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Understand stakes of Mueller probe? If not, read this

Chelsea Schilling

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“Impeach him!” some Democrats cry, as they accuse the U.S. president of “colluding” with Russia to undermine the 2016 presidential election.

Americans can’t escape the apparent feeding frenzy: Every day, headlines screech with new plot twists in the alleged Trump-Russia saga.

The dramatic reports claim Russia hacked the U.S. election. Talking heads speculate that President Trump conspired with foreign actors to interfere in America’s democratic process. A special counsel is appointed to oversee the investigation into alleged collusion between Trump associates and Russian officials. In fact, some on the left insist, President Trump “has no idea that he’s going down” and “people might go to jail for the rest of their lives.”

But the facts show there’s something conspicuously missing in this never-ending, anti-Trump tale – something extraordinarily significant that can’t be overlooked.

There’s no crime.

That’s right. Five months into special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation – which has now cost taxpayers $7 million and permeated daily U.S. news headlines – the unanswered question remains: What actual crimes are being investigated?

‘No reason’ for Mueller’s probe at all

Andrew C. McCarthy

In fact, in an exclusive interview with WND, former top federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy dropped a bombshell of his own: Mueller’s investigation should have never even happened in the first place.

“In the absence of some suggestion there had been a violation of the criminal law, there’s no reason to appoint a prosecutor,” he explained. “The usual tradition in America – it’s the only prudent one, and it’s the only one you’ll want to abide if you don’t want to live in a scary country – is, we have a crime first, and then we appoint a prosecutor to investigate and prosecute the crime with investigators from the federal police, people like the FBI, etc. But you have the crime first and the evidence that a crime has occurred.

“What they did in the Russia investigation is they appointed a prosecutor first before they had evidence that there had been a violation of the criminal law,” McCarthy said, “and they told him, ‘Go on ahead and try to find a crime.'”

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If U.S. authorities suspected Russia attacked America’s elections or institutions, that’s a well-grounded reason to launch a counterintelligence investigation, he said.

“A counterintelligence investigation is importantly different from a criminal investigation,” McCarthy said. “A criminal investigation is designed to prosecute crimes in court. A counterintelligence investigation is designed to understand and analyze foreign threats to American interests. And it’s done in a variety of ways. One of the ways is trying to figure out who is working on behalf of foreign governments in our country and to try to understand what they’re doing. … In a counterintelligence investigation, it’s really the country that we’re concerned about. Whereas criminal investigations are designed to develop felony charges against identifiable people for a specific crime.”

In fact, prosecutors like Mueller and his team play little to no role in DOJ counterintelligence investigations for a variety of reasons, he said.

“Prosecutors don’t get assigned to that,” McCarthy explained. “The only time in counterintelligence that they ever need a prosecutor is if they have to go to the FISA court to try to get a warrant to monitor someone who is a suspected agent of a foreign power. But even then, there’s a special unit in the Justice Department that does that, and the only thing the prosecutor would do is get the warrant for the FBI. They don’t thereafter participate in the monitoring or the analysis.”

Why don’t prosecutors play a more active role in counterintelligence probes? The answer is simple, he said.

“There’s nothing about having a law degree or being a lawyer that makes a person an expert in intelligence collection or analysis. It’s not lawyer work,” McCarthy explained. “They employed Mueller, a prosecutor, to run a counterintelligence investigation, which was unnecessary. And he’s conducting a criminal investigation under the guise of a counterintelligence investigation despite the absence of evidence that there were crimes.”

Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller, left, acknowledges applause during then-President Barack Obama’s remarks on June 21, 2013. Obama had announced James Comey, right, as his nominee to succeed Mueller as FBI director (Official White House photo)

But what about ‘collusion’? 

“That’s silly to say there’s no crime,” some Democrats and Trump detractors say. “President Trump colluded with Russia.”

But there’s no such thing as “collusion,” legally speaking.

Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz

“In the law, ‘collusion’ is a nonsense term. It doesn’t mean anything,” McCarthy said. “Collusion is just concerted activity, not necessarily illegal, even though it sounds like a dark term the way they use it.”

Lifelong Democrat Alan Dershowitz, a prominent Harvard Law School professor and constitutional scholar, has echoed McCarthy’s statements concerning so-called “collusion.”

“It’s not a crime simply to collude,” Dershowitz explained in a moot court appearance at John Jay College. “And it’s extremely, extremely dangerous to target people because you don’t like them.”

Dershowitz noted that anyone could be targeted by a prosecutor under that standard, if authorities are allowed to twist and expand the law to charge a person.

