Sunday, May 19, 2019

God Makes No Distinction

            When I was a kid, and I got to choose a book from the school library, I always picked the biggest one with the least pictures. I went straight from reading Goosebumps to Moby Dick. Synod Assembly isn’t for another 3 weeks, but I’ve already read all 106 pages of the bulletin of reports… it’s just what I do.
            And so, when the Mueller Report came out some people were horrified that it was 450 pages long—I was kinda excited—its length was a feature, not a bug.
            Having read the whole thing (or at least the 90% that wasn’t blacked out), I was especially struck by one thing.
            A Russian Spy Unit of the GRU, used Social Media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, to regularly bombard 126 million Americans with propaganda, all with one goal—Division.
            They looked for the most divisive issues, and groups, and leaders in our country and pushed them even further, there was hardly a burning social issue that they didn’t throw gasoline on.
If there was a justice reform group, they encouraged cop killing,
a Black Lives Matter Group, they encouraged members to think of whites as Neanderthals.
In anti-immigration groups, they encouraged hatred of Latinos,
neo-Nazi groups, they set up real life rallies.
And I won’t even get into the ways they manipulated our two main political parties…
To be clear, “We have met the Enemy and He is Us.”
That is, they took what was already there, these divisions in our country, and amplified them.            And it worked!
We bought it,
we bought into the idea that our neighbor is irrational or evil
—that whoever is not forus is againstus…
            And we shouldn’t be surprised
—that’s always an inclination within us,
Division is in our DNA.
Division is easy, and division is everywhere!
            Let us pray

            Our reading in Acts starts with criticism… It starts with a division among the leaders in Jerusalem—Peter is being criticized for associating with unclean, uncircumcised, non-Jewish men. Eating with them.
            You can hear the questions:
-Are you leaving us and siding with them?
-Do you think you can have a place at their table and ours?
-Don’t you know that these groups are mutually exclusive?
            I’d imagine if the GRU was active back then they would have flooded the Disciple’s with pictures of non-Jews eating pork and lobster with super greasy hands and popularizing the hashtag #IsPeterWithUs?
            And Peter protests—he too finds this expansion of the Word of God to the Gentiles disturbing. After all, in his world there are these grand divisions:
Jew and Gentile,
clean and unclean,
holy and profane,
life and death.
If one is yellowand the other redthe great danger to guard against would be orange.

            He has this vision, with all kinds of unclean animals offered as food—the Lord tells him to eat these animals, that they are now clean!
            And he doesn’t do it.
            And he is told again.
            And he doesn’t do it!
            And he is told a third time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”
            Andonly thendoes he relent, and goes after these men from Cornelius’ house to find the Holy Spirit bringing life, holiness, and cleanliness to gentiles too.
            Only then…
            Can you imagine it
—it takes the Holy Spirit and angels prompting Cornelius and then acting out a whole holy skit for Peter, complete with camels and jackals and crocodiles and buzzards!Oh my!
            All that just to get across one simple idea: God Makes No Distinction!

            But I’m sure we’d work just as hard not to hear God’s word for us, if that holy picnic blanket fell into our laps. God would have to repeat things three times for us…
            After all making distinctions help us know who we are / they create boundaries / they make us feel like we’re in the right / we know who is on our side and who is safe / they help us feel like we’re in an exclusive club…
and they just make life simpler
—with enough divisions you can go on auto-pilot
—we can cruise through some of the hard parts of life and concentrate on the bits we find to be important or enjoyable. We can stay in a place of safety and stasis…

            Now, the ELCA has worked with Immigrants since before it was the ELCA, through Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services since 1939
(one of the few things the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod still does with us)
and more recently through the ELCA’s AMPARO strategy, which focuses on helping unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in the US. 
            But, just this last week Pastor Betty Rendรดn of Emaus Lutheran in Racine Wisconsin and her family were detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to be deported to Colombia
—she’d fled Colombia because guerilla soldiers threatened to kill her after she refused to send her male students to join the rebel army.
            And it is fascinating to watch our denomination respond. There is a lot of chest thumping,
“This time it is personal.”
“She’s one of us.”
“They chose the wrong Immigrant to mess with, she has a church behind her!”
            And on one hand, for a lot of people, imagining a pastor in their denomination detained in an ICE facility does change that dividing lines, right?
            But on the other hand, there is the reality that some folk were on autopilot, cruising through the pain and suffering of so many, because they didn’t fit into a particular box of people worthy of our care and our concern.

