Let’s Get the Facts Straight About Mueller and His Investigation

Robert Mueller
Resistance dreams may never come true. Photo credit: DonkeyHotey / WhoWhatWhy (CC BY-SA 2.0) See complete attribution below.

A lot has, rightfully, been made this week of President Donald Trump’s bizarre behavior when it comes to Russia and its apparent campaign to tilt the 2016 presidential race in his favor. While it wasn’t exactly surprising that the US president once again appeared to do his Russian counterpart’s bidding, the reason why this keeps happening continues to puzzle people.

Some believe that Trump’s frail ego can’t handle any notion that he did not beat Hillary Clinton fair and square. Others are raising the possibility of Russian President Vladimir Putin “having something” on Trump. The fact that people are even entertaining this theory is breathtaking in itself.

Whatever drives Trump’s actions, it is also the reason why he and his allies seek to undermine the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller. They are doing this in a variety of ways, including arguing that the basis for the entire probe is illegitimate, that it is unconstitutional, and that Mueller’s team is biased. And that’s just over the past few weeks.

Foremost, however, is a claim Trump often makes on Twitter — or anywhere there is a microphone. The president’s first line of defense is that the investigation is a “witch hunt” because there was “no collusion” and no American has yet been indicted in connection with Russia’s meddling. And in any case, Trump and his allies claim, Mueller and his team have not yet alleged that Russia’s various activities affected the outcome of the election.

While there is a grain of truth in that defense, it is mostly bogus and terribly misleading. That is why it is useful to take a step back and look at the facts.

The main point of Mueller’s investigation is not to find out whether Russia and the Trump campaign coordinated their activities to defeat Clinton. That is only part of the probe. The primary focus is on how Russia interfered in the 2016 election. While Trump supporters may take issue with that assertion, it’s tough to argue the point since the order Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein signed to launch the Mueller probe is called “Appointment of Special Counsel to Investigate Russian Interference with the 2016 Presidential Election and Related Matters.”

So when Trump and his allies point out that mostly Russians have been indicted so far, they are conveniently leaving out the part where that is Mueller’s main job.

In announcing the indictments, Rosenstein has gone out of his way to note that no Americans are involved and that no determination is made with regard to the impact of Russia’s meddling.

“There is no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime,” he said last week in announcing the indictment of 12 Russians who are accused of hacking Democratic websites. “There is no allegation that the conspiracy changed the vote count or affected any election result.”

There is a good chance that these statements are made entirely for Trump’s ears to ensure that he will leave Mueller alone. Predictably, the White House seized on Rosenstein’s remarks, with spokesperson Lindsay Walters stating that this is “consistent with what we have been saying all along.”

But just because no Americans have been indicted so far in connection with the actual meddling (a handful, including Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, and two former campaign aides have been charged with crimes not related to the election interference) does not mean that they won’t be.

Based on what we know already, one can certainly make the case that both Trump and his son Donald Jr. were attempting to coordinate something with the Russians. However, neither of those attempts (trying to get “dirt” on Clinton from the Russians in Don Jr.’s case and calling on Russian hackers to go after Clinton’s missing emails in the president’s case) will get them indicted. Other things might, however, so it would be foolish for Mueller to go there before wrapping up all other loose ends.

The second part of this line of defense that the indictments do not allege the described actions affected the outcome of the election is even more ridiculous because such a charge is impossible to prove. How many people could definitively say that their decision on who to vote for was determined by coverage of the DNC’s stolen emails or Russian-paid Facebook ads? Even if it were possible, it’s certainly not Mueller’s job to make that determination, which is why it’s such an effective strawman for Trump.

Unfortunately, the president’s disinformation campaign is working. Public opinion is slowly turning against Mueller and the investigation. That is a shame because he is doing important work which all Americans should be happy is being done — even Trump supporters and those who, correctly, point out that the US has also meddled (and worse) in foreign elections. Two wrongs don’t make a right and, hopefully, the Mueller probe will get people to realize that US elections are vulnerable.

