Alaska News

Subscribe to Alaska News feed
Alaska Dispatch News News Feed
Updated: 12 min 51 sec ago

Letter: Thanks for a good article

Thu, 2019-04-18 11:53

ADN’s piece on April 5, reprinted from the San Jose Mercury News, “Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos to remain billionaires as divorce is finalized,” was very informative and interesting. It was like a breath of fresh air.

And now back to the Permanent Fund discussion.

— Rudy J. Budesky


Have something on your mind? Send to or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Get involved, change government

Thu, 2019-04-18 11:50

I would like to thank Rick Wicks for bringing Congressional House Resolution 1 to the attention of Alaskans, at least those who read the paper. This was the first piece of legislation passed by the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, but already, Sen. Mitch McConnell is announcing it “dead on arrival” in the Senate. This is unfortunate, as it reflects the desires of most Americans to see reforms made to our political system, and deserves a hearing and debate in the Senate.

Although it may be labeled as a “Democratic” agenda, this is wrong. It contains many of the reforms that former Republican Congressman Mickey Edwards, who served for 16 years, outlines in his book: “The Parties Versus The People.” Labeling it a “Democratic” bill is a way to turn off all other voters.

I urge anyone who is not familiar to simply look up this bill, take a few moments to read up on it, and then, as Mr. Wicks suggests, contact our senators to urge McConnell to give it a chance. Meanwhile, get involved with one of the many groups locally who are working on these reforms at the local level!

— Beverly Churchill


Have something on your mind? Send to or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Saving wild salmon

Thu, 2019-04-18 11:47

We use to call salmon “salmon,” but now we have to specify if they are wild or hatchery salmon. Hatchery salmon is the big experiment: will they save or destroy our wild salmon? The degree to which they genetically impact wild salmon will decide if they help or harm them. Currently the Department of Fish and Game does not believe hatchery salmon will harm wild salmon.

Juvenile salmon hormone levels influence hatching, imprinting, smolting, feeding, size and spawning. Abnormal hormone levels result in minimal levels of those traits. Normal hormone levels result from an intact wild DNA genome. Hatchery salmon environments directly cause DNA genome degradation which then results in abnormal salmon hormone levels. Those abnormal levels can degrade a salmon’s migratory instincts and cause them to appear to drop off the map.

This all means that hormonal changes can reset a salmon’s migratory alarm clock, along with changing its navigation and imprinting instincts. Those kind of radical changes can make a salmon run collapse or disappear at sea. Hatchery salmon need to have their genomes examined and compared to the wild salmon genome before being allowed to mix with wild salmon. Any salmon which does not maintain the wild salmon genome standard should be classified as an invasive hatchery salmon and not be allowed to reproduce with wild salmon. Currently, Fish and Game has this wild salmon genome information for many locations but it lacks a desire, mandate or funding to enforce such a standard on hatchery salmon.

It took nature thousands of years allowing only the strongest to survive to produce today’s wild salmon. Hatcheries work to destroy that strength by allowing the weakest to survive, corrupting that strength. Each hatchery salmon that enters the environment helps dilute wild salmon genetic strength by reproducing with wild salmon. Make no mistake, this “long-term genetic corruption” is plainly being allowed by the state so humans can “short-term profit” from the marketing of weak salmon. If the state continues to ignore invasive hatchery salmon and does not enforce a wild salmon genome standard on them, there eventually won’t be any wild salmon left to save.

— Donald Johnson


Have something on your mind? Send to or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Thoughts on proposed laws

Thu, 2019-04-18 11:45

Alaska is my home. I’ve grown roots and ties to the land itself. Though most of Alaska’s population has increased into a diverse state, Alaska’s indigenous tribes deserve recognition. I, as an Alaskan, descendant of the Yup’ik tribes, want what’s best for all Alaskans.

Outsiders must stop with all the nonsense. We don’t deserve to lose our way of life, especially our children’s traditions. They are the future. The Legislature needs to put in place people who can help the Alaskans, rather than worry our lives. We are not just a dollar sign, we are people. We have lives that we must protect.

Millions of dollars are being set out, and for what? To destroy the land? To take away from what’s rightfully ours? Rash decisions are being made without any knowledge of Alaska’s people. How can someone just strip away the livelihood of others just for personal gain? In my eyes, that is a very selfish act, and it needs to stop.

We are caring people, we take care of each other in times of hardships. Breaking that bond between Alaska and outsiders will not be in our hands, but in the hands of those who are seeking to destroy the lives of the people who are Alaska Native.

— Olga Nieves


Have something on your mind? Send to or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Thieves steal tools from home being built for family of slain officer

Thu, 2019-04-18 11:21

FAIRBANKS - A construction company donating time to build a house for the family of an Alaska police officer killed in the line of duty was targeted by thieves.

Fairbanks police officer Allen Brandt was shot in the line of duty Sunday, Oct. 18, 2016. (Fairbanks Police Department) (Fairbanks Police Department/)

Tools valued at $5,000 that were stored at a home under construction for the family of Fairbanks Sgt. Allen Brandt were stolen overnight Tuesday, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Representatives of Johnson River Enterprises discovered the theft Wednesday morning. The tools included air compressors, saws, impact wrenches, drills, and nail guns, and were kept in a locked trailer, said owner RT Lindner.

Brandt was responding to a report of shots fired in downtown Fairbanks in October 2016, when a man on the sidewalk fired at him as he slowed down his patrol car. The police sergeant died 12 days later after undergoing surgery to remove shrapnel that lodged in his eye.

A jury convicted Anthony Jenkins-Alexie, 31, of first-degree murder earlier this month.

An effort to build a new home for Brandt's widow and four children started shortly after his death, said Sgt. Bruce Barnett. Friends, co-workers and strangers offered time, labor, materials and money.

"There were so many people who wanted to help, which is understandable," Barnett said.

Multiple contractors and individuals volunteered for the project. Johnson River Enterprises offered concrete work and exterior framing and was finishing exterior walls and the roof.

"We were doing a last-minute push to get it weathered in this week," Lindner said. "It's very unfortunate, but we just keep the bigger picture in mind and keep moving. We're all out there doing what we think's right."

Volunteers will begin interior framing this weekend. Construction on the 2,200-square-foot house is expected to be completed by September.

Dunleavy fills Palmer Superior Court vacancy, resolving overdue appointment

Thu, 2019-04-18 11:20

JUNEAU — Gov. Mike Dunleavy has filled a vacancy on the Palmer Superior Court, resolving a situation where the governor appeared to violate state law.

In a message sent Wednesday night, Dunleavy said he appointed Palmer private-practice attorney Kristen Stohler to a vacancy on the Palmer Superior Court.

The appointment was about a month overdue. In March, the governor named a slate of judicial picks for various vacancies but declined to pick a judge for the Palmer Superior Court. In a March 20 letter to the nonpartisan Alaska Judicial Council, which is constitutionally charged with vetting nominees to the court system, Dunleavy said he was unhappy with the nominees provided by the council and asked for additional options.

Article IV, Section 5 of the Alaska Constitution states, “The governor shall fill any vacancy in an office of supreme court justice or superior court judge by appointing one of two or more persons nominated by the judicial council.”

In a special meeting of the judicial council held after it received Dunleavy’s letter, members declined to reconsider their list.

Dunleavy sent his letter at the deadline of the governor’s window to make selections. According to state law, the governor has 45 days to pick a nominee from the judicial council’s list to fill a vacancy.

Joel Bolger, chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court, met with Dunleavy after the deadline came and went without a selection. Following that meeting, the governor agreed to make an appointment from the council’s list.

According to a biography provided by the governor’s office, Stohler has operated a private practice in Palmer since 2011. She has previously worked as a public defender, guardian ad litem, and parent’s attorney in Child in Need of Aid matters.

She also has worked in therapeutic courts and with the Palmer Early Resolution Project. She received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont in 1996, and received a Juris Doctor in 2006 from Vermont Law School, where she graduated cum laude.

Read and search the full redacted Mueller report

Thu, 2019-04-18 11:14

The Justice Department has released a redacted version of the report compiled by special counsel Robert Mueller covering his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible coordination with President Donald Trump’s campaign.

Read and search the report below.

Related stories:

Report shows how Mueller team struggled on obstruction issue

Attorney general says Mueller found 10 cases of possible Trump obstruction

Trump attempted to obtain Clinton’s private emails, Mueller report says

Transcript: Attorney General Barr’s full remarks on the Mueller report

A guide to the Mueller report: Who, what, when, why

National Enquirer to be sold for $100 million to CEO of Hudson News

Thu, 2019-04-18 10:32

Ending an association between a longtime friend of President Donald Trump and the tabloid that favored him during the 2016 election, American Media Inc. is selling the National Enquirer for $100 million to James Cohen, CEO of Hudson News.

The supermarket tabloid, along with two sister publications, will be purchased by the head of the travel retailer known for its airport newsstands, according to people familiar with the agreement.

The decision to sell came after Anthony Melchiorre, the hedge fund manager whose firm controls AMI, became dissatisfied with the reporting tactics of the Enquirer, which is overseen by David Pecker, Trump's confidant for many years.

AMI has been under intense pressure because of the Enquirer's efforts to tilt the 2016 presidential election in favor of Trump.

