Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Mueller Investigation and the American Way

Status of the Mueller Investigation 

Some Republican officials, together with Fox News, are questioning if the independent investigation of Robert Mueller is biased and/or if it should be shut down. On this issue, like most, the country is divided along political lines, with Republicans questioning the investigation and Democrats supporting it. That is wrong. 

The reason to continue the investigation cannot be based on a goal to "get" Trump. Nor should the investigation be stopped because some people or groups will be embarrassed by what might be found. The country was united against Nixon because it is the American way that no person is above the law. 

As set forth below, character assassination of Mueller is not based on the truth; it's based on ideology. He is being attacked not because he is biased; he's being attacked because his investigation has been successful identifying illegal conduct. And the investigation has not been completed.   

Good leaders are capable of putting aside their own interests to do what's right and to follow the law. Robert Mueller is one of those people. If - after a fair investigation - no criminal or improper conduct on the part of Trump is proven, then the entire country will need to accept that and move on. If he or others in his administration are guilty, then the entire country should be seeking a just response. 

The facts and the truth and the law are what matters. Any effort to stop the investigation to avoid getting to the truth should be resisted by all Americans.

Background on Mueller 

Mueller is currently under personal attack as being bias and partisan, but the following are facts about Mueller that are beyond dispute:
  • he volunteered to serve in Vietnam and was a decorated war hero (including earning the bronze star for valor);
  • he is nonpartisan, with a Republican party affiliation;
  • he was an assistant US attorney (a leading federal prosecutor) in 2 states;
  • he was the head of the FBI for 2 administrations - 1 Democratic and 1 Republican;
  • when he was chosen to lead the current investigation, essentially everyone on both sides of the aisle praised him for his capabilities as a fact-finder and for his ethics;
  • for example, 7 months ago, Newt Gingrich said, "Robert Mueller is superb choice to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity." (May 17, 2017 @newtgingrich tweet)
The Investigation

The President and others around him and in Congress have repeatedly attacked the investigation as a "witch hunt".  The following facts are beyond dispute:
  • Background Facts about Putin and Russia:
    • Vladimir Putin is a totalitarian dictator. 
    • The US and Russia were engaged in a cold war for 45 years (from 1945 to 1990) when Ronald Reagan defeated Russia - Putin, a former KGB agent (Russian spy), resents and hates the US because of this. 
    • Russia and Putin typically have not supported US interests in the world, but sometimes our interests may align. 
    • Russia and Putin do not support civil and human rights - many 0f those who have opposed Putin's  absolute power - including by expressing personal beliefs or pursing truth and justice - have been jailed or murdered by Putin.   
  • Facts about the Investigation to date:
    • As of December 2016, essentially the entire US national security and law enforcement apparatus determined that the Russian government hacked the US election. It is not credible to deny this. Trump denies this truth because he is embarrassed and thinks that Russia's involvement taints his election victory. That doesn't make him a criminal, nor does it change the fact that the Russians hacked our election.
    • Previously, Trump and members of Trump's campaign, cabinet and high level advisors repeatedly denied communicating with Russia.
    • In May 2017, Mueller was named as Special Counsel to the US Dept. of Justice and to investigate “any links and/or coordination between Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation".
    • As stated above, upon being chosen, he was universally praised as a good and fair choice to ensure the law and US interests were independently reviewed and protected.
    • After approximately 6 months, the Mueller team had obtained (i) admissions that the denials about Russian communications were lies, and (ii) felony convictions and complaints against 3 former Trump officials for Russian-related crimes. 
      • By way of comparison, Kenneth Starr's independent investigation of Clinton lasted 5 years, and resulted in a finding that Clinton lied under oath when he said that he "did not have sexual relations" with an intern.
    • Mueller's investigation to date has found:
      • The repeated denials about communications with Russia by Trump's Nation Security Advisor - Michael Flynn - were lies. As a result of Mueller's investigation, Flynn has admitted to a felony, lying to the FBI, and he is a cooperating witness in the investigation.
      • Paul Manafort, Trump's former Campaign Advisor, has been charged with money laundering and false statements to the government in connection with receiving over $10 million from a pro-Russian Ukraine official. Mr. Manafort has plead innocent.
      • George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy advisor to Trump's campaign, plead guilty to making false statements to the FBI about contacts he had with the Russian government in 2016 relating to US–Russian relations and Trump's campaign.
      • Advisors to Trump, including members of his family, met at Trump tower with a Russian lawyer and others to obtain negative information to be used against Hilary Clinton.
Having the National Security Advisor admit to a felony alone validates that the investigation is not a "witch hunt". Trump has not been shown to have committed any crimes to date, but Flynn's felony is a scandal that should concern all Americans, without regard to political party.

