide over Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation, and will inspire more vociferous demands to release the entire report.

Barr’s letter thoroughly quelled some of the fondest hopes of the anti-Trump “resistance.” The letter revealed that Mueller closed his investigation without recommending more criminal charges, and that no further indictments are under seal, as some had speculated. That’s a great relief for Trump and his family and associates, but it’s not the end of their federal criminal jeopardy. Barr also pointed out that Mueller “referred several matters to other offices for further action.” For instance, the special counsel sent the investigation of Michael Cohen’s hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which secured Cohen’s guilty plea for federal campaign-finance violations. That office is still actively investigating the matter—we know this because it carefully redacted the details of the investigation when it released the Cohen search warrants last week. But the special counsel’s investigation was the most prominent legal threat to the president and his family, and its closure without further indictments is a major victory for him.

[David Frum: The question the Mueller report has not answered]

Next, Barr reported that the special counsel concluded that Russia attempted to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. That interference involved disinformation campaigns, efforts to sow “social discord” online, hacking the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party, and distributing misappropriated emails through WikiLeaks. But crucially, Mueller reported that his investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” whether expressly or tacitly. To use the popular cable-news vernacular, Mueller did not establish “collusion.” (Never mind that collusion is not a legal term, and that the special counsel’s mission was to investigate “links and/or coordination” with the Russians.)

Trump’s triumphant supporters notwithstanding, we don’t yet know what that means. When prosecutors say that an investigation “did not establish” something, that doesn’t mean that they concluded it didn’t happen, or even that they don’t believe it happened. It means that the investigation didn’t produce enough information to prove that it happened. Without seeing Mueller’s full report, we don’t know whether this is a firm conclusion about lack of coordination or a frank admission of insufficient evidence. The difference is meaningful, both as a matter of history and because it might determine how much further Democrats in Congress are willing to push committee investigations of the matter.

The other big reveal in Barr’s letter is that Mueller “determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” about whether the president obstructed justice over the course of the two-year investigation of Russian interference in the election. Instead, Mueller laid out the relevant evidence “on both sides” of the issue, but did not resolve what the special counsel saw as the “difficult issues” of fact and law concerning “whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction.” Mueller’s report “does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it does not exonerate him.” Mueller punted.

[Ken Starr: Mueller cannot seek an indictment. And he must remain silent.]

Why would Mueller spend so much time investigating obstruction of justice but not reach a conclusion? We won’t know until we read his report. But Mueller, a career G-man, is fundamentally legally conservative. That means he has a narrow view of his own role and a healthy respect for the authority of the other branches of government. He might believe that the evaluation is so inherently political that no conclusion he could offer would ever be seen as legitimate, and that the matter is better resolved through Congress’s constitutional authority to impeach (or not) the president. Even if Mueller didn’t make an explicit recommendation, we’ll probably be able to infer his conclusions by reviewing how he marshaled the evidence for and against guilt. Prosecutors, as a rule, are not good at neutral renditions of facts.

The attorney general showed no such circumspection. In less than 48 hours, he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein—who supervised Mueller for most of his investigation—“concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offence.” Though Barr emphasized that he and Rosenstein had been involved in evaluating the status of the investigation for months, and that they consulted the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department of Justice experts, this conclusion reflects startling and unseemly haste for such a historic matter.

Crucially, we don’t know whether Barr concluded that the president didn’t obstruct justice or that he couldn’t obstruct justice. Well before his appointment, Barr wrote an unsolicited memo to Rosenstein arguing that Mueller’s investigation was “fatally misconceived,” to the extent that it was premised on Trump firing former FBI Director James Comey or trying to persuade Comey to drop the investigation of Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national-security adviser. Barr’s memo was a forceful exposition of the legal argument that the president cannot obstruct justice by exercising certain core powers such as hiring or firing staff or directing the course of executive-branch investigations. So although Barr’s letter to Congress says that he and Rosenstein found no actions that constituted “obstructive conduct” undertaken with the requisite corrupt intent, we don’t know whether he means that Trump didn’t try to interfere with an investigation, or that even if he did, it wasn’t obstruction for a president to do so. Democrats in Congress will want to probe that distinction—as they should.

