Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion stirs up more trou­ble than it’s find­ing

The Modesto Bee (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY VIC­TOR DAVIS HAN­SON

Af­ter 19 months, spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion has charged a num­ber of tar­gets with al­most ev­ery con­ceiv­able sin – ex­cept col­lu­sion with Rus­sia to throw an elec­tion. Yet that’s the rea­son Mueller was ap­pointed.

Pres­i­dent Trump’s for­mer con­sigliere, Michael Co­hen, pleaded guilty to ly­ing to Congress. But as part of his plea deal, Co­hen also con­fessed to a su­per­flu­ous charge of a cam­paign fi­nance vi­o­la­tion.

Co­hen al­legedly ne­go­ti­ated a nondis­clo­sure agree­ment con­cern­ing a past Trump li­ai­son with porn star Stormy Daniels. Yet no one al­leges Trump used cash from his 2016 cam­paign ac­count to buy Daniels’ si­lence.

In­stead, the ac­cu­sa­tion is that Co­hen and Trump used Trump’s own money, but they did not re­port the pay­out as a “con­tri­bu­tion” to his cam­paign.

If you take me­dia-sen­sa­tion­al­ized sex out of the equa­tion, Trump, like any other Amer­i­can, has the right to pay any­one what­ever he wishes to keep quiet about past em­bar­rass­ing be­hav­ior, whether that be se­cretly gulp­ing down too many Big Macs or cheat­ing at golf.

Ap­par­ently, Co­hen was lever­aged by Mueller’s team to plead guilty to a crime that was likely not a crime. And in cir­cu­lar fash­ion, his con­fes­sion was used as proof the non­crime was ac­tu­ally a crime – and thus could serve as yet an­other way to find some­thing on Trump.

Re­tired Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, pleaded guilty to giv­ing false tes­ti­mony about a “crime” that also ap­par­ently did not ex­ist. It was not a crime for Flynn to talk with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion. Yet the Rus­sian diplo­mat was be­ing surveilled by Amer­i­can in­tel­li­gence.

The se­cret tap­ing was green-lighted by a fed­eral court in the midst of the hys­te­ria cre­ated by the Christo­pher Steele dossier paid for, in part, by pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign.

The FBI sent two in­ves­ti­ga­tors to in­ter­view Flynn, ap­par­ently af­ter prompt­ing by act­ing At­tor­ney Gen­eral Sally Yates, a holdover from the Barack Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. Yates, who served as the in­terim at­tor­ney gen­eral for 10 days, ap­par­ently came up with the lu­di­crous idea that Flynn might have vi­o­lated the Lo­gan Act. That is an os­si­fied 219-year-old statute about meet­ing for­eign of­fi­cials that has had only two in­dict­ments – ever.

Next, for­mer FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey counted on the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s in­ex­pe­ri­ence and broke nor­mal pro­to­col by send­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tors to in­ter­ro­gate Flynn di­rectly without both­er­ing with the usual ad­min­is­tra­tion in­ter­me­di­aries. Comey’s deputy di­rec­tor, An­drew McCabe, mis­led Flynn into as­sum­ing the in­ter­view would be a friendly chat. Flynn was told he would not need a lawyer.

Flynn com­plied, as­sum­ing it was not a crime for a tran­si­tion ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial to talk with a for­eign am­bas­sador. He also likely was not fully aware the FBI’s in­tent was to have him say some­thing that would con­tra­dict the FBI’s se­cret tran­scripts of his talks with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador.

It gets worse. The FBI agents, who had tran­scripts from Flynn’s talks with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador to com­pare to Flynn’s an­swers, said that he didn’t seem to be ly­ing to them. That con­clu­sion was ap­par­ently over­turned. To this day, the only real ev­i­dence Flynn lied is his con­fes­sion.

Mueller seem­ingly wanted Flynn to tes­tify about some­thing that might prove the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion col­luded with Rus­sia. When that didn’t work, Flynn was later lever­aged to “con­fess” to hav­ing lied to FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tors, who orig­i­nally thought he had not lied about a “crime” of talk­ing about for­eign pol­icy with a Rus­sian am­bas­sador – an act that in it­self was not il­le­gal.

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