The Harvard professor quoted Lavrentiy Beria, the former head of the Soviet Union’s KGB who once told Joseph Stalin, “Show me the man, and I’ll find you the crime.”

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“That’s what’s going on in this country today,” Dershowitz warned. “It’s going on by Democrats trying to target Republicans, Republicans trying to target Democrats. … [L]et’s not invent crimes out of political sins. Our basic argument has always to be distinguishing sin from crime. Sin? The punishment comes from on [high]. Crime? It’s we who impose the punishment for crime. This is all about the rule of law. This is not about Donald Trump.”

Dershowitz, who voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election and doesn’t believe she should be targeted with criminal investigations, either, added: “I’m not here to defend Donald Trump. I’m here to defend the rule of law.”

WND contacted Mueller’s office and asked, “Since ‘collusion’ is not actually a crime, what charge is Mueller pursuing in this investigation?”

Joshua Stueve, spokesman for the Special Counsel’s Office, told WND: “We are complying with the order that appointed us. In doing so, we are investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, including any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign.”

But McCarthy said prosecutors are actually concerned with conspiracy, or an agreement by two or more people to violate a law.

By the very definition of conspiracy, the actors must agree to commit a crime. And having contact with Russians isn’t a crime.

“What would make it criminal, potentially, is if you could prove two things,” McCarthy said. “Number one, that there actually was a Russian espionage operation against the 2016 election. When the intelligence community talks about espionage, what they describe it in their report is cyber espionage, which is hacking. So you’d have to show that the Russians did that.

“And secondly, that Trump people, whether their associates or campaign officials or what have you, were knowingly complicit in Russia’s espionage operation.”

But to date, no physical evidence of a 2016 presidential election hacking by Russia has been made public.

In September, President Obama’s secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, told Congress, “I know of no evidence that last year ballots were altered or votes were suppressed through a cyberattack.”

What do YOU think? Is Mueller probe of Trump off the rails? Sound off in today’s WND poll

Obstruction of justice?

Mueller and his team may be building a case alleging President Trump obstructed justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey and attempting to protect himself and his aides during the Russia probe. Several headlines Monday indicated he has his sights on possible obstruction charges. (When WND asked if Mueller’s team is seeking to build a case against Trump for obstruction, the office declined comment.)

But, as Dershowitz has noted, under the Constitution, the president has the power to terminate any executive branch official at will. And the FBI director is an executive branch official. So President Trump was well within his authority to fire Comey, even for no reason at all.

McCarthy noted: “Whether you think firing Comey was a good idea or bad idea, the fact is the president has the power to terminate any officer of the executive branch at will. He doesn’t need a reason. He could wake up Tuesday morning and say, ‘Gee, I feel like firing somebody,’ and he can fire the FBI director. He has that power because the only official in the executive branch who has power is the president. Everyone else in the executive branch is a delegate of the president’s power.

“You’re not going to be able to make an obstruction case out of the fact that Trump removed Comey. And you’re not going to be able to make an obstruction case out of the fact that Trump told Comey, ‘I’d really like to see you let the case go on [former national security adviser Michael] Flynn.'”

Former FBI Director James Comey testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, 2017 (Photo: Twitter)

Trump’s critics may believe the president’s reported appeals to Comey to drop the investigation of of his national security adviser were “an unsavory thing for the president to have done,” McCarthy said, but that argument for obstruction doesn’t hold water.

“Every federal prosecutor in the country every single day makes decisions on when to exercise prosecutorial discretion and to decide whether somebody who has committed a crime should be charged with it, whether it’s a worthwhile use of federal resources to prosecute this particular case,” he said. “It’s an executive power. And since prosecutors execute the president’s power – not their own power – it’s absurd to say the prosecutor has the power to do that kind of thing but the president doesn’t. You’re not going get an obstruction case out of that, either.”

However, that’s not to say a president cannot be accused of “obstruction of justice” as a basis for articles of impeachment.

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Where are the real charges and crimes?

Mueller’s team has charged two Trump associates with “process crimes” and two others with crimes unrelated to the Trump-Russia investigation.

However, none of the charges filed to date has gotten to the heart of the matter: Did President Trump conspire with Russia to undermine the 2016 election?

The charges filed thus far include the following:

Michael Flynn

Michael Flynn: The former national security adviser has been charged with making false statements to the FBI about communications he had in December 2016 with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, reportedly concerning sanctions the Obama administration had imposed against Russia at the time. Flynn’s time at the White House was extraordinarily brief, as he was forced to resign in February after it was revealed that he had misled White House officials about the sanctions discussions with the Russian ambassador.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort: The former campaign chairman for Trump was indicted on charges including conspiracy and money laundering. The charges, to which he pleaded not guilty, were unrelated to the Trump campaign, as Manafort was accused of using overseas shell companies to funnel millions in cash from lobbying deals into Ukraine. According to court documents, the charges against Manafort “are based on conduct stretching more than a decade-long period and involving numerous financial dealings.”