Pecker and his supermarket tabloid have also been embroiled in recent months in an unusually public feud with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post.

The sale of AMI's newsprint tabloid business, which also includes the National Examiner and The Globe, is expected to reduce AMI's debt to $355 million, according to a person familiar with the company's finances.

The company has faced financial difficulty as it sought to refinance more than $400 million in debt this year and as the Enquirer's circulation declined. The paper sold an average of 516,000 copies per issue in 2014, but that number fell to 218,000 in December, according to data compiled by the Alliance for Audited Media.

In addition to its shaky finances, AMI faced significant legal risk owing to the efforts of Pecker and his chief content officer, Dylan Howard, and their "catch-and-kill" efforts during the 2016 presidential campaign. In that practice, the paper would buy the rights to stories with the intent to keep them from being published.

Pecker and Howard entered into nonprosecution agreements with federal investigators to avoid indictments for their role in buying and then burying the story of a former Playboy model who alleged having an affair with Trump.

In August, just as those top officers were finalizing their nonprosecution agreements, the company’s board of directors started looking for ways to unload the tabloid business “because they didn’t want to deal with hassles like this anymore,” said a person familiar with the board’s deliberations.

Trump attempted to obtain Clinton’s private emails, Mueller report says

Thu, 2019-04-18 09:56

Hillary Clinton campaigning in Kentucky in May 2016. (Melina Mara / The Washington Post) (The Washington Post/)

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump pushed for obtaining Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s private emails and his campaign was in touch with allies who were pursuing them, according to the redacted special counsel’s report released Thursday.

On July 27, 2016, Trump famously said at a campaign rally, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," referring to emails that Clinton said she had deleted from her private server. She had used a private account during her tenure as secretary of state.

Trump also "made this request repeatedly" during the campaign, former national security adviser Michael Flynn told special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Flynn "contacted multiple people in an effort to obtain the emails," including Peter Smith, a longtime Republican operative, and Barbara Ledeen, a Republican Senate staffer who herself had previously tried to find the emails.

[Report shows how Mueller team struggled on obstruction issue]

Months earlier, Ledeen had written to Smith that Clinton’s server had likely been breached long ago, and that “the Chinese, Russian, and Iranian intelligence services could ‘reassemble the server’s email content.’”

After Trump's July comments about Russia, Smith launched his own effort to find the missing emails.

"He created a company, raised tens of thousands of dollars, and recruited security experts and business associates," the investigation found. Smith also claimed that "he was in contact with hackers 'with ties and affiliations to Russia' who had access to the emails, and that his efforts were coordinated with the Trump campaign," but the special counsel couldn't establish if that was true.

In August, Smith wrote to Trump campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis, among others, about his efforts. "Parties with varying interests, are circling to release [the emails] ahead of the election," Smith said. And as Smith raised thousands of dollars for his efforts, he told potential donors that he was doing his work "in coordination" with the Trump campaign, the special counsel found. The investigation only found that Smith communicated directly with Flynn and Clovis.

Ledeen later told Smith she believed she had obtained a trove of emails that might be Clinton's. Smith wanted to authenticate them, and Erik Prince, the private military contractor, Trump supporter and brother of current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, "provided funding to hire a tech adviser to ascertain the authenticity of the emails."

According to Prince, the tech adviser determined that the emails were not authentic, the report found. Ultimately, the investigation did not establish that Smith, Ledeen, or others in touch with the Trump campaign obtained the Clinton emails.

The special counsel also didn’t find evidence that any Trump campaign staff or associates “initiated or directed Smith’s efforts.”

These quick, tasty Alaska beet-pickled eggs bring brilliant color to any appetizer tray

Thu, 2019-04-18 09:44

Hen and quail eggs pickled with Alaska beets and spices. (Julia O'Malley / ADN)

I said goodbye to my little flock of chickens this week. It was a good urban chicken run, but I decided it might be time for the children to get a dog, and the combo seems dicey. In honor of my girls, I’m sharing a favorite recipe that celebrates both Alaska’s sweet beets and the wide variety of eggs you can find in town, if you know where to look. I’m a huge fan of quail eggs, which you can get for between $2 and $3 a dozen at a number of Asian markets, including very regularly at New Sagaya Midtown Market and New Central Market. Kids love them. Duck eggs are a little trickier, but can sometimes be had at farmers markets and, occasionally, at both Sagaya markets.

This is a great recipe for using the last of the beets in your root cellar, if you still have some. I like to boil the eggs until they are just cooked in the middle, giving the yolks a jammy texture. If you’d like a harder egg, you can boil for a few minutes more. With the beets, I simmer long enough to cook them but leave them little toothsome, which makes for a good pickled texture. You can use them on an appetizer tray, slice them on buttered crackers or make a sandwich with some greens, steamed cold asparagus and mayonnaise on nice bread.

Quick Alaska beet-pickled eggs


8 chicken eggs or 6 assorted chicken and/or duck eggs plus a dozen quail eggs

1 cup white vinegar

1 cup water

1 1/4 pounds beets, peeled and sliced about 1/4 inch thick

3/4 cup sugar

1 cinnamon stick

6 cloves

1 teaspoon allspice

2 teaspoons salt

Instructions: Place the beets, water, sugar, vinegar, spices and salt in a pan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Turn heat down to a simmer and cook beets in the liquid for 8 to 10 minutes, until they give easily when pierced with a fork. Remove the beet mixture from the heat and allow to cool. Meanwhile, place eggs in a pan of cold water and set over the heat. When the pan begins to boil, turn the heat to medium and set the timer for 7 minutes. When the timer rings, place pan in the sink and run cold water into it for a few minutes to cool the eggs. Once you can handle them, peel them carefully. When the beet mixture is cool, use a slotted spoon to scoop the beets into a large glass jar or bowl (do not use metal or plastic), layering them in with the boiled eggs. After that, pour the beet liquid over the beets and eggs to cover. (If for some reason you need a little more liquid, add equal parts water and vinegar.) Cover and chill for at least four hours before serving.

Advocates call on Fairbanks school district to address bullying in wake of bathroom incident

Thu, 2019-04-18 09:16

FAIRBANKS - Advocates have called on an Alaska school district to do more to protect vulnerable students after a group of boys tried to enter a girls’ restroom at a high school to take photos for social media.

Multiple people spoke Tuesday at a school board meeting of the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, criticizing the district’s handling of the bathroom incident, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

The group of seven North Pole High School boys tried to enter the bathroom as a "form of protest" after a transgender student had taken a selfie inside the boys' restroom and shared the photo on social media, Superintendent Karen Gaborik said in statement Monday.

[A North Pole student kicked a boy who walked into the girls bathroom. Then she got expelled.]

The boys were confronted by a girl who kicked one of the boys in the groin, Gaborik said. The students involved were disciplined, but the district did not say how, citing student confidentiality protections.

The girl's mother said her daughter was indefinitely expelled and that the punishment is being appealed.

A school district hearing officer is scheduled this week to hear the discipline appeals, Gaborik said.

A district investigator found no evidence that the boys were threatening or using force during the bathroom incident.

The boys' action was an attempt to bully a transgender student and was not an act of protest, said Hayden Nevill, founder of Gender Pioneers, an activism and support group for transgender people.

The Rev. Leslie Ahuvah Fails told the board that the school district needs to do more to keep transgender students safe.

"The bottom line is that no child should have to be afraid when they go to school," Fails said.

Some parents disagreed with advocates' characterization of events. Fred Sayer told the board that the district should adopt more restrictive restroom policies.

“This has nothing to do with being intolerant but rather keeping students safe,” Sayer said.

Man set to be extradited by Maine in decades-old Alaska cold case is likely to seek delay

Thu, 2019-04-18 09:12

LEWISTON, Maine - Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed a warrant allowing the extradition of a man who is wanted in Alaska to face charges he sexually assaulted and killed a woman more than two decades ago.

Steven Downs appears at Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn, Maine on Wednesday, March 20, 2019 during his extradition hearing. Downs has been charged by Alaska authorities with the 1993 sexual assault and murder of 20-year-old Sophie Sergie at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal via AP) (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal/)

But Steven Downs, 44, will likely challenge the governor’s warrant as he seeks additional time to get his personal and legal affairs in order for his eventual extradition to Alaska for trial, defense attorney James Howaniec said Thursday.

Downs is charged with the assault and murder of 20-year-old Sophie Sergie at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1993, when Downs was a student and Sergie was a former student.

Sergie was sexually assaulted, shot in the head and stabbed multiple times. Her body was found on the morning of April 26, 1993, in a dormitory bathtub.

[Former co-workers describe ‘uncomfortable’ behavior of man now charged in 1993 Fairbanks killing]

[How genealogists helped track down the Maine man accused of killing Sophie Sergie nearly 26 years ago]

The case went unsolved for years before DNA evidence led to Downs’ arrest in February. Since then, he’s been held without bail on a fugitive from justice charge.

Downs has denied any involvement in the crime and contends he was with his girlfriend when Sergie was killed, Howaniec said.

"He's completely flabbergasted by these charges. He adamantly denies any involvement in this crime. We want to step back and assess the situation," he said.

The next court date is on May 20.

