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July 23, 2019

Eric Felten: Republicans Should Interrogate Mueller on the Footnotes of His Report -- Because That's Where He Lies the Most Blatantly

Felten notes that the illegally-procured FISA warrant buried, and obfuscated, the important fact that the dossier it cited was paid for by Hillary Clinton and the DNC, and compiled by a foreign agent.

And then he notes that Mueller/Weissman use that same technique of burying things, or making absurd claims, in the footnotes.

I obviously can't quote the whole thing, but here's one use of a Fabulist Footnote.

Mueller claims, in the body of the report, that a source claimed that Trump snuck off from Trump Tower, two days after his election, to secretly attend a chess tournament in lower Manhattan and chat up some Russians.

This is footnoted, and if you don't actually read both the footnote and the source the footnote points to, you might imagine that there's some evidence for this fantastical claim.

The most famous man in the world as of this day -- his Tower surrounded by dumptrucks filled with sand as a safety precaution against possible vehicle bombers -- just sneaks off to a chess tournament, with the world press present, to have a secret talk with RUSSIANS.

He just offers a short footnote to a 302 interview report.

To get insight into Mueller's method and intent -- his penchant for building edifices of insinuation on the smallest of citations -- it is worth unpacking one of the shortest footnotes in his report. Footnote 1024 on page 150 of the report’s first volume simply reads: "Nader 1/22/18 302 at 3." It is a reference to the FBI’s memo – known as a 302 -- of its January 2018 interview with George Nader, identified in the Mueller report as "Advisor to the United Arab Emirates's Crown Prince." Nader had spoken with a Russian who was attending the 2016 World Chess Championship in New York and who had expressed an interest in meeting Trump. Nader also told the FBI that an unnamed chess federation official had "recalled hearing" from an unknown attendee that Trump "had stopped by the tournament."

The footnote tells us just how thin the sourcing was for this fantastical scenario. And it tells us just how little in the way of plausible proof the Mueller team needed to go off on an investigative tangent. The special counsel even used one of his precious few written questions for the president (question V. a. to be exact) to ask whether Trump had been invited "to attend the World Chess Championship gala on November 10, 2016" and whether he had attended "any part of the event." Trump responded that he had learned in "the course of preparing to respond to these questions" that early in 2016 the chess federation had inquired, fruitlessly, about using Trump Tower for the championship match. But in any case, Trump said in his written testimony that he "did not attend the event."

It's worth pointing out that Nov. 10, 2016, was just two days after Trump's election and a day the president-elect spent in Washington -- it was even in the newspapers -- meeting with President Obama.

Was the President-elect at the 2016 World Chess Championship in New York, two days after his election? If so, the Mueller report suggests, perhaps he was not a white knight.

As for the other days of the tournament, how plausible is it that Donald Trump just happened to pop over to the World Chess Championship? This is not just because Trump is more a WWE than a WCC sort of guy. Rather, it is a matter of common sense. Trump was the most famous person in the world, hated and loved and surrounded by unprecedented levels of security. Trump Tower, for example, was encircled by dump-trucks loaded with sand. And with such precautions being hastily imposed, Mueller entertains as a possibility worth inquiring into that the president-elect was able to slip away from his Trump Tower penthouse, travel some six miles to the South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan, take in some chess, schmooze with some Russians, and return to midtown -- all without being seen?

This is where one would hope to find a more robust citation, because without a more compelling predicate than the sad little footnote provided, the special counsel's pursuit of Chessgate comes across as naive and foolish. And yet, Mueller's team finds it hard to let go. Back in the main text, Mueller uses his favorite grudging formulation of innocence: "the investigation did not establish that Trump or any Campaign or Transition Team official attended the event."

What he means is that Mueller, rather than stating conclusively that this rumor appears false, always tries to keep the allegation open and alive by saying "we failed to establish this fucker is guilty, but you know damn well he is."

Another of Mueller's tricks is to footnote a source supposedly supporting the claim he makes in the text, when in fact the source actually refutes his claim.

He also relies on media reports by reporters themselves fed leaks by highly interested parties (similar to how the FBI cited a Yahoo news article in support of the Steele dossier's accuracy, pretending this was a second, independent source, without telling the court that Yahoo's source was just Christopher Steele again -- so it wasn't a new, second independent source, but the exact same source, this time ventriloquizing his voice through Michael Issikoff).

Felten finds it strange that Mueller has to go to media reports to find out what the FBI told, or did not tell, Michael Flynn, rather than just asking the FBI itself.

Almost as if the FBI itself would tell a different story -- but he prefers the tale told by the media.

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posted by Ace of Spades at 04:02 PM

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