Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment Friday of 13 Russian nationals was silly, dangerous, and a transparent effort to gain some leverage for a safe exit strategy from the sham that has been the Russian collusion investigation. To explain why, I decided to write this in the form of an analytical memo like those I used to write for candidates and Members of Congress. In fact, I reckon I will send this out to some old colleagues:
Some conservative media outlets and groups have been crowing that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russian Nationals Friday and Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein’s statement that no American citizen wittingly engaged in collusion with Russians proves that President Donald Trump is innocent of all charges. They miss the point and the purpose of these indictments while falling into the conspirators’ trap. The evidence had already cleared Trump. We no longer needed Mueller to say so. Further, Rosenstein’s claim that no American willingly colluded with Russian agents ignores the willing collusion of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the FBI and the Justice Department with the same. This investigation hit the shoals when evidence started flooding out of official misconduct by the party they were NOT investigating and by federal agencies and agents, coming perilously close to the investigators, themselves. This is Mueller and Rosenstein’s opening bid for a stand-down that allows them to exit without themselves being investigated – and to whitewash the involvement of Clinton, the DNC, federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies in an effort, first, to ensure their preferred outcome in the 2016 presidential election and then, failing that, to overturn the results of that election. In short, this became a soft coup attempt (the latter phrase is the literal definition of a coup attempt), the most serious type of internal assault on the American system of government and law that exists. Further, these indictments are downright dangerous to national security. Let me explain.
Since the first primitive tribes discovered their proximity to each other, nations have been trying to influence each other’s internal affairs for their own perceived benefit. I realize the average American citizen has little awareness of how extensive our efforts are to influence elections in other countries, including allies, and how extensive foreigners’ efforts are to influence ours. But to have serious national authorities playing at being shocked at this is as juvenile as being shocked to find the reason men go to nightclubs is to try to pick up women or that the reason people go to casinos is to gamble. The first big effort by foreigners to influence American elections was in 1796 when France threatened to declare war if America elected John Adams instead of Thomas Jefferson. We elected Adams anyway – and France shut up for a while. For all his virtues, Jefferson was an inveterate colluder with French authorities – and connived to undermine the very Washington administration he was a part of.
The old Soviet Union was a master at disinformation campaigns, many of which were revealed by the massive data dump of the Mitrokhin Archives by a KGB Agent after its fall. Much of that disinformation remains embedded in our national conscious, even with its exposure. Three examples: while the Soviets didn’t start conspiracy theories about President Kennedy’s assassination, after Mark Lane started the ball rolling with his book, “Rush to Judgement,” the Soviets did become the biggest financial backers for conspiracy theorists. Concerning the late FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, the abuses of power are verified fact; the rumors about his homosexuality and dressing up in women’s clothes was a Soviet disinformation dump. Rumors that the CIA created AIDS to kill black men was not just a paranoid urban legend; it was part of a Soviet disinformation campaign. As one commentator comically observed, this is what Russians do. It is their version of golf.
It is the duty of each nation to defend itself from such efforts at meddling, while being aware that such efforts will never stop. Yet defense on such matters must remain a matter of diplomacy, not of law. It is perfectly legitimate for a government to expel foreign nationals who participate in such mischief. If it is particularly egregious, it may be an act of war, but it cannot be a crime. To transfer it to criminal law would endanger the lives of every American tourist traveling outside the country. Setting this precedent would give tyrants throughout the world a most efficient blunt instrument to use against American nationals. Simply claim they are engaging in efforts to meddle in a country’s internal affairs and arrest them.
I am no apologist for former President Barack Obama, but he was right when, while still in office, he characterized such Russian meddling as business as usual and no big deal. Where he went wrong was in using this as the pretext for trying to overturn the election results.
This was not an exoneration of Trump. Rather, it sought to leverage evidence that Trump is innocent to exonerate ‘Deep State’ officials who DID engage in a criminal conspiracy to rig the election and then, failing that, to overturn the results of that election. As evidence exposes vulnerability on the part of both Mueller and Rosenstein, they have been seeking an exit strategy that would protect them from consequences for misconduct. That need took on particular urgency last week when the judge who accepted General Michael Flynn’s guilty plea was suddenly recused and replaced by Federal Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, perhaps the toughest judge in the nation on prosecutorial misconduct. As you probably know, the FBI originally said that Flynn had NOT lied to them, but the Justice Dept. overruled it. Judge Sullivan almost immediately issued an order that he be shown all exculpatory evidence the prosecution has. That is particularly chilling for Mueller because this judge has, on multiple occasions, held prosecutors in contempt for withholding evidence and even once appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the Justice Dept. Judge Sullivan does NOT tolerate prosecutorial misconduct or overreach.
