Putin, Trump, and Moscow Mitch: An Unholy Alliance

The United States is and has been under attack by Putin’s Russian Federation. This isn’t news to informed citizens; it’s been in the public domain for years now. However, as time passes and more investigations unearth the vast scale and severity of Putin’s hostile acts against this nation, the national security apparatus has never been more sure of what the Russians did in 2016, what they’re doing now, and what they intend to do during the 2020 presidential election.

The Russian threat


Putin has plotted and deployed a cyberwar on two fronts against the United States. The first front involves infiltrating our electoral systems to gather intelligence on American voters, and probing for vulnerabilities in the technical infrastructure that facilitates electoral regulation and administration. If the Russians find just a single exploit in a single state, they’ll have the ability to sabotage the outcome of the 2020 election.    

The second front is an insidious and highly-targeted campaign to influence the election by infecting the very fabric of our society. This is dispensed mostly through social media. There’s literally an army of cyber soldiers –manifested by humans and artificial intelligence– whose task is to corrupt the hearts and minds of American voters. This is carried out by fake news campaigns: attacking candidates unfavorable to Russian interests while promoting candidates favorable to Russian interests. 

An example of this type of interference is the 2016 hack on the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) network. They stole tens of thousands of emails from the DNC. Some of these emails were released via DCLeaks in the summer of 2016. However, what’s most revealing about their intentions was the timing of their release. They saved nearly 20,000 emails mined from the personal gmail account of John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. These emails were systematically released in October 7, 2016, just 30 minutes after news outlets began running Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tape, which featured Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. At the time, the Access Hollywood tape was widely thought –even from within the Trump campaign– to ruin Trump’s bid for the presidency. However, the release of Podesta’s emails served as a timely distraction which saved Trump’s candidacy. And for the rest of the month, to keep the attention on the emails and off the Access Hollywood tape, Wikileaks portioned out daily email releases until the end of October, nearly a week before Election Day. Wikileaks accomplished this feat by working with a hacker, at the time, only known as “Gucifer 2.0.” During the Mueller investigation, it was revealed that the Gucifer 2.0 persona was actually an operation carried out by Russia’s modern-day KGB, the Russian military intelligence agency GRU. 

The Russians manufacture propaganda and disperse it on social media platforms. Their propaganda is spread by unwitting Americans, thinking they’re viewing factual news based in reality. They also paid for advertisements on these platforms to ensure their propaganda reaches a wider audience. 

The Russians, as seen in 2016, are especially interested in targeting swing districts. These are districts that are especially unpredictable since the political party affiliations amongst the electorate are neck and neck. Flipping swing districts, one district at a time, would have the most significant overall impact on a state’s Electoral College votes. 

After the 2016 presidential election, every single one of our intelligence agencies investigated, concluded, and concurred that Russia interfered in the election. The Mueller investigation not only corroborated what the intelligence agencies found, but compounded on it. The Mueller team was able to convict 26 Russian nationals, as well as three Russian companies who conspired to influence the 2016 presidential election. Mueller dedicated an entire volume of his report –nearly 200 pages– to Russian Interference, and as the report concluded, “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” 

And over 2 ½ years later, investigators are still uncovering just how large a web the Russian’s managed to weave. The Senate Intelligence Committee, just a little over a week ago, released a bipartisan report that concluded the Russians targeted the electoral infrastructure, as well as voter registration databases, in every single state in America.

Why Trump and McConnell refuse to protect American elections


Putin attacked the lifeblood of American democracy –the electoral process– in 2016. The evidence is not only overwhelming, it’s indisputable. It was the first major cyberattack perpetrated against the United States during a presidential election, and it wasn’t a singular event. They are intent on striking again in 2020. However, the two most powerful men in the country, Trump and McConnell, are refusing to act, which is a clear and present threat to national security.

The problem starts with Trump. Despite the overwhelming body of evidence that proves Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, he still refuses to even acknowledge it. In fact, he’s continuously sided with Putin over the 2016 election interference. He’s literally taken the word of a brutal dictator over the word of the democratic institutions in his own country. It’s not only the disturbing fact of taking the word of a hostile foreign power over our entire national security apparatus, he values Putin’s word over some members of his own administration. 

Just this week, Trump had a phone conversation with Putin. On Thursday, a reporter posed the question to Trump, “Mueller said last week that Russia is interfering in U.S. elections right now. Did you raise that with Putin?” Trump responded, “You don’t really believe this, do you?” The reporter retorted, “He said it last week. Did you raise it?” Trump then said, “We didn’t talk about it.” Trump then went on to lie about Mueller’s testimony and made crude comments about Mueller’s acuity during his testimony. 

Trump’s unwillingness to acknowledge Russian interference isn’t out of ignorance. It’s due to two main reasons: pride and greed. His fragile ego can’t accept the fact he didn’t win solely based on his electability. Therefore, any inference of election interference implies he’s quite possibly an illegitimate president. 

Then there’s greed. He knows the Russian’s gave him, at the very least, an edge in an already tight election –an election in which he lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes. Since being elected, Trump’s highest approval rating was 46% and his average approval rating is 40% (Gallup). By all metrics, he’s an unpopular president amongst the majority of the American people. It’s reasonable to assume Trump doesn’t think he could be reelected without Russian interference. And therefore, he’s willing to betray the sanctity of American democracy in order to get himself reelected. There are other unconfirmed factors that may also be at play. He has a long, documented history of having financial and business ties to Russia. During the 2016 campaign, he was actively trying to close a deal with the Russian government (i.e. Putin) to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. There’s also the possibility of the Russian’s having compromising material against him.

Enter Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. He’s ruled over the Senate like a dictator –continuously blocking bills from reaching the Senate floor for a vote. This is especially true when it comes to the election security bills: he’s blocked nine over the past two years. On July 25th, he blocked two election security bills in a single day.