            Yes, I imagine we’d buck away and avert our eyes to God’s word for us:
God Makes No Distinction!
Just as the Apostle Peter did.
            And yet, that is the calling… a radical transformation of how we view other human beings! 
No Distinction!
            It seems impossibly hard… just to hold onto that command… 
Whatcan push from our hearts this yearning for exclusiveness and ease, these distinctions that make us feel safe?
            Peter was a lucky guy, on that roof in Joppa three times he was shown not to make a distinction
—But he was luckier still, 4 times, years earlier in Jerusalem, when Jesus washed his feet, as I read in John 13
—four times, he is told of God’s glory and told about love… in fact, when it comes right down to it, he is told that God’s glory is found in Love!
            Yes, another command…
love one another
—but also a promise and a reminder
—You are loved,
you are loved by Jesus,
loved and washed by him,

-washed when you don’t get why you are washed,
-washed when you deny him,
-washed when you betray him!
-Washed lovingly even when you are called profane or unclean.

            You don’t need to be on the better side, he dwells with us all!
            You don’t need rules to make you righteous, he is your righteousness!
            You don’t need to be on auto-pilot to find rest, for you will rest in him!
            
            Division is so easily stoked, a boulder at the top of a mountain that just needs a little nudge, a few Russian Internet trolls can do grave damage to a whole country.
            In the face of all that, we are washed and loved and continually reminded that
God Makes No Distinction! A+A

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mueller Report Highlights

The intro:
            “As set forth in detail in this report, the Special Counsel’s investigation established that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election principally through two operations. First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Second, a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton Campaign and then released stolen documents.”

They Shared Campaign Information with the Russians
“Months before that meeting, Manafort had caused internal polling data to be shared with Kilimnik, and the sharing continued for some period of time after their August meeting.

They Trump Campaign Members Lied to Investigators
the investigation established that several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the Office, and to Congress, about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters. Those lies materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference. The Office charged some of those lies as violations of the federal false-statements statute. Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying about his interactions with Russian Ambassador Kislyak during the transition period. George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor during the campaign period, pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about, inter alia, the nature and timing of his interactions with Joseph Mifsud, the professor who told Papadopoulos that the Russians had dirt on candidate Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. Former Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress about the Trump Moscow project.
And in February 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that Manafort lied to the Office and the grand jury concerning his interactions and communications with Konstantin Kilimnik about Trump Campaign polling data and a peace plan for Ukraine.

They Tampered with Evidence
Further, the Office learned that some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated—including some associated with the Trump Campaign—deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records. In such cases, the Office was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts.

The Russians used Social Media to Influence at least 126 Million Americans
By the end of the 2016 U.S. election, the IRA had the ability to reach millions of U.S. persons through their social media accounts. Multiple IRA-controlled Facebook groups and Instagram accounts had hundreds of thousands of U.S. participants. IRA-controlled Twitter accounts separately had tens of thousands of followers, including multiple U.S. political figures who retweeted IRA-created content. In November 2017, a Facebook representative testified that Facebook had identified 470 IRA-controlled Facebook accounts that collectively made 80,000 posts between January 2015 and August 2017. Facebook estimated the IRA reached as many as 126 million persons through its Facebook accounts.6 In January 2018, Twitter announced that it had identified 3,814 IRA-controlled Twitter accounts and notified approximately 1.4 million people Twitter believed may have been in contact with an IRA-controlled account.
To reach larger U.S. audiences, the IRA purchased advertisements from Facebook that promoted the IRA groups on the newsfeeds of U.S. audience members. According to Facebook, the IRA purchased over 3,500 advertisements, and the expenditures totaled approximately $100,000.
These Social Media Activities had Real World Consequences “The Office identified dozens of U.S. rallies organized by the IRA. The earliest evidence of a rally was a “confederate rally” in November 2015.”

