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Right Opinion

Justice System Per the Mueller Probe

Bill Wagner · Dec. 5, 2018

Democracy has been called the worst form of government … except for all the others. If the Robert Mueller probe is any example, the same can be said of our justice system, which you should avoid getting caught up in if at all possible.

To rewind the tape, the Mueller investigation was inspired (a) by leaks from the Hillary Clinton consulting team hinting at Russian influence in the 2016 elections in an attempt to deflect blame for losing an unlosable election and (b) by similar leaks from James Comey that wound up in the media. The Mueller mandate was to find out if “Russia” and the Trump campaign conspired to steal the election. After two years, with an FBI probe predating that and every media figure on the planet digging for that Pulitzer-worthy tidbit that would land Trump in prison, no one has found a scintilla of evidence that there was any conspiracy (much less collusion, whatever that means) involving “Russia” and Trump.

Mueller has tallied up a number of convictions or guilty pleas from Russian trolls who will never see the inside of a U.S. courtroom (unless they demand a hearing to clear themselves) along with process crimes or crimes unrelated to the Trump campaign that have zero to do with Russian conspiracy. The process crimes seem to have a common theme — lying to investigators — and I’m left scratching my head to come up with a rationale for people not telling the truth, since the truth in every case is not incriminating. Granted, people who lie should be subject to prosecution, but this is not exactly what the DC establishment had in mind when Mueller was turned loose on his great adventure.

Mueller is in his 70s, and this may be his last rodeo. So his legacy is highly dependent on how the probe turns out. Since, if there were some evidence of Trump/Russia conspiracy, it would likely have surfaced by now, it looks like the best Mueller and the establishment can hope for is a report that finds nothing illegal but provides a stack of innuendo and excuses that provides Congress with a roadmap to consider impeachment, which, after all, is a political, not legal, proceeding with different rules.

Furthermore, if the congressional reaction to the latest Mueller scalp, Michael Cohen, is any guide, we are headed for a tsunami of congressional investigations and even impeachment charges. The over/under of the time it would take from Mueller’s Cohen announcement to a series of Democrat legislators getting in front of a camera to declare the end of the Trump presidency was three nanoseconds. If you had the over, you lost.

Consider what the Cohen matter was all about. He is in big trouble for decades-old tax evasion and taxi cab medallion fraud charges — and for good reason, based on what has leaked out. But that hardly needs the heavy hand of a special counsel; local law enforcement is plenty and should have at it. But the event that got the big PR was Cohen pleading guilty to lying to Congress. About what, you ask? Well, it was about when discussions were ongoing between Russian officials and representatives of the Trump Organization regarding a possible real estate development project in Moscow. Cohen told Congress that talks ended early in 2016, but they actually continued into the summer.

Lying is never good, but why is this time frame important? I guess it’s because it would not look good politically for Trump to be seen having chats about business deals with Russia that close to the election. And Trump was being his typical vague self when asked by the media about this during the campaign, saying that he had no “business deals” in Russia. That’s technically true, but a tad misleading.

In his plea announcement, Cohen not only admitted to lying but gilded the lily (no doubt at the insistence of Team Mueller) by saying his motivation was to protect Trump out of loyalty. But think about this for a second: At the time these exploratory discussions with “Russia” were occurring, and even up to election day, the odds of Trump winning were in the single digits (even Trump didn’t think he would win). So why wouldn’t he want to preserve the opportunity to do business in Russia after the election? He had been pursuing this for decades.

Moreover, the optics issue was less troubling then than it seems now (thanks to convenient memory loss by the media) because the context was set by none other than Obama himself, who repeatedly downplayed any Russian ability to influence the election. He didn’t want to tarnish the likely Hillary victory, but in the process he made any contacts with Russia far less sinister.

Why Cohen lied is anyone’s guess, but it is not atypical of Trump hangers-on to try to curry favor with the boss, regardless of how illogical or unwanted by that boss those actions may have been. I would suggest that Trump is indeed guilty as charged — of not having a name-brand executive recruiting firm on speed dial. It is not uncommon in the real estate business (and some other industries where intermediaries are involved) for agents to use connections and claims of influence to try to get in the middle of deals and pick up a fee.

Trump seems to have surrounded himself early on with individuals having those characteristics (not only Cohen, but others like Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and George Papadopoulos come to mind), and Mueller has pounced on them to create a narrative of smoke for Congress to run with and preserve those establishment cocktail-party invites. To a degree, he is succeeding. He even convinced a noted conservative pundit to opine that the dots between Cohen and a Trump/Russian intelligence conspiracy could be connected.

Stay with me on this: Cohen’s admission that discussions with key Russian players continued until a couple months before the election for a deal that never happened was evidence that Trump was trying to curry favor with Russian oligarchs with ties to Russian intelligence. That same Russian intelligence hacked into Podesta’s and the DNC’s computers and had access to big-time dirt on Hillary and the Democrat Party, which it gave to WikiLeaks, which contacted a radio talk-show host who had a relationship with an obscure conspiracy theorist named Jerome Corsi. The latter was a casual acquaintance of Roger Stone (yet another Trump hanger-on), so he contacted Stone with the dirt because he thought Stone was connected to the Trump campaign. Stone then contacted Steve Bannon (who at the time was involved in the Trump campaign) and gave him the already publicly known info that Hillary was not in the best of health. Bannon told Trump, who two weeks later worked the assertion that Hillary was ill into his stump speech. Voila — the quadruple bank shot proving that Trump worked with Russian intelligence to steal the election

And no, I’m not making this up.

Along the way, Mueller’s team interviewed Corsi, who slipped up in one statement by denying that he had discussed WikiLeaks with Stone. When Corsi reviewed his email trail a day later, he corrected the record with Team Mueller, which at the time seemed OK with the correction. Now Team Mueller is using the original misstatement as the basis for a lying-to-Congress charge, a tactic deemed highly unusual (if not unethical) by some legal observers.

This is typical of what Team Mueller has been doing all along and is not the way our justice system is supposed to work. Trust in that system has been deteriorating, and the media is blaming Trump for simply calling out actions like those above. True, several FBI and Justice Department officials have been disciplined or fired, but no one has gone to jail, and the biggest abuse of federal judicial and law-enforcement power in memory — the book-cooking of FISA applications used to get warrants to spy on American citizens of the opposing political party — remains in the shadows.

It is a natural inclination for innocent Americans to want to cooperate with law enforcement. But if the Mueller probe is representative of how the justice system does business, those days are over, and it should be job number one to get all the facts out and clean things up.

Early on, I checked out Mueller’s history and character and gave him the benefit of the doubt, believing that he would call balls and strikes, even if there was no “there” there. I was wrong and am now firmly in the camp of the majority of Americans who have lost confidence in the justice system. If I ever have the misfortune of being involved in the justice system, my attitude has changed from “How can I help?” to “No comment. Here is my lawyer’s phone number.”

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