And that’s where the real shortcoming of the probe is: Its scope is much too narrow. When it comes to election meddling, Russian interference is just the tip of the iceberg.

What the US really needs is a team of investigators with subpoena powers who will

    • put voting machine companies and their products (and their ties to the parties) under the microscope;
.
    • make sure the nominating processes in all states are fair;
.
    • examine the internal communications of lawmakers responsible for drawing gerrymandered maps and passing phony voter ID laws, whose real purpose is to suppress minority votes. Let’s see what really motivated them;
.
    • put the squeeze on government officials like Kris Kobach, who are perverting democracy by trying to tailor the electorate to their liking;
.
    • get the bank records and communications of the American billionaires who are funding all of this. Because even if the Russians did funnel a few million bucks to the NRA, that’s just chump change compared to what oligarchs like the Kochs or Mercers are shelling out every year to counter the will of the voters.
.

So if your outrage stops at the Russians, or if you think that the biggest threat to US democracy this fall is that Putin’s cybergoons will almost certainly try to put a thumb on the scale again, then you’re missing the big picture.

Because when it comes to rigging US democracy, it truly is “America first.”


The cartoon above was created by DonkeyHotey for WhoWhatWhy from these images: Robert Mueller caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), marshal (Ian McKellar / Flickr – (CC BY-SA 2.0), badge (USBP / Wikimedia), DOJ logo (DOJ / Wikimedia), tumbleweed (sporst / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), and background (Ken Lund / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0).


Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Trump and Putin (The White House / YouTube).

Where else do you see journalism of this quality and value?

Please help us do more. Make a tax-deductible contribution now.

Our Comment Policy

Keep it civilized, keep it relevant, keep it clear, keep it short. Please do not post links or promotional material. We reserve the right to edit and to delete comments where necessary.

print

16 responses to “Let’s Get the Facts Straight About Mueller and His Investigation”

  1. Anytime you hear the “these are liberal arguments” line, cue the Fox line parroted endlessly by the Hannity and Limbaugh stooges who are only interested in the “facts” that can be shaped their way.

    Anyone who looks at Trump as anything approaching clean or above reproach — now, or as far back as the 70s (just ask New Yorkers of all political persuasions) — isn’t even worth being part of the discussion. Anyone still yelling about Hillary’s emails is buying another “I’m with Stupid” tee shirt to go with the ones they started collecting the day they bought the raw, steaming campaign BS he was selling the gullible dwellers gazing at the Fox Network for the answers.

    Remember kids, NUMBER OF INDICTMENTS/GUILTY PLEAS under Obama is ZERO. Under Trump, we’re already up to a combined 24 and OBAMA was in office more than four times longer than Trump has already “served” himself as the tremendous expense of our public funds and our democracy. Just smoke and mirrors, HEAVY on the smoke between your ears and eyes. Wake up and notice how much POTUS has already screwed you.

    • JMO says:

      But also keep in mind that “Indictment” simply means an accusation. This is, of course, before any trial takes place and before ANY EVIDENCE is presented to demonstrate guilt. It is possible that indictments are sometimes made for image/publicity/politics if it is likely that a trial will never take place. For example, of those who are indicted happen to foreigners and/or are not currently state-side, it is not likely they will ever be back in the country to face these charges. This means that the prosecution will never have to present their evidence… it will never get to be cross examined.

  2. Eloy says:

    It all point to why the DNC refused to let the FBI have their sever after it was discovered that Russians hacked into it. What are they hiding.

    • Jeff Clyburn says:

      link to what you think you’re talking about… this Trump-apologist talking point was debunked long ago, sorry. The DNC gave the FBI access to all their drives and files when told they had been hacked, and even Clapper admitted this in Congressional testimony. The procedure is called “imaging,” where the Bureau comes in and makes a copy of the entire hard drive, which it absolutely had access to. They aren’t expecting to find Russian DNA on the drive, and don’t need the physical drive in their possession. Do you know anything at all about computer forensics?