Richard Gates

Richard Gates: Manafort’s business partner, Richard Gates, pleaded not guilty to 12 charges, including money laundering and conspiracy against the U.S. The charges, which were unrelated to the Trump campaign, involved hidden payments between 2006 and 2016 that were allegedly laundered through U.S. and foreign corporations. Both Manafort and Gates have been ordered to home confinement and were forced to surrender their passports.

George Papadopoulos

George Papadopoulos: Described as a “low-level” Trump adviser who purportedly had limited access to the campaign, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI about his meeting with individuals who claimed to be tied to the Russian government. One of those individuals, described only as “female Russian national,” was Olga Vinogradova, who had lied about being Vladimir Putin’s “niece.” According to reports, the individuals claimed to have “thousands of emails” from Hillary Clinton. The White House said there had only been one meeting in March during which Trump came into contact with Papadopoulos.

Manafort and Gates were indicted for crimes arising out of their work on behalf of a Kremlin-connected Ukrainian political party. The indictments were unrelated to the Trump campaign. And McCarthy said the federal government may have a difficult time making the charges stick anyway because they’re based on “a very dubious theory of money laundering.”

“To take money from a lousy foreign government like this Ukrainian faction is not illegal,” he said. “So I think they’re going to have a hard time proving money laundering, and they’ve charged him with a bunch of these crimes of failing to register as a foreign agent, which is a crime the government I think has only charged like six times in 50 years. … So the only thing you can figure is that Mueller is trying to squeeze Manafort for whatever Manafort may know that could implicate Trump people in Russian activity in connection with the election. The government was investigating this for a year before Mueller even came on board. So you’d think if there was evidence like that, they would have it by now.”

As for Papadopolous and Flynn, they’ve been charged with “process crimes” for reportedly making false statements to the FBI during its investigation.

“It’s a crime committed to obstruct the investigative process, not a crime that is the underlying reason for having the investigative process in the first place,” McCarthy said. “So the telling thing about those two pleas, and the commonality of them with Manafort, is that they don’t have anything to do with collusion with Russia in connection with the 2016 election.”

And while Flynn and Papadopolous are known to have had contact with Russian individuals, McCarthy reminds observers that collusion is not a crime.

“Where Mueller is able to prove that there has been contact between Trump people and Russian people, he’s not close to being able to prove that anyone in the Trump camp knowingly was complicit in a Russian espionage conspiracy against the 2016 election,” McCarthy said. “To top that off, even if you accept – and I do – that Russia tried to interfere in the election, it’s a big difference between saying our intelligence agencies believe that happened and saying that a prosecutor could prove it beyond a reasonable doubt in court.”

When WND asked Mueller’s team if it is planning to file charges against anyone for actual conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, the office declined comment.

McCarthy said he doesn’t believe Mueller can prove in court that Russia even engaged in an espionage conspiracy, which means the prosecutor can’t show that anyone conspired in it. Even the contacts between Russians and Trump associates don’t appear to show any evidence of conspiracy, he said.

“It seems to me that the collusion case, which is the rationale for Mueller’s appointment in the first place, is obviously either not there at all or we can almost dismiss it out of hand,” McCarthy concluded.

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Impeachment? ‘You’re going to look like an idiot’

Assuming Mueller actually uncovers what he believes is a serious criminal offense committed by Trump, he wouldn’t actually prosecute the president.

Rather, he’d likely send the evidence to Congress to build a case for impeachment.

President Trump and wife Melania (Photo: U.S. Embassy in France)

In the case of impeachment, there doesn’t have to be evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the president committed “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“Impeachment is a political remedy. It’s not a legal one,” McCarthy explained. “So it doesn’t include all kinds of due-process protections that you have in the criminal trial proceedings or a legal trial proceeding. A high crime and misdemeanor is pretty much whatever Congress thinks it is. ”

But McCarthy said there’s a reason no president has been impeached and removed from office: It’s next to impossible to do.

“You’re never going to impeach a president, but the way it works, the House can return articles of impeachment with a simple majority, but the Senate needs a two-thirds supermajority to remove the president,” he explained. “That means you’re never going to remove a president from power unless he’s done something so egregious that there’s a consensus in the country that cuts across partisan lines and ideological lines that he needs to be removed. You’re not going to get that out of a frivolous article of impeachment. … If you don’t make a serious allegation, then you’re going to look like an idiot for raising impeachment. And that’s why it almost never happens.”

