Accuracy in Media

House Democrats have President Trump right where they want him, but they are refusing to see the big picture and potentially missing a huge opportunity to rid the country of this awful president, wrote Fred Kaplan of Slate in a story that appeared Friday on the website.

It’s not about getting at truth, Kaplan all but says. It’s about organizing the hearings in such a way that the American public can understand the Democrat spin, he writes in “It’s Not the Cover-Up. It’s the Crime.” – subhead: “House Democrats are getting bogged down in process, not showing why the Ukraine scandal matters.”

“The House Intelligence Committee’s hearing Thursday on the whistleblower’s complaint against President Donald Trump’s activities – the first hearing held since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the opening of impeachment proceedings – was a shoddily run affair, an ill-prepared ramble through the maze of process and possible cover-ups rather than a laser-focused inquiry into the damning substance of the documents that lay before the committee, containing charges that have shocked even jaded observers,” he wrote.

If the point of the hearing was to educate the public, Kaplan wrote, “then this first salvo was at best a waste of airtime.”

Kaplan pointed out that the laws governing whistleblowers state the director of national intelligence, upon receiving a complaint he finds ‘credible’ and of ‘urgent concern,’ “shall” submit the complaint to the congressional intelligence committees. He said Joseph Maguire, the acting director, withheld it for several weeks – “something that had never been done with a whistleblower’s complaint before. Since both Trump and, to an extent, Attorney General William Barr are subjects of the complaint, this seemed like a gross conflict of interest and evidence of a cover-up.”

But Democrats fumbled on this because they didn’t understand the process. Maguire “explained that, as we now know, this complaint concerned a conversation between the president and a foreign leader,” Kaplan wrote. “Such conversations are generally considered matters of executive privilege, which the DNI has no authority to waive. He and the directorate’s lawyers felt they had no choice but to consult with the White House counsel and the [Office of Legal Counsel] on whether the conversation was protected. Until they ruled on the matter, Maguire said he thought it ‘prudent’ to withhold submission.”

Kaplan then wrote: “This seems suspicious, and maybe it is,” even though he asked President Obama’s general counsel to the national security director whether the explanation was valid and was told “It was totally appropriate” for Maguire to consult about executive privilege and “I would have advised him to do that if I were there.” And what about consulting people named in the complaint, including President Trump and Attorney General Barr? “I don’t see how he gets a ruling on the issues of executive privilege without involving [the Department of Justice] and the White House.”

Kaplan then gets in an incorrect dig on an old matter, writing, “Finally, as Maguire also testified, an OLC interpretation of a law is binding on everyone in the executive branch. This was also why special counsel Robert Mueller couldn’t challenge the OLC’s ruling that sitting presidents can’t be indicted for obstruction of justice.”

Mueller’s decision to not recommend charges against Trump for colluding with the Russians in the 2016 presidential campaign and obstructing justice of the investigations into this possible collusion had nothing to do with the OLC ruling that sitting presidents can’t be indicted, as Mueller and Barr pointed out. Mueller said Trump was not indicted because “we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.”

Kaplan closed with a misleading statement. “Clearly the White House and the Justice Department had self-interested reasons for blocking release of the complaint,” he wrote. The White House and Justice Department did not block release of the complaint or the readout of the phone call with the Ukrainian president. In fact, they seemed to stop long enough only to make sure release was legal before putting all the documents before the American people.

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