The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

20+ Questions

In recent years we've seen federal prosecutors who have no compelling evidence that a crime has been committed indict persons of interest, not for the crime, but for lying in interviews associated with the crime. It's a cheap ploy that seems to be applied far more commonly in political cases than in the real world. It also seems to be applied somewhat selectively, often against members of the GOP (think: Scooter Libby and Michael Flynn in recent years) who are trapped into inconsistencies in their answers under oath. As an aside, Hillary Clinton, when interviewed by the FBI for her use of a private server that compromised national security information, indicated that "she couldn't recall" in the majority of the questions asked of her. Hillary is dishonest and corrupt, but she is no dummy. You can't be indicted for a supposedly bad memory.

Now it appears that the same ploy is being used by Special Counsel Robert Mueller against Donald Trump. It's fairly obvious that after a year of looking, Mueller has been unable to come up with any clear evidence of "Russian Collusion" (a Democrat fantasy from day one) or "Obstruction of Justice," another politically motivated accusation. So what Mueller and his crew of mostly partisan lawyers hope is that questioning Donald Trump will lead to inconsistencies that will then be spun into an accusation of perjury. Impeachment (the dream of the TDS crowd) would follow.

The trained hamsters of the mainstream media are reveling in this latest 20+ questions charade. At the same time, it's interesting that none of the hamsters are asking questions of Mueller himself. So in the interest of the 20-questions meme, Mark Penn provides a few:
... the conduct of the investigation by the special counsel and his team has raised a lot of questions as to its foundation, conflicts of interest, fairness and methods. Most of the public, based on the last Harvard Caps-Harris Poll, supports Robert Mueller going forward with his investigation, but I wonder whether that would still be the case if he were required to answer a few questions himself.

-- When you interviewed for FBI director with President Trump, had you had any conversations with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director James Comey or any other current or former officials of the U.S. government about serving as a special counsel? Didn’t you consider going forward with the interview or being rejected as FBI director to create the appearance of conflict?

-- When you picked your team, what was going through your mind when you picked zero donors to the Trump campaign and hired many Democratic donors, supporters of the defiant actions of Sally Yates, who at the time was deputy attorney general, and prosecutors who had been overturned for misconduct? What were you thinking in building a team with documented biases?

-- When you were shown the text messages of FBI officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, why did you reassign them and not fire them for compromising the investigation with obvious animus and multiple violations of procedure and policy? Why did you conceal from Congress the reasons for their firing for five months and did you discard any of their work as required by the “fruits of a poisonous tree” doctrine?

-- What were your personal contacts with Rod Rosenstein and James Comey during the investigation as special counsel and before that as a private attorney? Would you be considered a friend of James Comey? Would that personal relationship not disqualify you as a prosecutor on the case under Justice Department guidelines?

-- Doesn’t the fact that Rod Rosenstein wrote a memo urging the firing of James Comey and, therefore, is a witness to key events you are reviewing, disqualify him as your supervisor under Justice Department guidelines?

-- Did you see in advance any of the text of the book by James Comey or have any conversations related to its contents? Are you reviewing the contradictory statements made by James Comey on key issues for possible perjury or referral for perjury?

-- Did you or members of your team participate directly or indirectly in any leaks to the press about elements of the investigation, and what steps have you taken, if any, to investigate such leaks? Have members of your team been questioned under oath about leaks?

-- When you raided former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s home at gunpoint, was the scope of your investigation expanded in writing before or only days after you carried out the raid?

-- Would you be willing to undergo a lie detector test about your potential involvement, as alleged by constitutional law professor Alan Dershowitz, in protecting Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger and the jailing of four people whose convictions were later overturned amid prosecutorial abuse? What were you thinking as the local U.S. attorney while this unfolded and you took no action to stop it?

-- During the course of the current investigation, many questions have been raised about the Steele dossier and its Russian sources, the leaking of its contents, the covering up through illegal cutouts of the source of funding from the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee. Did you follow up and investigate any of those questions?

-- When you secretly obtained all of the emails of the transition including possible privileged material, did you have it first reviewed by a “taint team” and did you believe you could evade legal process, while the government official in charge was on vacation, to obtain everything instead of selections of those emails relevant to the investigation?

