On May 17, 2017, Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel, after the firing of FBI Director James Comey amid accusations by Comey, leaked to the NY Times, that Comey had resisted Trump’s desire to “let go” of the investigation of Michael Flynn:
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
It later emerged that the leak came from Comey himself, by providing at least one memo Comey prepared at and then purloined from the FBI, to a Columbia University law professor for the purpose of leaking to the Times. Comey admitted that he leaked the memo to create a public uproar to create public pressure for a Special Counsel:
COMEY: I asked — the president tweeted on Friday after I got fired that I better hope there’s not tapes. I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night because it didn’t dawn on me originally, that there might be corroboration for our conversation. There might a tape. My judgment was, I need to get that out into the public square. I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons. I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel. I asked a close friend to do it.
Comey got his wish, and Mueller was appointed.
But Mueller’s appointment was tainted from the start because he had a longtime close friendship with Comey. I wrote that this friendship should have been a disqualifies since Comey was a key potential witness.
On June 11, 2017, I wrote that Robert Mueller should step aside: Friends shouldn’t be investigating friends:
Whether they were just close professional friends, or consider themselves personally friendly, the fact is that they are not at arms length. This relationship, at least as reported, appears to be much more than the routine interactions you might expect two law enforcement officers to have had in the regular course of business.
Something doesn’t seem right here. Comey manipulated the system into getting his friend appointed Special Counsel, and now that friend will be investigating matters in which Comey is a key witness. More than that, Comey’s own actions in leaking government property raise legal issues as to whether Comey himself violated the law.
Even assuming Mueller is able to separate his past with Comey from his present investigation, that relationship damages the whole purpose of having a Special Counsel who is completely independent in fact and appearance.
In a truly independent investigation, friends shouldn’t be investigating friends. Mueller should step aside to remove the taint on the Special Counsel investigation created by friend and witness James Comey.
In the past couple of weeks there have been several developments that cast doubt on whether the Special Counsel investigation has morphed beyond it’s mandate, which was supposed to be Russian interference in the election. With the guilty plea of Michael Flynn to one count of lying about late December 2016 conversations with the Russians, it is clear that Mueller is probing the post-election transition. Which raises the question, Why is Robert Mueller even investigating the presidential transition?
What authority, however, gives Mueller power to investigate the political strategies of the incoming Trump administration long after the election was over? It does not appear that Mueller has that power under the Order appointing him as Special Counsel….
The danger the Mueller investigation’s apparent overreach poses goes beyond the potential harm to individuals under investigation or prosecution.
To the extent Mueller’s team is investigating the political decisions and strategies of the incoming Trump administration during the transition period, it amounts to an interference in the post-election political process and is beyond Mueller’s authority.
Byron York at The Washington Examiner had an excellent column describing in great historical detail how the FBI investigation of Flynn during the transition appeared to be a set up by Obama officials to make a case for a Logan Act violation that, thought it never would be prosecuted, could form the basis for surveillance and obstruction traps. York writes, In Trump-Russia probe, was it all about the Logan Act?
At the time, top Justice officials suspected Flynn of violating the Logan Act, the 218-year-old law under which no one has ever been prosecuted, that prohibits private citizens from acting on behalf of the United States in disputes with foreign governments. Starting in the summer of 2016 and intensifying in the transition period, the Logan Act, while mostly unknown to the general public, became a hot topic of conversation among some Democrats. A number of lawmakers, former officials, and commentators called on the Obama administration to investigate the Trump team for a possible Logan Act violations — and to do it while Democrats still controlled the executive branch.
At the same time, inside the Obama Justice Department, it appears the Logan Act became a paramount concern among some key officials in the critical weeks of December 2016 and January 2017. Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates has told Congress that the Logan Act was the first reason she intervened in the Flynn case — the reason FBI agents were sent to the White House to interview Flynn in the Trump administration’s early days. It was that interview, held on Jan. 24, 2017, that ultimately led to Flynn’s guilty plea.