McConnell’s refusal to allow duly-elected members of the U.S. Senate to vote on an election security bill has branded him with a moniker that’s unlikely to fade away: Moscow Mitch. McConnell hasn’t been happy with his new nickname, which prompted him to justify his decision to block the bills by saying, “I’m not going to let Democrats and their water carriers in the media to use Russia’s attack on our democracy as a Trojan horse for a partisan wish list of items.” 

These so-called partisan “wish-list items” include making paper ballots a requirement, the protection to audit elections to ensure no indications of sabotage were present, ensuring states and local governments have the resources needed to update and maintain the integrity of electoral infrastructure, among other protections. These items aren’t ideological, they’re common-sense protections against the foreign interference that’s already happened. 

The only conclusion that can be made is McConnell understands Putin wants Trump and Trump-supporting members of Congress in power. Therefore, allowing these protections to be put to a vote and likely passed as law, has the real potential to damage GOP electoral prospects in 2020. There’s only one conclusion to be made: McConnell is open to Russian interference as long as it benefits his party.

After McConnell’s most recent election security bill block, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee said, “Russia’s biggest ally in its quest to infiltrate elections again is Mitch McConnell.” He also added, “I believe foreign, hostile actors are going to make what happened in 2016 look like small potatoes compared to 2016.” 

Justin Amash (I-MI), who was a lifelong Republican up until a little over a month ago when he began speaking out against Trump’s obstruction of justice as documented in the Mueller Report. Amash was the only Republican member of the House to speak out against Trump’s criminality. He was outcast for doing so, and feeling dissatisfied with the Republican Party’s complacency with Trump’s behavior, he left the GOP and became an Independent. Amash tweeted about the McConnell situation, “There was a time when the GOP establishment hated Donald Trump. They then realized they could use a man like this—unprincipled, transactional, shameless—to push their agenda. McConnell and McCarthy are giddy about Trump. Conservatives in Congress are the ones privately horrified.” 

The Washington Post columnist, Dana Milbank, called out McConnell’s obstructive conduct in a piece entitled, Mitch McConnell is a Russian Asset. In the piece, Milbank wrote, “[McConnell is] arguably more than any other American, doing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bidding.”

Conclusions


It’s a seriously dangerous prospect that the two most powerful men in the country are willing to look the other way while a hostile foreign power ramps up their election-interference machine. This is not being done for any misguided political ideology, it’s being done to maintain power. The promise of democracy is that power is vested in the people, and it’s the people who have the power to elect our leaders into positions of power, as granted by the constitution. 

This is beyond McConnell choosing party over country; he’s choosing power over the integrity of our democracy. Trump and McConnell are, in one way or the other, in bed with Putin, and our national security is at risk because of it. They can hug the flag and wear their American-flag lapel pins, but it’s merely a facade. These men aren’t patriots, they’re treacherous politicians willing to win at all costs –even if it means selling out their country to a foreign adversary.

As George Washington once warned, “Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence … the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”

Mueller’s Testimony: Substance Matters

On July 24, 2019, Robert Mueller gave his long-anticipated testimony before the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. It’s been nearly two months since Mueller resigned from his position as Special Counsel from the Department of Justice. During Mueller’s resignation statement, he said if he were called before congress, he would only testify to the content in the Mueller Report. Mueller wasn’t being fictitious –that’s exactly what he did. 

While some in the media were hyping up his testimony, others were more measured in their forecast. Mueller is not –and has never been– one for theatrics or hyperbole. He built his reputation on professionalism, integrity, and objectivity.

As some media analysts foretold, there were no new bombshells that erupted from the congressional hearings. Mueller generally didn’t testify to anything that wasn’t already documented in the Mueller Report. Mueller didn’t stray from the confines he had set for himself. His answers were carefully worded and concise, and his demeanor was unassuming and measured.

As a result of Mueller’s by-the-book and short-winded answers, many members of the media were quick to characterize the hearings as “devastating,” a “disaster,” and some even described his demeanor as “weary.” It’s irresponsible for the media to spin such an important event in this way. This is something to be expected from most right-wing media outlets. Frankly, they were going to attack his testimony, as they’ve attacked his report, one way or the other. However, a fair share of the irresponsible framing of the testimony came from some pundits and analysts from the left-to-center mainstream media. 

We’re living in a unique time in American history. Before becoming President of the United States, most Americans knew Donald Trump from watching him on reality TV. Unfortunately, the manufactured drama and sensationalism of Trump’s reality-TV persona has never gone away. The only thing that changed was the set location: the White House. This kind of hyper-drama has become part of the media’s coverage of this administration. With Trump being loud and bombastic, it’s as if Mueller was expected to put on an act reflective of Trump’s reality TV-esque performances. If Mueller’s testimony is being judged mostly on his performance instead of its substance, then the public is not being adequately informed. 

This was never going to be something out of an episode of a courtroom drama or a scene from A Few Good Men. This is real life and this is serious. The implications of the Mueller Report and Mueller’s testimony –which essentially reiterated and emphasized facts from the report– couldn’t be more serious for our national security, as well as the future of our system of government.

The United States was, and still is being, attacked by the Russian Federation. The Russians are still actively engaged in acts of cyber-warfare against the United States. This is 21st-century warfare: instead of using traditional weapons of war to cause damage, the Russians are attacking us with hackers and sophisticated cyber weapons and assets. These cyber weapons of war are being used to create public discord by amplifying an already polarized political climate. They want Americans to not only distrust the electoral process and democratic institutions, but want to make Americans distrust one another by infecting the hearts and minds of millions of Americans by infiltrating our social media environments. 

This is a national security threat that’s being ignored by the Trump administration, as well as the overwhelming majority of the Republican Party. The Republican-controlled Senate has continuously dismissed legislation aimed to safeguard us from future cyber attacks. 

During his testimony on Russian interference in our elections, Mueller said “[Russia is] doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it in the next campaign.” When he was asked about the Trump campaign accepting support from the Russains and the fact that contacts from a foreign adversary in a political campaign went unreported, he said: “I hope this is not the new normal, but I fear it is.”