The Russians also Hacked the Democrats
“On July 6, 2016, WikiLeaks again contacted Guccifer 2.0 through Twitter’s private messaging function, writing, “if you have anything hillary related we want it in the next tweo [sic] days prefable [sic] because the DNC is approaching and she will solidify bernie supporters behind her after.” The Guccifer 2.0 persona responded, “ok…i see.” WikiLeaks also explained, “we think trump has only a 25% chance of winning against hillary…so conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting.”
As reports attributing the DNC and DCCC hacks to the Russian government emerged, WikiLeaks and Assange made several public statements apparently designed to obscure the source of the materials that WikiLeaks was releasing. The file-transfer evidence described above and other information uncovered during the investigation discredit WikiLeaks’s claims about the source of material that it posted.

Trump’s Request that Russians Hack Hillary was Taken Seriously by Russia
Within approximately five hours of Trump’s statement, GRU officers targeted for the first time Clinton’s personal office. After candidate Trump’s remarks, Unit 26165 created and sent malicious links targeting 15 email accounts at the domain ████████████████████████████████████████████████ including an email account belonging to Clinton aide ████████████████████████████████████████████████ The investigation did not find evidence of earlier GRU attempts to compromise accounts hosted on this domain. It is unclear how the GRU was able to identify these email accounts, which were not public.

The Trump Campaign Coordinated with Wikileaks, who Coordinated with the Russians
According to Gates, by the late summer of 2016, the Trump Campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks.

Trump’s Son was Given the Passwords to an Anti-Trump PAC’s Website!
Donald Trump Jr. had direct electronic communications with WikiLeaks during the campaign period. On September 20, 2016, an individual named Jason Fishbein sent WikiLeaks the password for an unlaunched website focused on Trump’s “unprecedented and dangerous” ties to Russia, PutinTrump.org.252 WikiLeaks publicly tweeted; “‘Let’s bomb Iraq’ Progress for America PAC to launch “PutinTrump.org’ at 9:30am. Oops pw is ‘putintrump’ putintrump.org.” Several hours later, WikiLeaks sent a Twitter direct message to Donald Trump Jr., “A PAC run anti-Trump site putintrump.org is about to launch. The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC. We have guessed the password. It is ‘putintrump.’ See ‘About’ for who is behind it. Any comments?”253. Several hours later, Trump Jr. emailed a variety of senior campaign staff: Guys I got a weird Twitter DM from wiki leaks. See below. I tried the password and it works and the about section they reference contains the next pic in terms of who is behind it. Not sure if this is anything but it seems like it’s really wikileaks asking me as I follow them and it is a DM. Do you know the people mentioned and what the conspiracy they are looking for could be? These are just screen shots but it’s a fully built out page claiming to be a PAC let me know your thoughts and if we want to look into it…The next day (after the website had launched publicly), Trump Jr. sent a direct message to WikiLeaks: “Off the record, I don’t know who that is but I’ll ask around. Thanks.”

Wikileaks Used Donald Trump Jr. as a Puppet
On October 12, 2016, WikiLeaks wrote again that it was “great to see you and your dad talking about our publications. Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us wlsearch.tk.”257 WikiLeaks wrote that the link would help Trump in “digging through” leaked emails and stated, “we just released Podesta emails Part 4.”258 Two days later, Trump Jr. publicly tweeted the wlsearch.tk link.

A Summary of the Hacking
In sum, the investigation established that the GRU hacked into email accounts of persons affiliated with the Clinton Campaign, as well as the computers of the DNC and DCCC. The GRU then exfiltrated data related to the 2016 election from these accounts and computers, and disseminated that data through fictitious online personas (DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0) and later through WikiLeaks.”