    • MarkInBoston says:

      Then someone should tell Comey because he said in congressional testimony that the FBI made multiple requests to access the DNC servers and they were denied access, and rather, they were supplied images of the server from a private company. That company is Crowdstrike, hired by the DNC. So the FBI, according to Comey, did not have access and do their own imaging, as you say. It seems to me that Crowdstrike’s first obligation is to the people that hired them — the DNC — and not the American public. You don’t need to be a genius to conclude that the DNC doesn’t want the FBI having access to their servers. Similarly, Homeland Security offered to help the DNC protect their servers from future hacks and the DNC turned them down, baffling Homeland Security, also available in CSpan congressional testimony videos. These testimonies are all over the internet in plain sight.

      I’ve seen a lot of coverups in my day and this ranks among the most obvious.

  3. Cherel Justice says:

    Nothing new here. Total liberal party line arguments. So sad that you didn’t even try to be balanced. After admitting there is no there, there. You insist on saying, “But surely there must be!” Then you want us to worry about election fraud but avoid the answer which is Voter IDs.

  4. rob wrinkle says:

    Not a big fan of Trump..less of a fan of Hillary. Regardless, Mueller is guilty of covering up the truth about 911. Therefore he is not qualified to investigate Jack Squat.

    • ladygeek says:

      WTF is that about? Another conspiracy theory?

    • Reads Incessantly says:

      “Conspiracy theory.” I guess you don’t believe in the Manhattan Project. More than 40,000 people kept that secret until they dropped the first bomb. Our 17 intelligence agencies are paid to keep secrets. You must also be entirely unaware of security clearances, compartmentalization, need to know, classification of government information, and redaction of government documents.

      12,000 people worked at the K-25 complex. 22,000 people worked at the Y-12 complex. 1,513 worked at the X-10 complex. And 5,000 worked at Los Alamos. All those people either kept the secret of the bomb that they were working on, or had no idea what they were working on.

      Governments and intelligence agencies and militarys are excellent at keeping secrets, and very little that comes from them should be accepted as truth.

  5. Rikster says:

    Your invectives and lack of salient points demonstrate to me your level of appreciation of Trump or possibly just hatred for anything you consider liberal. As the onslaught on Trump continues my sense is that you will become now entrenched in this belief system. Good luck with that.

  6. Cathy Parrish says:

    The entire Mueller investigation has been too muddied by political motives and Democratic Hillary and said party supporters to be taken as credible by the majority of the American people. If the objective is to prevent election meddling, where were the last two administrations, asleep! And why not invoke photo ID when voting, we have to do it for everything else so the big objection by the Democrats leads me to believe it is because it would interfere with illegals voting.

    • Patrick Larkin says:

      Your assessment is accurate!

    • Jeff Clyburn says:

      no, it isn’t….

      Mueller, Comey, Rosenstein: ALL REPUBLICANS.

      Pretty sure the objective includes uncovering well-documented collusion and obstruction. Also pretty sure the “majority of Americans” want the investigation to continue to its conclusion. You’re not fooling anyone, sorry.

      thehill.com:

      A Marist poll released Wednesday found 69 percent of registered voters surveyed believe Mueller should be able to complete his investigation, compared to 15 percent who believe the special counsel should be fired.

      Among Democrats, 76 percent believe he should be able to conclude the investigation, while 59 percent of Republicans believe the same, according to the poll.

      59% of Republicans? Ouch.

      As for your last point, keeping alive the “illegals are voting” canard, that’s been debunked, too. Try harder.

    • Dennis Bartholomew says:

      Jeff, Thanks for all your posts explaining what is really happening and countering all the disinformation being circulated. This is not a Repub. versus Democrat situation. This is the FBI and Justice Dpt investigating Russian spying. Mueller is following the facts wherever they lead.

