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  • Adam 18:20 on 18.04.2019 Постоянная ссылка |
    Метки: vox   

    Read: special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia report 

    Special counsel Robert Mueller waits for the beginning of a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee June 19, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. 


    Special counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report on potential collusion between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia is finally out — and time will tell if it will either help or hurt the president.

    Roughly 450 pages, the document is the definitive account of whether Moscow and political operators around Trump worked together to win the White House. It also includes details about whether the president tried to obstruct justice by interfering with Mueller’s probe.

    Attorney General William Barr released a four-page summary of the report on March 24 in which he stated that Mueller found no collusion, but added that the probe also didn’t exonerate Trump on the obstruction issue. That led to a major controversy between Democrats and Republicans, mainly because Barr’s brief summary didn’t explain how Mueller came to his results and offered scant other details.

    Now, after two years, the public has a chance to see the report — with some redactions concerning information Barr deemed sensitive — for themselves.

    You can read the full report here.

  • Adam 17:55 on 18.04.2019 Постоянная ссылка |
    Метки: vox   

    Watch: Barr walks away after he’s asked the most important question about the Mueller report 

    The press conference was a charade. One moment captures it.

    Attorney General William Barr invited the press to ask him questions Thursday morning about the Mueller report. The final question got to the heart of the problem: Reporters didn’t get to read the report first.

    “Do you think it’s an impropriety for you to come out and sort of, what appears to be spinning the report before the public gets a chance to read it?” Ryan Reilly of HuffPost asked, referring to the decision the Trump administration made to hold a news conference about the Mueller report before it was even released to Congress for review.

    “No,” Barr replied curtly. He then walked away, ending the news conference.

    That moment captured the essence of Barr’s news conference. The point of the event was, in name, to illuminate how the Mueller report came together. Instead, it gave the attorney general a chance to set a positive stage for President Trump before the public got to see the details.


    It wasn’t the only time during the news conference that Barr swatted down a legitimate question about his handling of the Mueller report’s release — questions that have persisted since he released a letter summarizing Mueller’s key findings without so much as quoting a single complete sentence from Mueller’s text.

    Shortly before Reilly’s question, Paula Reid of CBS asked Barr to respond to critics who have interpreted his conduct as being aimed at protecting Trump, not dealing in good faith with the American people.

    “A Republican-appointed judge on Tuesday said you have, quote, created an environment that has caused a significant part of the American public to be concerned about these redactions. You cleared the president on obstruction,” Reid began. “The president is fundraising off your comments about ‘spying,’ and here you have remarks that are quite generous to the president, including acknowledging his feelings and emotions. What do you say to people on both sides of the aisle who are concerned you’re trying to protect the president?”

    Barr didn’t really respond to Reid’s question, but instead said, “I’m not sure what your basis is for saying that I’m being generous to the president,” before quickly moving on.


    During his opening statement, Barr confirmed that the White House was given a redacted version of the Mueller report — a luxury not afforded to Congress or the public.

    He also explained away questions about possible obstruction of justice by saying Trump “faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered office and sought to perform his responsibilities, prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct … yet, as he said from the beginning, there was no collusion.”

    Then, instead of engaging with legitimate questions from reporters and his critics about the overall propriety of his conduct, Barr walked away.

    The news moves fast. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage.

  • Adam 17:28 on 18.04.2019 Постоянная ссылка |
    Метки: vox   

    The Vox guide to Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation 

    Special counsel Robert Mueller has completed his report on possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election. In May 2017, the Justice Department appointed Mueller, a former FBI director, to oversee the investigation.

    Since then, Mueller’s investigation has unearthed numerous crimes, some related to the Russian collusion question and some not, that have led to indictments or guilty pleas from 34 individuals and three companies. This includes six former Trump advisers, 26 Russian nationals, one California man, three Russian companies, and one London-based lawyer. Seven of these 34 people have pleaded guilty to crimes. That number includes five former Trump associates who have pleaded guilty or been convicted: Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, and Rick Gates.

    Mueller has now completed his report, but what happens next is up to Attorney General Bill Barr. This guide will help you understand everything you need to know about this story, from the crimes to the key players to how it all connects to President Trump — and what it could mean for his administration.

  • Adam 17:20 on 18.04.2019 Постоянная ссылка |
    Метки: vox   

    Trump’s lawyers got to see the Mueller report before Congress or the public 

    President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani on February 13, 2019. He got to see special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia report before Congress or the public.


    President Donald Trump’s personal lawyers and White House attorneys were given a partially redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to review before Congress or the public got a chance to see it.

    That’s according to Attorney General William Barr, who gave a press conference Thursday morning, several hours before the planned release of the public version of Mueller’s report.

    “Earlier this week, the president’s personal counsel requested and was given the opportunity to read a final version of the redacted report before it was publicly released,” Barr said.

    “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. They were not permitted to make and did not request any redactions,” he continued.

    The president didn’t invoke executive privilege to redact any part of the report, the attorney general also noted.


    This is all stunning. Mueller spent nearly two years looking into whether Trump or any of his campaign officials or associates colluded with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election. He also looked into whether Trump himself tried to obstruct justice as the probe proceeded.

    For Trump’s lawyers to see the report before anyone else, including Congress, only adds to suspicions that Barr is taking great pains to mollify Trump throughout this process. His performance during the press conference may add to those suspicions still.

  • Adam 17:19 on 18.04.2019 Постоянная ссылка |
    Метки: vox   

    Measles is back because states give parents too many ways to avoid vaccines 

    The era of religious and moral vaccine exemptions needs to end — and fast.

    More than 500 people across the country, mostly small children, have been infected by the super contagious measles virus in ongoing outbreaks since January.

    In New York, the virus has been spreading since September among Orthodox Jews, some of whom reject vaccines because of unfounded safety concerns. In Washington, mistrust of health officials and pharmaceutical companies appears to be driving parents to opt out. There are also measles clusters in New Jersey, Michigan, and California.

    These outbreaks will cost states and the federal government millions of dollars to contain. They’ll distract from other important public health programs. Most importantly, they’ll put people who can’t be immunized — newborn babies, kids with vaccine allergies — at risk.

    But here’s the most frustrating part: This is all entirely avoidable. By 2000, thanks to the measles vaccine, the virus was declared eliminated in the US. It’s absurd that outbreaks have reappeared, yet there’s a single reason why: Too many states make it way too easy for parents to avoid vaccines on behalf of their kids. In other words, measles is making a comeback because of a policy failure.

    Most of the people with measles right now weren’t immunized from the virus. They all live in places that permit a variety of nonmedical — religious or philosophical — exemptions from vaccines.

    Responding to an outbreak that’s sickened 74 people, lawmakers in Washington state passed a bill on Wednesday to eliminate personal and philosophical exemptions for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. (It’ll still need to pass the house and get signed into law.)

    But other states, like Mississippi and West Virginia, have already long closed their loopholes; their vaccine coverage rates are higher and they haven’t had to deal with any outbreaks lately.

    Researchers have repeatedly shown that when you make it easier for parents to avoid vaccines, they take advantage — and vaccine exemptions rise. So if we want to prevent dangerous, costly, and needless outbreaks — like the half-dozen going on now across the country — we need to make it harder for parents to opt out. But, as California’s recent experience shows, that may require more than simply banning nonmedical vaccine exemptions.

    When measles vaccine coverage drops below 95 percent, “outbreaks are inevitable”

    Before we get into the wonky details of state vaccine policies, we need to understand why measles immunization is so essential.

