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The Week

The Week
(Roman Genn)

Don’t tear up your tickets just yet: We hear the Kentucky Derby loser is appealing to the Ninth Circuit.

Joe Biden has held on to a solid lead after a few weeks in the race. Anita Hill’s barbs against him, the complaints of some women about his invasions of their personal space, his opposition to busing in the 1970s: None of it has so far made a dent. Meanwhile, Kamala Harris is said to be retooling her campaign, reportedly in recognition that she has been too concerned about courting the Left. The other candidates should come to the same realization. What Biden’s strength shows is that a lot of Democratic voters don’t speak in the buzzwords of intersectionality, don’t want to see their insurance deleted, and don’t spend their lives being woke on Twitter. That doesn’t mean Biden will definitely win the nomination. His solid lead is giving all the other Democrats — and there are a lot of them — a motive to take shots at him. But elections are, not for the first time, proving to be a way for normal people to remind the political class of what their actual concerns are.

Chinese trade negotiators backed away from concessions they had seemed ready to make. Reportedly, they read President Trump’s attacks on the Federal Reserve as a sign that our economy is weaker than it looks and therefore concluded that they had leverage. Trump then boosted tariffs on China, and China responded in kind. Not to worry, says Trump, who encourages U.S. companies to shift their supply chains from China to Vietnam. There is a certain strategic logic to that move, which is why policymakers in both parties with concerns about China had proposed a Trans-Pacific Partnership that included Vietnam, us, and many other countries but excluded China. Trump ditched that idea as soon as he took office, and instead continues to improvise as stock traders watch nervously.

Three weeks saw three shootings in public places: at Chabad synagogue in Poway, Calif., the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and a STEM high school in Highlands Ranch, Colo. Each was marked by striking heroism. In Poway, Lori Gilbert-Kaye died shielding her rabbi, while Oscar Stewart, another congregant, and Jonathan Morales, guard, charged the shooter and drove him off. The UNC Charlotte shooter was charged and tackled by student Riley Howell, who died in the effort. Kendrick Castillo led three other students in subduing the Colorado shooter; Castillo paid with his life. Guards at houses of worship and schools, and greater efforts by law enforcement to monitor crime groupies — the Columbine killers have an online following — would be welcome. But the exceptional behavior of ordinary people may change the calculus of the wretched souls who hope to become famous via mass murder. Let the spotlight illuminate the brave, not the sick.

President Trump lashed out at former White House counsel Don McGahn for declining to state publicly that the president did not obstruct justice. But what McGahn told Special Counsel Robert Mueller was a boon for Trump: His cooperation with the investigation gave Attorney General Bill Barr a strong basis to conclude Trump lacked corrupt intent — an essential element of obstruction. Trump, nevertheless, is livid that McGahn testified that the president wanted him to tell then–attorney general Jeff Sessions to fire Mueller. McGahn wisely refused: Firing Mueller would have been a political disaster; having the recused Sessions do it would have made it worse. It is not McGahn’s fault that Mueller included the almost-firing story in his report but omitted McGahn’s assessment that Trump had not obstructed. And it is understandable that, after answering Mueller’s questions for hours, McGahn does not wish to comment further. The president says he was “never a fan” of McGahn’s. He should be.

Richard Neal, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, demands that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin produce six years of Trump’s tax returns. Mnuchin refuses. The Democrats are relying on a decades-old federal statute that grants the chair of key congressional committees the absolute right to see any taxpayer’s returns on request. It’s an absurd law prone to abuse, but it’s the law, and it’s almost certainly constitutional. Mnuchin is claiming that the chairman must have a “legitimate legislative purpose” for the request, but that condition is not written into the law. Moreover, even if a court interprets the law as containing an implicit and constitutionally necessary requirement that the committee have a legislative purpose, controlling Supreme Court case law indicates that a “legitimate legislative purpose” will be broadly construed and encompass investigations and inquiries. Mnuchin will likely go to court to avoid producing Trump’s returns. He will likely lose. As with taxes in general, you can get an extension but eventually you have to pay.

