The Memo, Mueller and a Secret Court

We have all seen and read the recent memo summarizing a FISA warrant application and what, on the surface, appears to be some zeal on the part of some federal law enforcement higher-ups to taint, for whatever reason, some people in the Trump campaign in 2016, possibly even Trump himself.  No doubt, there will be debate back and forth on these and other pages and on the Sunday talk shows about the significance of the Nunes memo.  In the past 48 hours, we have read articles here parsing the words “unverified and salacious,” comparing it to public testimony before Congress, and so on.

First, this writer believes the whole thing should be kept in perspective.  The memo is not an attack on federal law enforcement, the FBI, the Department of Justice, etc. as a whole.  It is a stealth indictment of the methods used by some operatives of those entities in order to obtain a FISA warrant.  My best guess is that they had shreds of “evidence” that suggested probable cause, but withheld from the FISA court significant questions about the reliability of those shreds.  Was this the fault of the judge who issued the warrant who failed to ask pertinent questions, or was this law enforcement deliberately misleading a FISA court judge to obtain a warrant?  Or do FISA courts just rubber stamp things?  Or, is the FISA system a convenient way to get around Fourth Amendment protections under the guise of “national security?”  At the very least, a FISA judge should take extra special care when American citizens who are part of a political campaign (or were part of it) lest we revert from, as Josh Kimbrell notes, a republic to a banana republic.

However, for many who view this memo as troubling as it pertains to the FBI/DOJ and their methods or motivations, it is not an indictment of these agencies as a whole.  The FBI and CIA and other government agencies have survived scandals and problems created in the upper echelons of those agencies and if there is a scandal here, they will survive.  Why?  Because the overwhelming majority of those officers who perform their duties diligently and objectively every day form the backbone of those agencies.  What is done with intelligence or information by the higher reaches of those agencies is the troubling part.  Regardless, any criticism of directors or Washington apparatchiks is not an attack on the agencies themselves and those who suggest that the “Trumplicans” are trying to discredit law enforcement fail to understand that one can divorce the upper reaches of these agencies from the good work done by the agencies themselves.

Second, as concerns the Mueller investigation, there are many here and elsewhere who rightfully have problems with even the concept of “special prosecutors” or “special counsels.”  We have seen abuses of it on both sides.  Let us not forget that, for example, Kenneth Starr’s investigation started with a land deal gone bad in Arkansas and somehow turned into a stain on a dress.  To this writer, the problem lies in the mandate granted to the special counsel which allows them to dig into anything that may come about as a result of the investigation into what they are supposed to be investigating.  Thus, with Mueller, what started as an investigation into alleged collusion or cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives has so far only produced evidence of money laundering unrelated to the original purpose, and some “process crimes” under the catch-all of “obstruction of justice.”

In that same vein, the investigation has started and it would be fool-hardy to stop it at this point, if for no other reason the political optics.  And since the investigation has now strayed into other areas like financial crimes, it has also revealed some shady tactics on the part of the Obama administration’s Department of Justice and FBI.  While there has not been a shred of evidence uncovered to our knowledge at this point indicating the oft-used collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians, there is knowledge of questionable tactics used by the previous administration’s law enforcement apparatus.  In essence, the investigation, thus far, is making the Democrats vis-a-vis the DNC and Hillary campaign and the Obama administration look worse than Trump at this point.

Therefore, even though knowing the special counsel is a political tool rife with abuse, it makes greater sense to let Mueller continue his investigation and see where it leads.  While every dribble of information from that investigation is parsed and interpreted as the latest “smoking gun” against Trump and others, the sad fact is that thus far this investigation has created ample fodder for speculation and little else.  Mueller scheduling an interview with Person X is invariably portrayed as the noose getting tighter around Trump’s neck.  That thought, one supposes, allows the haters to sleep well at night and the fact they constantly feel the need to justify themselves proves one thing: there was no noose there to begin with.

Perhaps the most disheartening thing about this whole episode is the smile on Putin’s face and the glee in his heart at seeing how this whole thing played out beyond his wildest dreams.  Even more disheartening is being a witness to people who claim to be conservative because they may cite Biblical scripture or declare their pro-life bona fides becoming tools of Putin’s designs.  I ask again: knowing that Putin and Russia interfered in the 2016 election, what do the NeverTrumpers propose to stop it from happening again?  By fighting over the meaning of words in a memo one week and endlessly trotting out “smoking guns” that turn out to be duds the next, they lose sight of the bigger picture.  It appears their solution is tear down a man and to hell with answering that question.