    It’s not an overstatement to say that measles is one of the most infectious diseases known to man. When people aren’t immunized, it’s extremely easy to catch measles. In an unvaccinated population, one person with measles can infect 12 to 18 others. That’s way higher than other viruses like Ebola, HIV, or SARS. (With Ebola, one case usually leads to two others. With HIV and SARS, one case usually leads to another four.)

    In the US, before a vaccine was introduced in 1963, there were 4 million measles cases, with 48,000 hospitalizations and 500 deaths in the US every year. Measles was also a leading killer of children globally.

    These days, with two doses, the measles vaccine is 97 percent effective in individuals. But for the vaccine to protect the population, including the small number of people who can’t be vaccinated, we need what’s known as herd immunity. Depending on the virus, a certain percentage of people needs to be immunized to keep a disease from spreading through populations (what’s called “herd immunity.”) Because measles spreads so easily, the percentage needed for herd immunity is really high.

    “As soon as [measles] vaccination coverage drops below 95 percent,” Seth Berkley, the head of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, warned in a recent CNN article, “outbreaks are inevitable.” That means nearly everybody in a community who can get the vaccine needs to be accounted for to stop the virus from spreading.

    The era of lax vaccine policies has to end

    But state legislators have put policies in place that, in many cases, make it too easy for parents to opt out of vaccines.

    It was actually measles outbreaks in the 1960s that inspired a push to have states require children get inoculated before starting kindergarten. By the 1980s, all states had mandatory immunization laws in place. The idea behind these laws was simple: Near-universal vaccinations sustain herd immunity.

    Still, there’s a lot of variation across the country when it comes to immunization requirements. Even though all 50 states have legislation requiring vaccines for students entering school, almost every state allows exemptions for people with religious beliefs against immunizations, and 17 states currently grant philosophical exemptions for those opposed to vaccines because of personal or moral beliefs. (The exceptions are Mississippi, California, and West Virginia, which have the strictest vaccine laws in the nation, allowing only medical exemptions.)

    In these places, opting out can mean simply listening to a doctor or health official explain the benefits of vaccination or getting a signed statement about your religious beliefs notarized. It’s often harder for parents to sign their kids out of school for the day than to help them avoid vaccines.

    In 45 states, even without an exemption, kids can be granted “conditional entrance” to school on the promise that they will be vaccinated, but schools don’t always bother to follow up.

    We have plenty of evidence, spanning more than a decade, to show that when you make it easier for parents to opt out of their shots, the rates of vaccine exemptions tend to be higher. The most recent 2018 analysis of US vaccine policies found that states allowing both religious and philosophical exemptions — as 17 states currently do — were associated with a 2.3 percent decrease in measles-mumps-rubella vaccine rates and a 1.5 percent increase in both total exemptions and nonmedical exemptions.

    Every state also allows medical exemptions for people who might be harmed by a vaccine, such as those with weakened immune systems because of an illness or allergies to vaccine ingredients. And there appears to be no shortage of quack-ish health professionals who will sign off on questionable medical exemptions for people who don’t have legitimate health concerns.

    What’s more, only nine states require annual (or more frequent) recertification for medical exemptions. So for example, if a child in a K-12 school gets an exemption in kindergarten, it will follow them through to college. She’ll never be asked to renew that exemption.

    So there are many ways for people to worm out of vaccines. “Putting some kind of administrative control on vaccine opt-outs is vitally important,” said Diane Peterson, the associate director for immunization projects at the Immunization Action Coalition. “It just shouldn’t be easier to get out of vaccination than it is to get vaccinated.”

    California has made it tougher to opt out of vaccines — with mixed and instructive results

    Some states have been moving to crack down on vaccine avoiders — most notably California — and the experience there is instructive for states that might want to close some of their loopholes.

    California’s former governor, Jerry Brown, signed a controversial bill in 2015 that abolished nonmedical exemptions, requiring almost all schoolchildren in the state to be vaccinated unless they have a medical reason for opting out. The law, SB277, was a response to a large measles outbreak that originated at the Disneyland theme park.

    According to the state health department, the number of kindergarten students in the 2017-2018 school year with all their required vaccines was 95.1 percent — a 4.7 percentage point increase over 2014-2015 and the second-highest reported vaccine rate since health authorities started tracking.

    Hidden within that increase is some conflicting data, said Emory vaccine researcher Saad Omer. Since the law was enacted, medical exemptions have also increased, suggesting there may be an unintended effect of the crackdown on nonmedical exemptions.

    But something else was going on in California, and it offset that increase in medical exemptions. To explain: In parallel with abolishing nonmedical exemptions through SB277, California launched the “Conditional Entrant Intervention Project,” in 2015. The idea was that public health professionals would work with local health departments to identify schools granting high rates of conditional entrants, and work with them to bring them down.

    Between 2014 and 2014, Omer and his colleagues found a sharp 23 percent decline in the conditional admission rate between 2014 and 2015. So even with the rise in medical exemptions, the overall vaccine exemption rate still went down thanks to the decline in conditional vaccine entry to schools.

    Omer told Vox, “I’m not discounting eliminating nonmedical exemptions. It’s a reasonable option. But it may not resolve all issues.”

    There is indeed evidence from Mississippi and West Virginia that strict vaccine laws can work — but again, interpret it with caution.

    Immunization rates in Mississippi and West Virginia — the only other two US states that don’t allow non-medical exemptions — are always among the best in the nation. In the 2014-’15 school year, more than 99 percent of kindergartners in Mississippi had their MMR and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis shots — the highest rate in the US. The rates for those vaccines were 98 percent for kindergartners in West Virginia. These figures are much higher than the national averages (85 percent for diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis and 92 percent for measles-mumps-rubella).

    But these two states also have demographics that probably help vaccine coverage. Researchers have repeatedly found that parents on the higher end of the socioeconomic spectrum, including those who send their kids to private and alternative schools, tend to be the ones who opt out of vaccine. Mississippi and West Virginia are among the poorest states in the nation.

    Perhaps these demographic factors contribute to the high vaccine rates in the two states, the authors of a recent analysis in Health Affairs suggested:

    Among US states, Mississippi and West Virginia rank fiftieth and forty-ninth, respectively, in median income, and forty-ninth and fiftieth, respectively, in the percentage of people ages twenty-five and older who have completed a bachelor’s degree. Thus, the states may have a smaller number of residents who are likely to hold anti-vaccination views and to have the political and social capital to undertake successful efforts to influence their legislators.

    That suggests that simply outlawing nonmedical exemptions may not be a panacea in states that have a high percentage of parents using their social capital to spread anti-vaccine views. And as we saw in California, a ban on nonmedical exemptions could even backfire if other vaccine loopholes are left open.

    So finding ways to make it more inconvenient to opt out — by cracking down on the conditional entry to school, introducing exemptions with regular renewals — should be what policymakers work toward.

    And they should move fast. The percentage of people seeking nonmedical exemptions — while still small — has also been creeping upward, from 1.1 percent in 2009-2010 to 2.2 percent by 2017-2018. Outbreaks in recent years have also been getting larger, Omer said. “That’s the canary in the coal mine for me.”

  • Adam 17:17 on 18.04.2019 Постоянная ссылка |
    Метки: vox   

    The attorney general just pre-spun the Mueller report for Trump 

    Attorney General William Barr, pre-spinning special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Trump-Russia.

