The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewAndrew Napolitano Archive
The Tip of a Prosecutorial Iceberg?
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information


Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Troll, or LOL with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used once per hour.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

Earlier this week, the government revealed that a grand jury sitting in Washington, D.C., indicted a former Trump presidential campaign chairman and his former deputy and business partner for numerous felonies.

Both were accused of working as foreign agents and failing to report that status to the federal government, using shell corporations to launder income and obstruction of justice by lying to the federal government.

The financial crimes are alleged to have occurred from 2008 to 2014, and the obstruction charges from 2014 to 2017. At the same time it announced the above, the government revealed that a low-level former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and become a government witness.

Does any of this relate to President Donald Trump? Here is the back story.

At the same time that Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates were guiding the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016, Russian agents were manipulating American social media sites so as to arouse chaos in general and animosity toward Hillary Clinton in particular. The Department of Justice appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as independent counsel to determine whether any Americans had criminally helped the Russians.

The alleged crimes of Manafort and Gates appear to have nothing to do with Trump, nor have they any facial relationship to the Russians. So why were these two indicted by a grand jury hearing evidence about alleged American assistance to Russian interference with the 2016 presidential campaign?

When prosecutors confront a complex series of potentially criminal events, they often do not know at the outset of their investigation where the evidence will lead them. Sometimes they come upon a person who they believe has knowledge of facts they seek and that person declines to speak with them. Such a refusal to speak to the government is perfectly lawful in America, yet it often triggers a prosecution of the potential witness so that prosecutors may squeeze him — not literally, of course — for evidence to which they believe he can lead them.

The ultimate target of Mueller’s investigation is President Trump. It is standard operating procedure when prosecutors have a high-level target to charge those below the target with something just to get them to cooperate. Though the charges against Manafort and Gates need not be related to the Russians or to Trump, they must be real. It’s clear they are, as each is facing more than 20 years in prison. Mueller believes that that prospect is enough to dispatch their lawyers to make deals with him.

The danger of such a deal is that Manafort and Gates may offer to tell Mueller what they think he wants to hear — even if it is not truthful — so that they can have their prison exposure lessened.


There is more danger in the seemingly smallest of this week’s Mueller-generated events. Papadopoulos was interviewed voluntarily by the FBI on Jan. 27. He was arrested on July 27 for lying to FBI agents during that interview. In a secret federal court proceeding on Oct. 5, he pleaded guilty.

In a profound miscarriage of justice, federal law permits FBI agents to lie to us but makes it a crime for us to lie to them. Nevertheless, why was the Papadopoulos guilty plea kept secret? What was he doing between his arrest and his plea and between his plea and its revelation?

Judges are very reluctant to close their courtroom doors in any criminal proceeding, even if both the prosecutors and the defense counsel request it. The public has a right to know whom the government is prosecuting and what deals or punishments it may be obtaining. Yet if prosecutors can convince a judge that public knowledge of the existence of a guilty plea might harm an ongoing criminal investigation, the judge can keep the plea secret.

That is apparently what happened here. It appears that Papadopoulos was gathering evidence for Mueller, probably by talking to his former Trump campaign colleagues while wired — a process that would have been fruitless if his guilty plea had become public.

Because Papadopoulos admitted under oath that he lied to FBI agents, the courts will treat his guilt as certain. That gives Mueller great leverage with him. It also gives Papadopoulos great incentive to help Mueller — truthfully or not — because he knows he is going to federal prison. He also knows that if Mueller likes what he hears, a five-year prison term could be reduced to six months.

Hence, Papadopoulos could be a treasure-trove for Mueller on the production of any evidence linking the Trump campaign and the Russians and any evidence of Trump’s personal knowledge or acquiescence. Papadopoulos has already produced a wild tale about meetings with a Russian professor and a female Russian government agent in London that the FBI apparently believes.

Is this any way to conduct a prosecution?

I have argued for years that squeezing defendants and witnesses by threats and promises to get them to spill the beans is a form of extortion or bribery — not much different from the extortion and bribery that the government regularly prosecutes. “You tell us what we want to hear and we will ask a judge to go easy on you. If not, you will suffer great losses.” It is bad enough that the feds can legally lie to us and get away with it, but can they also legally threaten and bribe witnesses to testify against us and get away with it? Can they do this to the president?

In a word, yes. My arguments have fallen on deaf ears. Squeezing witnesses and defendants is a way of life for federal prosecutors. For the president, it is the tip of a dangerous iceberg.

Copyright 2017 Andrew P. Napolitano. Distributed by

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Constitutional Theory, Donald Trump, Russia 
Hide 12 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
  1. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    “… in the summer of 2016, Russian agents were manipulating American social media sites so as to arouse chaos in general and animosity toward Hillary Clinton in particular.”

    Does this uncritical recitation of the current version of the Russia-as-enemy premise strike anyone else here as odd? I don’t know how much of the so-called “manipulation” occurred, nor do I care. It used to go without saying that Americans needn’t be protected by their Uncle Sam from ANYONE’s speech, whatever its source. But it’s now a mainstream convention that the internet needs an iron curtain. (And Imperial America feigning outrage over foreign influence in politics is, to any intelligent critical thinker, hypocrisy. Or did I miss Mr. Lavrov passing out cookies in Ferguson?)