There's no doubt Downs will be extradited to Alaska to stand trial, but Howaniec said he's exercising his right to contest extradition to be as prepared as possible.

Howaniec and another attorney, Jesse Archer, are going through the steps necessary to represent Downs in Alaska and to begin the discovery process.

Report shows how Mueller team struggled on obstruction issue

Thu, 2019-04-18 08:18

President Trump stops to talk to the media on the South Lawn of the White House while walking to Marine One in March. Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford (Jabin Botsford/)

WASHINGTON - A detailed report from special counsel Robert Mueller said investigators struggled with both the legal implications of investigating President Donald Trump for possible obstruction of justice, and the motives behind a range of his most alarming actions, from seeking the ouster of former officials to ordering a memo that would clear his name.

"The evidence we obtained about the President's actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment," the report stated. "At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment."

Since Mueller concluded his investigation last month, a central question facing the Justice Department has been why Mueller's team did not reach a conclusion about whether the president obstructed justice. The issue was complicated, the report said, by two key issues - the fact that under department practice, a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, and that a president has a great deal of constitutional authority to give orders to other government employees.

Trump ultimately submitted written answers to the investigators. The special counsel's office considered them "inadequate" but did not press for an interview because doing so would cause a "substantial delay," the report says.

The report said investigators felt they have "sufficient evidence to understand relevant events and to make certain assessments without the President's testimony."

A copy of the report was delivered to Congress Thursday morning.

[A guide to the Mueller report: Who, what, when, why]

The report said that in June 2017, Trump directed White House Counsel Don McGahn to call the acting attorney general and say that Mueller must be ousted because he had conflicts of interest.

McGahn refused — deciding he would rather resign than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre of Watergate firings fame.

Repeatedly, it appears Trump may have been saved from more serious legal jeopardy by his own staffers, who refused to carry out orders they thought were problematic or legally dangerous.

For instance, in the early days of the administration, when the president was facing growing questions about then-national security adviser Michael Flynn's conversation about sanctions with a Russian ambassador, the president ordered another aide, KT McFarland, to write an email saying that the president did not direct those conversations. She decided not to do so, unsure if that was true and fearing it might be improper.

"Some evidence suggests that the President knew about the existence and content of Flynn's calls when they occurred, but the evidence is inconclusive and could not be relied upon to establish the President's knowledge,' the report said.

The special counsel's report on possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russians to interfere in the 2016 election is extremely detailed with only modest redactions - painting a far less flattering picture for Trump than the attorney general has offered and revealing new details about interactions between Russians and Trump associates. Mueller's team wrote that though their investigation "did not establish that the Trump Campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities," that assertion was informed by the fact that coordination requires more than two parties "taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other's actions or interests."

And Mueller made abundantly clear: Russia wanted to help the Trump campaign, and the Trump campaign was willing to take it.

"Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities," Mueller's team wrote.

The report detailed a damning timeline of contacts between the Trump campaign and those with Russian ties - much of it already known, but some of it new. For example, Mueller's team asserted that in August 2016, Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI has assessed as having ties to Russia, met with Manafort "to deliver in person a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort acknowledged to the Special Counsel's Office was a 'backdoor' way for Russia to control part of eastern Ukraine."

The special counsel wrote that both men believed the plan would require candidate Trump's assent to success (were he elected President)."

"They also discussed the status of the Trump Campaign and Manafort's strategy for winning Democratic votes in Midwestern states," the special counsel wrote. "Months before that meeting, Manafort had caused internal polling data to be shared with Kilimnik, and the sharing continued for some period of time after their August meeting."

Attorney General William Barr said Thursday he and his deputy disagreed with some of Mueller's legal theories, as he described how the nation's top law enforcement officials wrestled with investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice.

Barr spoke to reporters in advance of the release of the nearly 400-page report Mueller submitted last month concluding his investigation, which has gripped the White House and at times the country since Mueller’s appointment as special counsel nearly two years ago.

The attorney general said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “disagreed with some of the special counsel’s legal theories and felt that some of the episodes did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law,” but that they accepted the special counsel’s “legal framework” as they analyzed the case.

Barr said Mueller's report recounts "10 episodes" involving the president and discusses "potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense."

[Transcript: Attorney General Barr’s full remarks on the Mueller report]

The statements mark the first official acknowledgment of differing views inside the Justice Department about how to investigate the president.

Barr said Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election "did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign."

The report gives a granular accounting of the ways in which the president's behavior raised concerns he might have tried to obstruct justice, people familiar with it said.

Justice Department officials have briefed the White House on the report's general outlines, these people said. It will reveal that Mueller decided he could not come to a conclusion on the question of obstruction because it was difficult to determine Trump's intent and some of his actions could be interpreted innocently, the people said. But it will offer a detailed blow-by-blow of his alleged conduct - analyzing tweets, private threats and other episodes at the center of Mueller's inquiry, they added.

Ahead of the announcement, the president lobbed another attack on the investigation.

"PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!" he tweeted Thursday morning. "The Greatest Political Hoax of all time! Crimes were committed by Crooked, Dirty Cops and DNC/The Democrats."

The Mueller report is considered so potentially explosive that even the Justice Department's rollout plan has sparked a firestorm, with Democrats suggesting Wednesday that the attorney general was trying to improperly color Mueller's findings before the public could read them.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said at a news conference that Barr "appears to be waging a media campaign on behalf of President Trump" and had "taken unprecedented steps to spin Mueller's nearly two-year investigation." Nadler said that after his committee had time to review the redacted report, he would ask Mueller and other members of his team to testify before Congress.

Congress and the White House have been bracing for the report's release as they wait to learn how politically damaging it may be for the president or those close to him.

Mueller spent 22 months investigating whether any Americans may have conspired with Russians to interfere in the 2016 election, and whether the president may have tried to obstruct justice in that investigation.

Congressional Democrats have vowed to fight to get the entire report, without redactions, as well as the underlying investigative documents Mueller gathered.

The report has been the subject of heated debate since Barr notified Congress last month that Mueller had completed his work.

In a four-page letter, Barr said in March that Mueller "did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election."

That letter also said the special counsel withheld judgment on whether Trump tried to obstruct justice during the investigation.

"The Special Counsel . . . did not draw a conclusion - one way or the other - as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction," Barr wrote. "The Special Counsel states that 'while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.'"

Barr told lawmakers he needed time to redact sensitive information from the report before it could be made public, including any grand jury material as well as details whose public release could harm ongoing investigations.

Barr also said he would review the document to redact information that would "potentially compromise sources and methods" in intelligence collection and anything that would "unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties."

That language suggests Barr wants to keep secret any derogatory information gathered by investigators about figures who ended up not being central to Mueller’s investigation.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this article.

Attorney general says Mueller found 10 cases of possible Trump obstruction

Thu, 2019-04-18 07:16

Attorney General William Barr said Special Counsel Robert Mueller recounted 10 episodes of potential obstruction by President Donald Trump, though Barr said there was evidence that Trump had “noncorrupt motives.”

Barr said he and his deputy disagreed with some of Mueller's theories on obstruction. "The president took no action that in fact deprived the special counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete the investigation," the attorney general said at a news conference Thursday.

[Transcript: Attorney General Barr’s full remarks on the Mueller report]

Barr disclosed that he let the president’s personal lawyer see the report in advance of its delivery to Congress at 11 a.m. with “limited redactions.” The White House didn’t request that additional material be withheld and there were no redactions based on executive privilege, Barr said.

"Game Over," Trump tweeted immediately after Barr's news conference.

The attorney general also said that Russians didn't have the "knowing assistance" of any Americans in their interference in the 2016 campaign.

"The Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign -- or the knowing assistance of any other American for that matter," Barr said.

[Mueller report to be lightly redacted, with detailed look at obstruction of justice investigation]

[A guide to the Mueller report: Who, what, when, why]

Barr said leaders of several congressional committees will be given a version of the report with no reductions except those relating to grand jury information, he said. He also said he wouldn’t object to Mueller testifying before Congress, as lawmakers have sought.

Democrats blasted Barr's decision to hold a briefing before the public could see Mueller's findings, portraying it as an effort to spin the findings in Trump's favor. Five House chairmen released a joint statement calling on Barr to cancel the news conference and "let the full report speak for itself."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement that the only way to restore public trust after Barr's "regrettably partisan handling" of the report was for Mueller to testify "as soon as possible" before Congress.

Barr previously had said he would withhold material in the report that touched on classified information, continuing investigations and grand jury proceedings or that could damage the reputations of people "peripheral" to the investigation.

Democrats are demanding the full report -- and all the evidence behind it. The House Judiciary Committee voted on April 3 to authorize a subpoena for Barr to provide that material. If no accord is reached between the lawmakers and the attorney general, a subpoena could result in a legal clash that could reach the Supreme Court.

In a four-page summary Barr released last month, he said that Mueller didn't establish that Trump or anyone associated with his campaign conspired or coordinated with Russia "despite multiple efforts by Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign."

However, Mueller said his probe didn't "exonerate" Trump on the question of whether he obstructed the investigation, according to Barr's summary. Rather, Mueller said he found evidence "on both sides of the question."