    Barr spun everything in Trump’s favor — and literally walked offstage when he was called on it.

    Attorney General William Barr’s Thursday morning press conference on special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia report was a whitewash.

    There’s no other way to describe it. Barr, who claimed beforehand that the press conference would focus on process, spun the report’s conclusions before it was released and expected reporters to ask questions about a document they had not even seen. He literally uttered the phrase “no collusion” to describe Mueller’s conclusions — providing a perfect sound bite to play on loop on cable news in the president’s favorite phrasing.

    Barr repeated this and similar talking points multiple times during his prepared statement. He put tremendous effort into explaining why Trump’s behavior during the probe should be seen as justified and in no way constituted obstruction. He even praised the president for providing “unfettered access” to documents and said the White House “fully cooperated” with the investigation, despite Trump’s refusal to submit to an interview with Mueller.

    At the end, when a reporter asked if it was improper for the attorney general to spin the report to the public before it was released, Barr literally walked off the stage.


    Meanwhile, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is generally respected by Trump critics, stood next to Barr silently.

    It was a spectacle that said more about Barr and the way the Mueller report has been twisted by partisan politics than the report itself.

    How we got to the Barr presser

    To understand this presser, you need to go back in time to last June.

    At that point, Barr was a private citizen. Although it had been decades since he served in government, as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, he wrote a secret memo arguing that the Mueller probe’s investigation into obstruction of justice by Trump was illegitimate — and sent it to the Justice Department.

    In the memo, Barr outlined an extremely narrow theory of what would constitute obstruction of justice, arguing (among other things) that Trump could not have obstructed justice unless he had actually committed the underlying crime (criminal collusion with Russia).

    When the letter’s existence was reported in December, after Trump had tapped Barr to be his next attorney general, its arguments were widely rejected by legal analysts, who saw it a definition of obstruction that would largely immunize the president from prosecution. Rosenstein even criticized it publicly.

    “Our decisions are informed by our knowledge of the actual facts of the case, which Mr. Barr didn’t have,” he said.

    It was widely assumed, though never proven, that the letter was a kind of audition for the attorney general job — proof that Barr would be willing to cover for Trump if once again picked to run the Justice Department. The letter immediately led Democrats and other Trump skeptics to see Barr as a Trump ally first and an impartial lawyer second.

    Barr’s description of the Mueller report’s key findings, released in late March, took this skepticism and turned it into full-blown distrust.

    According to Barr’s letter, Mueller “did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia” during the 2016 campaign. Mueller apparently did not come to any firm conclusion on whether Trump’s interference with the investigation constituted obstruction of justice, instead asking Barr and Rosenstein to draw a conclusion based on their read of Mueller’s work. Barr and Rosenstein decided that “the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”

    Substantively, the letter left a lot of big questions about the investigation unanswered. Barr didn’t quote nearly enough of Mueller’s work on the 2016 election to support his brief summary. Nor did he explain in detail why he decided the evidence on obstruction wasn’t enough — something that was vitally important given the distrust generated by the June memo.

    None of that stopped the president and his defenders from immediately claiming exoneration. At the same time, multiple news outlets quoted sources on the Mueller team that their conclusions were misrepresented — that the actual report was substantially more damning than the summary let on. One anonymous Mueller team member told the Washington Post that its conclusions were “much more acute than Barr suggested.”

    The result was a clamor on social media and from leading Democrats for the actual text of the report to be released. Barr went from someone Trump critics didn’t trust to someone that they deeply believed to be in the president’s pocket.

    “He is someone who is an agent of the administration. He is a political appointee of the president, whose interests he may very well be protecting here,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said of Barr last weekend. “I dismiss what he said. He’s a biased defender of the administration.”

    Whether because of this pressure or for his own reasons, Barr agreed to release a redacted version of Mueller’s reports. But he preceded it with the presser, which essentially amounted to a defense of Trump — one that did nothing to allay concerns that Barr has been stacking the deck in Trump’s favor.

    What actually happened at the presser shows how much of a farce this is

    The presser itself was so strange that it nearly defies description.

    Barr bent over backward to accommodate Trump’s perspective on the situation, saying that his behavior could not be considered obstruction because Trump felt “frustrated” by “the media” and the fact that there was “no collusion.” There was no summary or description of evidence that might have been unfavorable to the president, no accounting of the evidence in favor of either the obstruction or collusion allegations.

    When Barr began taking questions, the situation became even more absurd. He told one reporter that “I’m really focused on the process of releasing the report,” a comment that was obviously false given that it was preceded by a lengthy statement in which he summarized the report’s substantive conclusion.

    One reporter asked him to respond to criticism of his conduct by congressional Democrats like Nadler. Barr ignored the question. Another reporter followed up by asking him to respond to charges that his interpretation was overly “generous” to the president. “I’m not sure what your basis is for saying I’m being generous to the president,” Barr responded.

    And then came the final question, about whether Barr was pre-spinning the report for Trump, which prompted him to literally walk off the stage. The whole thing lasted for less than half an hour, most of which was taken up by Barr’s prepared statement.

    What to make of all this? There’s one clear conclusion to draw: Attorney General William Barr really seems to be acting at the president’s defender, and not the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. And that should worry all of us.

  • Adam 16:45 on 18.04.2019 Постоянная ссылка |
    Метки: vox   

    Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer want Robert Mueller to testify to Congress 

    US Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) after a news conference on April 2.

    Congressional Democrats are suspicious of Attorney General Bill Barr.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are no longer interested to hear what Attorney General Bill Barr has to say about the Mueller report. They now want special counsel Robert Mueller to testify in front of Congress “as soon as possible.”

    “Attorney General Barr’s regrettably partisan handling of the Mueller report, including his slanted March 24 summary letter, his irresponsible testimony before Congress last week, and his indefensible plan to spin the report in a press conference later this morning — hours before he allows the public or Congress to see it — have resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement on Thursday morning.

    Democrats are particularly outraged that Barr is delivering a press conference on Thursday morning before the Mueller report is released, concerned he’ll draw conclusions for the public without giving Congress or the public time to read the report for themselves. They are also concerned about how much in the report could be redacted by the attorney general’s office.

    This comes after Barr released a four-page summary last month that contained very few direct quotes from Mueller’s own report. The attorney general’s summary concluded President Donald Trump didn’t collude with Russia, and “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

    Though Mueller did not make a determination on obstruction of justice, Barr himself, in coordination with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, made a decision that the actions of the president did not qualify as criminal obstruction of justice.

    Democrats are suspicious of Barr’s decision on obstruction, especially because his report quoted Mueller saying, “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” They now want to hear Mueller explain the report in his own words, rather than Barr’s interpretation of them.

    “We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the Special Counsel’s investigation is for Special Counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote. “The American people deserve to hear the truth.”

  • Adam 16:30 on 18.04.2019 Постоянная ссылка |
    Метки: vox   

    A closer look at Washington’s superb new 100% clean electricity bill 

    Seattle, all pretty.

    The bill contains groundbreaking changes to the way the state’s utilities do business.

    The trend of states targeting 100 percent clean electricity has gone viral.

    Last month, New Mexico targeted 100 percent clean by 2045. The Maryland legislature recently passed a bill targeting 50 percent renewable by 2030 and looking into the viability of 100 percent by 2040. Illinois might pass a 100 percent target soon. Of course California and Hawaii already have, to say nothing of more than 100 US cities (most recently Chicago).

