That was fast.
Less than a month after Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel for the investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election, the process has been revealed as a thinly veiled offensive on the Trump presidency.
According to reports this week, the investigation is now looking into potential obstruction of justice charges against the President – an idea that legal scholars on both sides of the aisle have dismissed as ridiculous – and even more out of left field, for evidence of financial crimes committed by the President and his associates.
Unfortunately, this shift in focus is no surprise.
We now know the appointment of a special counsel was orchestrated by a disgruntled former employee with an axe to grind — fired Federal Bureau of Investigations Director James Comey. As Comey testified June 8th, he intentionally leaked secret information to the press in order to spur the appointment of a special counsel after his termination.
We also know that Mueller is stocking his investigative team with Democratic partisans. Jeannie Rhee, for example, was an attorney for the Clinton Foundation for many years and FEC records show she has donated exclusively to Democrats. In fact, Mueller’s hires have donated nearly $50,000 to Democratic candidates in the last dozen years, versus only $2,750 to Republicans.
Another one of Mueller’s hires, Andrew Weismann, has a record of overzealous prosecution and charges of unethical behavior. As leader of the Enron Task Force, Weissman faced charges for allegedly intimidating witnesses and hiding evidence that would have helped the defense. The criminal case he prosecuted against the accounting firm Arthur Anderson was overturned 9-0 by the Supreme Court because it found the company had committed no crime. Sadly, it was too late to save the 85,000 jobs that were lost due to Weismann’s lust to prosecute.
So far, Mueller’s team does not look like a group of fair-minded, independent attorneys. It looks like a legal hit squad specifically built to hurt President Trump and Republicans.
The real danger of these types of special investigations is that the innocence of the accused – or the initial focus of the investigation – often has no bearing on the outcome. More often, people who get ensnared by these proceedings fall victim to the pitfalls of the process. Lives are often ruined – not for anything related to what prompted the investigation but for some procedural error. This is precisely why I opposed the renewal of the Independent Counsel Act in 1999.
I explain the dangers of these special investigations in my new book, Understanding Trump, which was released Tuesday. In the book, I argue that no one on the Trump team should agree to testify without a guarantee of immunity from prosecution. Too many things can go wrong otherwise.
“Fishing expeditions driven by the Justice Department, congressional staffs, and the news media take on a life of their own and can easily trap innocent people through procedural mistakes.
“There is a grave danger that Trump team members will testify as though they were participating in a benign or honest process. That can lead to disaster.
“Every word someone says can be measured against all other testimony and all available evidence. Any discrepancy, no matter how innocent, can lead to a charge of perjury or obstruction of justice.
This remains my advice, although Attorney General Jeff Sessions has done remarkably well in his testimony. Sessions served as a U.S. Attorney for eighteen years and was formerly a seasoned member of the Senate. He knows how these things work.
Every other member of the Trump administration should take heed: this is not an honest process. Mueller’s team of attorneys will do everything it can to damage or destroy the Trump presidency.
The revelations this week about the investigation’s ridiculous expansion in scope, if true, are further evidence that the initial purpose of the special counsel’s investigation has been thrown out the window.
To be clear: Russia’s meddling in U.S. politics is a serious issue, but it is much bigger than the 2016 election.
The United States must investigate and learn to counter the ways in which Russia is using intelligence, cyberwar, economic and diplomatic pressure, and widespread corruption throughout the world to bolster Russian interests.
It is tragic that it now looks like the special counsel investigation, which was supposed to focus on Russia’s involvement in the election, will now only serve to distract us from the real challenge facing the United States.
Newt Gingrich served as the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999.