We Don’t Need to Read the Mueller Report

Repost from The New York Times, OPINION

Even if it is never released, the public already knows enough.

By Caroline Fredrickson, March 22, 2019
Ms. Fredrickson is the president of the American Constitution Society.
The exterior of the Department of Justice. The special counsel submitted his report to Attorney General William Barr on Friday.CreditCreditJoshua Roberts/Reuters

People lie to hide the truth. They lie to hide crimes. And while everyone is dying for a peek at Robert Mueller’s bombshell report to see if he says any crimes were committed by the Trump campaign in 2016, the truth is actually already out there, hidden in plain sight.

Mr. Mueller’s report may never go public, but we don’t need a peek at the recommendations he delivered on Friday to Attorney General William Barr to credibly assess that something unethical and likely illegal went on in 2016. The repeated lies told by Trump campaign staff members — lies about their connections to Russian figures — already spin a grand tale of conspiracy and deceit. And it’s a tale so suspect and sordid that President Trump and his associates felt the need to lie to hide it from law enforcement.

This is not conjecture; some of Mr. Trump’s people are already in jail, having been convicted in federal court for lying to investigators about their connections to and interactions with Russians during the 2016 campaign. Others have pleaded guilty to similar crimes, which — it bears repeating — is what one does when presented with overwhelming evidence of one’s guilt. Still others await trial. Many more have been indicted.

There’s the top Trump campaign official Paul Manafort, who is serving time for lying about his history of lobbying for Russian interests and sharing Trump campaign polling data with a Russian intelligence asset during the campaign.

And there’s the close Trump associate Roger Stone, recently indicted on charges of lying about communications he had with Wikileaks before it released damaging information about Hillary Clinton that law enforcement believes was stolen by Russian hackers.

The former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is headed to jail after admitting that he lied to Congress about a business deal Mr. Trump was pursuing with Russian figures throughout the 2016 campaign, lies Mr. Trump himself echoed on the campaign trail.

Michael Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser, is doing time after admitting to making false statements to the F.B.I. to conceal December 2016 communications with Russia regarding the sanctions on Russia imposed by the Obama administration.

Lastly, there is George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the campaign, who arguably helped precipitate the investigation when he bragged about his knowledge of Russian “dirt” on Mrs. Clinton to an Australian diplomat who then alerted the F.B.I. Mr. Papadopoulos subsequently pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. and is behind bars.

Then there is the president himself.

From the outset, Mr. Trump’s approach to the Mueller investigation has been characterized by paranoia and fear. With his increasingly shrill denials, the president comes across more as someone who fears he will be found out than someone convinced of his innocence.

And he has lied to the American people.

The president’s version of events regarding his campaign’s interactions with Russia has changed repeatedly since the investigation began. From early assertions during his campaign that he had no business interests in Russia, to claims about his role in issuing false statements about the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians, the president has been caught in numerous, verifiable lies on this issue. It just remains to be seen whether he lied to cover up actual criminal activity, including conspiring with a foreign power to sway an election, or working to obstruct investigations into those ties.

Ideally, Mr. Barr will share Mr. Mueller’s report with the country. But if he elects to withhold it, President Trump will no doubt claim victory. He will no doubt treat the absence of an indictment as full vindication. But here’s a truth for the president: He was never going to be indicted. The Department of Justice has a longstanding policy against indicting a sitting president, and the absence of an indictment does not mean no evidence of conspiracy or obstruction was found.
Sign Up for Paul Krugman’s Newsletter
Paul Krugman did explanatory journalism before it was cool, moving from a career as a world-class economist to writing hard-hitting opinion columns.

Robert MuellerCreditTom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Indeed, Mr. Mueller’s report may not be the end of the president’s legal peril, only the beginning. That’s because report or no report, through his prosecutions, referrals, indictments, convictions and subpoenas, Mr. Mueller has already provided the House of Representative with some very clear paths for investigation.

So even if the Mueller report simply gets tossed in a drawer in Mr. Barr’s desk for all eternity, there is already sufficient material out there to let the House exercise its newly rediscovered oversight responsibilities and get to the bottom of what happened between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.

Remember, Richard Nixon was not indicted, and there was no commensurate special counsel report in the Watergate scandal. There doesn’t need to be one here to right wrongs so egregious they were apparently worth lying about.

 

    This is where air quality was the worst in the Bay Area in 2018

    Repost from SF Gate

    This is where air quality was the worst in the Bay Area in 2018

    By Drew Costley, March 13, 2019 12:30 pm PDT

    FILE – The San Francisco skyline shrouded in smoke on in this file photo from Nov. 16, 2018, a day when the air quality reached purple on the Air Quality Index (AQI).Click or swipe through the slideshow to see where the best and worst air quality was in the Bay Area in 2018.  Photo: Russell Yip / The Chronicle
    IMAGE 1 OF 14 – FILE – The San Francisco skyline shrouded in smoke on in this file photo from Nov. 16, 2018, a day when the air quality reached purple on the Air Quality Index (AQI). | Photo: Russell Yip / The Chronicle  … more

    Residents of San Francisco experienced the worst air quality in the city’s recorded history in 2018 because the historic Camp Fire in Butte County. The rest of the region was choking on smoke from the wildfire, too. At one point in November 2018, Northern California had the worst air quality in the world.