    It’s a lot to track. So it’s understandable that there hasn’t been much coverage of the 100 percent clean energy bill that is on the verge of passing in Washington (SB 5116), the one Washington governor and presidential candidate Jay Inslee has been pushing. But it is the best of the bunch. And I’m not just saying that because I live here.

    It is not just a clean energy bill. It also contains a raft of thoughtful, in some cases genuinely groundbreaking, structural changes to the way the state’s utilities do business.

    That’s right, I’m taking utility business model reform. Sexy stuff!

    But for some reason, as far as I can tell, none of the stories about this bill so much as mention that side of it. So unless you’re a Washington state political obsessive, you’re hearing it here first.

    This is a very, very cool bill, with lots of juicy details. Let’s start with what’s in the name first: clean energy.

    A step-down approach to decarbonizing

    The bill sets three targets for the state’s utilities, ramping up in stringency over time.

    By 2025, they must completely get rid of coal power (it currently supplies about 14 percent of state electricity, most of it imported).

    Washington’s electricity mix, 2017. EIA
    Washington’s electricity mix, 2017.

    By 2030, they must be 100 percent carbon-neutral. Eighty percent of their power must come from “nonemitting electric generation and electricity from renewable resources.” (This language is significant: It leaves room for nuclear, natural gas with CCS, or other nonrenewable, non-carbon-emitting sources. In other words, this is a clean energy bill, not a renewable energy bill.)

    The other 20 percent of the obligation can be satisfied in one of three ways:

    • Renewable energy credits (RECs), i.e., vouchers certifying that someone else generated clean energy
    • An administrative penalty based on tons remaining uncovered (which effectively amounts to a $100 per ton carbon tax)
    • Energy Transformation Projects (ETPs)

    The third is interesting. ETPs are “projects that provide energy-related goods and services other than electricity generation and result in a reduction of fossil fuel consumption and a reduction of GHG emissions, while providing benefits to the customers of a utility.” They include such things as electric car infrastructure, weatherization, or renewable natural gas (RNG — natural gas drawn from, for example, landfill or agricultural waste) projects.

    These are things utilities can do to reduce their customers’ consumption of fossil fuels, but they haven’t traditionally had any way to get paid for them, so they lacked incentive. Now, if they partially decarbonize and are finding the last 20 percent difficult or expensive, they can meet their obligations with ETPs. It’s a clever way to incentivize such projects.

    Over time, the required level of self-generated clean electricity rises steadily, until 2045, when all utilities must be self-generating 100 percent clean energy.

    Solar panels and wind turbines in Ellensburg, Washington. Shutterstock
    Solar panels and wind turbines in Ellensburg, Washington.

    What about costs? Of course utilities were worried about that. To soothe their concerns, a cost cap is included in the bill, but it is cleverly designed. It is not an absolute cap, a level of costs at which utilities can cease their efforts, but a rolling cap: costs directly attributable to the clean energy requirement — that is, the incremental costs of compliance — cannot exceed 2 percent of the previous year’s electricity revenue.

    What this means in practice is that the cap might slow compliance with the program, potentially pushing it past the deadline, but it will never stop compliance. Each year there will be new resources freed up to devote to compliance; full decarbonization will happen eventually, come what may.

    As it happens, extensive analyses from advocates and the utilities themselves show that costs are likely to come in under the cap over the life of the bill, but the cap was nonetheless crucial for getting political buy-in.

    So: a ratcheting set of requirements for utilities that will result, by 2045, in a carbon-free electricity system in Washington. Pretty cool.

    But that’s only half the stuff in the bill. The other half has to do with power utilities and their relationships to customer and regulators. It’s a bit wonkier, but just as significant as the target itself — with just as much potential to influence policy design in other states.

    Washington’s energy bill includes some of the sexiest utility business model reforms of 2019

    As longtime readers know, I am somewhat obsessed with the role that utilities play in the clean energy transition. More specifically, I’m obsessed with the regulatory regime under which they operate, which effectively prohibits them from embracing many trends (energy efficiency, distributed energy) that otherwise would benefit their customers and the climate. (See here and here for a fuller introduction to these issues.)

    It is a long and complicated story, but to boil it down, there are two basic problems with the way old-school regulated-monopoly utilities, the kind that Washington still has, are regulated.

    cassette tape Shutterstock
    Utilities, basically.

    First, the only way they make money for shareholders is through guaranteed return on investments in capital projects — “steel in the ground.” Not surprisingly, that gives them considerable incentive to invest in capital projects. If customers use less energy, or generate and share more of their own energy from distributed renewables, it reduces the need for new electricity infrastructure, and thus utility profits. Good for customers and the climate, bad for utilities.

    Second, the “regulatory compact” — the obligations utilities take on in exchange for being granted monopolies — requires only that they produce reliable power, available to every customer, as the lowest possible cost. These are their sole statutory obligations; they are effectively prohibited from considering equity or carbon in their decision-making.

    Washington’s bill neatly solves both of these thorny issues.

    First, on revenue, it grants the state’s Utilities And Transportation Commission (UTC) the authority to shift utilities from a return-on-capital model to a performance-based model. Rather than profit (and returns to shareholders) coming purely from investments in capital projects, utilities’ returns would be determined based on their performance against metrics determined by the UTC, things like carbon reduction or equity. This will align utility incentives with the state’s larger energy goals.

    Second, it adds several new considerations to the regulatory compact:

    1. The social cost of carbon.

    The “social cost of carbon” (SCC) refers to the rough estimate by economists of the total damages, economic, environmental, and otherwise, imposed by a ton of carbon emissions. Washington’s bill requires that utilities begin taking the SCC into account in all their decisions.

    Specifically, the bill requires utilities to adopt the federal government’s current SCC, as established in Executive Order 12866 — roughly $68 per ton, rising to $116 per ton by 2050 — at a discount rate of 2.5 percent. (See here for an explainer on discount rates and their role in climate policy; suffice to say, 2.5 percent is pretty low, which means it puts a lot of weight on future damages, i.e., The Children.)

    The SCC is a technical (and controversial) number, but the exact level is less important than the net effect of this change, which is to define carbon reduction as in the public interest and a core part of the regulatory compact. Washington utilities will be required by law to take carbon into account.

    An interesting side note here: Remember that the cost cap applies only to incremental costs related to meeting the carbon-free energy standard. The costs incurred by incorporating the SCC into utility decision-making do not count among those incremental costs. They are part of the new baseline, the new normal.

    utah coal plant Shutterstock
    More costly now.

    2. Public interest and equity.

    The bill adds several new considerations regarding equity to the regulatory compact, including equitable distribution of benefits, reduction of burdens to vulnerable communities (the bill also requires a Cumulative Impact Analysis to identify such communities), short-term and long-term public health and environmental benefits, and energy resilience and security.

    Suffice it to say, this will yield decisions more complex than those based purely on low cost. It will force utilities, for the first time, to consider the differential impacts of their decisions on different parts of their rate base. They cannot, for instance, meet energy efficiency or EV charging mandates simply by installing equipment where wealthy people can afford it. They must ensure that benefits are equitably distributed.

    3. Energy assistance.

    The bill requires that all utilities in the state make funds available for “energy assistance” to low-income households, which includes not only bill reductions but weatherization, energy efficiency, and “direct customer ownership in distributed energy resources.”

    And utilities don’t just have to establish these programs; they have to take them seriously, tracking data and performance and reporting to the UTC every two years. The goal is to reach 60 percent of eligible customers by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050.