Nonetheless, Barr said that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appeared alongside him Thursday, reached their own conclusion that there wasn't sufficient evidence to establish that Trump committed a crime.

Trump and his allies seized on Barr’s summary to declare that the president was exonerated by Mueller’s report. “The Greatest Political Hoax of all time!” Trump said of the Russia probe in a tweet Thursday morning.

Transcript: Attorney General Barr’s full remarks on the Mueller report

Thu, 2019-04-18 07:15

WASHINGTON - Attorney General William Barr spoke to reporters in advance of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which was submitted last month. A lightly redacted version of the report will be released publicly on Thursday.

Here are Barr's remarks as prepared for delivery.


Good morning. Thank you all for being here today.

On March 22, 2019, Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded his investigation of matters related to Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and submitted his confidential report to me pursuant to Department of Justice regulations.

As I said during my Senate confirmation hearing and since, I am committed to ensuring the greatest possible degree of transparency concerning the Special Counsel's investigation, consistent with the law.

At 11 this morning, I will transmit copies of a public version of the Special Counsel's report to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. The Department of Justice will also make the report available to the American public by posting it on the Department's website after it has been delivered to Congress.

I would like to offer a few comments today on the report.

But before I do that, I want to thank Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for joining me here today and for his assistance and counsel throughout this process. Rod has served the Department of Justice for many years with dedication and distinction, and it has been a great privilege and pleasure to work with him since my confirmation. He had well-deserved plans to step back from public service that I interrupted by asking him to help in my transition. Rod has been an invaluable partner, and I am grateful that he was willing to help me and has been able to see the Special Counsel's investigation to its conclusion. Thank you, Rod.

I would also like to thank Special Counsel Mueller for his service and the thoroughness of his investigation, particularly his work exposing the nature of Russia's attempts to interfere in our electoral process.

As you know, one of the primary purposes of the Special Counsel's investigation was to determine whether members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, or any individuals associated with that campaign, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election. Volume I of the Special Counsel's report describes the results of that investigation. As you will see, the Special Counsel's report states that his "investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."

I am sure that all Americans share my concerns about the efforts of the Russian government to interfere in our presidential election. As the Special Counsel's report makes clear, the Russian government sought to interfere in our election. But thanks to the Special Counsel's thorough investigation, we now know that the Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign - or the knowing assistance of any other Americans for that matter. That is something that all Americans can and should be grateful to have confirmed.

The Special Counsel's report outlines two main efforts by the Russian government to influence the 2016 election:

First, the report details efforts by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company with close ties to the Russian government, to sow social discord among American voters through disinformation and social media operations. Following a thorough investigation of this disinformation campaign, the Special Counsel brought charges in federal court against several Russian nationals and entities for their respective roles in this scheme. Those charges remain pending, and the individual defendants remain at large.

But the Special Counsel found no evidence that any Americans - including anyone associated with the Trump campaign - conspired or coordinated with the Russian government or the IRA in carrying out this illegal scheme. Indeed, as the report states, "[t]he investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated with the IRA's interference operation." Put another way, the Special Counsel found no "collusion" by any Americans in the IRA's illegal activity.

Second, the report details efforts by Russian military officials associated with the GRU to hack into computers and steal documents and emails from individuals affiliated with the Democratic Party and the presidential campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton for the purpose of eventually publicizing those emails. Obtaining such unauthorized access into computers is a federal crime. Following a thorough investigation of these hacking operations, the Special Counsel brought charges in federal court against several Russian military officers for their respective roles in these illegal hacking activities. Those charges are still pending and the defendants remain at large.

But again, the Special Counsel's report did not find any evidence that members of the Trump campaign or anyone associated with the campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its hacking operations. In other words, there was no evidence of Trump campaign "collusion" with the Russian government's hacking.

The Special Counsel's investigation also examined Russian efforts to publish stolen emails and documents on the internet. The Special Counsel found that, after the GRU disseminated some of the stolen materials through its own controlled entities, DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, the GRU transferred some of the stolen materials to Wikileaks for publication. Wikileaks then made a series of document dumps. The Special Counsel also investigated whether any member or affiliate of the Trump campaign encouraged or otherwise played a role in these dissemination efforts. Under applicable law, publication of these types of materials would not be criminal unless the publisher also participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy. Here too, the Special Counsel's report did not find that any person associated with the Trump campaign illegally participated in the dissemination of the materials.

Finally, the Special Counsel investigated a number of "links" or "contacts" between Trump Campaign officials and individuals connected with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign. After reviewing those contacts, the Special Counsel did not find any conspiracy to violate U.S. law involving Russia-linked persons and any persons associated with the Trump campaign.

So that is the bottom line. After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the Special Counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes.

After finding no underlying collusion with Russia, the Special Counsel's report goes on to consider whether certain actions of the President could amount to obstruction of the Special Counsel's investigation. As I addressed in my March 24th letter, the Special Counsel did not make a traditional prosecutorial judgment regarding this allegation. Instead, the report recounts ten episodes involving the President and discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense.

After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report, and in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department lawyers, the Deputy Attorney General and I concluded that the evidence developed by the Special Counsel is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.

Although the Deputy Attorney General and I disagreed with some of the Special Counsel's legal theories and felt that some of the episodes examined did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law, we did not rely solely on that in making our decision. Instead, we accepted the Special Counsel's legal framework for purposes of our analysis and evaluated the evidence as presented by the Special Counsel in reaching our conclusion.

In assessing the President's actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context. President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President's personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion. And as the Special Counsel's report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks. Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel's investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims. And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.

Now, before I take questions, I want to address a few aspects of the process for producing the public report that I am releasing today. As I said several times, the report contains limited redactions relating to four categories of information. To ensure as much transparency as possible, these redactions have been clearly labelled and color-coded so that readers can tell which redactions correspond to which categories.

As you will see, most of the redactions were compelled by the need to prevent harm to ongoing matters and to comply with court orders prohibiting the public disclosure of information bearing upon ongoing investigations and criminal cases, such as the IRA case and the Roger Stone case.

These redactions were applied by Department of Justice attorneys working closely together with attorneys from the Special Counsel's Office, as well as with the intelligence community, and prosecutors who are handling ongoing cases. The redactions are their work product.

Consistent with long-standing Executive Branch practice, the decision whether to assert Executive privilege over any portion of the report rested with the President of the United States. Because the White House voluntarily cooperated with the Special Counsel's investigation, significant portions of the report contain material over which the President could have asserted privilege. And he would have been well within his rights to do so. Following my March 29th letter, the Office of the White House Counsel requested the opportunity to review the redacted version of the report in order to advise the President on the potential invocation of privilege, which is consistent with long-standing practice. Following that review, the President confirmed that, in the interests of transparency and full disclosure to the American people, he would not assert privilege over the Special Counsel's report. Accordingly, the public report I am releasing today contains redactions only for the four categories that I previously outlined, and no material has been redacted based on executive privilege.

In addition, earlier this week, the President's personal counsel requested and were given the opportunity to read a final version of the redacted report before it was publicly released. That request was consistent with the practice followed under the Ethics in Government Act, which permitted individuals named in a report prepared by an Independent Counsel the opportunity to read the report before publication. The President's personal lawyers were not permitted to make, and did not request, any redactions.

In addition to making the redacted report public, we are also committed to working with Congress to accommodate their legitimate oversight interests with respect to the Special Counsel's investigation. We have been consulting with Chairman Graham and Chairman Nadler throughout this process, and we will continue to do so.

Given the limited nature of the redactions, I believe that the publicly released report will allow every American to understand the results of the Special Counsel's investigation. Nevertheless, in an effort to accommodate congressional requests, we will make available to a bipartisan group of leaders from several Congressional committees a version of the report with all redactions removed except those relating to grand-jury information. Thus, these members of Congress will be able to see all of the redacted material for themselves - with the limited exception of that which, by law, cannot be shared.

I believe that this accommodation, together with my upcoming testimony before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, will satisfy any need Congress has for information regarding the Special Counsel's investigation.

Once again, I would like to thank you all for being here today. I now have a few minutes for questions.

Who owns ‘aloha’? Hawaii eyes protections for Native culture.

Thu, 2019-04-18 05:36

This Friday, April 12, 2019 photo shows Healani Sonoda-Pale, chairwoman of the Ka Lahui Hawaii political action committee, wearing a T-shirt saying "Aloha Not for Sale" in Honolulu. Hawaii lawmakers are considering adopting a resolution calling for the creation of legal protections for Native Hawaiian cultural intellectual property. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy) (Audrey McAvoy/)

HONOLULU — Last year, much of Hawaii was shocked to learn a Chicago restaurant chain owner had trademarked the name “Aloha Poke” and wrote to cubed fish shops around the country demanding that they stop using the Hawaiian language moniker for their own eateries. The cease-and-desist letters targeted a downtown Honolulu restaurant and a Native Hawaiian-operated restaurant in Anchorage, among others.

Now, Hawaii lawmakers are considering adopting a resolution calling for the creation of legal protections for Native Hawaiian cultural intellectual property. The effort predates Aloha Poke, but that episode is lending a sense of urgency to a long-festering concern not unfamiliar to native cultures in other parts of the world.