Opposition to Mueller

The following are the purported reasons to remove Mueller and/or end the investigation:
  • One of the FBI investigators on Mueller's investigation team sent to an FBI lawyer negative texts about Trump, including calling him an "idiot."  That investigator was fired from the investigation team shortly thereafter. 
    • To put the FBI texts  into some context, consider the following question: how likely is it that the dozens and dozens of members of Kenneth Starr's investigation team, at some point during the course of that 5 year investigation, communicated some negative statements about Bill Clinton? It would be surprising if that did not happen, yet no one ever even considered shutting down that investigation because that would not have been justified. Nor is it here. 
  • Mueller's former law firm represented some of the members of Trump's administration, which can be viewed as a potential conflict, but no actual conflict has been shown. 
  • Some members of Mueller's team are Democrats and one previously represented the Clinton Foundation, but again there is no actual conflict. I note that it is unlawful to treat members of the investigative team differently due to their political affiliations - it would be wrong to pursue Trump with just partisan Democrats or just partisan Republicans - rather, all members of the team are expected to be unbiased and to follow the law. 
  • There is a claim that Mueller's team improperly obtained emails from the General Services Agency (GSA), on the theory that the GSA did not have authority to turn those emails over to Mueller. However, Mr. Mueller can subpoena any information he wants from any government agency.
What is absent is any showing that Mueller has conducted the investigation based on personal bias. To the contrary, he is focusing on the facts. Nor is there any reason why Mueller - a war hero and former head of the FBI, who just 7 months ago was hailed by Republicans for his honesty and integrity - would transform into a bad guy with bad motives.  

What has changed in the last 7 months is that Mueller has advanced the investigation. The Trump administration, Republicans in Congress and Fox News appear to be concerned about Mueller's investigation not because it is being conducted poorly or unfairly and not because it is a witch hunt, but rather because it is being conducted expertly and because it is demonstrably not a witch hunt. 

Summary of Undisputed Facts
  1. Russia hacked our election. 
  2. Trump officials denied contacts with Russia.
  3. Mueller's investigation proved those denials to be lies.    
  4. Mueller has further proven "beyond a reasonable doubt" several Russian-related felonies by Trump officials. 
  5. The President's former National Security Advisor is now a cooperating witness, but he has yet to publicly provide testimony. 
  6. Mueller is 7 months into this investigation; a comparable investigation by Kenneth Starr lasted 5 years.  
  7. The investigation is ongoing and there is more evidence to review.
The American Way

The truth exists and it can be determined, but only if we seek it through an objective and fair process. That means whether you love Trump or hate him is irrelevant - only the facts matter. 

We are and need to remain one united country. Extreme partisanship should never cause someone in this country to turn away from the facts, and we certainly should never be so blinded by cultural civil war as to favor Russians over fellow Americans, even (especially) fellow Americans with different views that our own. 

Superman's catch phrase is that he "fights for truth, justice and the American way." What is the American way in 2017? My view is that, just as in 1776, the American way means that every US citizen, including the President, is entitled to a presumption of innocence. At the same time, all of us must also demand truth, justice and accountability so that no one, especially not the President or other high official, can act as if he or she is above the law. 

For information about the organizing of national peaceful protests if the Mueller investigation were to be shut down prematurely, see - NOBODY IS ABOVE THE LAW.

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