    Some utilities already have programs like this, but not all, and a statewide requirement like this is novel, as far as I know. Typically, the only way low-income customers can access some of these services is through federal programs. This creates an avenue for them to get in-state money, and without requiring any taxpayer money.

    How Washington plans to get the unions on board

    One barrier to climate action at the state level has always been building and construction unions worried about the loss of fossil-fuel jobs. They are jealously protective of those jobs and unconvinced by the promise of jobs in renewables. Washington’s bill brought them on board with a neat bit of policy.

    The bill establishes state tax incentives for clean energy projects. But — in a first for the state — the incentives are contingent upon certain job-quality criteria. The tiers are as follows:

    • 50 percent tax exemption for projects that make a good-faith effort at “procurement from and contracts with women, minority, or veteran-owned businesses; procurement from and contracts with entities that have a history of complying with federal and state wage and hour laws and regulations; apprenticeship utilization; and preferred entry for workers living in the area where the project is being constructed.”
    • 75 percent tax exemption for projects that meet the above criteria and also “compensate workers at prevailing wage rates determined by local collective bargaining.”
    • 100 percent tax exemption for projects “developed under a community workforce agreement or project labor agreement,” as certified by the Department of Labor and industries.

    These standards were hashed out between renewable energy developers and the building and construction unions. The result is that the former have committed to high-quality job standards and the latter have dropped their longstanding opposition to climate policy.

    solar workers Shutterstock

    Washington has accomplished something unique

    The bill still has to be reconciled in the Senate and signed by the governor, but both are expected to happen soon. When they do, Washington will have accomplished something special, even amid the flurry of climate action at the state and local level.

    The problem with many state legislative targets and mandates on clean energy, energy efficiency, and distributed energy is that they tack against the basic incentives created for utilities by the regulatory model under which they operate. Utilities comply with mandates, but they don’t like it much, and they rarely feel inspired to go further than forced. And they use their power in state legislatures to oppose new mandates, because mandates directly impact their bottom line.

    Washington took on both sides of the problem. It set ambitious targets, but it also made fundamental changes to the utility regulatory model, aligning utility incentives with the targets. State power utilities must now, by law, consider carbon and equity in all their decisions and investments. And they can make higher returns for shareholders by performing well against carbon and equity metrics.

    Similarly, the bill brought unions on board by structuring policy so that they benefit from more clean energy. They get access to more high-quality jobs the more clean energy gets built.

    That’s the magic sauce, what Washington’s bill does better than any other state clean energy bill I’ve seen: It aligns the interests of utilities, energy developers, and unions behind the project of equitable decarbonization. They all benefit from it. That makes them allies in the fight, rather than at loggerheads, as they have so often been in the past.

    This kind of reform ought to be a key piece of climate progress in every state. And it’s a hell of a feather in the cap of Gov. Jay Inslee, who’s running for president on climate change. He can now truthfully say that his state is a model of cutting-edge climate policy.

  • Adam 16:28 on 18.04.2019 Постоянная ссылка |
    Метки: vox   

    I don’t eat meat. Should my dog? 

    Sherrie, the author’s dog, has concerns about a vegan lifestyle.

    Should your dog have free will when it comes to food?

    Recently, I got a dog. Or rather, I came into a dog. We did not mean to adopt her — my boyfriend and I were fostering her, which is where you provide temporary housing to a dog until the dog finds a more permanent situation — but then seven months passed and she was still curled up in our living room. So now I have a dog.

    Our adjustment to cohabitation has been fairly painless. She likes to walk, and so do I. She likes to nap, and so do I. Sometimes she hides behind the couch, and while I don’t, I would if I were 14 pounds and dog-shaped.

    What we cannot agree on is how to eat.

    I am mostly vegan, and my boyfriend is always vegan; when we’ve fostered dogs, we’ve fed them vegan dog food, and they’ve been fine with that. I mean, I think. They have eaten it, often with enthusiasm, which I have attributed to the fact that it is food and they are dogs. But this dog, our dog, would not eat our hippie vegan dog food. This dog wanted meat. Is that so wrong?

    Should a dog be vegan? There are compelling reasons to say yes. The environment, for one: American dogs and cats eat roughly a quarter of the animal-derived calories consumed in the US each year, according to UCLA geographer Gregory Okin. By his calculations, our pets’ current diets are responsible for as much as 64 million tons of greenhouse gases each year. For context, that’s about what you’d get driving 13 million cars for a year.

    The traditional counterargument is that while sure, meat is tricky, a lot of what goes into pet food is animal byproduct — stuff humans won’t or can’t eat. So isn’t it better if it goes to feed pets? Isn’t that actually less total waste? To some extent, yes: As long as there’s a meat industry, there are byproducts from it, and it’s not like most humans are eating much bone meal.

     Shanée Benjamin for Vox

    But the problem, as Okin points out, is that the whole premise relies on relatively limited ideas about what constitutes scrap. “I’ve traveled around the world and I’m cognizant that what is considered human edible is culture-specific,” he told the Washington Post. At least some of what goes toward feeding pets could, with proper processing, go toward feeding people. It would be much nicer if dogs and cats were fuzzy recycling centers, but they aren’t. Pets, he argues, consume resources.

    But let’s put environmental impact aside. Isn’t it fundamentally weird to adopt a rescue dog — at least in part because I want animals to have the best and most humane lives possible — and then feed her other animals? I love moral consistency almost as much as my dog loves gnawing on dried pig ears.

    The pig whose ear she gnaws — it was a gift! — was almost certainly smarter than my dog. The reason she is a companion animal and the pig is food isn’t her intelligence, is all I’m saying. I adore my dog, but yesterday, I watched her hide from a floating plastic bag and then attack a skateboard.

    Obviously, you can love your dog and eat a hamburger. But pets illustrate how deeply strange this is, that some animals are friends and some are food, and which qualifies as what is a function of culture rather than logic. Because, as Harold Herzog, professor emeritus of psychology at Western Carolina University and author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat, points out, “they’re all edible.”

    Designated “pet food” is a relatively new concept. Special feed was once reserved for caged birds and goldfish, says Katherine C. Grier, a history professor at the University of Delaware and author of Pets in America: A History. Dogs, on the other hand, ate “what the family ate.” Which meant scraps: leftover meats and fish, bits of bone, along with vegetables and starches, sometimes served straight, and sometimes incorporated into a dog-specific stew.

    In the early 1860s, a British company called Spratt’s Patent Limited introduced the original dog biscuits. According to legend, and the New York Times, the concept of a dog-specific cracker was born when Ohioan James Spratt ventured to London and observed “quayside mongrels feasting on hardtack, the dry biscuit that fed sailors on long voyages.”

    At the time, Grier says, the British military was experimenting with putting meat into biscuits, an attempt to improve battle rations. Spratt saw another market: dogs.

     Grace’s Guide
    In 1860, James Spratt unveiled Spratt’s Patent Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes, a combination of wheat, beetroot, vegetables, and beef blood.

    The biscuits were expensive, aimed at people who were feeding large packs of elite hunting dogs and, later, fancy show dogs. The original Spratt’s Patent Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes “a mix of grains, beetroot, vegetables, and ‘the dried unsalted gelatinous parts of Prairie Beef,” which seemed to suit discerning canine tastes: “My greyhound, Royal Mary, winner of Altcar of last year’s Waterloo Plate,” read one testimonial, “was almost entirely trained for all her last year’s engagements on them.”