"I was frustrated at the audacity of people from outside of our community using these legal mechanisms to basically bully people from our local community out of utilizing symbols and words that are important to our culture," said state Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole, a Native Hawaiian representing Kaneohe and Heeia.

[Chicago chain faces ire after threatening Alaska restaurant and others over ‘Aloha Poke’ trademark]

The resolution calls on state agencies and Native Hawaiian organizations to form a task force to develop a legal system to “recognize and protect” Native Hawaiian cultural intellectual property and traditional cultural expressions. It also seeks protections for genetic resources, such as taro, a traditional crop that legend says is an ancestor of the Hawaiian people and that scientists have tried to genetically engineer in the past.

The task force would be commissioned to submit its recommendations and any proposed legislation to lawmakers in three years.

The resolution has passed House and Senate committees. The full Senate is scheduled to vote on it Monday.

This Tuesday, April 16, 2019, photo shows Aloha Poke Shop, a store in Honolulu that received a letter from Chicago-based Aloha Poke Co. saying the Illinois company had trademarked "Aloha Poke" and the Hawaii company would need to change its name. Hawaii lawmakers are considering adopting a resolution calling for the creation of legal protections for Native Hawaiian cultural intellectual property. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy) (Audrey McAvoy/)

The Aloha Poke incident echoes past disputes, like when a non-Hawaiian photographer claimed copyright over an image of a woman dancing hula and Disney copyrighted a modified version of a Hawaiian chant used in a movie.

Chicago's Aloha Poke Co. chose as its battleground the word "aloha" — a term meaning love, compassion, kindness as well as hello and goodbye. It's a term central to how Native Hawaiians treat others and how many in Hawaii — Native Hawaiian or not — try to live.

"It's traumatic when things like this happen to us — when people try to take, modify or steal what's been in our people's world view for generations," said Healani Sonoda-Pale, chairwoman of the Ka Lahui Hawaii political action committee, who testified in support of the resolution.

Aloha Poke CEO Chris Birkinshaw didn't return messages seeking comment left at his West Madison store in Chicago and on the company's website. The company has stores in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Florida and Washington, D.C.

Aloha Poke Shop in Honolulu initially ignored the Chicago company's letter, said co-founder Jeff Sampson. When the issue burst into the news, he and his partners had an attorney write their Chicago counterpart saying they wouldn't change their name. They explained there would be no confusion between their businesses because they operated far from the mainland company's stores.

But a poke store in Anchorage run by a Native Hawaiian woman changed its name to Lei's Poke Stop after receiving one of the letters.

The exterior of Lei's Poke Stop is seen Wednesday, April 17, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. Hawaii lawmakers are considering adopting a resolution calling for the creation of legal protections for Native Hawaiian cultural intellectual property. The move comes after a Chicago restaurant chain owner shocked the island state by trademarking the name "Aloha Poke" and sending letters to similarly named cubed fish shops around the country demanding that they change their names, including this Anchorage store, which changed its name. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen) (Mark Thiessen/)

Native Hawaiian experts note there’s a cultural clash underlying much of this. Modern European-based traditions use trademarks, copyright and patents to create economic incentives and rewards for creating knowledge and culture. Indigenous culture, on the other hand, is often passed on through generations and held collectively.

"They're never going to sit nicely together in a box," said Kuhio Lewis, the CEO of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.

It will be difficult to determine who would decide who can use Native Hawaiian culture and who would be able to use it. Limits may violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The task force will have to explore who can do what, Lewis said.

"At the least, they need to have some cultural sensitivity about how it's used. And they need to know you can't be telling Native Hawaiian businesses they can't use their own language," Lewis said.

[Poke’s popularity surges even as arguments about authenticity heat up]

The resolution points to potential models in New Zealand and Alaska, which both created signifiers that indigenous people may place on their art as a mark of authenticity.

Marie Texter of Anchorage said her late father Andy Makar — who drew, made carvings from tusks, cottonwood and horns, and sewed animal skins — was a strong believer in the Silver Hand seal for Alaska Natives.

"He said this is a great program because so many times the Native artwork gets commercialized or used by someone else," she said.

He had to fill out proof of his Indian blood — he was mostly Yup'ik but his mother was Athabascan — to apply.

But Rosita Worl, president of Juneau-based Sealaska Heritage Institute, said not all Alaska Native artists apply for or use the emblem. Nor does the program deter the sale of bogus Native art made overseas, she said. It also lacks enforcement and publicity, she said.

Charles E. Colman, a University of Hawaii law professor, said such programs hold up under federal law because they don't prohibit people from making work that resembles indigenous art. They merely won't allow people to say their work is produced by an indigenous person if it's not.

Colman believes the Aloha Poke situation, on the other hand, could be addressed within existing trademark law.

He believes the Chicago company's trademark could be cancelled if challenged because it's not so well-known that its name has developed a secondary meaning the way the words in the retailer name "Best Buy" have, for example.

"You can't just register a descriptive phrase unless you've achieved a certain amount of public recognition," he said.


Associated Press journalists Rachel D’Oro and Mark Thiessen in Anchorage contributed to this report.

Intolerance has no greater champion than Trump

Thu, 2019-04-18 04:16

FILE - In this March 6, 2019, file photo, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., sits with fellow Democrats on the House Education and Labor Committee during a bill markup, on Capitol Hill in Washington. President Donald Trump is weighing in on the most recent controversy involving Omar, retweeting video edited to suggest that the Minnesota congresswoman was dismissive of the significance of the Sept. 11 attacks. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) (J. Scott Applewhite/)

And what will you say afterward, America?

That is not to encourage or even predict that there will be an "afterward" -- that is, that someone will use violence to silence Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women in Congress. But it is to say the possibility is real. Especially given that Donald Trump is leading a lynch mob against her.

This comes after Jeanine Pirro of Fox "News" questioned whether Omar's faith -- she wears what Pirro called a "he-jab" -- was incompatible with being an American. And after an altercation in the West Virginia capital over a poster linking Omar to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. And after a Trump supporter was arrested for allegedly threatening to "put a bullet in her f------ skull."

Now here comes Trump, not to tamp down extremism, but to fire up the mob. His pretext: four words. They came last month in a speech Omar gave to a gathering of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. CAIR was, she said, founded "because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties."

"Some people did something." That's how Omar described the 9/11 attacks. To be sure, it's fair to question what she said and how she said it.

Besides being factually inaccurate -- CAIR was founded in 1994 -- it was an arguably inartful way of describing an attack that left 3,000 people dead. It was also, arguably, an effective way of drawing a distinction between the great, peaceful mass of Islam and the small band of moral freaks who hijacked airplanes that crystalline Tuesday morning.

But for all that Omar's words were, arguably, they have been one thing, indisputably: a weapon in the hands of intolerance. And intolerance has no greater champion than Trump.

So it was unsurprising to see him go on Twitter to ramp up the mob, posting a video that juxtaposed Omar's words with news footage of that dreadful morning. "WE WILL NEVER FORGET," he tweeted. This was on Friday. Two days later, Omar was reporting a spike in death threats and security people were imposing new measures to protect her.

A brown-skinned Muslim from Somalia, it seems, is forever on probation, her love of country always suspect. Yet a pale-skinned putative Christian from Queens has no need to prove his patriotism, even after he observes -- on Sept. 11 itself, yet -- that the fall of the Twin Towers means he now owns the tallest building in Lower Manhattan. Indeed, he can even go on to be president. And isn't it telling that a country that supposedly holds that tragedy sacred forces that day's first responders to periodically beg a resistant Congress for money to cover the cancers and other disorders their heroism has left them with.

But it's Ilhan Omar who is the outrage, right? Not our gross neglect of 9/11's heroes, not these naked appeals to bigotry, not the putrescent soul of a man who would put someone else's life in danger for political gain. None of that. Just her.

So what will you say, America, in the awful event of afterward? Likely, you'll say what you always say. "This is not who we are. We're better than this." It's a fable we keep telling ourselves.

As practiced as we have become in seeing the betrayal of our highest ideals, we are still unable to face the contradiction, the lie, that keeps betraying them. So if this unhinged hatred leads where unhinged hatred so often does, maybe the best thing we can do for ourselves, the best gift we can leave to posterity, is to at last admit the truth.

"Better than this?" No. Granted, we had a chance to be.

But we chose otherwise.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Notre Dame and tankers of water

Thu, 2019-04-18 04:07

This photo provided by the Paris Fire Brigade, shows fire fighters working at the burning Notre Dame cathedral, Monday April 15, 2019. (Benoit Moser, BSPP via AP) (Benoit Moser /)

WASHINGTON -- At least he recognized the urgency.

As the world gasped in horror on Monday at the sight of Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral burning in a cataclysmic moment, the president of the United States imparted these words of wisdom: “Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!”

Well, Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Could we possibly be more banal?

Ever too-soon to the tweet, Donald Trump didn't think before typing -- or worse, he did. Mightn't a clever president -- or one of his staffers -- suffer through a brief Google search before launching? Or, better, skip the Quick-Fix-It blurb and say something normal? How about: America's heart breaks for Notre Dame. Instead, the French civil defense agency tweeted back that "water-bombing" the 850-year-old cathedral could "lead to the collapse of the entire structure."

