Accuracy in Media

Protect Democracy, a far-left activist group, found more than 450 former federal prosecutors and political types to sign a letter that said they would have charged President Donald Trump with obstruction of justice based on actions described in the Mueller report.

But the mainstream media made sure readers understood the impact from their point of view.

Special counsel Robert Mueller “had declined to say one way or the other whether Trump should have been charged, citing a Justice Department legal opinion that sitting presidents cannot be indicted, as well as concerns about the fairness of accusing someone for whom there can be no court proceeding,” wrote Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post, who broke the story under the headline, “Trump would have been charged with obstruction were he not president, hundreds of former federal prosecutors assert.”

What Mueller said was that the evidence could be viewed in a variety of ways and that he could not reach a decision on whether to prosecute. Attorney General William Barr looked at the same evidence and concluded in short order that none of Trump’s actions amounted to obstruction of justice.

Zack Beauchamp of Vox saw more sinister motives in “400 former DOJ prosecutors: Mueller had enough evidence to charge Trump” – subhead: “They don’t even think it was a close call.”

Beauchamp wrote that “the only reason Mueller didn’t indict … is that Trump is ‘covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting president’ – something Mueller believed it would be above his pay grade to contradict. Instead, he reserved judgment on whether Trump should be indicted and asked Attorney General William Barr to make the final call on the matter.

“The problem, though, is that Barr is hardly a trustworthy party.”

There was the private memo Barr sent to the White House before he was named attorney general “bashing the legal theory behind Mueller’s obstruction case against Trump.” There also was the “memo describing” the contents of the Mueller report “that was so misleadingly pro-Trump that Mueller sent him a private note complaining about it.”

Barr called Mueller about the note and said Mueller told him there were no problems with its accuracy and that nothing significant had been left out. His problem, Barr said, was more with the timing of the release of information – Mueller wanted the report released sequentially; Barr wanted to release it all at once.

Beauchamp then wrote, incorrectly, that “hours before the press release, Barr held a press conference in which he spun its findings in Trump’s favor, saying (for example) that the report found ‘no collusion’ when it expressly did not make any judgments about whether the president ‘colluded’ with Russia in any fashion.”

The report expressly said no one in the Trump campaign or administration – or any American for that matter – colluded with the Russians in the 2016 presential election despite multiple entreaties from the Russians to do so.

“All of this has made it seem like Barr is acting as Trump’s personal lawyer,” wrote Beauchamp, echoing a left-wing talking point, “and not in the attorney general’s role as defender of the justice system.”

The whole thing is “another blow to the credibility of an attorney general already reeling from a rough day of testimony at the Senate last week, a performance so dismal that it led several Senate Democrats to call for his impeachment.”

Beauchamp does not say on what basis the appearance was “dismal.”

NBC News’ Dartunorro Clark provided the most accurate description in “Hundreds of former prosecutors say Trump would have been indicted if he were not president.”  

He acknowledged “Mueller’s report did not say that Trump would have been charged had he not been the president” and that “the Mueller report, which identified 10 episodes that could be considered potential obstruction of justice, did not come to a conclusion on whether to charge the president. … Barr said they didn’t amount to illegal activity by the president and that he disagreed with some of Mueller’s legal theories on whether those episodes amounted to obstruction ‘as a matter of law.’”


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