    Until the 1930s, most dogs were still mostly eating table scraps, but the commercial pet food industry was on the rise. Americans were increasingly interested in reforming their own diets, which trickled down into the feeding of their pets. Advertising from the ’20s and ’30s positioned commercial dog food as not simply the pragmatic choice, but the progressive one, the thoroughly modern diet of the 20th-century dog.

    “The time is past when the dog is brought up entirely upon the scraps,” advised Pet Dealer magazine in 1928. “Most dogs so fed are prone to obesity and some give off strong odors because of the highly seasoned or too fat or perhaps too starchy foods.” (That prepackaged dog food really took off during the Great Depression suggests another benefit: It was cheaper.)

    “It really is the beginning of this idea that we can treat our dogs to a healthier diet like what we’re pursuing for ourselves,” Grier tells me.

    If you go to a pet store today and browse the dog food aisle, it’s hard not to see it as a reflection of our current food obsessions, except instead of ripped men illustrating the medical and aesthetic benefits of protein powder, it’s shiny-coated Irish setters.

    We live in an age when pets have unprecedented status. They are family members. They wear designer coats and receive subscription boxes. Last year, the research firm Mintel reported that pet owners — pets may be family, but they are also, in the US, property — spent $86.7 billion on their animal companions.

    But the more we identify with our pets, the less sense it makes to keep them. With every passing study, the richer their inner lives seem to become; brain scans suggests dogs have what we’d recognize as feelings. “The logical consequence is that the more we attribute them with these characteristics,” Herzog once told the Guardian, “the less right we have to control every single aspect of their lives.”

    On the phone, Herzog outlines what that means: “You’re taking away its right to choose its own food. You’re taking away its right to enjoy a sex life if you, for example, have it spayed or neutered, which is what most animal lovers do. I’m more morally conflicted about being a cat owner than I am about anything else.”

    Dog owners line up with their pets at the local butcher for dog food which was on ration, in England, on March 22, 1943. Mirrorpix via Getty Images
    Dog owners line up with their pets at the local butcher for dog food which was on ration, in England, on March 22, 1943.

    There are now all-raw diets, the dog equivalent of Paleo for people. Grain-free dog food exploded in popularity — something to do with preventing dog allergies, but while analysts trace the concern back to a 2007 pet food recall, it also seems to parallel a general panic about carbs. Hasn’t your dog read Wheatbelly? Except that then, this summer, the Food and Drug Administration announced it was investigating a potential link between grain-free diets and canine heart disease. Maybe grain-free diets are actually bad for dogs!

    Even aesthetically, dog food — which, the author David Grimm points out, is always “food” and never “feed” — is inching ever closer to food for people. “We’re trending more into the space of having our pet food look a little more like our food,” Dana Brooks, the president of the Pet Food Institute, which represents pet food makers, told the Atlantic.

    It’s easy to make fun of this — there is so much human suffering in the world and millennials are buying bone broth for their dogs. But there is also a deep sweetness. “Maybe you can provide your pet something that looks similar [to what you eat] so you feel like you’re sharing a meal with your pet,” Brooks proposed. If dogs are such a big part of our lives, is it so wrong to want to feel close?

    There’s an exercise Herzog used to do with his students. He’d ask if it was okay, ethically, to feed mice to a boa constrictor, and they’d agree it was. Then he’d ask about cats: Can you feed mice to a cat? Almost everyone said no. “This girl raised her hand, and she was violently opposed to feeding mice to cats. I said, ‘Why?’ And she said, ‘If my cat ate mice, she wouldn’t be like me.’”

    What should a good dog eat? It turns out, we aren’t really sure.

    “Most of what we know about their nutrition is by trial and error,” Greg Aldrich, a professor at Kansas State University focused on pet food processing and nutrition, tells me. “There have been some moderate concerted efforts to evaluate the nutritional requirements for dogs and cats in the last 50 years, but I’ll tell you that it pales in comparison to what we know about mouse or rat nutrition, or pigs or cattle.”

    This shouldn’t be surprising. We don’t really know how people are supposed to eat either. In both cases, the reasons are pretty much the same: ethics, money.

    As Aldrich sees it, part of the problem is well-meaning activists who oppose animal research. “What they fail to understand,” he complains, “is that we’re not doing animal research just to be mean to animals. We’re trying to figure out their nutritional requirements! And sometimes that means we have to feed an animal below their requirement.”

    The other problem is funding. The federal government funds at least some amount of research on human nutrition through organizations like the US Department of Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health. “They [fund studies] for cattle and pigs and people,” says Aldrich, “but not for dogs or cats,” and the result is that a lot of what we do know about pet nutrition comes from research funded by pet food companies. “The pet food companies are by and large responsible for everything we know about pet nutrition today.” And if it’s somewhat self-serving, well, we know things that we didn’t know before, and isn’t knowing better than knowing nothing?

    The vast majority of current dog foods on the market use animal products. “Can I create a vegetarian diet for a dog? Yes, I can,” Aldrich assures me. “They tend to be more omnivorous like you and I, but we can do a meatless diet. We have to pay very, very, very special attention, though, because they do have tendencies toward a more carnivorous physiology. Only today, knowing all I know about nutrition and all of the analytical techniques, would I feel comfortable feeding a dog a vegetarian diet.”

    Would he put his own dog on a vegetarian diet? (Aldrich has a Labrador retriever.) He considers this. Probably not.

    There are, so far, no longitudinal studies of veganism in dogs. But plenty of dogs seem to do just fine on vegan diets. Some vets advise against it. Others do it for their own beloved pets. It could be better than an omnivorous diet. Alternatively, it could be worse.

    Shanée Benjamin for Vox

    “Either way, pet owners considering this feeding strategy should consider the risks and keep in mind that their dog will be a bit of a guinea pig until we have more data,” Cailin Heinze, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist at the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University, told the Daily Beast.

    “There are plenty of things that we should try to do even if nobody has ever done them before,” Jeff Sebo, head of the Animal Studies masters program at NYU, tells me. “And I think this is one of them.”

    I can live with this uncertainty. Nutritional science is wrong all the time! What I’m troubled by is how much my dog hates this vegan food. In her defense: It smells weird.

    It’s possible she would just prefer a different vegan pet food. Things are happening. The buzzy new brand Wild Earth recently launched a line of dog treats using koji (a fungus also found in soy and miso) as the primary ingredient, and plans to release a kibble next. (They’re also working on a lab-grown mouse meat for environmentally minded cats.) Technology could solve this, maybe. But it hasn’t yet.

    Jessica Pierce is a bioethicist and the author of several books on the ethics of keeping pets, including Run, Spot, Run: The Ethics of Keeping Pets. She is herself a vegan; she’s still wrestling with the question of what to feed her dog.

    “I kind of flip-flop,” she tells me. “I do think it’s morally and environmentally a better choice,” to feed your dog vegan food. But then there is the happiness of the dog. “It feels like a deprivation to deny them something that, obviously, is really pleasurable for them.” It would all be much easier if we knew more about how dogs should eat. But we don’t.

    There’s a commercial for Blue Buffalo Wilderness dog food that features a goofy-looking terrier running alongside his wolf ancestors, which he can do because they are connected by “a desire for meat.” It’s very persuasive.

    And it’s not untrue: The general thinking now is that gray wolves and dogs diverged from a common ancestor somewhere between 15,000 and 40,000 years ago, so, sure, my dog has distant lupine ancestors. But was she meant to eat like them? “I think it’s hard to ask the question, ‘What are dogs meant to do?’” Pierce says. Dogs as we know them evolved alongside humans. You can’t observe a puggle in the wild.