    • And who pays for the photo ID? It is unconstitutional to require an American citizen to pay to vote.

  7. Chris Ieva says:

    Let’s look at the facts:

    -In the Special Counsel’s appointment order, the Deputy Attorney General anoints himself as the “Acting Attorney General.” Even though the Attorney General recused himself from any campaign related investigations, many would believe that Rosenstein clearly usurped the Constitutional Authority of the Attorney General.

    -In the Special Counsel’s appointment order, the Deputy Attorney General states he is continuing an investigation started by fired FBI Director Comey on 20 March, 2017. However, Comey stated he was starting a counter intelligence investigation. There are no provisions for a Special Counsel for counter intelligence investigations and continues a disturbing trend of using counter intelligence authorities as a constitutional workaround.

    -In the Special Counsel’s appointment order, the Deputy Attorney General directs the Special Counsel to investigate,”links and coordination”…how can one investigate something that is not a crime?

    -In the Special Counsel’s appointment order, the Deputy Attorney General, appoints a private citizen as the Special Counsel. The President, confirmed by Congress, could appoint a special counsel. The Attorney General, a head of a department, may appoint a special counsel as an inferior officer. However, Rosenstein is not the Attorney General and Mueller was a private attorney. It violates the appointment clause.

    -Furthermore, the Deputy Attorney General fails to comply with DoJ Regulations in explaining why the Attorney General did not conduct the appointment and why Rosenstein could, why/if there was any process to see if a Special Counsel was warranted (it evidently was not when Comey was still employed), whether Mueller a private Citizen with ties to Comey and a candidate for the Director of the FBI was a good choice, and whether the Special Counsel Team had any conflicts (Strozk!!!)

    -Weeks after the appointment, former Director Comey stated he leaked to a “friend” with expressed intent to bring about a special investigator. How could this be? Except a year later, we learned that Comey’s friend was his personal counsel who was hired as some special FBI employee…it is unclear if Richman leaked to the media as a FBI employee, Comey’s counsel, or as a private citizen?

    -Immediately after the late July Manafort raid, the deputy DoJ Rosentstein issued another memorandum that was and remains heavily classified, but evidently says that the 17 May appointment was intentionally vague to security reasons. It is unclear why this was not written in May and why it would be written AFTER Mueller and Strozk raided manafort.

    -So we have a special counsel with an intentionally vague, with a secret mandate, that omitted DoJ Regulations, was brought about by a leaking fired Law Enforcement officer, appointed by deputy who claims he is the acting Attorney General, and led by a private citizen …does that sound like America?

    • Jeff Clyburn says:

      -In the Special Counsel’s appointment order, the Deputy Attorney General anoints himself as the “Acting Attorney General.” Even though the Attorney General recused himself from any campaign related investigations, many would believe that Rosenstein clearly usurped the Constitutional Authority of the Attorney General.

      oh, would “many?” there’s no confirmation bias at work here at all, I’m sure.

      Back here in reality: Rosenstein (a Republican, just like Mueller and Comey) didn’t “usurp” anything. Sessions recused himself, period. Next in line, thanks. It’s right there in 28 U.S. Code § 508:

      (a) In case of a vacancy in the office of Attorney General, or of his absence or disability, the Deputy Attorney General may exercise all the duties of that office, and for the purpose of section 3345 of title 5 the Deputy Attorney General is the first assistant to the Attorney General.

      -In the Special Counsel’s appointment order, the Deputy Attorney General directs the Special Counsel to investigate,”links and coordination”…how can one investigate something that is not a crime?

      Classic Trump cultist half-truth. Here’s what the appointment order actually says:

      (i) any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and

      (ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and

      (iii) any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).

      And yes, the scope of the probe absolutely covers potential crimes. Manafort has already been indicted on money laundering charges. You don’t appear to know what you’re talking about.