Mueller’s report was initially confidential under Department of Justice regulations governing the special counsel. In Sunday’s letter, Barr said his goal was to release as much of it as possible consistent with the law. In particular, he noted that the report includes information about matters occurring before a grand jury that are secret as a matter of federal law, and that some other references in the report might reveal the status of ongoing investigations. Barr must abide by his promise to resolve those questions promptly and in favor of as much disclosure as the law permits. It’s impossible to evaluate the results of Mueller’s investigation—and their legal, political, and historical significance—without the details.

It Was All a Lie

The short version? Mueller is done. His report unambiguously states there was no collusion or obstruction. He was allowed to follow every lead unfettered in an investigation of breathtaking depth.

It cannot be clearer. The report summary states, “The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 US Presidential Election…the report does not recommend any further indictments, nor did the Special Counsel obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public.”

Robert Mueller did not charge any Americans with collusion, coordination, or criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. The special counsel also considered whether members of the Trump campaign “coordinated,” a much lower standard defined as an “agreement, tacit or express,” with Russian election interference activities. They did not.

Everything—everything—else we have been told since the summer of 2016 falls, depending on your conscience and view of humanity, into the realm of lies, falsehoods, propaganda, exaggerations, political manipulation, stupid reporting, fake news, bad judgment, simple bull, or, in the best light, hasty conclusions.

As with Dorothy’s ruby slippers, the proof of no collusion has always been with us. There was a guilty plea from Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security advisor, on one count of perjury unrelated to Russiagate. Flynn lied about a legal meeting with the Russian ambassador. Rick Gates, deputy campaign manager, pled guilty to conspiracy and false statements unrelated to Russiagate. George Papadopoulos, a ZZZ-level adviser, pled guilty to making false statements about legal contact with the Russians. Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer, pled guilty to lying to Congress about a legal Moscow real estate project. Paul Manafort, very briefly Trump’s campaign chair, pled guilty to conspiracy charges unrelated to Russiagate and that for the most part occurred before he even joined the campaign. Roger Stone, who never officially worked for Trump, awaits a trial that will happen long after Mueller turns off the last lights in his office.

Mueller did indict some Russian citizens for hacking, indictments that in no way tied them to anything Trump and which will never see trial. Joseph Mifsud, the Russian professor who supposedly told Papadopoulos Moscow had “thousands of Hillary’s emails,” was never charged. Carter Page, subject of FISA surveillance and a key actor in the Steele dossier, was also never charged. After hours of testimony about that infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting to discuss Hillary’s email and other meeting around the Moscow hotel, no one was indicted for perjury.

The short version of Russiagate? There was no Russiagate.

What Will Happen Next is already happening. Democrats are throwing up smoke demanding that the full Mueller report be made public. Even before AG Barr released the summary, Speaker Pelosi announced that whatever he decided to release wouldn’t be enough. One Dem on CNN warned they would need the FBI agents’ actual handwritten field notes.

Adam Schiff said, “Congress is going to need the underlying evidence because some of that evidence may go to the compromise of the president or people around him that poses a real threat to our national security.” Schiff believes his committee is likely to discover things missed by Mueller, whose report indicates his team interviewed about 500 witnesses, obtained more than 2,800 subpoenas and warrants, executed 500 search warrants, obtained 230 orders for communications records, and made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence.

Mueller may still be called to testify in front of Congress, as nothing will ever be enough for the #Resistance cosplayers now in charge. Overnight, the findings, made by Mueller the folk hero, the dogged Javert, the Marine on his last patrol, suddenly weren’t worth puppy poo unless we could all look over his shoulder and line-by-line second guess him. MSNBC host Joy Reid, for her part, has already accused Mueller of covering up the crime of the century.

The New York Times headline “As Mueller Report Lands, Prosecutorial Focus Moves to New York” says the rest—we’re movin’ on! Whatever impeachment/indictment fantasies diehard Dems have left are being transferred from Mueller to the Southern District of New York. The SDNY’s powers, we are reminded with the tenacity of a bored child in the back seat, are outside of Trump’s control, the Wakanda of justice.