    During the Camp Fire, Vallejo residents experienced the worst air quality of the year on November 16, the eighth day of the fire, according to the measurements taken by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD). On that same day, several other Bay Area spots also recorded their worst air quality of the year.

    READ MORE: San Francisco AQI jumps to 271, worst air quality ever recorded in the city

    “A few really big events can really affect the air quality in the Bay Area,” Charley Knoderer, meteorology manager for the BAAQMD, said. He added that the frequency and intensity of wildfires in Northern California in recent years is “highly unusual and causes a lot of problems.”

    Kristine Roselius, communications manager for the BAAQMD, said that climate change is “supercharging and exacerbating” wildfires in the region. “We’ve got more extreme weather and more extreme weather is causing more catastrophic wildfires that are larger in scale, that are harder to put out, and they put out a lot of smoke.”

    This chart shows the number of times the Bay Area has exceeded the federal standard for PM2.5 (particulate matter) since 2000. Although overall air quality is getting better due regulations, wildfire smoke is contributing to the number of days that a federal exceedance occurs in a given year. Photo: Courtesy Of The Bay Area Air Quality Management District
    This chart shows the number of times the Bay Area has exceeded the federal standard for PM2.5 (particulate matter) since 2000. Although overall air quality is getting better due regulations, wildfire smoke is contributing to the number of days that a federal exceedance occurs in a given year. Photo: Courtesy Of The Bay Area Air Quality Management District

    Outside of the historically bad air quality of November 2018, where in the Bay Area do we find the worst air quality? SFGATE averaged the highest recorded Air Quality Index (AQI) ratings to start to get an idea of where it was the worst.

    Click through the slideshow at the top of this story to see where air quality was best and worst in 2018.

    The AQI is a combination of air quality measures – carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide – taken by the BAAQMD.

    Knoderer said traffic congestion is the largest contributor to poor ambient air quality. The amount of traffic in West Oakland and near Laney College, along with action along the Port of Oakland, make the air quality in the area so poor.

    Ambient is a key distinction from the moments, like during a wildfire, when there’s unusually poor air quality. Knoderer pointed out that if it hadn’t been for the smoke from the Camp Fire, the Bay Area would not have had any days that exceeded federal standards for the level of particulate matter in the air last year.

    ALSO: N95, P100: What do all these mask numbers mean and how do I know it’s keeping me safe?

    “We generally have two seasons that affect air pollution differently,” Koderer said. “You have summer, when ozone is the primary pollutant, primarily from cars. And then you have the winter, which is primarily particulate matter or PM2.5, and that’s more local forces like fireplaces.”

    Roselius added, “Wood fires are the number one source of winter time air pollution.”

    This chart shows the number of days the the Bay Area has exceeded the state and national standards for ozone since 1974. Photo: Courtesy Of The Bay Area Air Quality Management District
    This chart shows the number of days the the Bay Area has exceeded the state and national standards for ozone since 1974.  Photo: Courtesy Of The Bay Area Air Quality Management District

    The good news is that most of the monitoring stations in the Bay Area had monthly averages of particulate matter – different from the average of all of the monthly AQI highs – that were all under the federal health standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter per day.

    Two of the three monitoring sites with the highest monthly averages in 2018 were in Oakland, at Laney College and West Oakland. The other was on Owens Court in Pleasanton. All three sites averaged 14.4 micrograms per cubic meter per day last year.

      Complaints Over Latest Flaring Event At Chevron Richmond Refinery

      Repost from KPIX5 CBS SF Bay Area

      Complaints Over Latest Flaring Event At Chevron Richmond Refinery

      March 18, 2019 at 1:26 pm
      Image result for chevron richmond refinery
      Chevron Richmond Refinery

      RICHMOND (CBS SF) – Four members of the public filed complaints with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District over flaring observed at the Chevron Richmond Refinery over the weekend.

      The air district sent inspectors to the scene Sunday, and they are continuing to investigate the flaring, which Chevron said was caused by an upset in a process unit.

      District spokeswoman Kristine Roselius said that so far, no notices of violation have been issued with regard to the incident, but detailed information about what chemicals were released into the air and why may not be available for months.

      Roselius referred to flares as a safety device, burning very hot to protect public health by pushing the emissions high into the atmosphere to minimize their effect on nearby communities.

      In a statement issued Sunday by Chevron spokesman Braden Reddall, the oil giant reassured neighbors that there was no environmental or health risk, and that flares are used to “relieve pressure during the refining processes.”

      Members of the community interested in monitoring air quality around the refinery can do so at www.fenceline.org/richmond.

      Sunday’s flaring is just the latest in a string of such occurrences, with eight flaring events reported in 2018 as well as incidents in January and February of this year. The latest reports of flaring

      Air district officials have said each one is under investigation, but that in most of the 2018 incidents, the flares were burning off hydrogen, which burns very clean.