The Rape Culture of Politics by Investigation

Former Trump campaign advisor Michael Caputo condemned the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday following his closed-door testimony. His words, no doubt, resonated with every Trump aide, associate, and family member ensnared in the bogus Trump-Russia election collusion scam.

“God damn you to Hell,” Caputo told the committee—an impassioned conclusion to an emotional statement explaining the personal and financial strain the investigations have caused his family.

Caputo called out a former staffer to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who is orchestrating the ongoing smear campaign against anyone in Trump’s orbit thanks to deep-pocketed Democratic activists in New York and California. And he implored the committee to “investigate the investigators.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team interviewed Caputo the following day, nearly one year after Mueller got his marching orders from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. So, why has Caputo now been interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the special counsel? What makes this longtime GOP consultant who worked on the Trump campaign for less than a year (and not in any central role) possibly complicit in, or a witness to, the yet-unproven crime that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election?

Caputo made the egregious error of having once worked for the Russians. In the 1990s. He told New York  magazine in an interview this week that he “studied Russia in college and became a big admirer of Russian literature and ballet. I worked hard in the Cold War to defeat Russia, and after the Wall fell I grew curious about the Russian people. I wanted to see the results.” Of course, this all sounds very fishy now. It’s obvious that Caputo developed an interest in Russia in the 1980s so he could earn the coveted post of Donald Trump’s New York primary election coordinator in 2015 and then work with the Rooskies to strip Hillary Clinton of enough votes in Pennsylvania and Michigan to cost her the election in November 2016 (even though he left the campaign in June 2016.)

Coincidence? I don’t think so.

While it’s tempting to joke about the ridiculousness of federal investigators and lawmakers continuing to sniff out a crime that did not happen, it’s no laughing matter. Caputo said he has incurred about $125,000 in legal fees and he’s not done yet. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) brought up Caputo’s Ukrainian-born wife during a House hearing with former FBI Director James Comey last year. Caputo claims he and his family have been the target of death threats, all due to a “fishing expedition” into his alleged role in Trump-Russia election collusion. “If you drink vodka, you have Russian dressing in your refrigerator, you’re game for these people,” he told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.

Caputo is not alone. The special counsel has interviewed 20 White House officials, 17 campaign aides, and 11 people associated with the campaign. General Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor, is attempting to sell his Alexandria, Virginia home to pay his hefty legal costs. Even though Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to one count of lying to federal investigators, Mueller keeps dragging out his case. After a judge delayed Flynn’s sentencing back in February amid a court order directing Mueller to disclose any exculpatory evidence his team might have withheld during the plea negotiations, Mueller’s team this week asked for another two-month delay before Flynn is sentenced. (It was scheduled for this month.)

There is some speculation that Mueller’s case against Flynn is in jeopardy since the judge who signed off on Flynn’s plea deal also served on the FISA court in 2016 and was abruptly recused from the Flynn case just days after the plea was entered. Regardless of the reason why the special counsel is putting off sentencing another 60 days, this only means more legal fees for Flynn and his family.

Hope Hicks, Trump’s former communications advisor, testified before the House Intelligence Committee in February, then quit the next day. The 29-year-old reportedly was concerned about mounting legal bills. Campaign volunteers such as George Papadopoulos and Carter Page undoubtedly owe their lawyers lots of money.

This is all a source of glee for #TheResistance. Vanity Fair cheered how, “Trump allies who’ve been caught up in the [Russia] investigation’s web have been forced to pony up.” Others mocked Flynn for having to sell his home, calling it karma for his “lock her up” chants aimed at Hillary Clinton.

Fortunately, financial help might soon be available. The Patriot Legal Expense Fund launched in February and is now collecting donations to help ease the legal debt of Trump campaign workers and/or administration officials ensnared in the Trump-Russia investigation. In an open letter posted on the fund’s website, interim manager Nan Hayworth wrote that “many members of the president’s team, in order to have the legal counsel necessary to cooperate with these investigations, have been forced to incur heavy financial costs.”

Of course, Robert Mueller has no worries about how to pay for his legal team: We pay. Not only is Mueller personally unaffected by the exorbitant costs for his probe, the Justice Department won’t release his budget. When he submitted his proposed budget to the Justice Department in July 2017, officials refused to make it public. Freedom of Information requests filed by Judicial Watch to find out how much the Trump-Russia probe is costing taxpayers have gone  unfulfilled.In federal court last Friday, lawyers on the Mueller team also declined to answer a judge’s question about whether they had already “blown through” the investigation’s $10 million budget.

Republicans should not only demand that Rosenstein release Mueller’s budget, they should account for how much this entire charade has cost taxpayers—beginning with the FBI’s counterintelligence probe that started 22 months ago—and report the budgets for the House Intelligence Committee, the House Oversight Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and any other federal agency that has diverted time and resources to this politically motivated, spectacularly failed inquisition that is bankrupting families and destroying reputations.

After all, Republicans should realize this is as much about destroying them and the Republican Party as it is about taking down Trump World. “This is a punishment strategy. I think they want to destroy the president, they want to destroy his family, they want to destroy his businesses, they want to destroy his friends,” Caputo told Tucker Carlson on Wednesday night. “Clearly these lawsuits after the fact are the new Democratic strategy. When you lose, you still win. I don’t think anyone should work on a Republican campaign again unless you’re legally indemnified. If you do, you’re crazy.”

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