The new holy land is called Obstruction of Justice, though pressing a case against Trump in a process that ultimately exonerated him will be a tough sell. In a sentence likely to fuel discussion for months, the attorney general quotes Mueller, “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

It sounds dramatic, but in fact it means that, while taking no position on whether obstruction took place, Mueller concluded that he did not find enough evidence to prosecute. In the report, he specifically turns over to the attorney general any decision to pursue obstruction further. Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, meanwhile, have already determined that the evidence does not support prosecution of the president for obstruction of justice.

Mueller also specifically noted that obstruction of justice requires proof of intent, and since he found that Trump, et al, did not conspire with Russia, there can be no intent to obstruct an investigation Trump knew could not lead to anything. The case is thus closed judicially (Mueller having essentially telegraphed the defense strategy), though Democrats are likely to quixotically keep pursuing it.

What’s left is corruption. Politico has already published a list of 25 “new” things to investigate about Trump, trying to restock the warehouse of broken impeachment dreams (secret: it’s filled with sealed indictments no one will ever see). The pivot will be from treason to corruption: see the Cohen hearings as Exhibit A. Campaign finance minutiae, real estate assessment questions, tax cheating from the 1980s, a failed Buffalo Bills purchase years ago…how much credibility will any of that have now with a public realizing it has been bamboozled on Russia?

At some point, even the congresswoman with the most Twitter followers is going to have to admit there is no there there. By digging the hole they are standing in even deeper, Dems will only make it more obvious to everyone except Samantha Bee’s interns that they have nothing. Expect to hear “this is not the end, it’s only the end of the beginning” more often, even if it sounds more needy than encouraging, like a desperate ex checking in to see if you want to meet for coffee.

Someone at the DNC might also ask how this unabashed desire to see blood drawn from someone surnamed Trump will play out with potential 2020 purple voters. It is entirely possible that the electorate is weary and would like to see somebody actually address immigration, health care, and economic inequality now that we’ve settled the Russian question.

That is what is and likely will happen. What should happen is a reckoning.

Even as the story fell apart over time, a large number of Americans and nearly all of the mainstream media still believed that the president of the United States was a Russian intelligence asset—in Clinton’s own words, “Putin’s puppet.” How did that happen?

A mass media that bought lies about nonexistent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and then promised “never again!” did it again. The New York Times, WaPo, CNN, MSNBC, et al, reported falsehoods to drive a partisan narrative. They gleefully created a serial killer’s emptywheel-like bulletin board covered in blurry photos connected by strands of yarn.

Another generation of journalists soiled themselves. They elevated mongerers like Seth Abramson, Malcolm Nance, and Lawrence Tribe, who vomited nonsense all over Twitter every afternoon before appearing before millions on CNN. They institutionalized unsourced gossip as their ledes—how often were we told that the walls were closing in? That it was Mueller time? How often was the public put on red alert that Trump/Sessions/Rosenstein/Whitaker/Barr was going to fire the special prosecutor? The mass media featured only stories that furthered the collusion tall tale and silenced those skeptical of the prevailing narrative, the same way they failed before the Iraq war.

The short version: there were no WMDs in Iraq. That was a lie and the media promoted it shamelessly while silencing skeptical voices. Now Mueller has indicted zero Americans for working with Russia to influence the election. Russiagate was a lie and the media promoted it shamelessly while silencing skeptical voices.

The same goes for the politicians, alongside Hayden, Brennan, Clapper, and Comey, who told Americans that the president they elected was a spy working against the United States. None of that was accidental. It was a narrative they desperately wanted to be true so they could profit politically regardless of what it did to the nation. And today the whitewashing is already ongoing (watch out for tweets containing the word “regardless”).

Someone should contact the ghost of Consortium News’s Robert Parry, one of the earliest and most consistent skeptics of Russiagate, and tell him he was right all along. That might be the most justice we see out of all this.

Peter Van Buren, a 24-year State Department veteran, wrote We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99%.

Mueller Was Trump’s Nemesis—Now He’s His Greatest Asset

More than 675 days, 19 lawyers, 40 FBI agents, 2,800 subpoenas, and 500 search warrants later, Attorney General William Barr has announced the core finding of Robert Mueller’s Russia probe: no collusion. The verdict was quickly celebrated by a White House legal team whose strategy was to treat the investigation more as a public-relations battle than as strictly a legal fight.