Pope Francis, whose words the Catholic world especially wanted to hear, waited several hours before offering his considered remarks in a public letter to the archbishop of Paris. Appropriately, Francis expressed sadness and offered prayers. No mention of a squadron of angels dragging tidal waves to Paris to extinguish the flames.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world watched in silence, muted by the horror of the unthinkable -- the disintegration of one of the world's greatest monuments. The fire consumed much of the roof's wooden latticework, which was called "the forest" because it took 52 acres of oak trees to build it. Begun in 1163 during the reign of King Louis VII, the cathedral took nearly 200 years to construct. It only took 12 hours of blistering flames to reduce its core to ashes.

The weight of the symbolism -- layers upon layers -- is almost too much to bear. Millions of words by now have been spilled as writers and mourners seek the right ones to express the enormity of this loss, not just to Paris, the French and Catholics, but also to humankind. The destruction of so much history and beauty is overwhelmingly sad.

Of course, Parisians and the French feel the loss most acutely. Notre Dame has always been part of daily life and is, as so many have said, the heart of a city that has survived revolution and wars. But, just as Notre Dame has been a place of transcendence for those who have entered there, its splendor and meaning transcended boundaries of nationality and religion. When the 300-foot oak spire toppled, the audible gasps of nearby onlookers were echoed in offices and homes in London, Moscow and Oklahoma City. Also, in Charleston, South Carolina.

The image of Notre Dame burning took my breath away. And, yes, I was speechless. A series of thoughts raced through my mind, some fairly apocalyptic. It wasn’t just Notre Dame -- “Our Lady” -- that was being destroyed. To my mind, I was witnessing the immolation of Western Civilization. The words that kept repeating themselves as I tried to make sense of what I was seeing were simpler: This is so wrong.

Notre Dame isn't supposed to burn. It is immortal in the hearts and minds of men and women who have lived and died for generations in its shadow. Airplanes aren't supposed to crash into buildings, either. One couldn't help connecting the burning of Notre Dame to the destruction of the World Trade Center Towers. Even though very different, one a monument to money and the other to God, both instances felt wrong in the way of civilization unraveling.

There's no evidence that the fire was anything but accidental -- just one of those things, despite fire monitors that checked the framework under the roof three times daily and an on-site firefighter. But monuments of this kind are few and we cling to them as a connection to historical continuity as we face contemporary calamities. Ah, yes, wars and revolutions come and go, but Notre Dame stands.

This, perhaps, is why we stand aghast. Fire, alternately nature's most ruthless element and also a most-efficient purgator, released its fury upon one of humanity's greatest monuments to the holy trinity -- God the father almighty, maker of heaven and earth; Jesus Christ, his only son; and the Holy Ghost, forever and ever. The layers upon layers of symbolism in the devastation of art, beauty, faith, history and our ultimate vulnerability are almost too much to bear.

Which reminds us that when the twin towers collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, the man who would become president of the United States 15 years later boasted that one of his buildings had become the tallest in Lower Manhattan.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

A guide to the Mueller report: Who, what, when, why

Thu, 2019-04-18 03:55

On Thursday, the Department of Justice is expected to release a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s summary of his team’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible coordination with President Donald Trump’s campaign.

The Mueller investigation, as it's known in shorthand, has been the center of the political universe for months but, since most Americans likely only visit that universe as tourists, the extent of its overlap with broader culture is certainly more limited.

With that in mind, here's an overview of Thursday's release, that covers the basic whos, whats, whens and whys for a framework for understanding a complex document and a complicated situation.

Who’s involved

It's important at the outset to establish the cast of characters. It's worth skimming this section just to have a sense of who everyone is, but you should consider it more of a glossary for use in the rest of the document. People who worked directly with Trump's campaign are highlighted.

The investigators:

--Special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller served as FBI director under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He retired in 2013. In May 2017, he was asked by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to serve as special counsel to investigate possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

--Attorney General William Barr. Barr has been the head of the Department of Justice since his confirmation in February. In that role, he has authority over Mueller’s investigation.

--Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions served as Trump’s original attorney general until he was dismissed in November. In March 2017, he recused himself from involvement in investigations into the Trump campaign and possible overlap with Russia because of his work with the campaign during 2016.

--Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein was appointed by Trump and confirmed to the Justice Department’s No. 2 job in April 2017. After Sessions’ recusal, Rosenstein became the department’s senior official on the Russia investigation.

--Former FBI Director James Comey. Comey took over the FBI after Mueller’s retirement. He served until his dismissal in May 2017 by Trump.

Those being investigated

--President Trump

--Donald Trump Jr. Trump’s eldest son. He worked closely with the Trump campaign and runs the Trump Organization.

--Jared Kushner. Trump’s son-in-law, the husband of Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump. Kushner was a real estate developer before joining Trump’s campaign effort and, after his victory, joining the administration.

--Paul Manafort. Manafort was a longtime political consultant and lobbyist in Washington, D.C., before being tapped in late March 2016 to help Trump’s campaign. He eventually ran the effort, serving as Trump’s campaign chairman until he was fired in August 2016 after details about his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine came to light.

--Rick Gates. Gates worked with Manafort at his lobbying firm before both joined the Trump campaign. Gates eventually served as deputy campaign chairman, before then helping Trump’s inaugural committee after Trump’s victory.

--Michael Flynn. Flynn, a former Defense Department official under Bush and Obama, joined Trump’s campaign early in 2016. He went on to briefly serve as Trump’s national security adviser.

--George Papadopoulos.A consultant in the oil and gas industry, Papadopoulos was named in March 2016 as a member of Trump’s foreign-policy advisory team.

--Roger Stone.Stone is a longtime political activist and former business partner of Manafort’s who for a long time provided political advice to Trump. He briefly worked directly with the campaign during 2015.

--Michael Cohen. Trump’s personal attorney from 2007 until last year.

--Russia. This is an admittedly broad group. Of particular interest to investigators were two groups of Russians:

The group of Russians alleged to have hacked the email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman in 2016. This group is believed to work for Russia's intelligence service.

The group that orchestrated an effort on social media to influence American voters and foster political disagreement.

--"Guccifer 2.0." One of the personas used to distribute information stolen from the DNC during 2016. It's believed that the persona was controlled by an individual tied to Russian intelligence.

--WikiLeaks. The document-sharing organization was eventually responsible for the dissemination of the bulk of the hacked information.

The others

The names below are listed in alphabetical order by last name.

--Aras and Emin Agalarov. The Agalarovs are a family of developers in Moscow. They partnered with the Trump Organization in 2013 to host the Miss Universe pageant when it was owned by Trump. Emin Agalarov is also a pop singer.

--Rinat Akhmetshin. A lobbyist who at one point worked with a military unit linked to the Soviet Union’s intelligence service.

--Julian Assange. The founder of WikiLeaks. During the 2016 election, he was living in Ecuador’s embassy in London after seeking asylum there in 2012.

--Maria Butina. A college student and gun activist who last year admitted to working on behalf of the Russian government. She worked closely with Torshin.

--Hillary Clinton. The Democratic candidate for the presidency in 2016.

--Sam Clovis. Clovis is a longtime political activist from Iowa who joined the Trump campaign in August 2015. He eventually led the campaign’s foreign policy advisory team.

--Jerome Corsi. A conservative writer and conspiracy theorist who was associated with Roger Stone.

--Randy Credico. A New York-area radio host who was also associated with Stone.

--Democratic National Committee. The DNC is the official organization housing the Democratic Party.

--Rob Goldstone. A British music promoter who represents Emin Agalarov.

--J.D. Gordon. A campaign adviser who worked with the foreign policy team.

--Stefan Halper. A professor at Cambridge University who also worked as an FBI informant during the 2016 campaign.

--Konstantin Kilimnik. A Russian-born aide to Manafort’s lobbying work with reported ties to Russian intelligence.

--Sergey Kislyak. Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

--Joseph Mifsud. A British professor with alleged links to the Russian government.

--Carter Page. Page, like Papadopoulos, was tapped to serve on Trump’s foreign-policy advisory team in March 2016. He had already attracted attention from the FBI several years earlier when a wiretap picked up a suspected Russian agent naming Page as a possible target for recruitment.

--Dmitry Peskov. Spokesman for Russia’s president.

--Richard Pinedo. A businessman who illegally provided valid bank account numbers to individuals.

--John Podesta. Clinton’s campaign chairman.

--Russian President Vladimir Putin.

--Felix Sater. A longtime business partner of Trump’s with whom he worked on several development projects, including the onetime Trump Soho hotel in Lower Manhattan.

--Alexander Torshin. A Russian politician and lifetime member of the NRA.

--Alex van der Zwaan. An attorney who worked with Manafort and Gates on their Ukraine work.

--Natalia Veselnitskaya. An attorney who, among other things, works to overturn sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration. She’s linked to Russia’s government.

How the investigation started

Over the course of the 2016 campaign, federal investigators began noticing a number of links between members of Trump's campaign and Russia.

There was Manafort, who had links to Russian oligarchs and to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. There was Page, who traveled to Russia in July 2016 to give a speech and who was already on the FBI's radar. There was Flynn, who'd traveled to Moscow for a dinner in December 2015, sharing a table with Putin.