There was only a single Republican congressman who even bothered to ask about Russian interference. A foreign adversary interfering in our elections and stoking division amongst Americans shouldn’t be a bipartisan issue. The fact that it is demonstrates that Republicans are putting their own self-interest over the country’s. 

Mueller also reiterated the evidence he uncovered on the part of his report that focused on obstruction of justice (Volume II) committed by Trump. In his report, Mueller found ten instances of possible obstruction of justice. Trump and his political supporters have spun the narrative that Mueller exonerated Trump of any wrongdoing. Trump has said repeatedly that he was “totally exonerated” by Mueller. While Mueller never had the power to hold Trump criminally accountable for the crime of obstructing justice, he did emphasize that he was unwilling to clear him of any wrongdoing. Mueller said, “The president was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed.” Mueller was also asked if Trump could be prosecuted for crimes when he leaves office, in which he replied “True.”

Mueller did answer a question that wasn’t in the report, such as Trump’s characterization of the Mueller investigation being a “witch hunt.” Trump has been calling the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt” from the beginning. He’s used the “witch hunt” phrase well over a hundred times, all in an attempt to corrupt the integrity of the investigation. When asked about this by a member of the House, Mueller said: “It is not a witch hunt.”

When the day’s long testimony concluded, Trump claimed a false victory. He lied and directly contradicted Mueller’s testimony. He said Mueller totally exonerated him, then later contradicting himself, said Mueller didn’t have the right to exonerate him. Trump was asked by a reporter about Mueller’s testimony pertaining to the fact Trump could be prosecuted for obstruction of justice when he leaves office, Trump lied and said Mueller corrected himself “…later on in the afternoon.” Trump then snapped at the reporter, saying “…you’re fake news. And you’re one of the most.” Trump’s political allies also engaged in this form of gaslighting. Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted, “Didn’t take long for Mueller to once again vindicate President [Trump]. No collusion. No obstruction. And now Mueller all but admits it was all along a total witch hunt.”

This is where we are as a country. The Mueller investigation concluded Russia did in fact interfere in our election, found at least 140 contacts between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and uncovered ten criminal acts of obstruction of justice by Trump. And Mueller reiterated and emphasized the details of his findings during his testimony. It was unfairly framed as a failure because some members of the media expected Mueller to turn into Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men. However, if you take a step back and really reflect on the substance of Mueller’s testimony, there were numerous bombshells worthy of a dystopian blockbuster movie.

Russia is a national security threat to the United States. In fact, investigators are finding that their interference in the 2016 presidential election was even worse than previously suspected. In a Senate Intelligence Committee report released just yesterday, investigators determined that Russia targeted election systems in every state in America. This includes hacking into voter registration systems, as well as state voting databases. 

Nonetheless, we have a president who refuses to even accept or acknowledge that the Russians interfered in the lifeblood of our democracy: the electoral process. He has taken the word of Vladimir Putin, a brutal dictator, over our own democratic institutions (intelligence agencies, Department of Justice, congressional investigators, etc). And the Republican Party continues to shamelessly support Trump’s position on Russian interference. They know it helped get him elected, and if the Russian’s want Trump in office, they also want Republicans in congress to support him. They’re allowing a foreign adversary to destroy us from within so they can preserve their own power. If an entire political party is unwilling to address, or even acknowledge, Russia’s interference and continued interference, then the party is rotten at the core. 

The House Democrats should be initiating impeachment proceedings. While it’s unlikely the Republican-controlled Senate will ever even hold a trial if the House passes Articles of Impeachment, that’s not an excuse for not holding Trump accountable for his criminality and accepting the assistance of a foreign adversary. Mueller provided an abundance of evidence –the House needs to put his words into action. There has to come a point where political maneuvering takes a back seat to carrying out their sacred oath of office: to protect and defend the constitution.  

Trump: A Traitor in the White House

Donald Trump has admitted that he’s willing to accept information on his political opponents from foreign adversaries. This is the most treacherous statement made by a president in American history. It sent shockwaves across the country: the President of the United States openly admitted his willingness to accept dirt on his political rivals from adversarial powers. It’s a felony for a campaign or government official to accept anything of value from a foreign government or entity.

The Stephanopoulos interview


Trump is infamous for rarely giving interviews to actual journalists. The overwhelming majority of his interviews are conducted by Fox News. Most of which are designed to promote him. They’re not meant to press Trump for truthful answers to questions of substance. Fox News anchors, such as Laura Ingraham, go way beyond softball questions, tee-ball questions are much more fitting for these farcical interviews.

However, on June 12, 2019, when ABC News’ Chief Anchor, George Stephanopoulos, interviewed Trump in the Oval Office, Stephanopoulos asked meaningful and pointed questions regarding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Stephanopoulos asked about Donald Trump, Jr., who was testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee in reference to his Russian contacts leading up to the 2016 presidential election. This exchange led to Trump’s treasonous admission:

Stephanopoulos: But should [Donald Trump, Jr.] have gone to the FBI when he got that email? [The email being referred is an email he received saying a Russian national had dirt on Hillary Clinton]

President Trump: Okay, let’s put yourself in a position: you’re a congressman, somebody comes up and says, “Hey I have information on your opponent.” Do you call the FBI?

Stephanopoulos: If it’s coming from Russia you do.

President Trump: You don’t– I’ll tell you what. I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. I don’t–you don’t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do—

Stephanopoulos: Al Gore got a stolen briefing book. He called the FBI.

President Trump: Well, that’s different. A stolen briefing book. This isn’t– this is somebody who said, “We have information on your opponent.” Oh, let me call the FBI. Give me a break, life doesn’t work that way.

Stephanopoulos: The FBI Director says that’s what should happen.

Trump went on to say, “The FBI Director is wrong.” Mind you, this is Trump’s personally selected FBI director, Christopher A. Wray, who took over after the firing of James Comey.

