After spending millions of dollars on his 15-lawyer dream team, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted Paul Manafort primarily for failing to file paperwork that many Democrats also failed to file. Indeed, a group co-founded by Hillary Clinton’s top adviser John Podesta failed to timely file the same paperwork that Manafort allegedly overlooked.
Yet Mueller did not indict anyone in Podesta’s group, or anyone opposed to Trump. The American people elected Donald Trump as president after he promised to prosecute Hillary for her apparent corruption, and now the exact opposite is transpiring as it is Hillary’s side that is bilking the American taxpayers to lock up Trump supporters.
Many innocent people are being forced to spend enormous legal fees to defend against the out-of-control Mueller, who is acting like an independent federal prosecutor even though that law was terminated in 1999. There was nearly unanimous consensus after abuses by independent federal prosecutors in the 1980s and 90s that such spectacles should not recur, yet Mueller apparently has carte blanche to pursue President Trump and his supporters.
Mueller was installed under the pretext of being merely a “special counsel” for the purpose of looking into possible interference by Russia in the 2016 presidential election. Instead, Mueller has acted without accountability or real oversight in going far beyond the outer limits of his charter.
Nothing in Mueller’s indictment of Manafort has a shred of evidence connecting President Donald Trump or his Administration to the unusual charges against Manafort, which relate to activities predating his involvement with Trump’s campaign. Where’s the beef that justifies giving Mueller a blank check on the U.S. Treasury to engage in such a partisan, one-sided witch-hunt against persons, rather than any real crimes that would be within Mueller’s authorization?
The real purpose of Mueller’s bizarre indictment of Manafort is not to end lobbying on behalf of foreign interests, which is rampant in D.C., but to intimidate former and current Trump officials into playing ball with Mueller’s war against Trump. Already many potential targets of Mueller’s one-sided investigation are being pushed to the brink of bankruptcy by having to hire $1,000-per-hour attorneys simply to defend themselves against alleged crimes that never happened.
Mueller’s top prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, has a track record of over-the-top prosecutions ultimately reversed on appeal. As pointed out in a stinging exposé at TheHill.com, Weissmann had a lead role in the destruction of the accounting firm of Arthur Andersen and the loss of its 85,000 jobs, by seeking a conviction that the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously reversed, after it was too late to save the company.
Supposedly Mueller’s conduct is made constitutional by a modicum of supervision and accountability that he should be receiving from the Department of Justice. But judging by Mueller’s off-the-rails indictment of Manafort, Mueller is not being reined in by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or anyone else.
It is time to do so. President Trump, for whom the Department of Justice works, should begin by demanding an accounting of how much money Mueller’s team is wasting, and Trump should tweet that information directly to the American people.
With Attorney General Jeff Sessions having recused himself from this issue, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein is supposedly in charge of Mueller. But Trump can fire Rosenstein, and should do so if there is not immediate transparency on Mueller’s expenses and significant changes that rein in the runaway prosecutions.
Mueller’s team is obviously picking the targets and then searching for crimes, even obscure ones, to charge that target with. “Therein is the most dangerous power of the prosecutor: that he will pick people that he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted,” as renowned U.S. Attorney General (and future Supreme Court Justice) Robert H. Jackson observed in 1940.
The indictment against Manafort even seems to be written more for the newspapers than for a court of law. “Conspiracy against the United States” shouts the first charge, a rarely used, politically misleading phrase.
The indictment also tosses in a laundry list of demands for forfeiture of assets, a widely criticized technique of prosecutors ordinarily reserved for drug kingpins and notorious criminals. But its message is for other Trump supporters: tell us what we want to hear, or you’ll lose your home too.
“With the law books filled with a great assortment of crimes,” the future Justice Jackson said to a gathering of U.S. Attorneys in 1940, “a prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone.” That is tyranny-by-prosecution, and Trump should instruct the Justice Department to stop it.
John and Andy Schlafly are sons of Phyllis Schlafly (1924-2016) whose 27th book, The Conservative Case for Trump, was published posthumously last year.