And then there was Papadopoulos. In July 2016, after WikiLeaks started publishing files stolen from the DNC, the Australian government reached out to U.S. officials. It turns out that Papadopoulos had told an Australian diplomat in May 2016 that he'd heard Russia had dirt on Clinton - a comment that seemed to be bolstered by the WikiLeaks releases. That information spurred the launch of Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign's possible links with Russia on July 31.

Part of the investigation involved the use of Halper to collect information. He had interactions with Page, Papadopoulos and Clovis during the campaign. In October, after Page had left the campaign, he was targeted with a federal counterintelligence surveillance warrant.

The FBI's investigation continued over the course of the campaign, with FBI agents debating how forcefully to push on the probe. It continued after Trump won - at which point it was first reported in the news media.

Once Trump was inaugurated, he saw the investigation as a "cloud" overhanging his presidency. After reportedly pressuring Comey to end an investigation into Flynn and asking Comey to help lift that cloud, Trump fired Comey on May 9, 2017. Eight days later, Rosenstein, apparently worried about protecting the investigations into Trump's campaign, appointed Mueller - moving the probe largely (but not entirely) out of Trump's grasp.

Mueller's mandate was to, first, identify any links or coordination between Trump's campaign and the Russian government and, second, to investigate anything that "arose or may arise" from that investigation. That eventually included a look at whether Trump had tried to unlawfully derail the investigation.

The probe was soon distilled to those two primary issues: Possible collusion with Russia by Trump's campaign and possible obstruction by Trump. Russia's involvement in the campaign was similarly reduced to two main components: The hacking and distribution of stolen information and the simultaneous effort to influence Americans on social media and through public events.

Last month, Mueller completed his work.

Wasn’t this already settled? What’s being released now?

After Mueller (and his team of lawyers) completed their investigation, they sent a report, several hundred pages long, to Barr, as the regulations creating a special counsel dictate. It is expected to include explanations of why Mueller chose to indict some individuals (see below) and why he decided not to indict others.

After Mueller turned his report over to Barr, Barr released a four-page letter providing a summary of the two questions identified above. The probe, Barr said, quoting Mueller, had "not establish[ed] that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities." As for obstruction, Mueller's team did "not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him," as Mueller's report is quoted. Barr and Rosenstein, though, determined that there was insufficient evidence to constitute an obstruction-of-justice crime.

This summary was used by Trump and his supporters to argue that he'd been cleared on both the charge of collusion and any obstruction of justice. That's not the case.

Barr's letter never addressed "collusion," a loosely used (and not legally defined) term that means different things to different people. Instead, Mueller found insufficient evidence to establish that Trump's team had coordinated with the Russian government. On obstruction, Mueller's "does not exonerate" speaks for itself. What's more, Barr's letter suggests that the evidence on obstruction includes some material that is still not public.

It may become public with the release of the redacted report on Thursday. What's expected to be published is what Mueller gave Barr, those 300-plus pages of information - but only after Barr and the Justice Department have scrubbed out material that needs to be protected because it involves grand jury work or information related to ongoing investigations. There's some question about how extensive those redactions will be, particularly given Barr's history on such matters.

In other words: We probably still won't know everything that Mueller established once the redacted report is out.

What we already know

That said, we already know a lot. In February, we looked at the fact that Mueller had already published hundreds of pages of material related to existing indictments and plea deals.

The numbers that we already know about are big: 2,800 subpoenas, 500 witnesses, 500 search warrants leading to nearly 200 individual criminal counts obtained against more than 30 people. Admissions of guilt by six people and outstanding indictments covering identity theft, money laundering, obstruction, witness tampering, lying to investigators and conspiracy.

Even beyond the demonstrated and alleged criminal conduct, we've also learned a lot about how and where Trump's team and Russian actors overlapped. Here's how it breaks down.

Existing indictments and cooperation deals

The following individuals have been charged with crimes or admitted to guilt. They're listed in chronological order. There are some details about events included below that are more fully explained later in this article.

--Oct. 5, 2017: Papadopoulos admitted to lying to investigators about when he met Mifsud, the Russia-linked professor who told him that Russia had Clinton emails - and that he lied about when he learned about those emails. (It was this information that Papadopoulos later shared with the Australian diplomat.)

--Oct. 27, 2017: Manafort and Gates were indicted on a range of crimes focused on their work lobbying for foreign organizations and individuals.

--Dec. 1, 2017: Flynn admitted to having lied to investigators about conversations with Ambassador Kislyak the previous December. Flynn claimed not to have discussed sanctions with Kislyak which intercepted communications involving Kislyak appear to have contradicted.

--Feb. 12, 2018: Pinedo admits to charges of identity fraud for having provided bank account numbers to people who he later learned were part of Russia's social-media interference effort.

--Feb. 16, 2018: Three Russian companies and 13 Russian individuals are charged with participating in that effort through an organization called the Internet Research Agency. The effort before the election involved spreading divisive messages on social media (including through paid ads) and promoting events supporting Trump. Some of the work at those events was done by Americans paid through PayPal accounts that were created using Pinedo's bank-account numbers. There remains no evidence that this effort included any sophisticated targeting of American voters.

--Feb. 20, 2018: Van der Zwaan admits to lying to investigators about his interactions with Gates and Manafort during a period that preceded the campaign.

--Feb. 22, 2018: Gates and Manafort face a flurry of new charges, centered on financial crimes. Gates quickly flips and agrees to help the investigation.

--June 8, 2018: Manafort and Kilimnik face new charges alleging that they tried to obstruct Mueller's investigation. The next month, Manafort goes to trial in Virginia on a number of the above charges and is convicted on eight before also deciding to flip.

--July 13, 2018: Mueller obtains a lengthy indictment outlining how 12 people allegedly working for Russian intelligence gained access to the DNC network and Podesta's email account (among other hacks) - and how some material was then passed to WikiLeaks.

--Sept. 14, 2018: After admitting to eight criminal charges centered on fraud and campaign finance violations, Cohen also admits to lying to congressional investigators about the duration of a proposed deal he was working on with Sater to build a Trump Tower Moscow. The campaign finance charges also implicate Trump.

--Jan. 25, 2019: Stone is indicted on a charge of lying to investigators and attempting to obstruct the investigation.

Where Russia and the campaign overlapped

When Trump sat down with NBC News' Lester Holt shortly after the Comey firing, he made a claim that he's repeated hundreds of times since: There was no collusion with Russia.

The accuracy of that statement depends on how you use the word "collusion," which can vary wildly. What's unquestioned is that there were numerous points at which Trump's campaign was directly or indirectly linked to Russian actors and/or Russia's two-pronged effort to interfere in the election.

Those connections include the following.

--The Trump Tower meeting. In June 2016, Trump Jr., Manafort and Kushner met with the Kremlin-linked attorney Veselnitskaya and her colleague Akhmetshin at Trump Tower.

The meeting was orchestrated by Goldstone on behalf of Emin Agalarov. Goldstone's initial email suggested that the meeting was to share derogatory information about Clinton as part of the Russian government's support for Trump. Trump Jr. infamously replied, "[I]f it's what you say I love it." Agalarov would later claim that he and Trump Jr. spoke about the meeting in advance.

Cohen claims that he was present when Trump Jr. informed Trump in early June that a meeting was set, a reference, he believes, to the Trump Tower meeting. Trump has denied knowing about the meeting in advance, including, according to CNN reporting, in his written responses to questions from Mueller's team.

The meeting ended up centering on the issue of Russian sanctions according to attendees and to contemporaneous notes taken by Manafort.

--Manafort passing poll data to Kilimnik. One of the most enticing allegations is that Manafort gave Kilimnik (who, remember, is believed to have ties to Russian intelligence) dozens of pages of proprietary polling information from the Trump campaign. It's believed this happened at a meeting near Trump Tower in early August 2016. The interaction was described by one Mueller attorney as getting "very much to the heart of what the special counsel's office is investigating."

There's no public evidence, though, that Manafort was sharing that information to aid Russia's interference effort. He'd previously contacted Kilimnik seeking advice on how to leverage his position with Trump's campaign to be repaid by Russian business executives with whom he'd formerly worked; the poll data may have been part of that effort.

--The Papadopoulos-Mifsud connection. In addition to being told by Mifsud that Russia had dirt on Clinton, Papadopoulos also worked with an official connected to the government on setting up a meeting between Trump and Putin. That meeting didn't happen.

--Various possible connections to WikiLeaks. Both Donald Trump Jr. and Roger Stone interacted privately with WikiLeaks during the campaign, during the period between the organization's July release of DNC data and its October dump of Podesta's emails. In neither case did those interactions amount to anything suggesting significant coordination.

Stone, though, repeatedly hyped his own connections to WikiLeaks. As early as the spring of 2016, Stone was claiming to have spoken with WikiLeaks' Assange about its leaks. Shortly before the July release, Cohen claims to have heard a phone call in which Stone told Trump that a release was coming; after the information was published a campaign official was asked - by who isn't clear - to reach out to Stone to see what else WikiLeaks had. Stone contacted Corsi who contacted a writer living in London.

Over the summer, Stone kept claiming a link to WikiLeaks, a claim that was bolstered when radio host Credico interviewed Assange and began texting with Stone about what WikiLeaks might be doing. It remains unclear how much any of these people actually knew about what WikiLeaks was doing and how much was bluster. There's no strong indication in any case that it was the former.