This led to a series of specific questions about how Trump would respond to potential future offers of assistance from a foreign adversarial power:

Stephanopoulos: Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept it or should they call the FBI?

President Trump: I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen, there’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, “we have information on your opponent.” Oh, I think I’d want to hear it.

Stephanopoulos: You want that kind of interference in our elections?

President Trump: It’s not an interference, they have information. I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI. If I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research. Oh, let’s call the FBI. The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it, but you go and talk honestly to congressmen, they all do it, they always have. And that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.

The interview ended after Trump’s final statement.

A brief history of Russian interference and Trump-Russia collusion


Trump admitted he would accept campaign-aiding information from a foreign adversarial power if it was offered to him. Before the Mueller investigation ever started, journalists were reporting on the Trump campaign’s connections with the Russian government. After the 2016 election, every one of our intelligence agencies confirmed the Russians engaged in an act of cyber warfare against the lifeblood of our democracy: our electoral process.

There were also journalists breaking stories about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, such as the now infamous Trump Tower meeting. This, coupled with federal investigators looking into the matter, led to the FBI initiating an investigation to look into any potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. The FBI Director at the time, James Comey, was fired. Trump later admitted he fired him because of his unwillingness to back off Russia-related inquiries.

Comey’s firing set off a political firestorm in Washington. While the president does have the legal authority to fire an FBI director, the context and timing couldn’t have been more suspect. Trump’s former attorney general, Jeff Session, had recused himself from any matters related to the Russia investigation since he himself was part of the campaign. Therefore, the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, was tasked with overseeing the Russia investigation. Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller to lead the Special Counsel’s Office. Mueller spent nearly two years investigating Russian interference, collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, as well as numerous instances of obstruction of justice committed by Trump.

Mueller ultimately concluded that Russia engaged in a “sweeping and systematic” cyber warfare campaign against the United States. Mueller also uncovered over 140 contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian nationals.

For anyone who’s read the Mueller Report, there’s no doubt that the Trump campaign was in communication with Putin’s Russia. Some of the communications were done right out in the open. For example, during a press conference, Trump pleaded with Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s “missing emails.” Russia was listening and they complied with Trump’s request. Just a day after Trump’s appeal to a foreign adversary to dig up dirt on his opponent, Russian operatives hacked into Clinton’s personal email servers.

Before he even took the role of special counsel, Mueller’s hands were tied as far as indicting Trump. The Department of Justice has a guideline, which says a sitting president cannot be indicted for a crime. So, even if Mueller found undeniable evidence that Trump committed felonies, he couldn’t do anything about it. If Trump was caught on tape committing multiple felonies, he couldn’t do anything about it.

Mueller could, however, indict other people associated with the campaign and Russians involved in the cyber warfare. In the span of his investigation, he indicted, arrested, and/or convicted 34 individuals and 3 companies. Some of these individuals were Trump campaign members or associates and some were Russian agents.

Even though Mueller was unable to indict Trump, he was still able to investigate him. After two years, he released his 448-page report to the Justice Department. The report was redacted, but even with the redactions, a history of criminal behavior on Trump’s part is evident. The most damning evidence came from Volume II, which focused on Trump’s instances of obstruction of justice. Mueller found ten concrete examples of Trump attempting to obstruct the investigation. This includes obstructing behavior from Trump, such him instructing a White House staff member to destroy written records to Trump attempting to have his staff fire Mueller.

Mueller’s report is essentially a roadmap for the House of Representatives to use in impeachment hearings. He said as much during the statement he made before resigning from the Department of Justice: “…the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”

Conclusion: Trump is willing to commit treason to get re-elected


After everything that’s happened in the past few years. All the confirmed reports of Russian interference and Russian contacts, which were all corroborated by the Mueller Report, taught Trump nothing. Even if he was truly ignorant of his campaign’s contacts with the Russians or was ignorant of the implications of appealing to an adversary to commit a crime against his political opponent, one would hope he would have at least felt deterred to engage in this kind of behavior in the future, but sadly that’s not the case. To make matters even worse, with his confession to Stephanopoulos, he’s even doubled down on his corrupt behavior. He’s open to accepting dirt on a political opponent from an adversarial power to benefit politically.

A foreign adversary wouldn’t provide information to Trump with no strings attached. They’re doing it to benefit their own geopolitical interests. The act of giving the Trump campaign information is a quid pro quo. It’s a transaction: Trump gets dirt on his 2020 Democratic challenger for president and then reciprocates by implementing or changing policies that will directly benefit the adversary. Therefore, Trump is willing to compromise our national security for his own personal, political, and possibly financial benefit.  

In response to Trump’s brazen admission, Ellen Weintraub, the head of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) said:

“Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election. This is not a novel concept.”

Despite Trump brushing off calling the FBI if he was approached by a foreign adversary, the FBI’s own website contradicts Trump’s assertion. On the FBI’s “Contact Us” page, in the section “When to Contact the FBI,” one of the featured reasons to contact them is for: “Suspicious activities that you believe threaten national security, especially suspicious activity that involves foreign powers or foreign organizations.”

Trump, in his statement about the FBI director being “wrong” serves only to compound the entire situation. Aside from the fact he’s willing to publicly malign his handpicked FBI director, he also compromised the bureau’s efforts to counter Russian interference. It not only serves to demoralize the men and women of the FBI, but it also undermines the work they’ve been doing for years to safeguard our elections from foreign influence. Trump has literally encouraged foreign adversaries to interfere in the 2020 presidential election. This, in effect, would also apply to congressional campaigns. And if the president is willing to engage in this type of behavior, why wouldn’t a dubious congressional candidate as well?

The United States Constitution defines “treason” as:

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.”

United States Constitution. Article III, Section III

It’s not hyperbole to brand Trump as a traitor. It isn’t based on conjecture or hearsay –it’s based on his own words. Trump’s interview with Stephanopoulos is one of the most shameful moments in the history of the presidency. The integrity and honor of the presidency has never been lower.