In a letter delivered on Sunday afternoon to Congress, Barr summarized Mueller’s principal conclusions, marking the end of an inquiry that shadowed Donald Trump’s presidency from the start and led to the indictment or conviction of a raft of campaign aides and associates. Barr wrote that according to Mueller, neither the Trump campaign nor anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russians to win the election—despite “multiple offers” from “Russian-affiliated individuals” to assist the campaign. Mueller’s findings on whether Trump obstructed justice were far less definitive. Unlike on collusion, Barr wrote, Mueller was unable to make a judgment one way or the other: “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

It was enough for the White House, however, to claim victory. If Trump’s team had one overarching theory since the special counsel’s probe began, it was that Mueller posed less of a legal threat than a political problem. Mueller’s conclusions, as explained by Barr on Sunday, appeared to vindicate that approach. Now, in a supreme irony, Trump figures to invoke the Mueller report in his 2020 reelection bid, making the case that an inquiry he labeled a “witch hunt” failed to prove any criminality, said campaign and legal associates, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely.

[Read: After Mueller, the ongoing investigations surrounding Trump]

The initial reaction from the White House was triumphant. “As we already knew, NO COLLUSION! Nothing different from what President @realDonaldTrump has been saying for the past TWO YEARS!!!” the White House’s social-media director, Dan Scavino, tweeted moments after Barr’s letter was posted online. Shortly thereafter, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered an official statement from the White House. “The findings of the Department of Justice are a total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States,” she tweeted. Soon, the president himself broke his silence. Speaking to reporters before boarding Air Force One for his flight home from Palm Beach, Florida, Trump said, “It was complete and total exoneration. It’s a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest, it’s a shame that your president had to go through this.”

The coming days and months will show how widespread that interpretation of Mueller’s report will be. Trump is hardly out of the woods legally, with congressional committees and other prosecutors at the federal and state levels examining his connections to Russia, his business dealings, and his private charity, among other matters. Indeed, the next two years could be just as busy for Trump’s legal team as the past two. But their mission is likely to stay the same: All along, they took the view that Trump had committed no crimes and couldn’t be indicted under Justice Department policy. They largely saw their role as preserving Trump’s electability—and that included inoculating him from a potentially damning final report from Mueller.

Their methods, however, differed.

At an early point, Trump’s lawyers sought to accommodate Mueller, in hopes of bringing the probe to a quick end. That’s what Trump wanted. He detested the investigation and wanted it stopped. “It was impeding and interfering with his ability to be president, which was an outrage,” Trump’s former lead outside lawyer, John Dowd, told The Atlantic. “It’s very upsetting when you’re in the middle of really important negotiations—trade negotiations and other things. And [Trump] would get asked about it.”

One of Trump’s complaints was that Mueller had a personal grudge. He has made reference to a 2011 dispute with Mueller over membership fees at Trump’s golf course in Northern Virginia. But his lawyers never made that an issue, believing that cooperation was the path to ending the probe. They made witnesses and documents available, avoiding legal showdowns over executive privilege.

In hopes of speeding things along, Trump and his legal team considered giving an interview to Mueller, discussing a sit-down at Camp David at the end of January 2018. But in the end, Trump’s lawyers concluded that face-to-face testimony would be too risky. They instead gave answers to Mueller in writing. “I didn’t want to put [Trump] in that position,” Dowd said, adding that “he does the best he can, but isn’t always right on the money.”

As time passed, Trump began to recognize that Mueller wasn’t going away, and changed tactics. He stepped up efforts to turn public opinion against the special counsel, and clashes among him, Dowd, and Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer who favored a more cooperative approach, became more frequent. Dowd resigned in March 2018, and Cobb stepped down two months later.

Into the void stepped Rudy Giuliani, whose appetite for combat matched that of Trump. Giuliani told The Atlantic that he built his strategy around public polling that showed Mueller was far more popular than the president. “I said we had to defend him legally, but we also have to defend him publicly,” the former New York mayor said. In his view, the prospect of a “nasty report” wasn’t Trump’s biggest concern; it was how popular, or unpopular, he would be by the time of its release. A “mild” report coupled with an unpopular president could have still opened the door to impeachment. But if Trump’s approval ratings were on the rise, House Democrats “may not take the risk,” Giuliani said.

