Fishing Expedition (def)– any inquiry carried on without any clearly defined plan or purpose in the hope of discovering useful information….dictionary.com
After more than a year of incriminating media coverage, less than half of Americans (49 percent) believe it’s “likely” that Donald Trump committed a crime connected to Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election. That’s according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll that was released in December. And, while a mere 19 percent of the people surveyed think there’s “solid evidence” to support the allegations, 30 percent believe it’s “just a suspicion”. (Another 44 percent think it’s unlikely Trump committed a crime.)
If the media was hoping to persuade the American people that Trump is guilty of a crime, they have a long way to go.
Not surprisingly, attitudes about Trump’s alleged “collusion” break down along party lines. 82 percent of Republicans believe that Trump did NOT commit a crime, while 74 percent of Democrats think that he did.
The margin of difference seems to reflect the political bias’ of the interviewees. Simply put, people who don’t like Trump, are more likely to think he’s in bed with the Russians, while the people who like him, think it’s baloney.
But there is one matter upon which both Democrats and Republicans agree. Mueller. Take a look at this from nbcsandiego.com:
“…at this point few Americans have high confidence in either Mueller or Congress to fairly investigate the issue. Of the special counsel’s investigation, just 26 percent say they’re very or extremely confident that it will be fair and impartial, while an additional 31 percent are moderately confident.” (The AP-NORC poll surveyed 1,020 adults from Dec. 7-11 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel)
Why? Why do people have so little confidence in a man who the media has lauded as a thoroughly-honorable elder statesman with an impeccable record? Do they doubt that Mueller is the Eagle Scout he’s made out to be or are they merely skeptical of an investigation that yet to produce any solid evidence of Trump’s alleged culpability?
Neither. The skepticism about Mueller probably has less to do with the man, than it does with Washington in general. Most people see the Capitol as a dysfunctional politically-charged environment where the prospects of a truly independent and impartial investigation are slim to none. In Washington, political infighting and gridlock are the norm not the exception. The data simply suggests that the people know what’s going on.
In the last few weeks, the Republicans have launched an aggressive campaign to defend Trump by trying to discredit the Mueller investigation. The editors at the Wall Street Journal spearheaded the charge with an article titled “Mueller Should Step Down”. The editorial highlights recent disturbing revelations about highly-partisan activist agents who had been working under Mueller (Peter Strzok) and who were clearly focused on inflicting maximum damage on Trump. Mueller removed Strzok nearly six months ago, but withheld the information from Congress which should have been notified about the matter. The WSJ sees this and other entanglements between Mueller and high-ranking officials at the Department of Justice and the FBI as suspicious enough to warrant his resignation.
Here’s an excerpt from the WSJ editorial: “The latest news supports our view that Mr. Mueller is too conflicted to investigate the FBI and should step down in favor of someone more credible. The investigation would surely continue, though perhaps with someone who doesn’t think his job includes protecting the FBI and Mr. Comey from answering questions about their role in the 2016 election.” (Wall Street Journal)
The WSJ’s charges are not without merit, as are the claims that Mueller has loaded his legal team with Hillary contributors (“a partisan pack of wolves”) or that both the DOJ and the FBI have been stonewalling congress for vital information they need to conduct a thorough investigation. But that doesn’t change the fact that the attacks on Mueller’s credibility are also part of an ambitious strategy to end the investigation and terminate the Special Counsel. This is from the World Socialist Web Site:
“Mueller’s investigation has been the target of furious attacks for the past week by right-wing media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Breitbart News and Fox News, with increasingly strident denunciations and demands for Mueller’s ouster. The tone was set by Jeannine Pirro, a former municipal judge who hosts a Fox News program. She demanded not merely the removal of Mueller, but the imprisonment of FBI officials for alleged political crimes against the president. “The only thing that remains is whether we have the fortitude to not just fire these people immediately, but to take them out in cuffs,” she said during a Saturday night broadcast….
The entire furor may have been instigated by the White House as part of an effort to put maximum pressure on Mueller to rein in his investigation and bring it to a conclusion….The private emails between the two high level FBI officials, Strzok and Page, confirms what has long been evident: that Clinton had the overwhelming support of senior officials in the military-intelligence apparatus, who regarded Trump as an unstable and potentially dangerous wielder of the powers of the commander-in-chief.” (“Political warfare escalates over Mueller investigation into Trump-Russia claims”, World Socialist Web Site)
While it’s clear that this political cage-match is going to persist for some time to come, we’d like to make two points. First, that there was never sufficient reason to appoint a Special Counsel. The threshold for making such an appointment should have been probable cause, that is, deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should have shown why he thought there was ‘reasonable basis to believe that a crime had been committed.’ That’s what’s required under the Fourth Amendment, and that’s the standard that should have been met. But Rosenstein ignored that rule because it improved the Special Counsel’s chances of netting indictments.
Even so, there’s no evidence that a crime has been committed. None. And that’s been the main criticism of the investigation from the get go. It’s fine for the New York Times and the Washington Post to reiterate the same tedious, unsubstantiated claims over and over again ad nauseam. Their right to fabricate news is guaranteed under the First Amendment and they take full advantage of that privilege. But it’s different for professional attorney operating at the highest level of the Justice Department to appoint a Special Counsel to rummage through all manner of private or privileged documents, transcripts, tax returns, private conversations, intercepted phone calls and emails– of the democratically-elected president– based on nothing more than the spurious and politically-motivated allegations made in the nation’s elite media or by flagrantly-partisan actors operating in the Intelligence Community or law enforcement.