Mueller has potential exposure for suppressing the investigation of the Uranium One scandal and the various Clinton Foundation scandals. Rosenstein has exposure for his role in perjuring himself to approve FISA warrants to spy on Trump and his campaign – and as a potential conspirator. At the press conference, the principles said there was no evidence that any American wittingly participated with Russians in an effort to influence the election. First of all, that is an outright lie. A mountain of evidence has come out that Clinton, the DNC, and top officials at the FBI, Justice Dept., intelligence community and State Dept. DID collude with Russian agents to further their own criminal conspiracy. The only truth in this statement is that there is no evidence that the people they were targeting wittingly conspired with foreign agents. Second, Mueller said, ominously, that this did not preclude them from later determining that there was such collusion and that he had several months of work left. This was a transparent extortion attempt. Basically, Mueller was saying, “If you’ll quit telling the truth about me, I’ll stop pushing lies about you.” If Mueller was actually able to leverage this feeble extortion attempt to negotiate a stand-down where no one is held to account for actual crimes and sedition, we will have more such efforts in the future.
The indictments he has made – and those he hasn’t – confirm that the sole actual mission of the Mueller investigation has been to get Trump, not to expose crimes and get justice. Mueller has indicted Paul Manafort and targeted Carter Page for ties they had with Russian nationals before there ever was a Trump campaign – and that were not involved in the campaign. He has indicted 13 Russian nationals who are not subject to our laws and cannot ever be extradited and charged. These indictments clearly show that Mueller has not confined himself to things actually connected with collusion by the Trump campaign, but has broadly interpreted himself as having jurisdiction over any misconduct having to do with Russians. Yet he has remained silent on what a mountain of evidence now shows to be actual collusion with Russian Agents to help with a criminal conspiracy by top officials to rig the election and then to overturn the results when the rigging failed. On June 13, 2017, Rosenstein brought Mueller into the oval office to interview for the job of director of the FBI. Trump decided against him. The next day, Rosenstein brought Mueller in as special counsel. The timing was suspicious, hinting that Rosenstein was determined to get Mueller in a key position for some reason – and one could be forgiven for suspecting that the mission there was to protect the FBI and Justice Dept. from evidence of their seditious misconduct being revealed. Now that Mueller, having asserted broad jurisdiction on all things involving Russians, whether related to campaigns or not, has refused to notice the mountain of evidence revealing such collusion with people he favors, it is MUCH more than a suspicion.
While Trump and his team were the specific victims of this conspiracy, it was primarily an assault on the American people and the American system of equal application of justice under law. Forget the caricatures of Trump for a moment. He is a gut-fighter while the battle is on, yet he is almost always strikingly magnanimous after he is confident he has prevailed. His instincts may well tempt him to let bygones be bygones. Congress cannot abide that in this case. The primary victims here have been, as I said, the American people and the principle of equal application of justice under law. If seditious perpetrators of an attempted coup are simply allowed a do-over with no consequence, we will have much more sedition in our future. Since Mueller will not investigate any crimes committed by Clinton, the DNC, or top echelons of the federal bureaucracy, we must appoint either a special prosecutor or national commission which will. Those who perpetrated this must be held to account.
Key Talking and Action Points
- Do not celebrate Trump’s ‘exoneration’ by Mueller. Rather, emphasize that Mueller’s acknowledgement of the evidence exonerating Trump does NOT exonerate those high officials who DID conspire to rig and then overturn the results of an election.
- Emphasize that there was substantial collusion with Russian agents by high government officials in furtherance of a criminal conspiracy – and that the Congress will not rest until the investigation is complete and the conspirators punished. The disappointment on the left that that conspiracy was mounted by those mounting the charges must not change that.
- Emphasize that the only proper and safe response to foreign meddling in American internal affairs is diplomatic; expulsion, sanctions, or war. To make it a matter of law would imperil every American tourist traveling outside the country.