    Still, my dog is passionate about meat, and I want her to pursue her passions. “Is it fair for us to deny them that? I don’t know,” Pierce says.

    “Maybe with our dogs, it’s not all or nothing,” she suggests. “They could be mostly vegan but have a little bit of meat here and there, especially if they found it themselves.” It’s the same as the goal for most people: not no meat, but less.

    The moral of this story is anticlimactic and ethically suspect: I gave up on the vegan dog food. Instead, we switched to fish. I know that fish have feelings, too, but it felt like compromise, and it seems to make her happy. So does eating rocks, though, so it’s hard to know.

    According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 32 percent of Americans believe animals should be given the same rights as people, but only 8 percent identify as vegetarian or vegan. The more we treat our pets like people, the weirder it is to keep them in our homes and walk them around on leashes. I adopted a dog, and now I feed her other animals. I want to live a life in keeping with my purported values, but I also want a dog. “I think our life is just fraught with these inconsistencies,” says Herzog. “And we have to learn what to live with.”

  • Adam 16:24 on 18.04.2019 Постоянная ссылка |
    Метки: vox   

    9 questions about the Mueller report you were too embarrassed to ask 

    Robert Mueller, as FBI director in 2011.

    What might the Mueller report look like? What will be covered in it? Will we get to see it?

    Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Trump-Russia investigation will come out on Thursday, with redactions by the US Department of Justice and Attorney General Bill Barr.

    But what in the world will it look like — and what will it say?

    The most consequential topic is what Mueller has found out about President Donald Trump. A leaked list of questions Mueller’s team wanted to ask Trump makes clear that they were deeply interested in what the president knew about Russian interference with the election, and in his efforts to obstruct the investigation.

    Mueller’s report could be a damning, prosecutorial document asserting the president committed crimes, in the style of his indictments — effectively an impeachment referral. Alternatively, the report could be aimed more at “telling the story” of what he found, issuing conclusions about several incidents and topics — some of which could well exonerate the president. Or it could be a sparsely detailed, bare-bones “report” tersely stating that some people weren’t charged because of insufficient evidence.

    There’s so much uncertainty because there’s no real direct precedent for what Mueller’s doing, and he’s said practically nothing on the record about what’s being planned. When I asked Mueller’s spokesperson Peter Carr earlier this year, he responded, “All I can point you to is the regulations that govern our office.”

    Those regulations have scant details — but they do say that when the special counsel wraps up, he or she should write a report explaining “prosecution or declination decisions.” This report is filed to the attorney general, and is “confidential.”

    So the type of report many have envisioned — a massive, comprehensive document summing up the investigation’s conclusions and answering the public’s questions, à la the Starr report or the 9/11 Commission report — isn’t necessarily in the cards.

    But it’s not out of the question, either. The regulation’s guidelines are vague, and we just don’t know how Mueller’s interpreting them. If the special counsel and his bosses at the Justice Department want to design a report under the assumption it will be made public, they certainly have the ability to do so. By this point, they surely have a plan. We just don’t know what that plan is — or whether newly confirmed Attorney General Bill Barr might have different ideas.

    1) What is the special counsel report?

    Mueller was appointed to take over the Trump-Russia investigation as a special counsel — a prosecutor who would be somewhat removed from the Justice Department’s ordinary chain of command and would theoretically be able to do his work with a measure of independence (though still with a Justice Department boss).

    Now, this is not the same role that Ken Starr once held during the Clinton administration. Starr was an independent counsel, operating under the authority of a law that has since expired. The special counsel was approved in 1999 to replace that old law. Here, then, is what that regulation says about a special counsel “report”:

    At the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel.

    That’s it — one solitary sentence. But there are a few notable things in it:

    • The report is for the attorney general — that is, not necessarily Congress or the public.
    • The report is specifically said to be “confidential.”
    • The report is supposed to explain “prosecution or declination decisions.”

    Again, when I asked Carr, Mueller’s spokesperson, for comment on their plans for a report, he pointed me to that sentence of the regulation specifically. So take it seriously.

    2) What are the main possibilities for how Mueller’s report might look?

    We have little concrete information on how Mueller chose to interpret the regulation’s rather terse instruction about a report. But there appear to be two major possibilities.

    First, the report could be a rather dry internal law enforcement document — one that sticks closely to the question of whether criminal activity occurred and is intended for the attorney general’s eyes only. This is what the explicit language of the regulation would seem to suggest. It calls for a “confidential” report to be delivered to the attorney general.

    Second, one could also imagine a copiously detailed “Mueller report” trying to authoritatively sum up Trumpworld’s Russian contacts and Russia’s efforts to interfere with the election — one designed to tell a story about what happened, and written under the assumption that it will become public eventually. It could also be written with the understanding that it might be an impeachment referral, seen by Congress eventually.

     Alex Wong/Getty Images
    Special counsel Robert Mueller arrives at the US Capitol for a closed meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 21, 2017.

    Many have remarked that Mueller appears to be using his court filings — indictments and plea documents — to tell a story. This was particularly the case for his indictments of Russian hackers and a Russian social media propaganda operation, as well as the unusually detailed criminal information document in Paul Manafort’s plea deal (which even included exhibits).

    This behavior could suggest that Mueller sees part of his job as telling the public what happened — and that he may try to do so in his eventual report. But it could also suggest the opposite — that Mueller views court filings, not this eventual report for the attorney general, as the way to answer the public’s questions.

    3) Is there any historical precedent for this?

    Independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s report looms large in Washington’s memory. Hundreds of pages long, divided into chapters, and eventually bound and distributed in book form, the Starr report meticulously documented every sexual encounter Bill Clinton had with Monica Lewinsky, as well as his attempt to cover up the affair. Starr’s nominal audience was Congress: It was a referral recommending Clinton’s impeachment. But it was also written as a “narrative” (as one header read) for the public’s consumption.

    Again, though, Starr was an independent counsel who had quite different legal authority than Mueller does. So it’s not clear how useful that precedent is.

     Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images
    Reporters surround independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s spokesperson Charles Bakaly III, as he makes a statement after delivering Starr’s 445-page report to the House steps which describes “substantial and credible evidence” that “may” constitute grounds for impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton, on September 9, 1998.

    The only other outside special counsel named under Mueller’s particular regulation was John Danforth, appointed back in 1999 to look into federal officials’ handling of the 1993 Waco raid. (Some also point to Patrick Fitzgerald, appointed to investigate the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity in 2003, but the Congressional Research Service points out Fitzgerald was a sitting US attorney and had different legal authority.)

    At the conclusion of his work, Danforth submitted a 207-page report on his findings — which he released publicly. The report listed his conclusions on five key topics, detailed his team’s investigative methods, and contained a 71-page “statement of facts” laying out what happened. It contained relatively few redactions. One would think this would be a precedent for Mueller to follow (though the Russia investigation is far more complex, involving classified information and the president’s conduct).

    But there’s another catch — Danforth was specifically instructed by then-Attorney General Janet Reno to write a final report “in a form that will permit public dissemination” to “the maximum extent possible.” So public disclosure was part of Danforth’s mission. Then-acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s order appointing Mueller contained no such instruction. He could have given private orders, but if he did, we don’t know about them.

    4) What will Mueller’s report cover?