Giuliani likened what came next to a public-relations campaign: “I said … we’ve got to go public, and we’ve got to point out what’s wrong with Mueller and what’s wrong with the investigation.” Trump was all too happy to oblige. His tweets targeting Mueller picked up. Over and over, he described the probe as a “witch hunt.” “We will be doing a major Counter Report to the Mueller Report. This should never again be allowed to happen to a future President of the United States!” Trump tweeted in December.

Polling showed that the attacks had some success. A CNN survey in December showed that 43 percent approved of Mueller’s handling of the investigation—down five points since October. A Suffolk University/USA Today poll this month showed that 50 percent agreed with Trump’s characterization of the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt,” compared with 47 percent who did not agree.

[David Frum: The question the Mueller report has not answered]

Still, not everyone in Trump’s orbit liked the assault. Cobb told The Atlantic recently, “My views of Bob Mueller’s professionalism and character are well known. I’ve never been comfortable with the term witch hunt.” Giuliani said he knew that others in the West Wing weren’t pleased with his more aggressive tactics either. “The White House has been mad at me from the beginning,” he said. “Because they wanted to cooperate, cooperate, cooperate. They didn’t want to fight back.” But Giuliani never cared much about anyone’s opinion other than the president’s. “Trump has been very happy with it—I don’t care about them,” he said. “He’s my client.”

How the White House will respond to Mueller’s conclusions and Democrats’ reaction in the days to come remain open questions. As anticipation built last week for the release of something, anything, Trump’s legal team privately wondered whether a simple announcement from Barr that he had received the report was preferable to releasing its findings immediately. “I’d almost be willing to say, ‘Put out whatever you got, because we can answer it,’” Giuliani said.

Giuliani said in an interview on Friday that he had full and condensed versions of an 87-page counter-report ready to deploy the moment Mueller’s findings were made public. If Mueller were to accuse the president of wrongdoing, Giuliani predicted, it would likely be for obstruction of justice rather than collusion. “I can’t imagine they’re going to do anything on [collusion],” he said. “I think if they’re going to do anything nasty they’re going to do it on obstruction,” he added, referencing Trump’s dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey, as well as the conversation Comey and Trump reportedly had in which the president asked him to “let go” of an FBI inquiry into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Now, with Mueller having made no conclusion about obstruction in his report, the matter will fall to Congress and its investigations.

Mueller’s report looks to become a Trump-campaign selling point. Not too long ago, that would have seemed unfathomable. Trump has spent much of his presidency demonizing Mueller. On Friday, Trump questioned whether the special counsel even had the standing to write the report. No one voted for Mueller, Trump said; why should he get to pass judgment on a duly elected president?

Now, though, an investigation that once seemed to imperil Trump’s presidency could conceivably help him prolong it, said close Trump associates speaking on the condition of anonymity. They said that if even Mueller couldn’t find wrongdoing, surely none exists. “This is the most powerful investigatory team in the 21st century, tasked with finding out if a candidate for president conspired with a rival to take control of the government. And they succeeded in proving that he didn’t,” says Michael Caputo, a senior adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign. “It’s an incredibly successful talking point and an aggressive campaign message.”

Its ultimate success—that is, Trump’s reelection—could depend on what congressional investigators and other prosecutors find out. But for now, Trump’s legal team is as chipper as it was when it learned that the investigation was over. “It’s a great day in Washington. The weather got nice as soon as the report was submitted,” Giuliani enthused in a phone call on Saturday. “God loves Republicans. Well, maybe not all of them, but enough.”

The Mueller Probe Was an Unmitigated Success

So much about the rise of Donald Trump defied reason. But in the spring of 2016, he displayed one habit that I found beyond perplexing: He couldn’t stop praising Vladimir Putin. What made his obsequiousness so galling was that it often came in response to questions that warranted moral disdain: What about the assassination of journalists critical of the Russian government? Are you bothered by the invasion of Crimea? Whereas most of Trump’s policy positions shifted over the course of the campaign, his apologetics for Putin were a rare source of constancy.

