Preparing for the Mueller Report

Attorney General William Barr, flanked by Edward O’Callaghan (left) and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, at a news conference to discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, in Washington, D.C., April 18, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Bill Barr delivers a press conference this morning in anticipation of the release of Robert Mueller’s report on the Russian investigation, the campus-speech wars rage on as Middlebury College cancels a conservative philosopher’s lecture, and this year’s Time 100 list of influential people is full of the usual suspects.

Still Waiting on the Mueller Report

For just another hour or two, anyway. But this morning, Attorney General William Barr held a preliminary press conference before Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s full report is released to Congress and published online. Perhaps most newsworthy, Barr stated that the investigation uncovered no evidence that President Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to alter the outcome of the 2016 election:

There was relentless speculation in the news media about the president’s personal culpability. Yet as he said from the beginning, there was, in fact, no collusion. And as the special counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by his sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fueled by illegal leaks.

The attorney general added that the White House “fully cooperated” with the investigation, providing “unfettered access to campaign and White House documents.”

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On obstruction of justice, Barr noted that Mueller “did not make a traditional prosecutorial judgment regarding this allegation” but instead “recounts ten episodes involving the president and discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense.”

Barr and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein disagreed with some of those theories and “concluded that the evidence developed by the special counsel is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.” He also said the evidence of Trump’s “non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the president had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.”

Barr noted that the president didn’t assert executive privilege to redact portions of Mueller’s report, although he would’ve been within his rights to do so. He said the report has “limited redactions” based on four categories: classified information, grand-jury information, information related to ongoing investigations, and details about “peripheral third parties.”

Who’s Really Allowed to Talk, Anyway?

Middlebury College has cancelled an upcoming speech on campus by Ryszard Legutko, a Polish Catholic and a conservative professor, after progressive activists planned to demonstrate against the event. Legutko is a professor of philosophy at Jagiellonian University in Poland, as well as a member of the European Parliament.

His lecture, entitled “The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies,” was scheduled to take place next Wednesday. Here’s what the Washington Free Beacon reported about the lecture’s cancellation:

In the days leading up to the speech, some Middlebury students and professors wrote an open letter demanding the university rescind its sponsorship. The liberal activists took issue with Legutko’s pointed critiques of multiculturalism, feminism, and homosexuality, calling them “homophobic, racist, xenophobic, [and] misogynistic.” . . .

The chairmen of both departments denied the activists requests, defending the event on grounds of academic freedom. But hours before the event was scheduled, Middlebury Provost Jeff Cason and Vice President for Student Affairs Baishakhi Taylor sent a campus-wide email indicating the lecture was canceled.

“In the interest of ensuring the safety of students, faculty, staff, and community members, the lecture by Ryszard Legutko scheduled for later today will not take place,” the email read. “This decision was not taken lightly. It was based on an assessment of our ability to respond effectively to potential security and safety risks for both the lecture and the event students had planned in response.”

Once again, a university administration has responded to threats from disgruntled, left-wing activists by siding with the activists rather than upholding free-speech rights and affirming their dedication to academic freedom.

Meanwhile, earlier this week Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about having been disinvited from giving a commencement address at Concordia University, a small liberal-arts school in Montreal. From his op-ed:

My speech was to be on the study of great books, to which that college is devoted. The invitation was a surprise, and the rejection less of one, because I am a white male conservative professor. Though I teach at Harvard and lecture elsewhere fairly often, I don’t get invitations for occasions when universities put their principles on display. . . .

Each of my classes is a commencement address. Thus the fear about my appearance at Concordia was not that I would speak badly. But what was the reason behind it?

It could not be found explicitly in the letter I received from Principal Mark A. Russell of the college. This was a performance too obviously clever to be clever. The principal regretted to inform me of a change of plan. His invitation committee had “acted in good faith but rather precipitously.” When it spoke with the entire faculty and some alumni, “we were unable to reach consensus as to what we wanted to achieve with this event.”

Mansfield later learned that twelve alumni had written the school in protest, claiming that his “scholarly and public corpus . . . heavily traffics in damaging and discredited philosophies of gender and culture.” This prompted a faculty meeting that resulted in his disinvitation.

Cancellations and disinvitations such as these aren’t terribly novel, but they’re much more frightening specifically because they’re now so commonplace. And they only ever go one way. It’s always those with a left-wing point of view silencing conservatives for being insufficiently in line with the reigning dogma of the day.

But more important, these decisions to silence certain individuals contradict the aim of academic life and the purpose of institutions of higher learning. Colleges and universities exist — or ought to exist — in service of the pursuit of truth. Here’s what Phillip Muñoz, a former professor of mine at the University of Notre Dame, wrote on Facebook yesterday evening about Middlebury’s decision to cancel Legutko’s lecture:

It’s not that complicated. The purpose of a university is reasoned discussion in the pursuit of truth. That purpose demands the exchange of ideas. If you are an administrator, your first and most fundamental task is to facilitate that exchange. If you can’t do that — if you can’t provide security to host a simple lecture by a relatively obscure (though profound) visitor — you shouldn’t be in the business of college administration. You should be fired.

Shutting down speech because some members of the community have decided they won’t tolerate it isn’t just cowardly. It undermines the fundamental goal of higher education.

The 2019 Time 100 List Is about What You’d Expect

Taylor Swift, Lebron James, Mark Zuckerberg, and Tiger Woods. These are the icons that Time magazine has declared worthy of our adulation and acclaim in 2019. As usual, a huge portion of the Top 100 is occupied by individuals that I, and I suspect many others, have never heard of.

The collection of political figures is as predictable as ever. President Trump, of course, is on the list, as is Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. Bill Barr and Bob Mueller show up as well. For the Democrats, both Nancy Pelosi and freshman socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez get a mention. Planned Parenthood’s new president Leana Wen is on the list, too, of course.

But among the “icons” Time offers us? Michelle Obama and Christine Blasey Ford. The inclusion of the latter is hardly a surprise, though it is a helpful indication that elite society has decided she’ll retain her favorable reputation, despite the fact that, by all available evidence, her sexual-assault accusation against Brett Kavanaugh was entirely unfounded. Kavanaugh himself made the list, too, much to the chagrin of left-wing feminists and progressive activists on Twitter.

The 100 list is more predictable than frustrating, but I’d prefer to see it filled with more firefighters and doctors and missionaries than tech moguls and rappers and fashionistas. Sometimes I wonder whether Time would’ve let Jesus make the cut.

ADDENDUM: There will be no Morning Jolt tomorrow in observance of Good Friday.

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