Democrats eager to examine President Trump’s recent tax returns had their appetites whetted by a New York Times report on ten years, 1985–94, of his last-century tax transcripts. The records the Times examined, provided by anonymous sources, show a headlong plunger who ended up a billion dollars in debt and exploited tax breaks to the fullest. The shape of Trump’s early career has long been known; he has boasted about his comeback. After a string of failed casinos and other big gambles, Trump would recover by branding himself as a celebrity developer, licensing his name to projects he only part-owned. The Times story fills in details of his early slide. Financial stories are thickets of minutiae; if the broad outlines are pre-baked into popular consciousness, Trump seems armored against future revelations. But the variety of his activities, and his aura of recklessness, will encourage investigators to keep looking. As Ronald Reagan used to say, of a boy shoveling manure out of a stable, there had to be a pony in there somewhere.

After a contentious intra-GOP fight, Donald Trump Jr. has agreed to deliver additional testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Chairman Richard Burr (R., N.C.) had subpoenaed Trump Jr. to resolve discrepancies between his testimony and that of Michael Cohen, the president’s former lawyer and “fixer.” Trump’s allies immediately rebelled, claiming that the subpoena violated Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s edict that the case was “closed” on Russian collusion. But the Intelligence Committee’s probe of Trump-team contacts with Russia is entirely separate from and independent of the Mueller investigation, and its mandate is broader. It’s not focused on investigating the existence of a criminal conspiracy but rather on Russian tactics and how they fit in with Russia’s broader use of so-called “active measures” to disrupt American democracy. More-over, the Intelligence Committee is also concerned with the performance of the American intelligence community as it reacted to the Russian threat. Trump Jr.’s interactions with Russians — and his knowledge of interactions with Russians by other members of Trump’s team — are highly relevant to the Intelligence Committee’s inquiry, even if there is no criminal conspiracy. Burr was right to press on, and Trump Jr. is right to agree to testify.

“There are no second acts in American lives” — oh, yes, there are, and Valerie Plame is on her third or fourth. Along with her then-husband, Joe Wilson, she was involved in a 2003 scandal. She was a CIA officer, and Robert Novak revealed her identity in a column. He had been leaked to by Richard Armitage of the State Department. Plame wrote a memoir, Fair Game, and spy novels. Her story was the subject of a 2010 movie, also called “Fair Game,” in which she was played by (the lovely) Naomi Watts. Now Plame is running for Congress in New Mexico. She has a history of promoting kooky anti-Jewish stuff, which she has unconvincingly apologized for. No wonder she thinks she belongs in the House Democratic caucus.

​​Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey has unveiled the most extreme set of gun-control proposals to be advanced by a presidential candidate in at least 30 years. In addition to the usual calls for a ban on commonly owned rifles, limits on standard-capacity magazines, and federal superintendence of all firearm transfers, Booker hopes to introduce a federal license for which all gun owners would need to apply every five years and to build an enormous government database that would contain records of every privately owned gun in the country — and of every gun owner, too. On its face, Booker’s plan is tyrannical: In practice, gun registries serve as giant, highly detailed maps that can be used by the government to stage a confiscation drive; most recently in Venezuela, we have seen how that tends to end. It is also unworkable. As Canada’s abandoned long-gun registry has shown, gun registries tend to cost an enormous amount of money for a tiny — or even nonexistent — return. In the United States, they are even less fruitful than they are abroad. As experience in California and Connecticut shows, many gun owners who are generally law-abiding are unwilling to cooperate with these schemes. Far too often, American politicians seem to begin their policy proposals with an implicit “Imagine we don’t live in America.” Cory Booker’s program is the worst example yet.

Imagine taking your car to the mechanic and being informed that the necessary repairs will cost $10,000. When you ask what kind of repair costs so much, the mechanic answers: “I don’t know what kind of work I’m going to have to do, but it’s going to cost $10,000.” Raise the figure to $2 trillion and you have a federal infrastructure program. President Trump and congressional Democrats got together — usually a bad sign, that — and agreed to spend $2 trillion on infrastructure, a figure arrived at apparently because it is nice and round and sounds good to the president’s ears. (An earlier plan had been $1.5 trillion.) What’s to be done with all that money? Nobody knows. Where is the money to come from? Nobody knows, though Senate Republicans already have said that they are not interested in raising taxes to pay for it — and Democrats do not want to proceed unless new taxes are part of the deal. Infrastructure that requires federal support should be handled through the ordinary appropriations process, one item at a time, rather than through once-in-a-generation slop-bucket bills.

