If there were any doubts about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s political intentions, his unprecedented press conference on Wednesday should put them all to rest. As he made abundantly clear during his doddering reading of a prepared statement that repeatedly contradicted itself, Mueller had no interest in the equal application of the rule of law. He gave the game, and his nakedly political intentions, away repeatedly throughout his statement.
“It is important that the office’s written work speak for itself,” Mueller said, referring to his office’s 448-page report. Mueller’s report was released to the public by Attorney General William Barr nearly six weeks ago. The entire report, minus limited redactions required by law, has been publicly available, pored through, and dissected. Its contents have been discussed ad nauseum in print and on television. The report has been speaking for itself since April 18, when it was released.
If it’s important for the work to speak for itself, then why did Mueller schedule a press conference in which he would speak for it weeks after it was released? The statement, given the venue in which it was provided, is self-refuting.
Let’s start with the Mueller team’s unique take on the nature of a prosecutor’s job. The standard American view of justice, affirmed and enforced by the U.S. Constitution, is that all are presumed innocent absent conviction by a jury of a specific charge of criminal wrongdoing. That is, the natural legal state of an individual in this country is innocence. It is not a state or a nature bestowed by cops or attorneys. Innocence is not granted by unelected bureaucrats or federal prosecutors.
At one point in his remarks, Mueller seemed to agree. Referring to indictments against various Russian individuals and institutions for allegedly hacking American servers during the 2016 election, Mueller said that the indictments “contain allegations and we are not commenting on the guilt or innocence of any specific defendant.”
“Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”
Had he stopped there, he would have been correct. But then he crafted a brand new standard.
“The order appointing the special counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation. We conducted that investigation and kept the office of the acting attorney general apprised of our work,” Mueller said. “After that investigation, if we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”
According to Mueller and his team, charged Russians are presumed innocent. An American president, however, is presumed guilty unless and until Mueller’s team determines he is innocent. Such a standard is an obscene abomination against the rule of law, one that would never be committed by independent attorneys who place a fidelity to their oaths and impartial enforcement of the law ahead of their political motivations.
The contradictions and double standards didn’t stop there, though.
“It would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge,” Mueller said, after all but stating that Trump committed a crime for which Mueller never charged him. Just as Mueller’s own words and actions at the Wednesday press conference prove that he didn’t want his team’s report to speak for itself, the report itself proves that Mueller and his team don’t believe it’s unfair to accuse somebody of something a court cannot resolve.
If they actually believed that, then the 240-page volume II of their report on their obstruction investigation of the president would never have been authored. After all, according to Mueller’s own statement, such an operation would be patently unfair. And if it’s unfair to air dirty laundry against a target who was never charged, surely it’s doubly unfair to do so in writing and on camera during a press conference whose mere existence refutes the very claims of its host.
Mueller revealed himself as little more than a clone of James Comey—the smarmy, scheming politician who replaced Mueller as the head of the FBI. Recall that it was Comey who assumed for himself powers that did not belong to him by law when he declared at a 2016 press conference no “reasonable prosecutor” would charge Hillary Clinton with criminal wrongdoing in her mishandling of classified information and unsanctioned use of a secret, private email server to evade public records laws. Just as Mueller did in his report and Wednesday press conference, Comey followed up his declaration that Hillary would not be charged with statement after statement after statement of all the awful things Hillary Clinton did.
“There is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information,” Comey said of Clinton. He excoriated her for repeatedly sending and receiving top secret information on her unsecured server which had never been authorized to process classified information. He even said it was possible, due to her “extreme” carelessness, that hostile foreign actors had penetrated her system and obtained highly classified information about U.S. national security programs.
Regardless of how you feel about Clinton, Comey’s display at that press conference was an embarrassment. He did an extreme disservice to the nation and the rule of law by unilaterally declaring himself the primary arbiter of prosecutorial decisions in the federal government when that authority belongs solely to the Department of Justice. And he did an extreme disservice to Clinton herself by dragging her through the mud in such a manner that clearing her name would be impossible.
In fact, DOJ guidelines expressly prohibit the actions of both Comey and Mueller in naming and shaming individuals who were never formally charged with any wrongdoing.
“As a series of cases makes clear, there is ordinarily ‘no legitimate governmental interest served’ by the government’s public allegation of wrongdoing by an uncharged party, and this is true ‘regardless of what criminal charges may . . . b[e] contemplated by the Assistant United States Attorney against the [third-party] for the future,'” states DOJ’s formal policy manual on the duties of federal prosecutors and principles of federal prosecutions.
Nationwide bar rules governing all practicing attorneys in the United States also explicitly prohibit Mueller’s display during Wednesday’s press conference.
“The prosecutor in a criminal case shall … refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused,” states Rule 3.8(f) of the American Bar Association’s rules of professional conduct.
Multiple federal agents and prosecutors reached out to The Federalist after Mueller’s press conference to express dismay at the former FBI director’s behavior.
“I’d have been crucified under this rule for a ‘not innocent’ comment about an uncharged party,” a former federal prosecutor told The Federalist. “I literally cannot fathom holding a press conference to say that an uncharged person was not innocent.”
“I wish these former FBI directors would learn their lessons: keep your mouths shut unless you’re referring a case for prosecution,” Jeff Danik, a retired FBI supervisor, said during a phone interview with The Federalist on Wednesday.
Mueller’s performance made it clear for all to see that what he ran for the last two years wasn’t an independent investigation pursuant to the rule of law so much as an inquisition motivated by political animus. Mueller and his team refused to charge prominent Democrats for crimes he charged against Republicans. Paul Manafort was charged with unregistered lobbying for foreign governments, while Mueller left alone long-time Democrat donor Tony Podesta and former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig.
George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn were charged with making false statements to federal investigators, while Clinton campaign cronies Glenn Simpson and Christopher Steele’s false statements to Congress and the FBI were ignored. Trump’s nonexistent Russian connections were plumbed while a dubious Clinton campaign-funded dossier sourced directly to Russian officials was used as a prosecutorial roadmap rather than rock-solid evidence of actual campaign collusion with the Kremlin.
Mueller claimed his report spoke for itself, then put together a completely unnecessary press conference more than a month after his report’s public release, in which he not just spoke for the report, but expounded on the new legal standards he created to govern its conclusions.
These are the actions not of an impartial and independent investigator, but of a scheming political operative. None of this is any surprise to anyone who has followed Mueller’s tenure in government. As FBI director, Mueller repeatedly misused and abused the authority granted to him by Congress.
Mueller and Comey utterly bungled the federal investigation into the 2001 Anthrax attacks, resulting in a $5.8 million judgment against the government after the two men falsely accused an innocent man of being behind the attacks.
Even after the court judgment against him, Mueller was defiant.
“I do not apologize for any aspect of the investigation,” Mueller said afterward. He then doubled down and said it would be wrong to say there were any mistakes in how he handled the investigation.
Then there was Mueller’s handling as FBI director of a case in which FBI agents framed innocent men of murders the FBI knew had been committed by their own informants. One of the innocent men died in prison awaiting justice for a crime he never committed.
Then, as special counsel to investigate Russian collusion during the 2016 campaign, Mueller promptly hired partisan Democrats to run his investigation. He tapped as investigators FBI personnel who openly discussed their hatred of Trump and his voters, as well as their plans to keep him out of office.
There’s no longer any doubt about who Robert Mueller is or why he conducted himself the way he did. As abominable as his press conference was, we should in many ways be thankful that Mueller so willingly displayed for all to see his disdain for basic rules of prosecutorial conduct, his total lack of self-awareness, and his naked desire to stick it to Trump.