In This Corner: The Mueller Report and Its Aftermath
No Russian collusion has been found. Where do we go from here?
The Mueller report is now out and to no surprise of anyone sane, Donald Trump is NOT a Russian spy. After 2,800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants, 230 orders for communications records, 50 orders authorizing pen registers, 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, interviews with 500 or so witnesses – all executed by a staff of 19 prosecutors and 40 FBI agents and intelligence analysts over almost two solid years – there is no evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign of any kind.
Happily, this news site and this column stayed on the right side of reality consistently. At first, we made fun of absurdist claims, thinking the accusations were an obvious joke that would soon pass over. (Did the KGB cancel Hillary’s airplane ticket to Wisconsin, we asked?) Later, as the mainstream press took the charges as truth, we warned against the national dangers of collusion theories and national manias by drawing parallels to the Stab In the Back theories of the Weimar Republic, highlighted the hypocrisy of calling innocent people “traitors” while secretly using DNC and Hillary campaign dollars to fund the Steele dossier and spread false attacks from Russian sources, and warned against the use of (often excessively harsh) criminal trials to punish political involvement and silence democratic activity.
Even with the collusion theory now off the table, tremendous harm has been done to the nation: two years of attacks on the legitimacy of the political process and a sitting government, people sent to prison for “crimes” that never would have been prosecuted as crimes in any normal context, lives destroyed, fortunes spent, families threatened, the impartiality of the law and the intelligence services put in question. And, very damaging, two years of seppuku by the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, Morning Joe, et.al., where every day – with another false “scoop” and scandal from unnamed sources – the once honored press took a ritual sword and disemboweled themselves and their hard won reputations for all the world to see.
For those of you who read about this chapter as history 20 years or more from now, realize this was hardball. People were actually called traitors. Actually sent to prison. A disgrace to the nation and the reputation of the press in every possible respect.
And where do we go from here?
Well, if some have their way, we will have more of the same – with even less rationale. More years of hearings in the Democratic-controlled House are already begun. So let’s as a nation agree on some simple ground rules for national sanity.
NO COVERUP WITHOUT A CRIME: Obstruction of justice requires “corrupt intent” and prevention of a false prosecution of an innocent person is an obstruction of INjustice. To use an extreme case, if a president uses his power to prevent a persecution of Martin Luther King by J. Edgar Hoover, then it is the president’s power to do so, not a reason for impeachment.
We are also in the Alice in Wonderland world where, for example, Michael Flynn had every legal right to meet with the Russian ambassador but is now criminally convicted for the way he answered prosecutors’ questions about the legal meeting — a crime that would not have existed at all except for the prosecution. If there never was an underlying crime to cover up, then statements or misstatements about the innocent action should be considered immaterial for purposes of prosecution. Otherwise, prosecution itself becomes the trap for innocent people and a way to endanger anyone who opposes the ruling power.
NO DE FACTO TORTUE: Because the electoral system itself is at risk of being overturned, the law should be applied at least as carefully in political trials, not less carefully. It is wrong to apply legal theories that are not normally applied, such as the Logan Act or FIRA, simply because there is such a desire to “bag the game” and win a political victory. It is wrong to force potentially false pleas of guilt by threatening family members or by threatening decades and decades of prison time. It is wrong to have non-violent old men sent to months of solitary confinement before they are convicted of anything. It is wrong to send 29 SWAT team members, with assault rifles drawn, backed by armored and amphibious vehicles, to arrest another unarmed, non-violent old man in his Florida retirement home, as cable TV cameras mysteriously roll. It is wrong to gag political trial defendants from speaking up in their own defense when there have been tons of ink already spilled against them. It was wrong, in the case of Judith Miller and Scooter Libby, to throw a reporter in jail for protecting sources and then extract a claim from her – which she later recanted as false and forced – to convict another person of “lying” about another “cover up” with no underlying crime.
Democracy does not just die in darkness. Democracy dies when electoral processes are undercut by non-electoral means. When, for example, FBI and intelligence agents try to apply the 25th amendment to remove a healthy, just-elected president. Or when one party secretly pays for false claims of treasonous collusion to be spread against the other. Or when the press stops reporting and starts lobbying. Or when political enemies are put on trial, imprisoned or made to fear prison.
We have a Republic, if we can keep it. The ballot box and policy debate, not further political trials, are the right path forward.
K.S. Bruce writes the “In This Corner” column of opinion for RealClearLife.