Crime and Punishment

By | 2018-08-24T21:15:00+00:00 August 23rd, 2018|
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One of the reasons so many people are confused by the operations of our self-appointed fourth branch of government—I mean in this instance the unending, Kafkaesque investigations conducted by Robert Mueller and his crack team of anti-Trump shock troops—is that while we have seen plenty of punishment meted out, crimes have been rather less populous on the ground.

Yes, I understand that Paul Manafort has been nabbed for tax evasion and bank fraud, and that he now faces additional charges in yet another court. One of the nice things about our modern prosecutors is their handy multiplication machine that takes what is essentially one crime and gins it up into dozens or even hundreds of counts. Presto! You’re facing 18 counts, peasant—try beating that!

The point is, when you have carte-blanche to torment someone, why stop when you’ve got him locked up for life? Like a cat toying with an injured mouse, the modern major prosecutor keeps batting his prey about till he stops moving altogether. What might have been justice for a serial killer is gleefully applied to someone who fudged his tax returns or tripped over himself answering an FBI agent. Then we have sadism, not justice.

When it comes to our legal system, they say that the process is the punishment. But that leaves out the other side of the equation: that for the system, for wretched power-drunk commissars like Robert Mueller, the process, because of the punishment, is all the fun. They enjoy tormenting people.

But the thing that makes this long-running entertainment so confusing for most of us is that none of the crimes we’ve seen so far have anything to do with the title of the show.

Remember: we crowded into the theater to see “The Great Russian Collusion Drama.” But all of the skits we’ve seen so far—from Manafort’s and Michael Cohen’s tax evasions all the way down to whatever it is that Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos are supposed to have done—are like warm-up acts. Russian dressing might be slathered over the salad—everyone knows that in this election, as in previous U.S. elections, the Russians meddled and endeavored to sow discord. (And of course, we do the same thing: just ask the Brits or the Israelis.)

But the main course—evidence that Donald Trump “colluded” with the Russians to affect the outcome of the election—about that there has been a Godot-like absence in the very center of the narrative.

What’s the Reason for All This?
As many wits noted back when the the Russian Collusion Investigation was in its early decades—I mean, its early months—this was a Russia investigation with no Russians. We had Flynn and youngsters like Papadopoulos entrapped by the FBI, but for what people call “process crimes,” i.e., more process than crime.

Stepping back from the details of this expensive, divisiveness-spreading machine that is the Mueller Investigation, what is the central crime being investigated? What is the raison d’être of this beltway spectacular?

Oyez, oyez, oyez: I am now in a position to answer these questions. Drum roll, please!

The crime at the center of this deep-state initiative is the election of Donald Trump. The tort? He was elected without the permission of the ruling class, its jesters and its scribes and moralists. Pete Wehner does not approve of Donald Trump. Bill Kristol thinks he is infra-dig. Psychiatrists are still trying to figure out what Mad Max Boot and Jabbering John Brennan think.

But this, Ladies and Gentlemen (and unlike the MTA and the London Tube, we still use the phrase “Ladies and Gentlemen” here), this is the crime: Donald Trump was elected. That’s it. That’s the crime. It’s not in the statute books, but a little thing like that never stopped a diligent bureaucrat, especially one armed with a phalanx of partisan prosecutors and an unlimited budget.

So, the next time you see Robert Mueller indict a ham sandwich or order a pre-dawn, guns-drawn raid on your Aunt Millie, remember: it’s not personal (or maybe, as Daisy Buchanan says in The Great Gatsby, “It’s only personal”). In Mueller’s twisted mind, there is or might be some connection between the ham sandwich or your Aunt Millie and Donald Trump. By squeezing them, he hopes, he can finally achieve his goal, which is to remove this president from office.

Getting Donald Trump is the point of this entire sordid “investigation.” (It has a subsidiary goal of distracting attention from the only real Russian collusion in the 2016 election, that between the Clinton campaign, Fusion GPS, and Christopher Steele on one side and dubious Russian sources “close to the Kremlin” on the other, but that really is just a collateral benefit to team Mueller.)

Impeachment Is the Goal
As many commentators have observed—and none more eloquently or with stronger legal acumen than Andrew McCarthy, who has been terrier-like in his dissection of this whole sorry saga—this investigation is primarily about impeachment.