Trump’s Campaign for President Seen as an “Infomercial” for Trump’s Real Estate Empire
“According to Cohen, he did not consider the political import of the Trump Moscow project to the 2016 U.S. presidential election at the time. Cohen also did not recall candidate Trump or anyone affiliated with the Trump Campaign discussing the political implications of the Trump Moscow project with him. However, Cohen recalled conversations with Trump in which the candidate suggested that his campaign would be a significant “infomercial” for Trump-branded properties.

Everyone Pretended to be More Important than they were… and they became Important
According to Papadopoulos, Mifsud at first seemed uninterested in Papadopoulos when they met in Rome.416 After Papadopoulos informed Mifsud about his role in the Trump Campaign, however, Mifsud appeared to take greater interest in Papadopoulos.

Not Actually Putin’s Niece
I just finished a very productive lunch with a good friend of mine, Joseph Mifsud, the director of the London Academy of Diplomacy--who introduced me to both Putin’s niece and the Russian Ambassador in London--who also acts as the Deputy Foreign Minister.428 The topic of the lunch was to arrange a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump. They are keen to host us in a “neutral” city, or directly in Moscow. They said the leadership, including Putin, is ready to meet with us and Mr. Trump should there be interest, Waiting for everyone’s thoughts on moving forward with this very important issue.

The Trump Campaign Freely Shared Campaign Information with the Russians
did not see a downside to sharing campaign information, and told Gates that his role in the Campaign would be “good for business” and potentially a way to be made whole for work he previously completed in the Ukraine. As to Deripaska, Manafort claimed that by sharing campaign information with him, Deripaska might see value in their relationship and resolve a “disagreement”—a reference to one or more outstanding lawsuits.

Manafort saw the Campaign as a Business Opportunity
Manafort agreed to work on the Campaign without pay. Manafort had no meaningful income at this point in time, but resuscitating his domestic political campaign career could be financially beneficial in the future. Gates reported that Manafort intended, if Trump won the Presidency, to remain outside the Administration and monetize his relationship with the Administration.
Gates reported that Manafort said that being hired on the Campaign would be “good for business” and increase the likelihood that Manafort would be paid the approximately $2 million he was owed for previous political consulting work in Ukraine.

First Reasserting Russian Control of Ukraine, then the Rust Belt 
“First, Manafort and Kilimnik discussed a plan to resolve the ongoing political problems in Ukraine by creating an autonomous republic in its more industrialized eastern region of Donbas,922 and having Yanukovych, the Ukrainian President ousted in 2014, elected to head that republic.923 That plan, Manafort later acknowledged, constituted a “backdoor” means for Russia to control eastern Ukraine.
Second, Manafort briefed Kilimnik on the state of the Trump Campaign and Manafort’s plan to win the election.930 That briefing encompassed the Campaign’s messaging and its internal polling data. According to Gates, it also included discussion of “battleground” states, which Manafort identified as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.
Third, according to Gates and what Kilimnik told Patten, Manafort and Kilimnik discussed two sets of financial disputes related to Manafort’s previous work in the region. Those consisted of the unresolved Deripaska lawsuit and the funds that the Opposition Bloc owed to Manafort for his political consulting work and how Manafort might be able to obtain payment.

Trump People Keep Bluffing and Exaggerating their Importance
After his dinner with Prince, Nader sent Prince a link to a Wikipedia entry about Dmitriev, and sent Dmitriev a message stating that he had just met “with some key people within the family and inner circle”—a reference to Prince—and that he had spoken at length and positively about Dmitriev.

But Her Emails!
Bannon told the Office that, during both the months before and after the Seychelles meeting, he regularly used his personal Blackberry and personal email for work-related communications (including those with Prince), and he took no steps to preserve these work communications.