Is Mueller on a mission to get Trump impeached?

“I’m not sure that Mueller wants to impeach Trump, but I do think he’s exploring whether there is an impeachment case,” McCarthy said.

President Donald Trump salutes 195 Coast Guard cadets during the 136th U.S. Coast Guard Academy Commencement (Photo: Department of Defense)

Was Russia collusion probe based on dubious Trump ‘dossier’?

Former FBI Director James Comey told Congress that the FBI’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the presidential election began in late July 2016, nearly 18 months ago.

But something conspicuous had happened that month, just before the probe was launched.

Former British spy Christopher Steele compiled an anti-Trump dossier, which he said was given to the FBI “near the start of July.” But Steele didn’t compile the dossier on his own. He had been hired by the Washington-based intelligence firm Fusion GPS, which funded Steele’s research with cash from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

The Clinton- and DNC-funded dossier contained some curious allegations from Russian government sources and was published on the anti-Trump website Buzzfeed, which admitted, “The allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors.” The 35-page document included lewd allegations concerning Trump’s personal life and claims regarding his purported financial ties to Russia. Some of the dossier assertions include:

  • “[The] Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least 5 years.”
  • “Trump has declined various sweetener real estate business deals offered him in Russia in order to further the Kremlin’s cultivation of him. However, he and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.”
  • “Former top Russian intelligence officer claims FSB (Russia’s Federal Security Service) has compromised Trump through his activities in Moscow sufficiently to be able to blackmail him. … [Trump’s] conduct in Moscow has included perverted sexual acts which have been arranged/monitored by the FSB.”
  • “A dossier of compromising material on Hillary Clinton has been collated by the Russian Intelligence Services over many years and mainly comprises bugged conversations she had on various visits to Russia and intercepted phone calls rather than any embarrassing conduct.” It said the Clinton dossier is controlled by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Putin’s orders but hadn’t been distributed abroad or given to Trump.
  • The dossier also contains an apparently debunked claim that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen met with a Russian official in Prague during the election.

Trump called the dossier “fake” and disputed all the allegations in it.

Even the left-leaning publication Newsweek was skeptical and published a list of “13 things that don’t add up in the Russia-Trump intelligence dossier.” The magazine noted that the dossier’s author “seems weirdly ignorant of basic facts about Russia,” and Russia must have been “pretty much psychic” to foresee in 2011 that Trump would run for the presidency in 2016, as Trump had given little indication that he planned to run. Also, it noted, if Trump had actually declined Russia’s “serious sweetheart real estate business deals,” then why did he try so hard to arrange meetings with Russian business leaders after the 2013 Miss Universe pageant? And why, in 2013, was his proposed Trump Tower deal in Moscow and St. Petersburg a complete flop?

And regarding that so-called “regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin” on Clinton, Newsweek noted: “Such as what exactly? Trump may have coined the ‘Crooked Hillary’ and ‘Lock Her Up’ slogans, in relation to Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State – but there’s no evidence that Trump or his campaign used any kind of secret intelligence in their campaign.”

What do YOU think? Is Mueller probe of Trump off the rails? Sound off in today’s WND poll

President Trump (Photo: Department of Defense)

Furthermore, if there was a Clinton dossier containing “compromising material” – and Russia had been conspiring with Trump to undermine the election – why wouldn’t Russia share that anti-Clinton material with the Trump campaign?

Many of the claims simply didn’t add up. And even some of Trump’s detractors were skeptical:

Furthermore, in March, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told “Meet the Press” that while he was in office, the FBI, CIA and NSA had found no evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Since the dossier was published, defamation lawsuits have been filed against Steele, Fusion GPS, former Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post and Yahoo News concerning potentially libelous claims made in the document.

Despite the so-called “salacious and unverified” claims in the dossier, the FBI reportedly used the document to justify secretly monitoring Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and to bolster its Trump-Russia investigation, according to a CNN report published in April.

At an Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, charged that Clinton’s campaign used its law firm, Perkins Coie, to hire Fusion GOS and Steele to draft the dossier “full of all kinds of fake news, National Enquirer garbage,” and the document was reportedly “all dressed up by the FBI, taken to FISA Court, and presented as a legitimate intelligence document.”

Jordan told FBI Director Christopher Wray: “I’m wondering if that actually took place. It sure looks like it did.”

WND asked Mueller’s office if the FBI or Mueller’s team ever used Steele’s dossier on Trump to shore up any part of the investigations. The office declined comment.