Trump doesn’t serve the interests of the American people. He’s only concerned with his own personal, political, and financial interests. He swore an oath to defend and protect the constitution, but has repeatedly betrayed that oath.

It’s easy to become hypnotized by the daily chaos being reported out of the White House. However, it’s critical that this does not become normalized. The House needs to initiate impeachment hearings immediately. There’s a traitor in the White House and he needs to be removed.

Correction: Trump’s call for Russia to find Clinton’s “missing emailsoccurred during a press conference and not a campaign event.

Mueller Translated: Start the Impeachment Hearings

On Wednesday, May 29, 2019, Robert Mueller broke his nearly two-year long vow of public silence. He announced the Special Counsel Office’s work is complete and tendered his resignation.

Since the release of his redacted report, there’s been infighting by Democrats on how to proceed, and spin from Republicans as to the report’s findings. Trump has attacked the Mueller Report on all fronts, yet still seems to promote the utterly false notion that the report exonerated him. And Bill Barr, Trump’s attorney general, misled the public on more than one occasion as to the report’s substance and overall conclusions.

Deciphering Mueller-Speak


Robert Mueller is a professional of the highest caliber. His reputation is steeped in qualities like integrity, honor, and fairness. He’s not a political player; he’s a professional. He doesn’t engage in hyperbole, and in his statement, never strayed from the carefully chosen words of his scripted remarks. Since we live in times of hyperbolic rhetoric, and Mueller has a strict code of conduct, we can’t mistake Mueller’s restrained statement as inconsequential. He’s never going to make an inflammatory statement, even if he may be thinking it. Therefore, we need to be able to read between the lines.

Mueller is the antithesis of Trump. While Trump will speak in an incoherent, impulsive, and stream-of-consciousness style, Mueller’s rhetoric is sensible and deliberate. Mueller speaks rarely; Trump speaks and tweets constantly. Mueller has morals and values; Trump is immoral and values only himself. Mueller speaks only on the facts; Trump lies so much the press can barely keep up with fact checking him.  

He hasn’t spoken publicly since he started his role as leading the Department of Justice’s Special Counsel’s Office. This naturally gives the times he does speak special meaning. He didn’t have to give a statement, but he did. This, in and of itself, should lead us to infer that he’s trying to communicate something important to the American people.

Mueller’s Statement Translated: Commence with the Impeachment Hearings


Mueller’s statement was brief, measured, and purposeful. There are two significant takeaways from his statement:

  • Mueller could not prosecute Trump even if he wanted to due to Department of Justice rules and guidelines. He was aware of this fact when he started, which influenced the way he conducted the investigation –knowing no matter what kind of crime was uncovered, he would never be able to indict a sitting president.
  • If Mueller had the evidence to clear Trump of criminal allegations, he had the power to do so –but he didn’t.

As counterintuitive as it may sound, it’s true that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime. If Trump, as he once bragged about, hypothetically shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, he technically couldn’t be charged with murder while he was a sitting president. This doesn’t mean he’s not culpable legally, however the criminal charges would have to wait until he left office.

Mueller, when speaking of the state of Trump’s criminality, said: “[if after completing the investigation] we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” Mueller investigated 10 areas of possible obstruction of justice committed by Trump. Therefore, in those 10 areas, Mueller holds the opinion that there was undoubtedly wrongdoing committed by Trump, but due to the restriction of being unable to charge a sitting president, he couldn’t indict him. In reference to Trump’s wrongdoing, all Mueller could do was investigate it and write it down (i.e. the Mueller Report).

During his short statement, Mueller never used the word “impeachment,” yet in Mueller’s classically stark, subtle, and understated style of speaking, he said, “The constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”

Mueller’s referencing the constitution’s section on impeachment:

“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

United States Constitution; Article II, Section IV

While Mueller didn’t use the word “impeachment” in his statement, he did cite the remedy in Volume II of the Mueller Report. Impeachment is a political process and not a criminal process. From the start, Mueller knew his hands were tied in investigating Trump’s obstruction of justice from a criminal vantage point. Therefore, the only recourse is the political process of impeachment.

The vast majority of the Mueller Report is essentially a referral for impeachment. And Mueller’s statement was an appeal to Congress to initiate impeachment hearings. Mueller investigated and documented Trump’s wrongdoing, and then turned his findings over to Congress and the American people. Barr infamously issued a misleading summary on Mueller’s findings and then dragged his feet for nearly a month before releasing it. He did this in an attempt to manipulate public opinion.

In his statement, Mueller emphasized the importance of reading the report. He said he and his team selected their words “carefully.” He’s signaling that the evidence needed to initiate impeachment hearings are right there in the report.

Mueller and his team conducted their task with excellence and integrity. Nearly two years and not a single leak came out of the Special Counsel’s Office. The Mueller team did their job. Mueller gave the House the ammunition they need, and it’s now up to the House to use it.

Conclusions


For any rationally-minded person who read the Mueller Report, or at least understands the gravity of the areas of obstruction of justice, it’s clear this president has engaged in numerous acts of wrongdoing.

The world needs to see that we won’t stand for an amoral president. Future generations will judge us on how we dealt with this threat. Impeachment may not result in a conviction in the GOP-controlled Senate, but we need to establish that we did everything we could to fight back against injustice and hold this president to account.

When future generations ask what we did during these tumultuous times, nothing short of “we did everything we could” will suffice. This generation has a date with destiny, and the House needs to schedule it.

The Rise of Barr and the Fall of Justice

In December 2018, President Donald Trump nominated William Barr to be the next attorney general. Trump’s original attorney general, Jeff Sessions, was cast out of Trump’s good graces after Sessions recused himself from all matters related to the investigation into the 2016 presidential election.

Sessions was a member of Trump’s campaign and therefore posed a conflict of interest, so he did the ethical thing and removed himself from overseeing any proceedings in the matter.

The Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was then given the task of overseeing the investigation. Rosenstein was a career fixture in the Department of Justice, serving under three presidential administrations: George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. When Rosenstein was overseeing the investigation, it was under the auspices of the Department of Justice and the FBI.

On May 3, 2017, Trump fired James Comey, the Director of the FBI. This threw most of the country into a state of panic: the President of the United States firing the head of the agency tasked with investigating him and his campaign.

As a country, we haven’t seen such a brazen act by a president since the Saturday Night Massacre on the evening of October 20, 1973. On that infamous night, President Richard Nixon, who was under investigation due to the Watergate burglary and subsequent cover-up, told his attorney general to fire the special prosecutor in charge of the investigation. The attorney general refused and tendered his resignation. Nixon then told his deputy attorney general. He also refused and resigned. Nixon finally approached the third highest-ranking official in the Department of Justice. He complied and the special prosecutor was fired.

After Trump fired Comey, the federal government was in a state of turmoil: the president had fired the man who was in charge of investigating him and his campaign. The parallels between the Saturday Night Massacre and the firing of James Comey were on the minds of the people who lived through the event and students of history.

On May 17, 2017, in an effort to restore confidence in the federal government –specifically maintaining the integrity of the rule of law– Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller to the position of a special counsel . Rosenstein stated he “…determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter.”

Mueller was regarded as a legendary figure in Washington. He served as Director of the FBI for 12 years –the term limit for FBI directors is 10 years, but he was so well regarded that Obama extended his tenure for an additional 2 years. Mueller, though a registered Republican, was renowned for his independence, thoroughness, and integrity from Democrats and Republicans alike.

Trump was well aware of Mueller’s reputation. As we later learned from Mueller’s investigation, Jeff Sessions, who was called to testify before the Mueller team, described Trump’s initial reaction when he learned Rosenstein had appointed Mueller. After Sessions gave Trump the news, he “slumped back in his chair” and said, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked.”

In his moment of despair, Trump didn’t know it at the time, but there was someone scheming outside of his administration, recognizing an opportunity: William Barr. On June 8, 2018, Barr penned an unsolicited 19-page memo to the Department of Justice. In the memo, Barr argued that Trump acted within his power to fire Comey. He criticized the premise for appointing Mueller and the investigation itself. He said Trump shouldn’t be subjected to testify about possible obstruction of justice offenses before the Mueller team.

Whenever Trump learned of the memo, it must have been music to his ears. Here was Barr, a former attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, writing what any reasonably-minded person would view as a 19-page cover letter for a job application. And lo and behold, out of the hundreds of eligible candidates for the position of attorney general, Trump just so happened to nominate Barr.

During his confirmation hearings, the memo was called into question. There were many Senators who believed it predisposed him to a conflict of interest in regards to how he would handle the special investigation. Nonetheless, Barr was confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate. On February 19, 2019, Barr was sworn into office as the Attorney General of the Department of Justice.

As the new attorney general, Barr essentially became Mueller’s boss. Mueller was appointed as a special counsel, operating under the authority of the attorney general. There’s a different set of dynamics for a special counsel than for an independent investigator. When President Bill Clinton was being investigated for the Whitewater controversy, it was led by Ken Starr who was an independent investigator. Starr, as the title suggests, was free to investigate on his own terms, independently.

Mueller completed his nearly two-year long investigation and submitted his report to Barr on March 22, 2019. The Mueller Report is 448 pages long, not including all the relevant case files and underlying evidence. However, after only two days, Barr released a 4-page summary to the public, which gave Barr’s “principle conclusions” of the report.

Barr essentially wrote that Mueller determined there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. He also wrote that Mueller was unable to find sufficient evidence of Trump obstructing justice. In the summary, Barr didn’t quote a single full-sentence from the report. He quoted only a few sentence fragments, which made some analysts suspicious.

The Barr summary set off a media firestorm. The most highly anticipated report –2 years in the making– had been completed, but was not yet released to the public. The only thing the press and the public had to base their initial impressions on was Barr’s summary.

Since the only insight into the Mueller Report was the Barr summary, it set a narrative of exoneration that spread across the country. The Washington Post’s headline read, “Mueller finds no conspiracy.” Similarly, The New York Times’s headline read, “MUELLER FINDS NO TRUMP-RUSSIA CONSPIRACY.” Trump told reporters, “It was a complete and total exoneration.” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s press secretary, tweeted, “A great day for America and for President [Trump]. After two years of wild anti-Trump hysteria, the President and his millions of supporters have been completely vindicated.”

On April 4, 2019, The Washington Post reported that members of Mueller’s team expressed frustration over Barr’s summary, which is significant because Mueller and his team are known for being tight-lipped. There was not a single leak from the Mueller team during the investigation. A team member said,  “There was immediate displeasure from the team when they saw how the attorney general had characterized their work instead.”

On April 9, 2019, Barr testified before a congressional committee in the House. During the proceedings, Barr was asked by Representative Charlie Crist if he knew why Mueller’s team had expressed frustration with his summary. “No, I don’t,” Barr replied.

On April 10, 2019, Barr testified before the congressional committee in the Senate. Senator Chris Van Holden asked Barr if Mueller supported his conclusion that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to conclude that Trump had obstructed justice. “I don’t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion,” Barr claimed.

The only people who would have access to the Mueller Report was the Attorney General’s office. Barr would take more than a month to release the report to the public. He said he needed time to make redactions, which at the time implied Mueller had not redacted his report for a public release.

After more than a month of having the narrative of the Barr summary seeping into the consciousness of the public, Barr set a date for the release of the redacted Mueller Report: Thursday, April 18, 2019.

The timing is significant because it was released on a Thursday, which was a strategic release in terms of muffling news coverage, being at the tail end of the work week, especially considering the report is 448 pages. It takes times to read and process that many pages, therefore revelations, scope, and context weren’t going to come out immediately. On April 18th Congress wasn’t in session, Passover was taking place, and the following day was Good Friday.