As Trump raced to the Republican nomination, I began to search for ulterior explanations for Trump’s adoration of Putin—and the fact that his campaign served as a magnet for so many advisers and consultants with ties to Russian interests. On July 4, 2016, I published a piece in Slate pointing to Putin’s pattern of intervening on behalf of candidates hostile to the Western alliance, and arguing that we were seeing the same sort of interference unfolding in the United States. And I spent much of the next three years trying to understand the nature of that interference.

[Ken White: Barr’s startling and unseemly haste]

With tonight’s summation of Robert Mueller’s investigation, there will be a temptation among those who loudly trumpeted this scandal to apologize. And without a doubt, some Twitter detectives and journalists made mistakes—and overshot the evidence. They can apologize, but I won’t. Even if the actual Mueller report is anything like the attorney general’s summation of its contents, Russiagate will go down as one of the biggest scandals in American political history.

The Mueller investigation has been an unmitigated success in exposing political corruption. In the case of Paul Manafort, the corruption was criminal. In the case of Trump, the corruption doesn’t seem to have transgressed any laws. As Michael Kinsley famously quipped, “The scandal isn’t what’s illegal; the scandal is what’s legal.” Lying to the electorate, adjusting foreign policy for the sake of personal lucre, and undermining an investigation seem to me pretty sound impeachable offenses—they might also happen to be technically legal.

Through his investigation, Mueller has also provided a plausible answer to the question that first bothered me. Trump’s motive for praising Putin appears to have been, in large part, commercial. With his relentless pursuit of Trump Tower Moscow, the Republican nominee for president had active commercial interests in Russia that he failed to disclose to the American people. In fact, he explicitly and shamelessly lied about them. As Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen implied in his congressional testimony, Trump ran his campaign as something of an infomercial, hoping to convince the Russians that he was a good partner. To enrich himself, Trump promised to realign American foreign policy.

[David Frum: The question the Mueller report has not answered]

This is the very definition of corruption, and it provides the plot line that runs through the entirety of Trump’s political life. The president never chooses to distinguish—and indeed, may be temperamentally incapable of distinguishing—his personal interests from the national interest. Why has he failed so consistently to acknowledge Russian interference in the election? Because that interference was designed to benefit him. Why did he fire James Comey and, let’s use the word, obstruct the investigation into election interference? Because he wanted to protect himself from any investigation that might turn up material that reflected badly on him and his circle. (And whatever Mueller’s ultimate conclusion about collusion, his investigation has proved to be an unending source of damning revelations about the president and the men who constituted his closest advisers. )

Along with Trump’s stalwart defenders, many left-wing critics of hawkish foreign policy have been quick to tout Attorney General William Barr’s letter as exoneration. Matt Taibbi has compared the coverage of the Russia scandal to the media’s gullible reporting about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The accusation is that the media are prone to parrot whatever self-serving conspiracy the national-security state has to offer. But Mueller has apparently endorsed the fundamental underlying case emanating from the intelligence community: The Russians were actively working to secure Trump’s victory. What makes their interference so horrifying is that it involved the theft of information and the active manipulation of public perceptions. All that is arguably far worse than Watergate.

But Trump makes for a slippery figure to study—and here’s why Taibbi’s WMD analogy isn’t entirely wrong. Just as Saddam Hussein acted as if he possessed verboten weaponry, everything about Trump’s behavior suggested that he was guilty of instances of collusion worse than anything the public could observe. That’s undoubtedly a major reason that so many intelligence-community honchos were so worried. The other reason, which Barr cited again today, is that the Russians were actively seeking a partnership with the campaign. That such a partnership never materialized is a relief. But the fact that we’re not staring at the worst-case scenario of guilt is hardly a reason for giving the president any credit.

BORDER BATTLE: 1 million illegals with final deportation orders still remain in country…

Why aren’t we deporting illegal aliens who already have deportation orders?

We are told by the legal profession that nothing can be done to block bogus asylum-seekers from entering our country en masse, obtaining catch-and-release, and remaining here pending the outcome of a court decision that may be years in coming. But why is the DHS not at least deporting those who already went through this tedious process and have been ordered to be deported? Doing so would not only help eliminate public charge and potential gang members and drug runners for MS-13, it would deter the current and future wave waiting at the “conveyor belt” through Mexico from making the trip north.