However, McCarthy told WND that while the dossier is clearly a “piece of opposition research,” some of the claims in it have proven to be accurate.

Nonetheless, he said, if the FBI used the allegations in an inappropriate manner in which the dossier was “all dressed up by the FBI, taken to FISA Court, and presented as a legitimate intelligence document,” as Jordan suggested, it would be fairly easy for the president to expose any abuses.

“If it did happen, it would be an abuse that would be helpful to Trump to show,” McCarthy said, suggesting that Trump should simply order the Justice Department to reveal the FISA application to the House Intelligence Committee that’s investigating.

“The president is the officer of the executive branch who is in charge of classified information. He can order this stuff to be revealed. So he hasn’t,” he said. “That backs me up a little bit, because you would think, the way this theory goes, that he’d be the chief beneficiary of this disclosure – and he’s got the power to disclose it, and he hasn’t.”

Instead, McCarthy said it’s more likely that the FBI used some factual assertions in the dossier to pursue its own investigative leads and then presented it to the FISA court.

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FBI’s (Democratic) dream team

The headlines went wild in May when President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. That same month, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel to investigate possible interference by Russia in the 2016 presidential election.

The Justice Department gave Mueller an extraordinarily broad mandate to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign” and “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller

Mueller then assembled a legal team for his Russia investigation that was apparently full of Democrats and Democrat-connected lawyers.

FEC records reveal only a handful of Mueller lawyers have no campaign donations under their names: Michael Dreeben, Aaron Zebley, Lisa Page, Adam Jed, Aaron Zelinsky and Scott Meisler.

However, Zebley, who is a former partner at Muller’s law firm, reportedly represented longtime Bill Clinton aide Justin Cooper, who was a leading player in Hillary Clinton’s email controversy. Cooper had helped set up Clinton’s homebrew email server and destroyed her mobile devices.

Peter Strzok

Another member of Mueller’s team, Peter Strzok, was kicked off the case after it was learned he had texted anti-Trump messages to a fellow Mueller investigator, Lisa Page, with whom he was romantically involved.

And on Monday, it was revealed that Nellie H. Ohr, the wife of senior Justice Department official Bruce G. Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election while the research firm was compiling its anti-Trump dossier. Bruce Ohr was demoted because he tried to hide his meetings with Fusion GPS officials.

WND asked Mueller’s office: “What would you say to high-profile critics who are now claiming Mueller’s team is too partisan to investigate this case in a fair and balanced way?”

“Justice Department policies and federal law prohibit discriminating based on political affiliation when it comes to hiring for nonpolitical positions,” Mueller spokesman Joshua Stueve replied.

Stueve also pointed to Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein’s comment in a recent Fox News interview: “If there were conflicts that arose, because of Director Mueller or anybody employed by Director Mueller, we have a process within the [Justice Department] to take care of that.”

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What should Trump do now?

Back in July, Trump warned that if Mueller overstepped and began nosing around in his personal finances beyond any Russia connection, it would be “a violation.”

When the New York Times asked President Trump if, under those circumstances, he would fire Mueller, Trump replied: “I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

Fast-forward five months, and Mueller was reportedly demanding Deutsche Bank surrender financial information about the president and his family.

Time to fire Mueller for overstepping on this “witch hunt”? Not so fast.

President Trump (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Some warn doing so would suggest a cover-up and spark a constitutional crisis.

Talk-radio king Rush Limbaugh said it would be an ill-advised move for Trump to fire Mueller at this point, because that’s exactly what Mueller wants.

“It would be a mistake to fire Mueller,” Limbaugh explained during his Dec. 5 show, “not because he can’t do it. It would only intensify the swamp’s demands for impeachment. Impeachment is purely political at this stage.”

That’s why President Trump needs to buckle down and focus on implementing his agenda, particularly regarding tax reform and building the wall, Limbaugh explained.

“It’s going off the rails,” Limbaugh said of the Mueller investigation.

But McCarthy said he believes Trump should just “keep his powder dry” – no firings and no pardons at this point.

“I think he should play it out for now, unless and until Mueller does something truly outrageous,” McCarthy said. “It’s not like Mueller is trumping up charges. We’ve had three sets of charges so far, and there hasn’t been anything about Trump or about the 2016 election.

“At this time, you can’t say that anything Mueller has done was unfair to Trump. The existence of the investigation is unfair to Trump because there was no crime that predicated it.

“But for now, Mueller hasn’t brought any charges,” McCarthy concluded, “and Trump can rightly say, ‘See? There’s nothing there.'”

What do YOU think? Is Mueller probe of Trump off the rails? Sound off in today’s WND poll



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