The public relations strategy for the report’s release isn’t limited to just timing. On the eve of the report’s release, the Department of Justice announced Barr would be holding a press conference on the morning of April 18th. The press conference was held before the report was even released, giving Barr another opportunity to rehash and reinforce the narrative being sold to the public.

A few hours after the press conference, the redacted Mueller Report was released to the public. In the ensuing hours, days, and weeks —as reporters, analysts, lawyers, and the general public had read the report— it became evident that Barr’s summary was at the very least misleading, and at worst a concerted cover-up to minimize the political fallout from the report’s findings.

On May 1, 2019, The Washington Post and The New York Times both reported that they had obtained copies of letters Mueller had sent to Barr in the days following the release of Barr’s summary. Mueller wrote the first letter to Barr on March 25, 2019, expressing concern that Barr’s letter had insufficiently portrayed the team’s conclusions. Mueller also attached a copy of the executive summaries he and his team had written, which summarized the report. This indicates that Barr didn’t need to write a summary; Mueller already wrote one.

The second letter was written just two days later on March 27, 2019. Mueller was much more direct in his second letter, saying the Barr summary “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions. There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation.” Mueller also added, “[The Barr summary] threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the department appointed the special counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”

Senator Van Holden, after learning of the existence of Mueller’s letters, has said that Barr’s testimony, claiming that he didn’t know what Mueller thought of the conclusions in his summary is “the most recent example of the attorney general acting as chief propagandist for the Trump administration instead of answering questions in a straightforward and objective manner. You now have a pattern of misleading conduct from the attorney general.”

With the revelation of the Mueller letters now surfacing, we have a much better understanding of what exactly was happening from the time Barr received the report from Mueller. Barr didn’t have to write a summary in the first place; Mueller and his team already prepared executive summaries. There was no need to wait for more than a month to release the report, which Barr claimed needed to be redacted. Mueller and his team had already made the necessary redactions. Moreover, Barr misled Congress and the American people when he claimed he wasn’t aware of Mueller’s opinion of his summary. Mueller wrote not one but two letters expressing his concern that the report’s findings were being mischaracterized.

Barr testified before the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1, 2019, but he was brazenly evasive and unforthcoming. He used delay tactics with some Senators, trying to run out their allotted time with answers lacking substance.

He was scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee the following day, but informed the committee the night before that he refused to appear on their terms. Barr also chose to ignore a deadline set by the committee to provide an unredacted version of the report, as well as provide the underlying body of evidence gathered by the Mueller team.

Barr was not serving the interests of the American people; he was serving the interests of Trump. Instead of acting as the nation’s chief law enforcement official –upholding the rule of law– he’s acting as Trump’s defense attorney, manipulating the law.

We’re currently in the midst of a constitutional crisis. With Barr refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas, refusing to appear before committees, and snubbing deadlines, the attorney general is dismissing the legislative branch of the government. He’s not only broken his oath to protect and defend the constitution, he’s waged an all-out assault against Article I of the constitution.

Trump has instructed his White House officials to ignore subpoenas from the House. The Treasury Department has refused to turn over his tax returns. He’s suing Capital One and Deutsche Bank to prevent them from turning over his financial records to the congressional committees who subpoenaed them.

It’s easy to let the constant stream of news generated by this administration to desensitize and, as a result, normalize the daily attacks on our democracy, but it’s critical that the People don’t become jaded and complacent. With the legislative branch under attack, we’re just a step away from authoritarian rule. The founder’s warned us about the fragility of democracies. If we want to continue to live under a representative democracy, we cannot let the powers vested in our representatives to become null and void.

“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

John Adams

Trump and Putin: The Greatest Mystery of Our Time

President Donald J. Trump attacks anyone who opposes him or holds him to account.1 Trump’s become infamous for his Twitter tirades against his opponents. If you’re a public figure, and you’re not openly supporting or praising him, his behavior exemplifies that he considers you his enemy.

Trump’s Attacks Against Americans and American Allies


Trump has attacked news organizations, individual journalists, television programs, American companies, state governors, mayors, Gold Star military families, actors and actresses, comedians, athletes, professional sport leagues, among many others.

He’s attacked our own democratic institutions. He’s attacked the Congress, the FBI, a handful of government intelligence agencies, federal courts, individual judges, whole states, U.S. territories, among many other government bodies.

These attacks aren’t limited to unfavorable news coverage, citizens, or Democrats speaking out against his conduct; he’s also attacked members of his own administration. When Jeff Sessions was Attorney General and recused himself from having any involvement in Russia-related investigations, he went on a long campaign of discrediting him. When Steve Bannon, a former senior advisor to Trump, was pushed out of the administration, he created a nickname for him: “Sloppy Steve.”

Putin’s Attack on America


With the sheer scope of his domestic and foreign attacks, you’d think there’s no one who could escape Trump’s raft. However, there’s been one prominent and astonishing exception: Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. Putin uses the title of “president” as a facade –he’s a dictator. Putin has a well-documented history of murdering political opponents, journalists, and even his own citizens.

Russia has been an adversary of the United States since the end of World War II. We were involved in a Cold War with the former Soviet Union for nearly half a century. The Cold War wasn’t always necessarily cold. The U.S. engaged in proxy wars with the Soviet Union (e.g. Korean War, Vietnam War, etc.). In 1962, when the Soviet Union was caught deploying nuclear missiles in Cuba, the world was on the brink of nuclear war.

When the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, there was a brief period of peace between the two powers. This all changed when Vladimir Putin became president in 2000. Since then, Russia’s become an oligarchy with Putin serving as its absolute ruler. In his eyes, the Cold War never ended, and as a result, has complete and utter disdain for the United States. His true intention is to bring Russia back to its Soviet “glory” days.