The Trump administration is thinking about changing the way that anti-poverty programs calculate inflation, in a way that would result in fewer people being eligible over time. The idea is a good one, notwithstanding the predictable outrage on the left, because the “unchained” Consumer Price Index currently in use overstates inflation. When some things get more expensive, consumers switch to cheaper options, and the “chained” CPI the administration is considering takes account of this switching. As is so often the case, the Congress has left the executive branch with discretion, and the Trump administration is using it reasonably.

The administration has adopted a new policy, by way of a Health and Human Services Department rule, to protect medical professionals who have moral objections to performing procedures such as abortion, physician-assisted suicide, and elective sterilization. Religious freedom is a little safer, at least when there’s a Republican administration.

Georgia governor Brian Kemp has signed a bill that prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, often as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Abortion-rights supporters and their allies in the media responded with characteristic vitriol, falsely claiming that the law would punish women for having a miscarriage or imprison post-abortive women for life. Some feminist activists, such as actress Alyssa Milano, have encouraged women to undertake a “sex strike” until the bill is repealed. The Left has never had a good answer to the pro-life slogan, “Abortion stops a beating heart.” If the Supreme Court does the right thing, that won’t be true in Georgia any more.

What would it take to get the teachers’ unions to back a Republican candidate? New Jersey state-senate president Steve Sweeney knows: He is a Democrat who understands the need for public-pension reform, and the teachers’ unions want to retire him. New Jersey has a problem: The criminals, misfits, and incompetents who have long governed the state have long failed to make the necessary financial contributions to the state’s pension system, which leaves New Jersey with a lot of promises it is not going to be able to keep. By 2023, the state will be running a $4 billion deficit driven largely by pension expenses. The state’s unfunded pension liabilities already amount to $100 billion, by one estimate. Sweeney proposes doing what most sane jurisdictions have done and moving new hires and those who have been on the job for less than five years from an unsustainable defined-benefit model to a defined-contribution model — or at least a hybrid that would substantially reduce the defined-benefit obligations. The unions want tax increases instead. But even if New Jersey wanted to go that way, it is not clear that the state plausibly could raise enough revenue to keep the system going. New Jersey is not alone in this — the unfunded-liability problem is arguably a bigger and more immediate one than government debt as such. But the math is the math, and change is coming — one way or another.

In a referendum in Denver, voters rejected Initiative 300, a proposal to reverse the city’s ban on “camping” in public spaces. The outcome wasn’t close: 83 percent voted no. Some advocates for the homeless opposed the ban but also declined to support the campaign to overturn it. It could “lower the prevailing standard of human welfare,” explained the Homeless Leadership Council which includes local leaders of Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, and the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless in a statement. As the vote counts came rolling in on Election Night, organizers of the campaign against the initiative who had gathered at the Denver Press Club were restrained. A spokeswoman said, “What we learned from talking to people at neighborhood meetings is that people are concerned about this issue,” homelessness, but that legalization of vagrancy “isn’t the way to approach it.” Homeless people don’t need a sleeping bag and a spot in a park. They need shelter. The decisive defeat of Initiative 300 was a victory for both common sense and moral seriousness.

Facebook banned a number of controversial, hateful conspiracy theorists from its platforms, including Alex Jones, Louis Farrakhan, Laura Loomer, and Milo Yiannopoulos. Loathsome though these individuals are, Facebook’s justification deserves scrutiny. It cited “dangerous” activities off Facebook’s platforms. In other words, a person could comply with the site’s terms of use and still face a ban if Facebook disapproves of his off-site speech and activities. While Donald Trump is right to express concern about social-media censorship, his tweets of support for some of the banned voices (even labeling an Infowars reporter “conservative”) are unmerited and unwise. Supporting free speech often means defending the right of even loathsome voices to speak. It does not and should not include any effort to justify or rationalize their content.

Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, has called for the Federal Trade Commission to break up the company. Writing in the New York Times, Hughes argued that Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, have become so powerful that they now represent the type of monopoly that the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act was intended to prevent. Specifically, Hughes wants the FTC to force Facebook to sell the two largest companies it owns, Instagram and WhatsApp, and to institute greater oversight of Facebook’s free-speech and privacy rules. While certainly of the zeitgeist, Hughes’s proposal is a peculiar one, in that it would not actually “break up” Facebook so much as force it to sell other, unintegrated companies that it owns. Because those companies do different things than Facebook does, they do not help make the case that Facebook is a monopoly so much as make the case that Facebook is a conglomerate. Perhaps Facebook is dangerous. But while there are scores of people who have identified an ill they wish to solve, nobody has yet offered a coherent, workable remedy.

