Over the weekend, legal eagle Andrew McCarthy had a column in NATIONAL REVIEW outlining the ways a sit-down between President Trump and special counsel Robert Mueller might go. Even though Trump considers himself to be completely innocent of the accusations of collusion with Russia, as well as obstruction or even the intent to obstruct, the prosecutor will still construct a trap. Mueller might not obtain anything that would stand up in a court of law, but he doesn’t need to. if his goal is Trump’s impeachment by Congress, and the Democrats win the midterms, he hardly has to give them anything at all. The drop of a hat will do it.
For example, in a court of law, a charge of obstruction is supposed to be predicated on illegal acts, or at least criminal intent. So far, there is no crime and no evidence of criminal intent. But McCarthy uses the thorny issue of exactly why Comey was fired to illustrate how skilled interrogators can lead an innocent person to become evasive. Though it seems obvious that Trump was mostly upset by Comey’s refusal to state publicly that he wasn’t the target of an investigation, his comments have been all over the map, and a viper, I mean experienced questioner, like Mueller would know just how to corner him. (One point McCarthy doesn’t stress, however, is that Trump wouldn’t HAVE to answer questions about actions taken that are within his power as President. He doesn’t have to justify such actions, and surely his lawyer will have supplied him with chapter and verse of the pertinent law to offer Mueller if and when the time comes.)
At the time McCarthy wrote this column, Mueller had just announced that the President was not a target of his investigation at this point (operative words: “at this point”). Hearing this no doubt made Trump feel relieved and even more eager to talk to Mueller and put an end to the legal mess. But doing so would not end it; it would most likely do the opposite, raising more issues and laying the legal groundwork for charges such as making false statements.
No less a legal mind than Alan Dershowitz has said it’s possible to tell the truth and still be charged with perjury. The arbiter on that will be Mueller; if Trump says something that’s even the slightest bit different from someone else’s testimony, Mueller gets to decide which version is the truth and who is lying. McCarthy reminds us that Mueller charged Michael Flynn with making false statements even though his interrogators said they thought he was being truthful.
If they can’t get him on perjury, they’ll go for corrupt intent. They’ll try to establish that the President’s description of his thought process can’t be trusted on any given issue, because he’s just all over the place. They’ll point out the inconsistent things he’s said (and tweeted) about Comey. They’ll maintain that Trump fired Comey because of the Russia investigation but that he just won’t admit it. Again, this might not prove obstruction in a court of law, but Mueller doesn’t have to do that, at least if he gets a Democratic Congress. They’ll take it from there. And, as McCarthy says, they’ll define obstruction with “a certain elasticity.”
McCarthy warns of what Trump is dealing with: “I am here to tell you that these lawyers are ruthlessly competent. Yes, Trump has been in a lot of litigation, and he has sat for many a deposition. But he has not climbed into the ring with this breed of adversary before, not with this kind of jeopardy at stake.”
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Anyone who doubts Mueller’s ferocity need only look at what he did on Monday, after McCarthy's column was in the can. He coordinated with the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York to conduct raids on the property of Trump’s personal lawyer –- that’s RAIDS, plural; one on his office, one on his residence, and one on a hotel room. Attorney-client privilege be damned; Mueller appears to have taken whatever he wanted. This shocking action seems to have crossed a line into a kind of war. The bar is extremely high for this kind of behavior, which apparently occurred with the blessing of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who should have recused himself from this case at the start.VOT
Perhaps this was Mueller’s attempt to goad Trump into firing him. If Democrats take Congress in November, firing Mueller will put Trump on board the impeachment train just as easily as anything Mueller could have charged him with. I have a feeling Mueller would gladly make that sacrifice.
UPDATE: After the (count ‘em) three raids were carried out on Trump attorney Michael Cohen, Andrew McCarthy wrote an update that breaks down the “collusion” –- good word in this context –- between Robert Mueller’s team, the DOJ and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, which actually did the raiding. It also addresses the stunning legal double standard regarding campaign contributions:
President Obama easily settled a claim that his campaign had hid the sources of nearly $2 million in large donations and accepted more than $1.3 million in illegal contributions, while Trump is mired in a likely Constitutional crisis and the threat of impeachment over one payment of $130,000 that may or may not even be considered a campaign contribution.
As McCarthy points out, “...what was not a crime in the Obama days is the crime of the century now.”
Best to read the whole thing…
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