So Incurious
Kushner stated in an interview that he did not engage in any preparation for the meeting and that no one on the Transition Team even did a Google search for Gorkov’s name.

They Knew the Meeting was about Dirt on Clinton
“Documentary evidence in the form of email chains supports the inference that Kushner and Manafort were aware of that purpose and attended the June 9 meeting anticipating the receipt of helpful information to the Campaign from Russian sources.

Is Information a Contribution?
in light of the unresolved legal questions about whether giving “documents and information” of the sort offered here constitutes a campaign contribution, Trump Jr. could mount a factual defense that he did not believe his response to the offer and the June 9 meeting itself violated the law.
Given his less direct involvement in arranging the June 9 meeting, Kushner could likely mount a similar defense. And, while Manafort is experienced with political campaigns, the Office has not developed evidence showing that he had relevant knowledge of these legal issues.

This Account was False
“During the interview, Papadopoulos lied about the timing, extent, and nature of his communications with Joseph Mifsud, Olga Polonskaya, and Ivan Timofeev. With respect to timing, Papadopoulos acknowledged that he had met Mifsud and that Mifsud told him the Russians had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” But Papadopoulos stated multiple times that those communications occurred before he joined the Trump Campaign and that it was a “very strange coincidence” to be told of the “dirt” before he started working for the Campaign. This account was false.

Flynn Lied
Michael Flynn agreed to be interviewed by the FBI on January 24, 2017, four days after he had officially assumed his duties as National Security Advisor to the President. During the interview, Flynn made several false statements pertaining to his communications with the Russian ambassador.

Cohen Lied:
“The letter contained three representations relevant here. First, Cohen stated that the Trump Moscow project had ended in January 2016 and that he had briefed candidate Trump on the project only three times before making the unilateral decision to terminate it. Second, Cohen represented that he never agreed to travel to Russia in connection with the project and never considered asking Trump to travel for the project. Third, Cohen stated that he did not recall any Russian government contact about the project, including any response to an email that he had sent to a Russian government email account.Each of the foregoing representations in Cohen’s two-page statement was false and misleading.

Sessions Lied
“The investigation also established that Sessions and Kislyak both attended a reception held before candidate Trump’s foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., in April 2016, and that it is possible that they met briefly at that reception.”

The OLC Claims a Sitting President is Above the Law
“The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) has issued an opinion finding that “the indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions” in violation of “the constitutional separation of powers.”

The President is NOT not Guilty of Obstruction of Justice
if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment. The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.

Trump Lies
“After WikiLeaks released politically damaging Democratic Party emails that were reported to have been hacked by Russia, Trump publicly expressed skepticism that Russia was responsible for the hacks at the same time that he and other Campaign officials privately sought information ██████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████ about any further planned WikiLeaks releases. Trump also denied having any business in or connections to Russia, even though as late as June 2016 the Trump Organization had been pursuing a licensing deal for a skyscraper to be built in Russia called Trump Tower Moscow.

Folk in Trump’s orbit choose whether or not to follow his orders
On June 17, 2017, the President called McGahn at home and directed him to call the Acting Attorney General and say that the Special Counsel had conflicts of interest and must be removed. McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre.

Trump’s team lies about the President editing his son’s press statement
Before the emails became public, the President edited a press statement for Trump Jr. by deleting a line that acknowledged that the meeting was with “an individual who [Trump Jr.] was told might have information helpful to the campaign” and instead said only that the meeting was about adoptions of Russian children. When the press asked questions about the President’s involvement in Trump Jr.’s statement, the President’s personal lawyer repeatedly denied the President had played any role.

Congress needs to hold Trump accountable, because no one is above the law
The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.

The President Refused to be Interviewed
After more than a year of discussion, the President declined to be interviewed.

The President would not answer questions related to Obstruction of Justice
“During the course of our discussions, the President did agree to answer written questions on certain Russia-related topics, and he provided us with answers. He did not similarly agree to provide written answers to questions on obstruction topics or questions on events during the transition.