    Mueller has been investigating two main topics, often shorthanded as “collusion” (whether Trump associates were involved with Russian interference in the 2016 campaign) — and “obstruction” (whether Trump attempted to block or interfere with investigations).

    In the “collusion” bucket, we know Mueller has investigated (among other things):

    • The hacking and leaking of Democrats’ emails in 2016, and what Trump associates like George Papadopoulos and Roger Stone may have known about it
    • Links and contacts between various people associated with Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, such as Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower
    • Business discussions between Trump associates and Russians during the 2016 campaign, including about a “Trump Tower Moscow” project
    • Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort’s ties to pro-Russian interests, including his handing over of campaign polling data to a Russian associate
    • Efforts by Russia to influence US policy on sanctions and Ukraine that played out during the election and after it
    • A Russian social media propaganda effort during the 2016 campaign that was designed to hurt Clinton and help Trump
    • Some sort of Middle Eastern-tied effort to influence US politics and potentially the 2016 election

    As part of the obstruction of justice probe, Mueller is known to have investigated:

    • The circumstances around Trump’s firing of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn
    • Trump’s conversations with FBI Director James Comey and his eventual firing of Comey
    • Trump’s pressures on Attorney General Jeff Sessions over the Russia investigation
    • Trump’s treatment of and contacts with various other Justice Department and intelligence officials, with regards to investigations implicating him or his associates
    • Whether Trump or his associates may have hinted at or offered pardons to witnesses in exchange for not incriminating him
    • False testimony from Trump associates to congressional committees investigating Russian interference
    • Trump’s involvement in crafting a false public story about Don Jr.’s meeting with the Russian lawyer

    So Mueller’s report is quite lengthy — nearly 400 pages.

    Still, we don’t know for sure how many of these topics the report ended up including. For some, he may have already said what he wanted in previous indictments. Others could be unresolved — Mueller has referred some aspects of the investigation to other Justice Department prosecutors to handle.

    As far as content, though, the only guidance in the regulation is that it should cover “prosecution or declination decisions reached by the special counsel” — that is, why Mueller decided to charge certain people but not others.

    5) What won’t Mueller’s report cover?

    There are two other major federal investigations into Trumpworld that are being handled elsewhere in the Justice Department.

    The first — the probe of hush money payments to women who alleged affairs with Trump during the campaign — is being handled by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. (Mueller originated the case but handed it off to them.) This is the case in which Michael Cohen pleaded guilty and said he violated campaign finance law at Trump’s direction. This probe still seems to be active.

    The second is an investigation into Trump’s inaugurationwhere its money went, and potentially illegal foreign donations. This is also being handled by US attorney offices in New York.

    Additionally, the case of accused Russian spy Maria Butina was being handled by the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. We’ve seen no evidence that Mueller was interested in or involved in her case, so she may not make the cut for the report.

    6) But what will the report say about President Trump?

    There’s an elephant in the room. How do you apply the framework of a report on prosecution decisions when one subject you’ve been investigating is the president of the United States — who the Justice Department has said can’t be indicted while he’s in office?

    If Mueller truly has found no criminal activity from Trump, there’s of course no problem. But if he does, what’s to be done? Seal up an indictment till Trump’s out of office? Document all his illegal conduct, but then conclude it with “we decided not to prosecute solely because he’s the president”? Or just be a legend, reject the Office of Legal Counsel’s past advice, and try to charge him anyway?

     Alex Wong/Getty Images
    Reps. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Peter Welch (D-VT) take part in a news conference to show support of special counsel Robert Mueller on December 21, 2107.

    The report could be Mueller’s solution to this problem. We know from the leaked list of questions he wanted to ask Trump that he’s tried to document the president’s actions in great detail, particularly with regards to obstruction of justice. Mueller could be using his report to lay out a prosecutorial fact pattern about the president, akin to those in his indictments — under the assumption that Congress would eventually get ahold of it and consider impeachment.

    Or he could have no such intention. It’s also quite possible that the report could disappoint Trump’s critics by making clear that in the end, Mueller found no evidence directly implicating the president in any conspiracy to interfere with the election, and decline to directly allege that the president’s actions qualified as criminal obstruction of justice.

    7) Will the report become public?

    Yes, it’s scheduled to go public on Thursday morning — but with redactions.

    One significant obstacle to Mueller’s report becoming public is that the regulation clearly states that the special counsel’s report should be “confidential.” But the Justice Department said it will release the report with redactions.

    There are several legitimate reasons why the Justice Department needs to make redactions:

    • Classified information: Mueller’s investigation has relied a good deal on classified intelligence that he would not be permitted to release in unredacted form.
    • Grand jury secrecy: There are various laws and rules around the secrecy of witness testimony and information obtained by a federal grand jury.
    • Uncharged conduct: Traditional Justice Department practice is to not publicly speak about individuals they have decided not to criminally charge. James Comey famously defied this during the Clinton email investigation, and it didn’t turn out well for him. So if Mueller’s report mainly explains decisions not to charge certain individuals, should it in fact be disclosed?
     Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
    Former FBI Director Robert Mueller (center) is surrounded by security and staff as he leaves a meeting with senators at the US Capitol on June 21, 2017.

    However, Mueller’s team is surely well aware of all these obstacles to disclosure and have had ample time to come to an understanding with their former supervisor, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, about how they’ll be handled. Mueller’s team has also reportedly worked with the Justice Department on the redactions.

    8) But Bill Barr is attorney general now. What will he do?

    Since being confirmed as attorney general, Barr has been Mueller’s boss. That means he is the person to whom Mueller delivered his report.

     Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
    US Attorney General William Barr attends President Trump’s press conference where he declared a state of emergency for a border wall on February 15, 2019.

    Then, to complicate things further, Barr has his own reporting requirements. The special counsel regulation states that:

    • “Upon the conclusion of the special counsel’s investigation,” the attorney general must provide “an explanation.”
    • This explanation would be provided to the chair and ranking member of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. These are currently Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Doug Collins (R-GA), and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
    • If the AG had overruled any “proposed action” from the special counsel, he or she would have to explain why.
    • Finally, the AG “may” release this report publicly, “to the extent that release would comply with applicable legal restrictions.”

    This proved to be the source of some controversy during Barr’s confirmation hearings earlier this year. Barr testified that he wanted to disclose as much as possible, within the bounds of the law. But he refused to commit to making the Mueller report public, instead focusing on the AG’s reporting requirements. Democrats cried foul, suspecting Barr planned a cover-up.


    After Mueller submitted his report, Barr released a summary of its main findings on the questions of collusion and obstruction of justice. Quoting Mueller, Barr’s summary noted that Mueller’s query “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” It also said, again quoting Mueller, “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

    The question as we wait for the full report is how far the redactions will go. Trump’s critics are worried that Barr, a close ally of the president, could try to hide important or damning information by simply redacting it.

    But that could backfire: If Mueller’s prosecutors do suspect a cover-up, information could get out through leaks to the press, whistleblowing, congressional testimony, or subpoenas.

    So Barr will likely have to walk a fine line with the redactions. It’s unclear just how he’ll handle it yet.

    9) When’s the report coming out?

    Barr said he will release the report Thursday morning, after holding a press conference at 9:30 am Eastern Time. The report is expected to be delivered to Congress and released to the public by noon.

    At that point, we’ll finally get a deeper look into the Trump-Russia investigation. We don’t know yet, though, how much information will be unredacted and available to the public.

    For more on the Mueller probe, follow Andrew Prokop on Twitter and check out Vox’s guide to the Trump-Russia investigation.

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