According to new data obtained by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) via a FOIA request, there are 644,488 illegal aliens remaining in our country who have already been served final deportation orders. And those are just from the top four countries of origin – El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. The IRLI shared much more data with CR. The total number of illegal aliens who remain in the country despite final deportation orders is 1,009,550.

In addition, there are roughly 1.1 million others from those four counties who have “pending final orders” and are close to receiving deportation orders. Those with pending final orders are usually individuals who have already been ordered deported by immigration judges but are appealing their case to the Bureau of Immigration Appeals (BIA), the appellate body of the DOJ’s administrative immigration courts.

That is a total of 1.7 million illegal aliens from Mexico and Central America with final or near-final orders of deportation. Those numbers are as of June 2018, right before the largest surge in Central Americans began over that summer and intensified in the fall of 2018 and winter of 2019. The total number of those ordered deported or with pending deportation orders for nationals of all countries of origin is 2.55 million.

Putting aside the debate over admissions at our front door, shouldn’t there be a comprehensive effort to empower and direct ICE to begin deporting as many of these people as possible?

The entire reason why Central Americans are now coming in record numbers is because they know that, even though their flawed asylum claims will ultimately be rejected, so long as they obtain entry and are released pending the court dates, they will not be deported. But there is nothing reasonable keeping us from carrying out deportation orders that have already been issued.

It’s quite evident that if we begin deporting specifically the Central American families and teenagers, it will stop the flow of newcomers. By my count, there have been close to one million Central American family members and unaccompanied teens who have come since 2013. Very few have been deported. In fiscal year 2017, only 1.1 percent of non-Mexican family unit aliens had been repatriated and only 1.8 percent of non-Mexican unaccompanied alien minors had been repatriated. Those are pretty good odds to bank on for people seeking to flee poverty and enter the protection of America. What if we began to deport the 450,976 Central Americans with final deportation orders and accelerated the cases of the 715,930 who are close to final deportation orders?

If we prioritized both DOJ adjudicative resources and ICE deportation resources for these people more than for anyone else, it would immediately send the signal back to the next wave in Central America that we actually enforce our laws, according to Thomas Homan, former ICE associate director in the Obama administration. “ICE should do a nationwide operation to locate, arrest, and remove those who have entered the U.S. illegally, including family units, who have had their due process, lost their cases, and have been ordered removed by a judge, said Homan in a statement to CR. “If a final order issued by a federal judge doesn’t mean anything and it isn’t executed, then there is no integrity in the entire system.”

Of course, in general, it makes sense for ICE to prioritize the deportation of the two million known criminal aliens. But it is well worthwhile to divert resources for a few months to deport those who are fueling the current boundless migration.

Why does it seem like Central American families are being treated like a protected class over and above even the benefits that the radical judges are conferring on them – to the point that we are not even bothering to deport those who already have gone through the process?  “We did that about three years ago, and it had a significant impact on illegal border crossings,” said Homan, remembering how even Obama eventually shut down the first wave of Central American teens that began in 2013-2014. “It worked to slow down the surge in subsequent years in FY15 and FY16. For those in Central America that knowingly enter the US in violation of law to take advantage of the loopholes, they need to realize that we are a nation of laws and after you have been afforded due process at great taxpayer expense, you must abide by the decisions of our court system.”

There are a total of 1.7 million individuals who have already exhausted all of their options to game our loopholes. Pursuant to law, they must be deported, yet enough illegal aliens to fill up the entire city of Philadelphia remain in this country against the will of the American people.

How is it that, in 1954, President Eisenhower directly and indirectly removed over one million illegal aliens in just a few months without any lawfare, yet we don’t have the resources to remove the million with final deportation orders or the two million known criminal aliens, and certainly not both? Where there is a will, there is a way.

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Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.

Pollak: Democrats Embrace Socialism Because Trump Has Seized the Middle Ground

Given Trump’s ostentatious support for middle-of-the-road policies — including preserving Medicare and Social Security — the only way for Democrats to create “clear blue water” between themselves and the incumbent has been to offer the electorate eccentric socialist dogma. (More)

Maxine Waters: 'We Are Well Past the Time When We Should Have Considered Impeachment'

Sunday on MSNBC’s “AM Joy,” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) said she believed impeachment of President Donald Trump should have already been on the table, regardless what the Mueller reports reveals. Waters said, “This president has a way of trying to get (More)