-- After a year of investigation, what concrete evidence have you found about collusion with the Russians and Donald Trump to leak the emails of the Democratic National Committee or John Podesta? Did you in fact obtain the Democratic National Committee servers and investigate whether they had been hacked or merely had internal leaks, or did you just rely on the organization’s own security firm?

-- What role, if any, did you or members of your team play in the public raiding of the offices of Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen? In light of recusal of the New York U.S. attorney, did you consider that such action would in effect reveal a defendant in what should be a confidential investigation?

-- What discussions have you had about bias in the team, leveraging relatives, flipping close confidants, conducting very public raids, the impact of conducting and leaking investigations on the president’s family, and any other potential abuses of the office of special counsel?

-- Do you consider firing the FBI director, thinking about pardons, considering firing you, and any conversations questioning your methods, bias or the foundation of your investigation to be matters you believe you can investigate, even though they are within the clear constitutional and First Amendment rights of the president? If you think you can question the president on these matters, then why should you not be subject to the same questions about your thought process, conflicts, possible bias and conduct in office?

There is nothing here that is outside the oversight review power of Congress, but don’t expect Robert Mueller, who even secretly investigated the attorney general, to answer any of them or expect Rod Rosenstein to be asking them, either. At this point, they know that they have no hard evidence of collusion between Donald Trump and the Russians. What they are seeking is to do is what they did to other witnesses and create process crimes around events and contacts that were in no way illegal.
The hamsters in the media are pathologically incurious about the answers to any of these questions. But the public should not be. If Trump is forced to answer Mueller's questions, it seems only right that Mueller should be forced to answer Penn's -- under oath and with the threat of perjury hanging over him.


Andrew NcCarthy, who served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, weighs in:
I am assuming the authenticity of the questions that Special Counsel Robert Mueller reportedly wants to ask President Trump. The questions indicate that, after a year of his own investigation and two years of FBI investigation, the prosecutor lacks evidence of a crime. Yet he seeks to probe the chief executive’s motives and thought processes regarding exercises of presidential power that were lawful, regardless of one’s view of their wisdom.

If Bob Mueller wants that kind of control over the executive branch, he should run for president. Otherwise, he is an inferior executive official who has been given a limited license — ultimately, by the chief executive — to investigate crime. If he doesn’t have an obvious crime, he has no business inventing one, much less probing his superior’s judgment. He should stand down.

The questions, reported by the New York Times, underscore that the special counsel is a pernicious institution. Trump should decline the interview. More to the point, the Justice Department should not permit Mueller to seek to interrogate the president on so paltry and presumptuous a showing.
I agree with McCarthy. There is little, if any, evidence of the crimes that Mueller was chartered to investigate. He goes on to define the criteria that a prosecutor should use when pursing a crime:
Two competing considerations are especially significant here. First, our law-enforcement system is based on prosecutorial discretion. Under this principle, the desirability of prosecuting even a palpable violation of law must be balanced against other societal needs and desires. We trust prosecutors to perform this cost-benefit analysis with modesty about their mission and sensitivity to the disruption their investigations cause.

Second, the president is the most essential official in the world’s most consequential government. That government’s effectiveness is necessarily compromised if the president is under the cloud of an investigation. Not only are the president’s personal credibility and capability diminished; such an investigation discourages talented people from serving in an administration, further undermining good governance. The country is inexorably harmed because a suspect administration’s capacity to execute the laws and pursue the interests of the United States is undermined. Naturally, this is of little moment to rabid partisans who opposed the president’s election and object to his policy preferences. By and large, however, Americans are not rabid partisans; they want the elected president to be able to govern, regardless of which party is in charge.
The problem, of course, is that the Mueller investigation is being drive by hyper-rabid partisan politics from the Democrats and their trained hamsters in the media. The #NeverTrumpers of the GOP have backed off, but just a little, and the members of the deep state would love to see the man who committed to "drain the swamp" disappear. But all four constituencies need a viable reason to move toward impeachment (well, at least the rational ones do), and it seems that Mueller wants to give them one—even if there's no evidence to back it up. Hence, the demand for an interview, the questions, and the hope that Trump misspeaks in a way that can be spun into perjury.