Robert Mueller's Scope

FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 9, 2012, before the House Judiciary Committee.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 9, 2012, before the House Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

When former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed “special counsel” by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in May, he was empowered to “investigate any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” as well as “other matters that may arise directly from the investigation.”  While the politicians in the House and Senate continue their grandstanding, the hope was that an experienced, objective prosecutor could quickly sort through the leaks, the conspiracy theories, and the political and media bacchanalia, identify the facts, perhaps initiate a few prosecutions, and restore the public’s faith in the American political system.  Four months later we are like ancient Greek fortune-tellers reading chicken entrails or listening to oracles – requests for White House staff records, warrants for early morning home searches, leaks about FISA warrants.

Like the oracles, what one hears depends in large part on what one wants to hear.  In order of importance for the health of the Republic:

1.  Did the Obama administration break the law in their surveillance of the Trump campaign?   The use of the vast intelligence and security resources of the federal government to intrude in partisan political activities strikes at the heart of our democracy. In order to get around the legal prohibition of spying on Americans, Susan Rice apparently led the campaign to conduct surveillance of foreign officials who might be communicating with Trump associates, asking the intelligence community to “unmask” the Americans who were involved in conversations, and leaking the results to the media. UN Ambassador Samantha Power was used in this scheme more than 200 times. Director of National Security Eric Clapper directly lied on CNN about whether there had been wiretapping in Trump Tower. (In a different context, he had previously lied under oath to Congress about the presence of an NSA database of wiretapped American conversations.)  If Mueller does not go there, Congress should.

2. Was there collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians? Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager from June to August 2016 was an international political consultant who had worked for the Russian-leaning president of Ukraine in 2014.  Lieutenant General Mike Flynn, a campaign stalwart and Trump’s National Security Advisor for a month, was an international security consultant with a particularly close relation to Turkish clients. Neither was properly registered, nor vetted by Trump. There were many conversations with many people, including Manafort, the Russian ambassador, and members of Trump’s family. What Obama was looking for, and what the Democrats are praying to find, is something that fits clearly within the definition of collusion –“…an arrangement between two or more parties designed to achieve an improper purpose, including to influence improperly the actions of another party.”  Expect at least a loose fit with Manafort, who had been under FBI surveillance since 2014.

3. Did Hillary Clinton enable Russian intervention in the election by her illegal use of her private, insecure communications system? At the extreme there is the question of her 30,000 deleted e-mails. Closer in are the questions of the top secret e-mails which were later uncovered, the role of her assistant Huma Abedin who had illegal e-mails on her lap top, any number of false statements and testimony, and the exposure to blackmail resulting from Clinton Foundation corruption.  Mueller will have to get into some of these weeds to understand Russia’s role in the election and Comey’s behavior, but he is unlikely to move from “here is what they did with this information” to “why were they able to get it in the first place.”

4. Did Trump obstruct justice when he fired James Comey? The facts are known – Trump did tell Comey that he hoped that Flynn would not be prosecuted. On the other hand, Comey was a monumentally bad FBI director. When Loretta Lynch met with Bill Clinton during the height of Hillary’s e-mail investigation, Comey usurped the Justice Department’s role in deciding not to prosecute anybody in Hillary’s retinue. He resurfaced and then dropped the e-mail issue a week before the election. He told Congress under oath that he had leaked classified information to the New York Times with the hope of getting a special counsel appointed to investigate the potential Trump/Russia connection.  Democrats are hoping that Mueller – who was appointed FBI Director by George W Bush and extended by Barack Obama – will turn a generous comment into an impeachable offense. Unlikely.

5. Do Trump’s business dealings with the Russians (and others) violate federal law?  While it would have been prudent for Trump to separate himself more completely from the family business, few objective observers think that having foreign nationals as paying guests in his hotels violates the Constitution’s provision that no federal official “shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.” Mueller won’t either.

American politics have veered far off the rails in the past year or two. If Mueller lives up to his billing, and delivers an objective view of the Russian connection with the 2016 election, he will be doing the country a major service by muting the speculation of the media and the politicians, and offering some direction for future elections.  For the Democrats and Team Hillary, the recount didn’t work; the subversion of the Electoral College didn’t work; and #Resist may be weakening with Trump, Pelosi, and Schumer working together. Mueller may bag a lower level supporter or two, but he will not provide the fodder for Maxine Waters’ “Impeach” micro-movement.


www.RightinSanFrancisco.com – 9/22/17