We needed a special counsel for this?
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Friday announced federal charges against another gang of Russian operatives who allegedly stole some emails from some Democrats in 2016 and posted them on the internet. The Rooskie conspirators will never see the inside of a U.S. courtroom; no American was involved in the criminal conduct; there is no evidence that the online chicanery influenced a single vote in the 2016 presidential election.
As the media and politicians predictably flipped out—“ZOMG, America was attacked!”—most journalists overlooked a key point: Rosenstein transferred the case from the special counsel’s office back to the Justice Department’s National Security Division. So even though Special Counsel Robert Mueller signed the 11-count indictment, the Justice Department will take it from here.
Let’s break this down, shall we? Rosenstein appoints Mueller. Mueller conducts an investigation (that has already been completed by Congress) into a dozen Russian intelligence officers who allegedly breached the computer systems of a few political organizations. Mueller signs the indictments. Rosenstein—not Mueller—announces the charges and fields questions from the media (Mueller is again nowhere in sight.) Rosenstein transfers responsibility for the prosecution from the special counsel back to the DOJ.
Oh, and by the way, none of it has to do with Mueller’s original marching orders, which are to find “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.”
After 14 Months, No There There
Anyone else wondering, WTF? Couldn’t the Justice Department have handled this probe in the first place? Rosenstein just bragged to Congress that he has 115,000 employees: Couldn’t he spare a few to find out what Russian phished John Podesta?
Fourteen months ago to the day, Mueller was appointed amid an escalating political crisis for President Trump. The president had fired FBI Director James Comey, who then leveraged his media contacts and newfound martyr status to further bolster the Trump-Russia collusion plotline. Caving to political pressure, Rosenstein appointed Mueller; the ex-FBI director assembled a politically biased team of lawyers and wasted no time going after Trump associates such as Paul Manafort with a vengeance. The Left and Trump’s foes on the Right were certain it was only a matter of time before Mueller uncovered the nefarious web of connections between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin and the president would be forced out of office.
Fourteen months later, there is no there there. Not one Trump campaign associate has been charged with a crime related to the 2016 election but the collateral damage is piling up. People’s lives have been torn apart, political roadkill crushed by a vicious convoy of lawyers, journalists, and politicians who want to destroy this presidency. Trump’s personal lawyer was raided at Mueller’s behest and with Rosenstein’s blessing. Trump’s attorney general recused himself for a flimsy reason and now is rendered essentially powerless as the nation’s top law enforcement official. This is a bigger mess now than it was in May 2017.
And for what? To generate a sketchy indictment (former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy called it “more political document than charging instrument”) that will never again see the light of day?
Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey said this particular case “could have been brought by the National Security Division or any U.S. attorney’s office.” Also, Rosenstein’s announcement is old news. As House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) reminded us over the weekend, Congress has known about the Russians’ cyber activity for a year and a half; it was detailed in the committee’s final report published in April.
“This entire report [has] nearly everything that is in the indictment,” Nunes said. “The media mocked us, they made fun of the Republicans, they said it was as whitewash.” In other words, Nunes’s report was ignored and mocked because it came from Nunes.
And I haven’t even mentioned the suspicious timing of Rosenstein’s announcement: This was not an urgent security matter. There was no reason to hold a press conference just a few days before Trump was scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But it ignited a weekend full of political drama, prompting calls from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and others for Trump to (foolishly) cancel the summit, and smug reminders from folks like Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) that Putin is not the president’s “buddy.”
Mueller’s Manafort Misdirection
But it is not the only non-Trump-Russian confessional by Team Mueller this month. The special counsel just admitted that the prosecution against his biggest catch, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, has nothing to do with Russian collusion. In a motion filed July 6, Mueller’s team said “the government does not intend to present at trial evidence or argument concerning collusion with the Russian government.” Manafort now is the equivalent of a banana republic political prisoner, held in solitary confinement as the government tries to squeeze him into submission.
Mueller’s other high-profile case—the plea deal with Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn—also appears to be on shaky ground. A pre-sentencing hearing to determine Flynn’s fate for pleading guilty to one count of lying to the FBI has been delayed for the third time. Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017. The next hearing is now scheduled for the end of August. Could this also be an orchestrated political move, designed to give Democrats a negative Trump headline right before the midterm election season goes into full swing?
And Mueller’s other Russian troll case has hit several snags resulting in courtroom embarrassments for the team. Legal observers are unsure where that case is headed and whether any of the named conspirators will be brought to justice.
All of this raises legitimate questions that need to be answered. Republicans should summon Mueller to Capitol Hill and ask for a status report in an open hearing. The shroud of secrecy about an investigation that has yielded nothing related to its stated purpose but held our political system hostage for more than a year should be lifted. Time could be running out for Republicans; if they lose control of the House in November, there will be no push to hold Mueller accountable and his investigation will continue unabated.
Time might be running out for Mueller, too. Calls are intensifying for Trump to declassify many of the documents related to the Trump-Russian collusion scheme, including the FISA application on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page and official forms used to notate Flynn’s interview in January 2017. If this happens, and the documents prove what many have suspected, Mueller would be forced to justify continuing an investigation based on a corrupt political scheme that weaponized our most trusted law enforcement and intelligence agencies actually to interfere in a presidential election.
So, let’s go right to the source and get some answers. The first question to Mueller should be: Tell us again why you’re here?
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