Can you see the problem here? This is not just an attack on Trump (whose immigration, environmental, health care, tax and foreign policies I personally despise.) It is an attempt to roll back the results of the election by bogging him down in legal proceedings making it impossible for him to govern. These attacks are not just on Trump, they’re on the legitimate authority of the people to choose their own leaders in democratic elections. That’s what’s at stake. And that’s why there must be a high threshold for launching an investigation like this.
Consider this: On May 17, 2017, when Rosenstein announced his decision to appoint a Special Counsel he said the following:
“In my capacity as acting attorney general I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter. My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.” Rosenstein wrote that his responsibility is to ensure a “full and thorough investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.” As special counsel, Mueller is charged with investigating “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.”
That’s not good enough. There’s no evidence that “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” were improper, unethical or illegal. Nor do any such presumed “links and/or coordination” imply a crime was committed. Rather, the loosey-goosy standard Rosenstein has applied is an invitation for an open ended fishing expedition aimed at derailing the political agenda of the elected government. This puts too much power in the hands of unelected agents in the bureaucracy who may be influenced by powerbrokers operating behind the scenes who want to disrupt, obstruct, or paralyze the government. And this, in fact, is exactly what is taking place presently.
Naturally, a broad-ranging mandate like Rosenstein’s will result in excesses, and it has. Of the four people who have been caught up in Mueller’s expansive dragnet, exactly zero have been indicted on charges even remotely connected to the original allegation of “collusion with Russia to sway the presidential election in Trump’s favor.” Clearly, people’s civil liberties are being violated to conduct a political jihad on an unpopular president and his aids.
So, how does one establish whether there’s a reasonable basis to believe that a crime has been committed?
The daily blather in the media does not meet that standard nor does the much ballyhooed Intelligence Community Assessment that was supposed to provide ironclad proof of Russian meddling in the elections. The ICA even offered this sweeping disclaimer at the beginning of the report which admits that the intelligence gathered therein should not in any way be construed to represent solid evidence of anything.
Here’s the from the report:
“Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents.”
So while the media frequently refers to the ICA as providing proof of Russia meddling, the report’s own authors suggest that any such judgments should be taken with a very large grain of salt. Nothing is certain, information is “incomplete or fragmentary”, and the entire report is based on what-amounts-to ‘educated guesswork.’
Bottom line: There is no proof of hacking, there is no proof of collusion, there is no proof of meddling, and the ICA makes it perfectly clear that the Intelligence Community analysts make no such claims in their report. Thus, there is no ‘reasonable basis to believe that a crime had been committed” or that there is any legitimate reason to appoint a Special Counsel.
If that’s the case, then we must ask ourselves: Is Donald Trump entitled to the same legal treatment and civil rights as every other American citizen? If he is, than Rosenstein should be required to make his case, show that there is reasonable basis to believe that a crime has been committed” or terminate the Special Counsel immediately.
The second point we want to make, relates to Mueller himself who–far from being a “stand-up fellow” with a spotless record, and an unshakable commitment to principle–is not the exemplar people seem to think he is. In fact, his personal integrity and credibility are greatly in doubt. Here’s a little background on Mueller from former-FBI Special Agent Colleen Rowley who was named Time’s Person of the Year in 2002:
“Mueller’s FBI was also severely criticized by Department of Justice Inspector Generals finding the FBI overstepped the law improperly serving hundreds of thousands of “national security letters” to obtain private (and irrelevant) metadata on citizens, and for infiltrating nonviolent anti-war groups under the guise of investigating “terrorism.”…
… Comey and Mueller were complicit with implementing a form of martial law, perpetrated via secret Office of Legal Counsel memos mainly written by John Yoo and predicated upon Yoo’s singular theories of absolute “imperial” or “war presidency” powers, and requiring Ashcroft every 90 days to renew certification of a “state of emergency.”
Mueller was even okay with the CIA conducting torture programs after his own agents warned against participation. Agents were simply instructed not to document such torture, and any “war crimes files” were made to disappear. Not only did “collect it all” surveillance and torture programs continue, but Mueller’s (and then Comey’s) FBI later worked to prosecute NSA and CIA whistleblowers who revealed these illegalities…
Mueller didn’t speak the truth about a war he knew to be unjustified. He didn’t speak out against torture. He didn’t speak out against unconstitutional surveillance. And he didn’t tell the truth about 9/11.” (“Comey and Mueller: Russia-gate’s Mythical Heroes”, Colleen Rowley, Counterpunch)
Illegal spying on American citizens? Infiltration of nonviolent anti-war groups? Martial law? Torture??
This is NOT how Mueller is portrayed in the media, is it?
The fact is, Mueller is no elder statesman or paragon of virtue. He’s a political assassin whose task is to take down Trump at all cost. Unfortunately for Mueller, the credibility of his investigation is beginning to wane as conflicts of interest mount and public confidence dwindles. After 18 months of relentless propaganda and political skullduggery, the Russia-gate fiction is beginning to unravel.