It was refreshing to read the response of Federal Judge T. S. Ellis III to a squad of prosecutors from Robert Mueller’s office who came into his Alexandria, Virginia, court to open the case against Paul Manafort, erstwhile Trump campaign manager, for money-laundering shenanigans dating as far back as 2005. Said response by the judge being: “You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud. You really care about getting information that Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever.”
Judge Ellis’s concise summation was like a spring zephyr clearing out a long winter’s fog of unreality in our national politics — the idea that Mueller’s mission has been anything but the Deep State’s ongoing crusade to nullify the 2016 election. In the meantime of the past year, Mueller has been additionally burdened by obvious misconduct in the FBI and its parent agency, the Department of Justice, which makes Mueller himself look like the instrument of a cover-up, or at least a massive organized distraction from the misdeeds of the Deep State itself.
I was never a Trump supporter or voter, but it seems to me he deserves to succeed or fail as President on his own merits (or lack of). It’s much more disturbing to me to see the runaway train that federal prosecution has turned into, along with orchestrated intrigues of FBI and DOJ officials at the highest level. These are of a piece with the creeping surveillance of all Americans, and the collusion of multiple intelligence agencies with social media companies and what used to be the respectable organs of the news, especially The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN — all of which are behaving like Grand Inquisitors in a medieval religious hysteria.
Judge Ellis’s remarks also speak to a growing consensus that the Russia “collusion” or “meddling” story is a phantom, if not a fabrication of the FBI itself, and that Robert Mueller’s appointment to investigate it was illegitimate from the start. In any case, it seems, for now, to be going nowhere, except maybe ricocheting back at itself — because more and more it looks like Mueller is there only to defend the reputation of the agency. Also, for now, the FBI and DOJ are engaged in a war of wills with both houses of congress. Senator Charles Grassley, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and members of the House Intelligence Committee are battling Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for official documents that he refuses to produce. It only makes the FBI and DOJ look like rogue agencies.
Now Judge Ellis is asking to see unredacted memoranda spelling out Mueller’s exact commission as Special Counsel, to determine just where his authority begins and ends. Ellis is apparently familiar with the stratagems casually employed by overzealous federal prosecutors that can look like dirty pool — for instance, turning witnesses with janky charges, setting perjury traps, or, in the separate case of General Flynn, threatening to bankrupt a person for lawyers’ fees to defend himself against Mickey Mouse charges.
The Deep State — and when I use that term, I mean the swollen, entrenched, permanent federal bureaucracy and their water-carrier corps of lobbyists, policy wonks, contractors, and media mouthpieces — may not get away with this inquisition. It’s possible that Judge Ellis may, at least, send the Manafort case to a different jurisdiction, the Eastern District Court of Virginia, if he doesn’t throw the case out altogether on the grounds of prosecutorial overreach. The latter would be a blow against Special Counsel Mueller. It ought to be grounds for his dismissal. And what’s left of the Russia case after that? General Flynn’s guilty plea for lying to FBI agents about whether he had a conversation with the Russian ambassador?
Behind the disintegrating RussiaGate campaign is a much deeper, darker swamp of official misconduct at the FBI and DOJ, for which there is already a ton of evidence that has been made public and which seems worthy of prosecution.
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