Our friend Republican congressman Devin Nunes has filed two defamation lawsuits. The first targeted Republican operative Liz Mair, Twitter, and two Twitter parody accounts — one calling itself “Devin Nunes’s Mom,” and the other “Devin Nunes’s cow.” The second lawsuit targeted the McClatchy Company (including the Fresno Bee, a McClatchy newspaper) and Mair. Nunes is claiming that the defendants published inaccurate and defamatory information about him, including information designed to ruin his public reputation. In reality the lawsuits have little chance of success. There is broad constitutional protection of parody. But it can be expensive and draining to fight even meritless litigation, and an aggressive litigation strategy can have a chilling effect on public criticism. Republicans should defend the marketplace of ideas, not seek to suppress it through vexatious lawsuits.

President Donald Trump pardoned former Army lieutenant Michael Behenna for the unpremeditated murder of an Iraqi detainee. By any measure, Behenna’s conduct was unlawful and improper for an American soldier in a war zone. Behenna stripped and interrogated the detainee without authorization, a clear violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. During this unlawful interrogation, Behenna claims, the detainee lunged for Behenna’s weapon. Behenna shot and killed the detainee. Behenna’s defenders claim that military prosecutors failed to produce exculpatory evidence that supported Behenna’s claim of self-defense. The Behenna pardon is an agonizingly close call. His conduct violated Army standards, but even a soldier who is violating the UCMJ of course enjoys a right of self-defense. Behenna is no longer in the military, and he served a term of imprisonment, but now he has the opportunity for a fresh start, with a clean legal slate. In the end, perhaps a measure of justice has been done.

Twice in a week, North Korea tested a battery of ballistic missiles. President Trump was eager to downplay these tests, saying, “These were short-range missiles and very standard stuff. Very standard.” What’s very standard is bad North Korean behavior trying to push us into concessions — and what’s becoming too standard are Trump’s expressions of complacency about it.

The 690 rockets fired from Gaza were often intercepted in flight but still killed four Israeli citizens, damaged some property, and disrupted everyday life. A violence of calculated stops and starts has been going on for a decade, and Israel has not yet found a way to end it. Gaza is in the hands of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), two paramilitary groups that simultaneously cooperate and compete, both of them financed and armed by Iran. Israel previously had a policy of restraint in self-defense in order to minimize the number of civilian casualties (for example, limiting strikes to empty buildings and giving warning). The element of deterrence was therefore lost. This time, Israel took a decision to make the commanders of Hamas and PIJ pay for their violence, striking their homes, their cyber-headquarters, and depots of arms and ammunition. The official responsible for channeling the crucial subsidies from Iran was killed in his car in a targeted assassination. Seeming close to panic, Hamas and PIJ became eager for a ceasefire that Israel was in no hurry to reach. Score one for deterrence.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey, has pioneered the modern way to deal with elections that throw up unfavorable results: declare that there have been “corruption and irregularities” — it’s not mandatory to provide a concrete example — and just order a rerun. By a fairly narrow margin, Ekrem Imamoglu of the oppositional Republican People’s party won the election to be mayor of Istanbul. Erdogan demanded a series of recounts but still could not wangle a majority. Assuming the office on April 17, Imamoglu was ordered out on May 6 at the behest of the so-called Supreme Electoral Council, rubber-stamping for Erdogan. June 23 is now the date for electing Erdogan’s mayor in a showing of real corruption and irregularities.

Brunei recently enacted laws that would impose the death penalty (by stoning) for, among sundry other offenses, engaging in homosexual sex (for men; women get off with a whipping). The sultan of Brunei hastened to explain that his nation has no plans to enforce this penalty, that no one has been executed in the nation’s history, and that Brunei’s sharia-based penal code allows plenty of “scope for remission.” It remains to be seen whether this straddle will keep him in good stead with the international community, but with a fortune in the tens of billions of dollars, he can probably weather a boycott or two, though our gay friends might not feel quite so secure.