The President Acts in a Two Faced Manner
Priebus recalled that the President hugged Flynn, shook his hand, and said, “We’ll give you a good recommendation. You’re a good guy. We’ll take care of you.”212 Talking points on the resignation prepared by the White House Counsel’s Office and distributed to the White House communications team stated that McGahn had advised the President that Flynn was unlikely to be prosecuted, and the President had determined that the issue with Flynn was one of trust.213 Spicer told the press the next day that Flynn was forced to resign “not based on a legal issue, but based on a trust issue, [where] a level of trust between the President and General Flynn had eroded to the point where [the President] felt he had to make a change.”

Christie doesn’t follow orders
Towards the end of the lunch, the President brought up Comey and asked if Christie was still friendly with him.224 Christie said he was.225 The President told Christie to call Comey and tell him that the President “really like[s] him. Tell him he’s part of the team.”226 At the end of the lunch, the President repeated his request that Christie reach out to Comey.227 Christie had no intention of complying with the President’s request that he contact Comey.228 He thought the President’s request was “nonsensical” and Christie did not want to put Comey in the position of having to receive such a phone call.229 Christie thought it would have been uncomfortable to pass on that message.

Sanders Lied
Sanders told this Office that her reference to hearing from “countless members of the FBI” was a “slip of the tongue.”482 She also recalled that her statement in a separate press interview that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a comment she made “in the heat of the moment” that was not founded on anything.

Rosenstein gets used
Also on May 10, 2017, Sessions and Rosenstein each spoke to McGahn and expressed concern that the White House was creating a narrative that Rosenstein had initiated the decision to fire Comey.484 The White House Counsel’s Office agreed that it was factually wrong to say that the Department of Justice had initiated Comey’s termination.

Another Person Doesn’t Follow Orders
The message “definitely raised an eyebrow” for Dearborn, and he recalled not wanting to ask where it came from or think further about doing anything with it.627 Dearborn also said that being asked to serve as a messenger to Sessions made him uncomfortable.628 He recalled later telling Lewandowski that he had handled the situation, but he did not actually follow through with delivering the message to Sessions, and he did not keep a copy of the typewritten notes Lewandowski had given him.

Hope Hicks tries to stop the president from shooting himself in the foot
Sessions’s recusal, the President said, was “very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president.”632 Hicks, who was present for the interview, recalled trying to “throw [herself] between the reporters and [the President]” to stop parts of the interview, but the President “loved the interview.”

Yet Another Person Doesn’t Follow the President’s Orders
Porter did not contact Brand because he was sensitive to the implications of that action and did not want to be involved in a chain of events associated with an effort to end the investigation or fire the Special Counsel.

Trump’s People Continue to Try to Stop Him from Obstructing Justice
The President then directed Porter to tell McGahn to create a record to make clear that the President never directed McGahn to fire the Special Counsel.797 Porter thought the matter should be handled by the White House communications office, but the President said he wanted McGahn to write a letter to the file “for our records” and wanted something beyond a press statement to demonstrate that the reporting was inaccurate.798 The President referred to McGahn as a “lying bastard” and said that he wanted a record from him.799 Porter recalled the President saying something to the effect of, “If he doesn’t write a letter, then maybe I’ll have to get rid of him.”the President’s efforts to have McGahn write a letter “for our records” approximately ten days after the stories had come out—well past the typical time to issue a correction for a news story—indicates the President was not focused solely on a press strategy, but instead likely contemplated the ongoing investigation and any proceedings arising from it.

Trump’s feelings are false or fickle, based on if you are useful to him
I understand your situation, but let me see if I can’t state it in starker terms….[I]t wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve gone on to make a deal with…the government….[I]f…there’s information that implicates the President, then we’ve got a national security issue,…so, you know,…we need some kind of heads up. Um, just for the sake of protecting all our interests if we can….[R]emember what we’ve always said about the President and his feelings toward Flynn and, that still remains….
As the proceedings against Manafort progressed in court, the President told Porter that he never liked Manafort and that Manafort did not know what he was doing on the campaign.851 The President discussed with aides whether and in what way Manafort might be cooperating with the Special Counsel’s investigation, and whether Manafort knew any information that would be harmful to the President.