In short, there’s no doubt the Logan Act, a law dismissed as a joke or an archaic irrelevancy or simply unconstitutional by many legal experts, played a central role in the Obama administration’s aggressive and enormously consequential investigation of its successor.
Guess who we just found out was a big, big fan of Sally Yates, who lead the Logan Act investigation of Flynn? Andrew Weissman, one of Mueller’s lead prosecutors. Documents obtained by Judicial Watch showed that not long after the Flynn interview, Weisman sent an email to Yates praising Yates’ refusal to enforce Trump’s First Travel Order:
“I am so proud. And in awe. Thank you so much. All my deepest respects.”
The anti-Trump animus appears to have run deep in the team Mueller assembled, beyond Weissman.
Senior FBI agent Peter Strzok was removed last summer for sending anti-Trump text messages. Mueller, the FBI and DOJ did everything they could until the information was revealed a day ago. Strzok, it turns out, also was involved in the investigation of and interview of Flynn leading ultimately to the criminal charge.
Strzok also was involved in the Hillary Clinton investigation during the campaign, and reportedly was the person who made key wording changes to the FBI’s findings, read by Comey at a July 5, 2016 press conference, which absolved Hillary of “gross negligence” in the mishandling of classified information.
Andy McCarthy makes a persuasive case that Mueller’s investigation always has been about removing Trump from office by providing the fodder for impeachment. It Is Now an Obstruction Investigation – Which means that it’s an impeachment investigation:
The smoke is clearing from an explosive Mueller investigation weekend of charges, chattering, and tweets. Before the next aftershock, it might be helpful to make three points about where things stand. In ascending order of importance, they are:
1.) There is a great deal of misinformation in the commentariat about how prosecutors build cases.
2.) For all practical purposes, the collusion probe is over. While the “counterintelligence” cover will continue to be exploited so that no jurisdictional limits are placed on Special Counsel Robert Mueller, this is now an obstruction investigation.
3.) That means it is, as it has always been, an impeachment investigation.
Read the rest of McCarthy’s post for more details as to how he reached the conclusion.
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board writes that Mueller has a a Credibility Problem and should step aside:
As troubling, Mr. Mueller and the Justice Department kept this information from House investigators, despite Intelligence Committee subpoenas that would have exposed those texts. They also refused to answer questions about Mr. Strzok’s dismissal and refused to make him available for an interview….
All of this reinforces our doubts about Mr. Mueller’s ability to conduct a fair and credible probe of the FBI’s considerable part in the Russia-Trump drama. Mr. Mueller ran the bureau for 12 years and is fast friends with Mr. Comey, whose firing by Mr. Trump triggered his appointment as special counsel. The reluctance to cooperate with a congressional inquiry compounds doubts related to this clear conflict of interest….
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 news about Mr. Strzok leaked only when the Justice Department concluded it couldn’t hold out any longer, and the stories were full of spin that praised Mr. Mueller for acting “swiftly” to remove the agent. Only after these stories ran did Justice agree on Saturday to make Mr. Strzok available to the House.
Where does Mueller’s friendship with Comey fit into this?
Comey has been involved since the start. As FBI Director, he certainly would have been aware of the set-up of Flynn using a Logan Act pretext and the targeting of Flynn. Comey then created the political pressure for appointment of a Special Counsel through the subterfuge of leaking government property to the press.
Shortly after the Flynn appearance in court to plead guilty, Comey was acting like the cat that ate the canary, tweeting that justice finally will “roll down like waters”:
On December 2 he tweeted a link to his Instagram posting:
To paraphrase the Buddha — Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun; the moon; and the truth.
The entire purported reason for a Special Counsel – to have someone truly independent conducting the investigation of Russian interference in the election and possible election collusion.
Instead we have an investigation that appears to be looking for any pretext to take down Trump.
It smells like the revenge of James Comey by his close friend Robert Mueller, and his team of Trump haters.