Pope Francis has issued a decree mandating that every diocese establish a “public” and “accessible” system for reporting allegations of sexual misconduct by priests. The deadline is June 2020. The 3,000-word document, Vos Estis Lux Mundi (You Are the Light of the World), also includes protocol for reporting accusations, of both sexual abuse and its cover-up, against bishops, cardinals, and other prelates. Much of what Francis outlines in the document has already been instituted in the United States, which in these matters has been ahead of the Church in other parts of the world. Last fall the U.S. bishops were poised to approve further measures, relating to the handling of cases against high-ranking Church officials, when the Vatican asked them to hold off, presumably in anticipation of the directives outlined in Vos Estis, a uniform standard for the Church worldwide, although it’s broad enough to allow for differences in the legal and political systems across nations. A welcome if belated response to the sex-abuse crisis in the Church, Vos Estis should prove most helpful in those regions where bishops up to now have been reluctant to admit that the problem even exists.

Before Vice President Pence made a speech on board the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Harry S. Truman, the ship’s senior enlisted sailor, Master Chief Jonas Carter, called on his fellow sailors to “clap like we’re in a strip club.” Within a week, Carter had handed in his resignation, ending a 30-year naval career. That draconian punishment, and not the off-color remark, should be recognized as the real scandal here.

“I don’t think he did anything wrong,” Bill Mott, the trainer of Country House, said of Luis Saez, the jockey who rode Maximum Security to cross the finish line first in the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby. A couple of other jockeys rushed to file an objection, contending that, after the final turn, Maximum Security had veered out of his inside lane and blocked the horses behind him. Those horses then impeded the horses behind them — the equine equivalent of getting stuck in rush-hour traffic. Race officials reviewed the video and agreed. They disqualified Maximum Security. The trophy went to the second-place finisher, Country House (well, to his trainer, Mott, and to his owner, breeder, and jockey), the first time that a post-race disqualification has decided the Derby title. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission then suspended Saez for 15 days. It cited his failure to control his horse. Good for Mott, an honest rival, for defending him. The horse had a mind of its own.

Australia’s new 50-dollar bill has images of an Aboriginal writer on one side and the country’s first female member of parliament on the other. The MP’s side includes micro-printing of an excerpt from her first speech in which the word “responsibility” is misspelled as “responsibilty” — not just once but three times. Australia’s banknotes are made of non-biodegradable plastic, which means that this typo could actually outlast the human race. Oh, and 46 million copies of the bill were printed before someone noticed. In the publishing industry, we know that you never forget an embarrassing typo, so we can only hope that the proofreader who did the final check on the bill has a tranquil soul and a good sense of humor.

Jean Vanier was a great man. He made life better for many thousands. He was born in 1928, to a prominent French-Canadian family. Immediately after the war, he saw Holocaust survivors. “I’ll never forget the men and women who arrived off the trains,” he said. They were “like skeletons, still in the blue-and-white-striped uniforms.” Their faces were “tortured with fear and anguish.” Vanier had a deep feeling for the plights of people. In 1963, he visited an institution for the mentally disabled. The men living there asked him whether he would visit them again. He wondered, Why shouldn’t the disabled live with those who are able? He took the radical step of inviting two of the men to live with him. This led to the founding of two organizations: L’Arche (meaning “Ark”) and “Faith and Light.” Thanks to them, and their founder, Vanier, there are more than 1,500 communities around the world where the mentally disabled are living a decently satisfying life. Unlike some, Vanier was honored in his own times: by popes and more ordinary people alike. The New York Times hailed him with the designation “Savior of People on the Margins.” Jean Vanier has died at 90. R.I.P.

For one brief shining moment in the middle of the last century, when the U.S. entertainment industry undertook to satisfy the market demand for wholesomeness, Doris Day made her mark. Her charm was in her golden voice and good looks but also in her personality and style: frank but crisp and polished, plainspoken and well spoken at the same time. She began as a teenage singer with big bands in the 1930s. Before long, Doris Kappelhoff of Cincinnati was Doris Day of Anytown, U.S.A. Her recording of “Sentimental Journey” in 1945 put her on the map. From radio she glided into movies, starring in nearly 40 of them, including Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, between 1948 and 1968, by which time the proper lady whom Day epitomized had begun to fall out of fashion. She turned down the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, finding the script “vulgar.” After retreating from the business in the 1970s, she returned to do a little TV, first to pay off debts, then to promote animal welfare. Will future generations rediscover her genius? Que será, será. Dead at 97. R.I.P

