Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, March 23, 2019. Thanks to all the readers who pointed out my error in this space last week, when I wrote incorrectly that the L.A. Marathon was taking place on March 17, when it is in fact set for tomorrow, March 24. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.
Perhaps no other figure in recent American history has loomed so large over the political landscape while saying so little as Justice Department special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Yes, multiple people have been indicted and convicted in connection with his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but much of the “news” about the much-awaited Mueller report has been based on speculation — some of it educated, I suppose — and not because of any clear indication from the special counsel’s office.
In the meantime, political discourse in Washington has been dominated by what the report may reveal about President Trump and his associates — and exactly how much of that report the public is entitled to see. Now, with the final account of Mueller’s work having been delivered to Atty. Gen. William Barr on Friday, the debate over how much Americans ought to know of it intensifies in earnest. As part of that debate, the L.A. Times editorial board reiterates its long-held opinion on the matter — that as much of Mueller’s report as possible must be made public, and soon:
Trump insisted that he would like the report to be released. But the final decision rests with U.S. Atty. Gen. William Barr, who was less than completely reassuring during his Senate confirmation hearings when he was asked whether he would do so. Barr noted that the regulations governing Mueller’s appointment provided for the special counsel to send the attorney general a confidential report.
But Barr also acknowledged that, under the same regulations, the attorney general makes a follow-up report to Congress that could be made public. Barr promised senators to “provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law.” He repeated that promise in the letter he sent to congressional leaders Thursday reporting that Mueller had concluded his investigation. Barr said he would consult with Mueller and Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein about what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public.
The longer the report remains under wraps, the more that Trump and his allies will be able to advance whatever narrative they please about it. Lately, the spin has been that Mueller somehow vindicated Trump because he has not brought charges against the president or alleged explicitly that the campaign worked with Russian agents. That’s ridiculous.
And it’s all the more reason Barr must err on the side of transparency, resisting any efforts by the White House to cloak some contents of Mueller’s report by invoking national security. Because Mueller’s investigation was at least in part a counterintelligence probe, it’s possible that some information in his report could compromise sources and methods and should legitimately be withheld. But redactions should be minimal and based on recommendations from professionals in the intelligence community, not on political considerations.
You have to hope the Mueller report finds Trump blameless. Columnist Virginia Heffernan notes that plenty of grim facts have been unearthed by Mueller’s investigation, including the allegation that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump, and that multiple people in the president’s orbit lied to investigators. As to the question of Trump’s involvement: “It’s unthinkable that an American president would sell out his country to the Kremlin. But, depending on Mueller’s conclusions, it might have to become thinkable.” L.A. Times
Of course rich parents tried to get their kids into elite schools, but UC Berkeley sociology professor Jerome Karabel, the author of a book on the inequality of college admissions, expresses surprise at the flamboyance of the alleged fraud: “I was shocked in particular by the scheme of pretending to be athletes and getting in via a sport that you'd never even played. That said, I was not at all surprised that parents would go to great lengths to try to get their children into elite colleges.” L.A. Times
Be concerned by Trump’s continued attacks on John McCain. Readers say his obsession with the late Arizona senator and war hero betrays the president’s loosening grip on reality: “Every one of these people must read the 50 tweets Trump sent out over the weekend. Try ignoring the fact that Trump wrote these tweets, and ask yourself if this is a person who is fully in charge of his faculties.” Also: “I am with lawyer George Conway, the husband of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, who has questioned the president’s mental fitness. I cannot stand to listen to the president, as anything that comes out of his mouth is bound to be praise for himself.”
This isn’t the first time California walked back from its commitment to the death penalty. In 1972, the state Supreme Court declared the death penalty to be inconsistent with the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, only for a popular backlash to cause that decision to be reversed the next year. But this time, with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s moratorium on executions, the state with the most inmates on death row may be done with executions for good. The Atlantic
OMG, a top Trump administration official is under investigation! The suspicion that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan may have favored Boeing Co., his former employer, over other defense contractors may not amount to much, but it’s worth noting how common such alleged corruption has been in the Trump administration. Editorial writer Scott Martelle offers a roundup of the “impressively broad and deep list of alleged or admitted chicanery, criminal acts and questionable exercises of judgment.” L.A. Times
Grow some thicker cow hide, Rep. Devin Nunes. The former House Intelligence Committee chairman wants $250 million because his feelings were hurt by a few parody Twitter accounts (he alleges those offending tweets are defamatory). The L.A. Times editorial board says the lawsuit is basically without merit, so Nunes may actually be trying to gain a role in the Republican Party’s fight against Silicon Valley tech companies. L.A. Times