From Smirking Chimp
What Robert Mueller brings to the Russia probe
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As special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation moves closer to Donald Trump, there is a concerted effort by the president's apologists to shut it down. Commentators on Fox News and Republican Congress members are attacking Mueller, causing speculation that the special counsel's days are numbered.
Since his investigation began in May, Mueller has already obtained two indictments and two guilty pleas. Most recently, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI. Although he could have been charged with more serious crimes, Flynn secured the deal by promising to cooperate with prosecutors and provide evidence against other, as yet unnamed, individuals. Flynn's guilty plea brings Mueller's investigation into the White House.
The president himself has cause for concern, particularly since Mueller subpoenaed financial records from Deutsche Bank, one of the largest lenders to Trump companies. "Since 1998, the bank has led or participated in loans of at least $2.5 billion to companies affiliated with Mr. Trump," the Wall Street Journal reported. That figure doesn't count "at least another $1 billion more in loan commitments that Deutsche Bank made to Trump-affiliated entities."
Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General (AG) Rod Rosenstein after AG Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation. Rosenstein authorized Mueller to investigate "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump" as well as "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation."
In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee last week, Rosenstein expressed confidence in Mueller, saying there was no good cause to fire the special counsel. Rosenstein testified:
"Based on what I know, I believe Director Mueller is appropriately remaining in his scope and conducting himself appropriately, and in the event there is any credible allegation of misconduct by anybody on his staff, that he is taking appropriate action."
Rosenstein was alluding to a recent GOP complaint against Mueller. FBI agent Peter Strzok, a former member of Mueller's team, sent anti-Trump messages to his girlfriend during the presidential campaign. When the messages were discovered, Mueller removed Strzok from the investigation. Nevertheless, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway declared that Strzok's inclusion on the Mueller team was evidence that "the fix was in against Donald Trump from the beginning."
Mueller is also being attacked for obtaining "many tens of thousands" of emails, including messages from Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, from the General Services Administration (GSA), a government agency that hosted the email system for the presidential transition. Kory Langhofer, counsel for the transition team, wrote a letter to congressional committees complaining that the provision and use of the emails may violate privilege rules and the Fourth Amendment.
But Peter Carr, a spokesperson for Mueller's office, told The Hill, "When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner's consent or appropriate criminal process."
GSA deputy counsel Lenny Lowentritt said in an interview with BuzzFeed that the Trump transition team was told that any material "would not be held back in any law enforcement" situation. "Therefore," he said, "no expectation of privacy can be assumed." Norman Eisen, deputy general counsel for Obama's transition team, agrees. He tweeted, "I warned everyone: there is NO expectation of privacy in your transition emails."
In order to run afoul of the Fourth Amendment, there must be a reasonable expectation of privacy in the documents obtained.
Indeed, if Langhofer felt his legal arguments had merit, he would appeal to a judge, instead of simply writing to Congress.
The talking heads at Fox News are also fanning the anti-Mueller flames. This is particularly disturbing because Trump, whose favorite television show is "Fox & Friends," parrots much of what he sees and hears during his reported four to eight hours of daily TV watching. (Trump denied he watches that much television, also tweeting that he seldom watches CNN or MSNBC.)
Sean Hannity called the special counsel "the head of the snake" and "a disgrace to the American justice system." Greg Jarrett stated, "I think we now know that the Mueller investigation is illegitimate and corrupt." Laura Ingraham declared, "What a total travesty, they should all step aside ... including Bob Mueller." Jeanine Pirro said, "[The FBI and the Justice Department need] to be cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired, but who need to be taken out in handcuffs."
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