After surviving not one but two double lung transplants, rising opera star Charity Tillemann-Dick passed away on April 23 after a battle with cancer. A lyric and coloratura soprano, Tillemann-Dick pursued her career with passion and dedication despite suffering from pulmonary arterial hypertension. Even though doctors told her she would never sing again after the transplants, Tillemann-Dick’s post-operation debut album, American Grace, landed at No. 1 on Billboard’s 2014 “traditional classical” chart. She was the national spokesperson for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association, frequently told her inspiring story in talks, and published her memoir, The Encore, in 2017. Tillemann-Dick is mourned by her mother, ten siblings, and her husband. R.I.P.

John Lukacs, historian and occasional contributor to NR, devoted his career to the study of World War II and the Cold War. About the latter he could be misguided: He inconsistently admired George Kennan, both for formulating the policy of containment and for turning on it. About World War II, however, Lukacs was superbly on target. He understood the attraction of Hitler and National Socialism: their air of efficiency and seeming modernity. He revered Winston Churchill for his determination to resist this malignant wave of the future. Never denying these titanic figures their role, Lukacs also honored Tocqueville’s admonition to historians of democratic ages, to study the choices and decisions of myriad ordinary people, since they too affect the course of events. His masterpiece, Five Days in London: May 1940, brought heroes and humanity into crystal-clear focus. It is the print version of Dunkirk and Their Finest Hour, only better. Dead at 95, R.I.P.

THE MUELLER REPORT
A Phony ‘Crisis’

Abraham Lincoln used to tell the story of a man who was asked how he felt as he was being tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail: “If it wasn’t for the honor of the thing, I’d rather walk.”

Bill Barr might feel the same way about being held in contempt by Jerry Nadler’s House Judiciary Committee. 

Nadler and other members of the Democratic leadership have declared a constitutional crisis over Barr’s handling of the Mueller report in general, and specifically a couple of redacted lines, including one footnote, in the 400-page report.  

To review the plot: Nothing in the regulations required Attorney General Bill Barr to release any of the report, let alone release it in its entirety. He did anyway, with minimal, entirely defensible redactions that the DOJ worked through with Mueller. He then testified for hours in public before a Senate committee about his handling of the report, while declining to appear for more voluntary testimony before a House committee the next day over a process issue (the committee wanted a counsel to question Barr; the attorney general objected, likely because he didn’t like the optics).

Collectively, then, and often working at cross-purposes, the Trump administration has done Congress an enormous favor the last two years. It appointed a special counsel; not only let him finish his work but cooperated with him (despite Trump’s ineffectual scheming against the investigation); didn’t object to his writing a narrative for public and especially congressional consumption; and with only a brief delay handed the full report, signed, sealed, and delivered, over to Congress, potentially to use as a roadmap for impeachment. Most of Jerry Nadler’s work has been done for him.

For the New York Democrat to turn around and have his committee vote to hold Bill Barr in contempt is truly bizarre. Barr’s alleged offense is the redactions. But he has made an almost entirely unredacted report available to top Democrats to review. They have refused to do so, boycotting the further information that they say they so desperately need.

The redactions that Barr can’t undo relate to grand-jury material. These are extremely minor in the obstruction volume — now the most politically relevant part of the report — amounting to a few lines. The notion that they would change anything is absurd, and regardless, the rules written by Congress forbid their release to Congress (something Congress might have considered prior to the onset of this purported crisis).

Nadler also wants the underlying evidence from the Mueller report. This is a more plausible-sounding demand, although it is highly unlikely that Mueller and his team left any damaging facts out of the report. Also, some of this material, especially the testimony and notes of the former White House counsel Don McGahn, is highly sensitive and a natural for a claim of executive privilege by the White House, which, for now, is claiming privilege over everything.

Barr is clearly being targeted so that Democrats can make a show of punishing someone in the administration, without taking the much more politically perilous step of impeaching the president. Although her statements have been all over the map lately, Speaker Nancy Pelosi still must realize that impeachment would likely be a political mistake. But the more Nadler and others inflate the current faux crisis and fantasize about throwing Trump officials and family members in jail, the greater the likelihood that Democrats will crab-walk their way to the impeachment proceedings they may think they are forestalling by scapegoating Bill Barr.

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