Lot’s of Winks and Nods
Giuliani also said in an interview that, although the President should not pardon anyone while the Special Counsel’s investigation was ongoing, “when the investigation is concluded, he’s kind of on his own, right?”
Obstructive act. The President’s actions towards witnesses in the Special Counsel’s investigation would qualify as obstructive if they had the natural tendency to prevent particular witnesses from testifying truthfully, or otherwise would have the probable effect of influencing, delaying, or preventing their testimony to law enforcement.
Those statements, combined with the President’s commendation of Manafort for being a “brave man” who “refused to ‘break’,” suggested that a pardon was a more likely possibility if Manafort continued not to cooperate with the government.

Trump Assumes everyone is corrupt and everyone hates each other
At the same time, although the President had privately told aides he did not like Manafort, he publicly called Manafort “a good man” and said he had a “wonderful family.” And when the President was asked whether he was considering a pardon for Manafort, the President did not respond directly and instead said he had “great respect for what [Manafort]’s done, in terms of what he’s gone through.” The President added that “some of the charges they threw against him, every consultant, every lobbyist in Washington probably does.” In light of the President’s counsel’s previous statements that the investigations “might get cleaned up with some presidential pardons” and that a pardon would be possible if the President “come[s] to the conclusion that you have been treated unfairly,” the evidence supports the inference that the President intended Manafort to believe that he could receive a pardon, which would make cooperation with the government as a means of obtaining a lesser sentence unnecessary.

Some evidence supports a conclusion that the President intended, at least in part, to influence the jury.

Cohen was lying for Trump
On October 24 and 25, 2017, Cohen testified before Congress and repeated the false statements he had included in his written statement about Trump Tower Moscow.1005 Phone records show that Cohen spoke with the President’s personal counsel immediately after his testimony on both days.
On February 19, 2018, the day after the New York Times wrote a detailed story attributing the payment to Cohen and describing Cohen as the President’s “fixer,” Cohen received a text message from the President’s personal counsel that stated, “Client says thanks for what you do.”

Obstruction is Obstruction no matter the intention 
In this investigation, the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference. But the evidence does point to a range of other possible personal motives animating the President’s conduct. These include concerns that continued investigation would call into question the legitimacy of his election and potential uncertainty about whether certain events—such as advance notice of WikiLeaks’s release of hacked information or the June 9, 2016 meeting between senior campaign officials and Russians—could be seen as criminal activity by the President, his campaign, or his family.

Tweeting can threaten justice
enhanced by his unique ability to attract attention through use of mass communications. And no principle of law excludes public acts from the scope of obstruction statutes. If the likely effect of the acts is to intimidate witnesses or alter their testimony, the justice system’s integrity is equally threatened.

Although the events we investigated involved discrete acts—e.g., the President’s statement to Comey about the Flynn investigation, his termination of Comey, and his efforts to remove the Special Counsel—it is important to view the President’s pattern of conduct as a whole. That pattern sheds light on the nature of the President’s acts and the inferences that can be drawn about his intent.The incidents were often carried out through one-on-one meetings in which the President sought to use his official power outside of usual channels. These actions ranged from efforts to remove the Special Counsel and to reverse the effect of the Attorney General’s recusal; to the attempted use of official power to limit the scope of the investigation; to direct and indirect contacts with witnesses with the potential to influence their testimony. Viewing the acts collectively can help to illuminate their significance.

People not taking the President’s orders seriously is what kept him safe
The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.

