Mueller’s extraordinary travesty of justice tragically erodes the rule of law

Mueller Made a Mockery of Criminal Justice System

Special counsel Robert Mueller walks from the podium after speaking at the Department of Justice Wednesday, May 29, 2019, in Washington, about the Russia investigation. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

by Ronald Kessler

With his confusing, contradictory, and ever-changing comments about the results of his investigation of President Trump, Special Counsel Robert Mueller made a mockery of the criminal justice system.

In that system, there is no place for concluding that the subject of an investigation is not criminally charged but is not exonerated. To say, “If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so” makes as much sense as saying, “The moon could be made of blue cheese, we just don’t know.”

Nor is there any place for implying that a subject would be criminally charged if it were not for the fact that he is president. As Mueller’s own report makes clear, Trump neither colluded with the Russian government nor corruptly covered up, destroyed evidence, or made false statements to mislead investigators, as happened during Watergate when President Nixon clearly obstructed justice.

Now the question of how this outrageous process ever started becomes even more important. While the initial FBI investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election was entirely legitimate, the subsequent counterintelligence investigation that specifically targeted Trump after he fired James Comey as FBI director was based on false pretenses.

In his book “The Threat,” Andrew McCabe says that as acting FBI director, he opened that investigation targeting Trump and urged Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel to investigate him based almost entirely on Trump’s comment to NBC’s Lester Holt that he thought about “this Russia thing” when he decided to fire Comey in May 2017.

With those garbled words, it sounded as if Trump was saying he fired Comey because the FBI director was pursuing the ongoing Russia investigation that started in 2016, and Trump wanted to stop it. But as noted in my book “The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game,” Trump went on to say twice to Holt that he recognized that by firing Comey, he was probably prolonging the FBI investigation.

That is the exact opposite of attempting to obstruct an investigation, yet in his book, McCabe deliberately and dishonestly omitted the rest of what Trump said to Holt about recognizing that he was prolonging the investigation.

On top of that, McCabe parenthetically cited in his book the fact that in a “demeaning and dismissive way,” Trump had called the ongoing FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election — which included the possibility of collusion by the campaign — a “witch hunt.” Thus, according to McCabe, expressing his opinion as president and defending himself was a reason to investigate Trump.

So incredibly the entire basis for starting the FBI’s obstruction and collusion investigation specifically targeting Trump, according to the FBI official who says he started it, was outrageously based on a lie: a phony predicate that deceitfully misrepresented what Trump said in the NBC interview.

The real story behind the start of the FBI investigation of Trump and the appointment of a special counsel is undisputed and far more shocking and scandalous than all the often hyperbolic claims we see in the media and in Congress about the FBI’s FISA warrant applications, the so-called dossier, or the alleged wiretapping of the Trump campaign. Yet incredibly, no one in the media has picked up on it.

I have covered the FBI since J. Edgar Hoover was director. I have written three books on the FBI, one of which led to the dismissal of William Sessions as FBI director over his abuses. And for my book “The Secrets of the FBI,” Robert Mueller as FBI director gave me unprecedented access to the bureau.

In that book, I portrayed the actions Mueller took after 9/11 to make the FBI more prevention oriented. Those steps are largely responsible for the fact that we have not had a successful attack by a foreign terrorism network since 9/11.

But by unfairly impugning President Trump, Mueller ended his otherwise sterling career with a travesty while ignoring an abuse of the FBI’s authority the likes of which we have not seen since the Hoover days.

Ronald Kessler, a former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, is the New York Times bestselling author of “The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game” and “The Secrets of the FBI.”

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