Once that is understood, the mists clear and we know where we are with this baroque phantasmagoria of an investigation.

Think about this: not one of the people indicted by this wholesale indictment factory, not one, would have been indicted had Mueller not thought him a possible conduit to the president. How’s that for guilt by association?

In practical terms, it means that the president has to approach the midterms not state-by-state but nationally. The midterms are a referendum of the 2016 election. The president needs to go to the people and ask: was your vote in 2016 legitimate?

He should say: “I promised you judges who would interpret the law, not seek to make the law, stronger borders, tax cuts, economic growth, low unemployment, a stronger military, and a more rational, less intrusive regulatory environment. I have delivered on those things as much as Congress would allow me. Do you want more of that or do you want tax hikes, weaker borders, and more regulation? Do you want more Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Nancy Pelosi or Brett Kavanaugh and Mike Pompeo? That’s your choice in November.”

The Pardon Play
A nonpartisan friend (he did not vote for Trump or Hillary) wrote me with another bit of practical advice for the president. Reflecting on the vindictive, death-by-a-thousand-cuts procedure of Robert Mueller, he noted that the president could “avoid this form of slow water torture by simply pardoning Manafort and anyone else who has gotten in Mueller’s sights. I can,” he said, “right now write the presidential statement”:

I am now pardoning Paul Manafort and everyone else who has come within the gun sights of the special counsel. These individuals have fallen into jeopardy entirely because of their association with me, my campaign, my business, my family, and so forth. None of them would be in such trouble but for the fact that they are seen by Mr. Mueller as stepping stones in his quest to get me.

Rather than wait until the end of the process, I have decided to pardon everyone now, because the enormous distraction caused by the Mueller investigations threatens to distract the nation from attending to crucial business in a very dangerous world. This is a fight between Mr. Mueller and me, not between Mr. Manafort, nor anyone else, and Mr. Mueller. I signed the pardon papers this morning.

Having now pardoned all of Mr. Mueller’s targets, I invite him to file a report with the House of Representatives, recommending my impeachment. The House, and, if articles of impeachment are voted by the House, then the Senate sitting as my jury, are the proper arena for this battle.

This is a political, not a legal battle. I am prepared to wage that political battle within the House and the Senate in an impeachment context, and before the American people in the next presidential election, in which, I hereby announce, I intend to run for a second term. Let the American people have their say.

Neither Don Lemon nor Rachel Maddow nor their many confrères in the media would like this. Indeed, it would drive them, if possible, to further frenzies. But, hey, in for a penny, in for a pound. If, as I say, Donald Trump’s crime was simply being elected, such a forthright expedient might be just the ticket.

After somehow managing to get elected, Donald Trump’s biggest crime has been fighting back against his enemies. They are not used to a president who gives as good as he gets. They’re used to having a monopoly on calling people unpleasant names and acting like dyspeptic toddlers. Donald Trump has had the temerity to repay them in kind. How dare he! Robert Mueller has been about impeachment all along. Bring it on, and let’s see what happens.

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Photo Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

About the Author:

Roger Kimball
Roger Kimball is Editor and Publisher of The New Criterion and President and Publisher of Encounter Books. Mr. Kimball lectures widely and has appeared on national radio and television programs as well as the BBC. He is represented by Writers' Representatives, who can provide details about booking him. Mr. Kimball's latest book is The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine's Press, 2012). He is also the author of The Rape of the Masters (Encounter), Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse (Ivan R. Dee), and Art's Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity (Ivan R. Dee). Other titles by Mr. Kimball include The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America (Encounter) and Experiments Against Reality: The Fate of Culture in the Postmodern Age (Ivan R. Dee). Mr. Kimball is also the author ofTenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education (HarperCollins). A new edition of Tenured Radicals, revised and expanded, was published by Ivan R. Dee in 2008. Mr. Kimball is a frequent contributor to many publications here and in England, including The New Criterion, The Times Literary Supplement, Modern Painters, Literary Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Public Interest, Commentary, The Spectator, The New York Times Book Review, The Sunday Telegraph, The American Spectator, The Weekly Standard, National Review, and The National Interest.