The scope of the president’s actions
the President attempted to remove the Special Counsel; he sought to have Attorney General Sessions unrecuse himself and limit the investigation; he sought to prevent public disclosure of information about the June 9, 2016 meeting between Russians and campaign officials; and he used public forums to attack potential witnesses who might offer adverse information and to praise witnesses who declined to cooperate with the government. Judgments about the nature of the President’s motives during each phase would be informed by the totality of the evidence.

The President isn’t above the law
Under that view, any statute that restricts the President’s exercise of those powers would impermissibly intrude on the President’s constitutional role. The President’s counsel has conceded that the President may be subject to criminal laws that do not directly involve exercises of his Article II authority, such as laws prohibiting bribing witnesses or suborning perjury.

The President isn’t a King
Under that framework, we concluded, Article II of the Constitution does not categorically and permanently immunize the President from potential liability for the conduct that we investigated. Rather, our analysis led us to conclude that the obstruction-of-justice statutes can validly prohibit a President’s corrupt efforts to use his official powers to curtail, end, or interfere with an investigation.

Under OLC’s analysis, Congress can permissibly criminalize certain obstructive conduct by the President, such as suborning perjury, intimidating witnesses, or fabricating evidence, because those prohibitions raise no separation-of-powers questions.
n this context, a balancing test applies to assess separation-of-powers issues. Applying that test here, we concluded that Congress can validly make obstruction-of-justice statutes applicable to corruptly motivated official acts of the President without impermissibly undermining his Article II functions.

Under the Supreme Court’s balancing test for analyzing separation-of-powers issues, the first task is to assess the degree to which applying obstruction-of-justice statutes to presidential actions affects the President’s ability to carry out his Article II responsibilities.

In the case of the obstruction-of-justice statutes, our assessment of the weighing of interests leads us to conclude that Congress has the authority to impose the limited restrictions contained in those statutes on the President’s official conduct to protect the integrity of important functions of other branches of government.

Corruption
Direct or indirect action by the President to end a criminal investigation into his own or his family members’ conduct to protect against personal embarrassment or legal liability would constitute a core example of corruptly motivated conduct. So too would action to halt an enforcement proceeding that directly and adversely affected the President’s financial interests for the purpose of protecting those interests. In those examples, officiai power is being used for the purpose of protecting the President’s personal interests. In contrast, the President’s actions to serve political or policy interests would not qualify as corrupt. 

No One Is Above The Law
In sum, contrary to the position taken by the President’s counsel, we concluded that, in light of the Supreme Court precedent governing separation-of-powers issues, we had a valid basis for investigating the conduct at issue in this report. In our view, the application of the obstruction statutes would not impermissibly burden the President’s performance of his Article II function to supervise prosecutorial conduct or to remove inferior law-enforcement officers. And the protection of the criminal justice system from corrupt acts by any person—including the President—accords with the fundamental principle of our government that “[n]o [person] in this country is so high that he is above the law.”

while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.

The President Should Have Been Interviewed
We also advised counsel that “[a]n interview with the President is vital to our investigation” and that this Office had “carefully considered the constitutional and other arguments raised by…counsel, and they d[id] not provide us with reason to forgo seeking an interview.”

Either the President has a memory problem or is weaseling out of the truth
We received the President’s written responses in late November 2018.4 In December 2018, we informed counsel of the insufficiency of those responses in several respects.5 We noted, among other things, that the President stated on more than 30 occasions that he “does not ‘recall’ or ‘remember’ or have an ‘independent recollection’” of information called for by the questions.6 Other answers were “incomplete or imprecise.”7 The written responses, we informed counsel, “demonstrate the inadequacy of the written format, as we have had no opportunity to ask follow-up questions that would ensure complete answers and potentially refresh your client’s recollection or clarify the extent or nature of his lack of recollection.”

We again requested an in-person interview, limited to certain topics, advising the President’s counsel that “[t]his is the President’s opportunity to voluntarily provide us with information for us to evaluate in the context of all of the evidence we have gathered.”9 The President declined.

It was just a joke
I made the statement quoted in Question II (d) in jest and sarcastically, as was apparent to any objective observer.