In recent history, Putin launched a “sweeping and systematic” attack on the lifeblood of our democracy –the electoral process– during the 2016 presidential election. Russia’s interference isn’t the opinion of a few intelligence analysts, it’s a well-established fact. The American people first received confirmation of Russia’s interference when every American intelligence agency (e.g. FBI, CIA, NSA, etc.) were in agreement that the attack had taken place. The recent release of the Mueller Report (Volume I) corroborated the fact that Putin’s massive cyber-warfare offensive happened.

We weren’t attacked with troops on the ground and traditional weapons of war. Putin aimed to divide and conquer with social engineering schemes and technology. Instead of firing a missle, Russia planted poisonous seeds within our society to sow discord, which ultimately led to social strife and division.

The Greatest Mystery of Our Time


We’ve seen Donald Trump’s willingness to attack his real or perceived opponents. His attacks against his opponents are graceless, unhinged, and ruthless. He’s had no trouble calling his own people “treasonous,” discrediting American institutions, and calling the free press the “enemy of the people.”

When you look at the history of American relations with Russia, and specifically Putin’s attack against the American people, any sensible person understands that Putin is our greatest adversary. And yet, Trump hasn’t made a single negative comment about Putin. In fact, to the contrary, Trump has not only made favorable statements and tweets about Putin, he’s literally sided with Putin on Russian interference in our election. He’s taken the word of a brutal dictator over our entire national security apparatus.

This leads any reasonably-minded person to ask reasonable and serious questions: If Putin is our greatest adversary, why isn’t he viewed so by Trump? Why would the President of the United States take the role as Putin’s defender? How could a president, who attacks his own citizens and institutions, care less about the attack waged against the country he swore to protect and defend?

With all of these unknowns, there’s one thing that’s certain: when the truth is uncovered, it will not be benign.

Reference:

  1. The 567 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List – The New York Times

The Citizen’s Guide to Impeachment

Impeachment has been in the air, to one degree or another, since Donald J. Trump took office. Much of it has come from his political opponents and ordinary citizens, disapproving of his conduct while serving as President of the United States.

However, since the public release of the Mueller Report on April 18, 2019, talk of impeachment has reached a fevered pitch, and for good reason.

There’s strong and objective arguments to be made for impeachment. However, this particular article will delve into the history, process, and implications of impeachment.

Constitutional History


In 1787, the founders debated over the design of the federal government at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. They formed a federal government comprised of three co-equal branches: the legislative (Congress), the executive (Presidency), and the judicial (Supreme Court).

The founders were fearful of the ramifications of having a corrupt, immoral figure clothed with the immense power of the presidency. In fact, they were so concerned with the potential of a tyrannical leader, they discussed the idea of impeachment before they even formed the constitutional basis for the presidency (Article II of the U.S. Constitution).

The founders agreed upon a set of criteria for what would would constitute an impeachable offense. This is described in Article II (i.e. executive branch), Section IV of the constitution:

“The President, Vice President, and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

The language used by the founders is meant to be ambiguous to a degree, ensuring future generations would have a constitutional foundation to build upon to suit the needs of the times.

Impeachment Process: The House


Congress has a constitutional responsibility to provide oversight over the presidency –it’s part of the “checks and balances” every American child learns about in school. The United States Constitution was designed so each branch would have the power to check and balance the other branches.

The impeachment process is initiated in the House of Representatives. If there’s suspicion or evidence that the president may have committed an impeachable offence(s) –as described in the constitution– there are two ways the House can initiate impeachment proceedings: (1) an individual House member could formally issue a resolution for impeachment, or (2) the “House could initiate proceedings by passing a resolution authorizing impeachment.1” The latter is more likely to occur than the former.

In modern history, the Judiciary Committee has been the congressional committee authorized to initiate impeachment proceedings. If the committee decides the charges against the president are worthy, the committee advises the House majority leader (i.e. the Speaker of the House). It’s then up to the House majority leader to bring the articles of impeachment to the House floor for a vote. A majority vote is required to pass the articles of impeachment.2 If more than 50% of House members vote in favor of impeachment, then the proceedings move up to the Senate.

Impeachment Process: The Senate


Once the House passes the articles of impeachment, the Senate will subsequently conduct a trial. The trial has all the trappings of a traditional legal trial: there’s a team of prosecutors and a team of defense attorneys, with each side using cross-examination and the calling of witnesses, among other legal methods.

The House appoints members who act as prosecutors. These members are traditionally from the House Judiciary Committee. The president has the right to appoint his own attorneys to mount a defense. The impeachment proceedings are presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.3 And it’s the members of the Senate who act as the jury.

When the trial has concluded, the Senate will typically convene in private –just as a traditional jury does. In order to convict the president, a two-thirds “supermajority” is required. Since the Senate is comprised of 100 Senators, this means 67 Senators would have to vote to convict. If the supermajority is reached, the president is automatically removed from office.

Conclusions


The process of impeaching a president is essentially a two-step process. The House votes to pass articles of impeachment, which is akin to an indictment. The Senate then holds a trial with appointed House members acting as the prosecution and the president’s personally-appointed lawyers acting as the defense. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is the presiding judge, and the Senators are the jury.

It’s possible for a president to be impeached, but not convicted. In fact, the two former presidents –Andrew Johnson (1868) and Bill Clinton (1998)– to have articles of impeachment passed against them were not convicted by the Senate and therefore remained in power. President Richard Nixon evaded the impeachment process by resigning in 1974.

While the impeachment process requires grounds for treason, bribery, high crimes (i.e. felonies), and/or misdemeanors, it’s a political process and not a criminal process. This means even if a president is convicted in the Senate, they will not be criminally charged and sentenced. The ultimate fate of a convicted president is removal from office. There is, however, still the possibility of criminal charges being filed against a president once the the president returns to being an ordinary citizen.


References

  1. History of Impeachment – The Official House of Representatives Website
  2. How the Impeachment Process Works – The New York Times
  3. Impeaching a President – The Law Dictionary (thelawdictionary.org)   

Correction: The original version of this article had an incorrect release date for the Mueller Report (April 14, 2019). The report was released to the public on April 18, 2019.