Stone also had an apparently brief exchange with "Guccifer 2.0″ though that also doesn't appear to have resulted in any significant coordination.

--Torshin's outreach to the campaign. Torshin, the NRA-linked Russian politician, repeatedly tried to contact the campaign through intermediaries in the spring of 2016. That outreach was apparently blocked - but he ended up meeting Trump Jr. briefly at an NRA event in Kentucky in late May.

Torshin was also working with Butina who had a close relationship with Gordon late in the campaign.

--Page's interactions in Moscow. While in Moscow in July 2016, Page spoke with a deputy prime minister who, he told the campaign in an email, "expressed strong support for Mr. Trump." Page was identified in the dossier of reports compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele as having more robust conversations with Russian actors, but those reports remain largely unsubstantiated.

--Cohen's contact with Putin's team. As part of his effort to advance the Trump Tower Moscow deal with Sater, Cohen contacted Putin's spokesman Peskov. In January, he had an extended conversation with someone from Peskov's office aimed at facilitating the project. The project apparently fizzled out in June as Sater was pushing to get Cohen and Trump to travel to Russia.

--Various interactions with Kislyak. Several Trump campaign staff and advisers, including Sessions and Kushner, also met with Kislyak before the election. After the election, there were more contacts, including Flynn's calls with the ambassador.

9) Where Trump might have tried to influence the probe

We also already know about a number of points where Trump appears to have wanted to influence or derail the investigation into Russian interference and his campaign.

--Trump's interactions with Comey. Comey and Trump first met on Jan. 6, 2017, at Trump Tower, when Comey and other officials briefed the then-president-elect on Russia's interference efforts. Once Trump was inaugurated he repeatedly - according to Comey - tried to get Comey to lighten the burden of the Russia investigation. That included pressuring him to "lift the cloud" the investigation posed and not pursuing charges against Flynn.

It was Comey's firing that ultimately spurred the appointment of Mueller, apparently out of concern that the investigation was threatened.

--Trump's response to the Trump Tower meeting story. When in July 2017 the New York Times contacted the White House after learning about the June 2016 meeting, Trump himself crafted a statement responding to the paper's questions which was quickly revealed as woefully incomplete. In a conversation with his legal team's spokesman, Trump's senior aide Hope Hicks allegedly told the spokesman that the emails from Goldstone showing the statement to be false would never come out. (Hicks denies this.)

--Trump's threats to fire Mueller, Sessions or Rosenstein. At various points, Trump seemed to toy - both publicly and privately - with the idea of firing several of those at the heart of the Russia probe. That includes Sessions, who he actually did fire last November. These threats might have had the intentional or unintentional effect of putting pressure on investigators.

--Trump's tweets threatening or praising potential witnesses against him. As the Mueller probe wound on, Trump would express his views about it and its participants on his Twitter account. As Cohen moved to cooperate with investigators and, later, as Stone faced potential charges, Trump weighed in on those actions in ways that some experts felt amounted to possible attempts at witness tampering.

There also exist outstanding questions about when Trump or his team may have discussed possible pardons with potential witnesses against him.

What we don’t already know

Well, a lot. Some of the most immediate questions, it seems, are those below.

--What did Trump know and when did he know it? Mueller and his team were looking at a specific question through a legal lens. Trump's denials of knowing about the Trump Tower meeting, for example, may have limited legal importance - but huge political importance, given his repeated public denials of knowing about the meeting.

--Even if it didn't rise to criminal coordination, how robust were the links between Trump's campaign and Russia's outreach? This gets to the question of "collusion" and is itself politically important. Mueller found some evidence of connections, obviously. Were they any more robust than what's already known.

--What was the point of Manafort sharing polling information with Kilimnik? Was the point to get that data back to the Russian government?

--What's the evidence of obstruction that isn't public? In Barr's letter outlining what Mueller determined, he wrote that the report "addresses a number of actions by the president - most of which have been the subject of public reporting - that the Special Counsel investigated as potentially raising obstruction-of-justice concerns." What are those components that haven't been the subject of public reporting?

--Who were the 500 witnesses that were interviewed, and why? Some of these we know. But knowing the full scope of the investigation would help answer questions about where Mueller was looking.

--Why wasn't Corsi charged? Late last year, Corsi publicized a proposed plea agreement from Mueller in which he'd admit to lying to investigators. He didn't accept the deal - but also wasn't charged. Why not?

It's very possible, given the expected redactions that we won't learn the answers to any of these questions.

In part that's because of a tenet about sharing information that was presented by Rosenstein earlier this year. The Justice Department won't generally publish information that's derogatory about someone who isn't going to face criminal charges. That might mean heavy redactions centered on people like Trump Jr. and Kushner which keep certain details of what happened hidden.

At the extreme end of the spectrum, it could mean a near-total blackout on information about Trump who, under Justice Department regulations can't face charges as a sitting president.

What happens next?

A few things.

First, there will be a concerted effort to make public the redacted portions of Mueller's report. That fight is likely to end before a judge.

Then, congressional Democrats will have to decide how much to fight over this issue. If the case for obstruction seems more robust than Barr's letter would have made it seem, is an impeachment effort warranted? Are there new lines of inquiry posed by Mueller's findings, as there were when Cohen testified before Congress?

One thing that possibly won’t happen next is Americans suddenly changing their minds about Trump. Shortly before Mueller completed his work, Fox News asked Americans how likely it was that his final report would change their minds. Most Americans said the odds their views of Trump changing were at best small.

Trump is hell-bent on ‘owning the libs’

Thu, 2019-04-18 03:32

In this March 28, 2019 photo, President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) (Manuel Balce Ceneta/)

President Trump is looking into giving a free trip to San Francisco, New Orleans or other great American cities to tens of thousands of refugees from Central America. All so he can own the libs.

"Owning the libs" is one of those phrases to have emerged over the last few years that vacillates between earnestness and irony. For people who use it earnestly, it means to do something, usually symbolic and petty, that infuriates liberals out of proportion to the deed to make fools of them. For instance, wearing a MAGA hat to a feminist poetry reading at a co-op bookstore in Berkeley. It's a form of taking the culture war to the enemy.

The ironic form of the phrase is to engage in unwitting self-sabotage while making a political point. When pro-Trump internet troll and conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec (now a "correspondent" at One America News) had his wedding rehearsal dinner catered by Papa John's Pizza -- then unpopular with the libs -- that was some righteous lib-ownage. Hence one Twitter user's response to Posobiec catering choices: "Eating horrible pizza at my wedding to own the libs."

(There's even a Twitter account called "Own The Libs Bot" (@OwnTheLibsBot) that churns out made-up but often all-too-plausible examples of ironic lib-owning: "Defending pederasty to own the libs." "Getting a Confederate flag face tattoo to own the libs."

Much of Trump's populist appeal stems from his willingness to go out of his way to own the libs.

Give the president credit: He is a kind of savant at the genre, particularly in his preferred métier of Twitter. Tweeting footage of the 9/11 attacks while criticizing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) last week is a good example, but his Colin Kaepernick tweets and calls to revoke media broadcast licenses are part of the canon. His defenders think this stuff is brilliant because it keeps the base riled up and, allegedly, produces gallons of delicious liberal tears. When you point out that such tweets offend more voters than they attract, "Shut up," they explain.

But no lib-owning tweet can hold a candle to Trump's announcement over the weekend that he is considering busing thousands of refugees to "sanctuary cities."

Many conservative commentators have celebrated this triumph of lib-owning, even as they concede in mumbled parentheticals that it won't actually happen -- not least because it's almost certainly illegal without congressional authorization, which will never materialize. But some conservatives continue to defend Trump's theatrics on the grounds that people should take him seriously but not literally. But taken either way, the idea is nuttier than a squirrel's preferred last meal.

Stemming illegal (and sometimes legal) immigration is the president's signature issue. Moving the thousands of refugees currently in detention to sanctuary cities is literally achieving the opposite of his goal.

Moreover, the reason there's a refugee crisis at the border is that desperate Central Americans believe this is their now-or-never moment to get asylum in the United States. What will happen when video of buses depositing refugees in Colorado, Vermont or Oregon is broadcast across South America?

Trump keeps asserting that these refugees are an army of invading murderers, rapists and drug dealers -- and apparently he thinks most Americans believe him. So of course, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other San Francisco liberals must be terrified that the president has called their bluff.

The thing is, most immigrants who are in the United States illegally end up going to these very localities. Sixty percent of them reside in just 20 metro areas, most of which have adopted sanctuary policies and limited their cooperation with immigration enforcement. In other words, Trump is proposing fulfilling the final leg of the travel plans of every caravan working its way through Mexico.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump made Kate Steinle, the San Francisco woman who was tragically shot and killed by a man who'd been previously deported five times, into a martyr for his cause. Trump's logic suggests we need more Kate Steinles to own the libs.

Trump's trolling could pay off if some Democrats -- say, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York -- call on Pelosi and Congress to take the president up on his offer. Then, Trump could say, "See! The Democrats really do want open borders!"

That such a scenario is not unimaginable is further proof that our politics can always get dumber.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.