    I have appreciated him for years, but Mr. Napolitano lately is carrying more Establishment water. When I noted something similar in a couple of Mr. Buchanan’s articles a while back, it seemed more innocent, a good old guy with a couple of blind spots. This, though, comes across as guileful.

    • Replies: @MarkinLA
    , @Issac
    , @jtgw
  2. MarkinLA says:

    Nobody who wants to be “respectable” is willing to say that the whole Russian manipulation drivel is nonsense so they start out by agreeing with it. However, they don’t realize they are defeating most of their argument from the start when they do that.

    They don’t realize that if the Russians are such devious evil doers, then our government must be just as devious and unmerciful in ferreting out their traitorous minions among us.

    • Replies: @Grandpa Charlie
  3. 93% conviction rate makes the US one of the best in the world at sending people to prison, but we still trail Japan, at 99%. Of course, in order to conserve their resources, the Japanese tend to go after cases they can legitimately win on the merits rather than making up BS process crimes that can be used to trip up anybody.

    “Show me the man, and I’ll show you the crime.” — Lavrentiy Beria, Chief of NKVD under Stalin

  4. Issac says:

    Sides are being chosen within the beltway, it seems. The plebs wait with baited breaths for the long knives to come out.

    • Replies: @Bill Jones
  5. “I have argued for years that squeezing defendants and witnesses by threats and promises to get them to spill the beans is a form of extortion or bribery — not much different from the extortion and bribery that the government regularly prosecutes.”
    This article deals with the tip of the foul, filthy iceberg which is the US criminal justice system.

  6. The Scalpel says: • Website

    “Russian agents were manipulating American social media sites so as to arouse chaos in general and animosity toward Hillary Clinton in particular. ”

    Wow. Judge? Really? Well, Mr. Judge, on what evidence do you base these charges? What standard of evidence are you using? Is it, beyond a reasonable doubt, more likely than not, or some other standard?

    You offer no evidence, of course you then cannot weigh the evidence, so your judgement is baseless. In short, you are full of horse excrement. My hunch is that you are on the take, and prostituting your mouth, and pen to the highest bidder. You are a disgrace

  7. @MarkinLA

    Nobody who wants to be “respectable” is to say that the whole Russian manipulation drivel is nonsense so they start out by agreeing with it. — MarkinLA

    More likely they start out not by agreeing with the drivel but by pretending to agree with it.

    I would call this the 9/11 gambit. It’s like a gambit in a game of chess, where you give away a piece for the sake of gaining a winning position. I call it the “9/11 gambit” because that’s where it started back when there were still a significant number of members of the public who believed the official 9/11 story … so many commentators would pretend that the official story had some validity in order to avoid losing that (formerly) substantial part of the audience, so as to be able to make some progress in some other limited story that is being neglected. Case in point: Tom Engelhardt’s Osama Bin Laden’s America.

    But the thing is that like Engelhardt, Napolitano is behind the times. At this point, if Grandpa knows, let’s face it, everybody knows.

    Thanks to alternative media and word of mouth, everybody knows … that 9/11 was an attack on America by traitorous elements within USA’s government and others (Israelis?) … and now everybody knows that the Clintons are hopelessly corrupt and deeply compromised to the point of treason … so now we know also that the same is true of the prosecutor, Mueller … sure, he had a fine record as a commissioned officer during the Vietnam War … and the same is true of John Kerry … but they are all complicit in treason at this point in time. They all got into the habit of giving away gambits so as not to offend the mythological public out there that still believes in official Washington.

    If Grandpa knows, everybody knows.

    Can we do anything about it? Maybe. Maybe we could change the landscape significantly if we could build up a strong clamor for REPEAL THE PATRIOT Act. That could anyway be a start back toward constitutional government.

  8. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Only 7 comments, 5 critical and 0 supportive of the author’s Establishmentarian RussiaGate premise.

    Critically thinking people are increasingly questioning the Empire’s assertions.

  9. Why anybody, under any circumstances agrees to talk to any-one in the Law Perversion Industry is absolutely beyond me.

  10. jtgw says:

    I’m not sure I know what the Judge personally believes about “Russian meddling,” but I expect he is being lawyerly here and refusing to gainsay the official “findings” of national intelligence agencies on the probability of that meddling. The idea is that, even if the government is correct and Russian meddling was a real thing, what does that mean about the current investigation? Does it justify the FBI using any means or tactics to extract information to bring down the Trump presidency? He answers this quite clearly in the negative.

  11. The Scalpel says: • Website

    “I expect he is being lawyerly here and refusing to gainsay the official “findings” of national intelligence agencies on the probability of that meddling.”

    Good thought, but I disagree. I am sure Mr. Napolitano is familiar with the legal term “allegedly.” He could very well have used this term without prejudicing either side of that issue. No, Napolitano is signaling with that statement. He is signaling to those who are pushing that agenda that he is their willing accomplice.

    I suspect the above, in fact, is Napolitano’s main motive in writing the article. He put that statement front and center. Why? My hunch is that Napolitanohas political aspirations himself. We will see. He is corrupt. This is beyond a eeasonable doubt. He sent that signal intentionally

Current Commenter

Leave a Reply - Comments on articles more than two weeks old will be judged much more strictly on quality and tone

 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments become the property of The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Andrew Napolitano Comments via RSS
Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?
Hundreds of POWs may have been left to die in Vietnam, abandoned by their government—and our media.
The evidence is clear — but often ignored
The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.