For months, I have been urging readers to have faith in Robert Mueller and his team as they pursue the truth about Russian interference in the 2016 election (documented) and possible, treasonous collaboration by the Trump campaign in this effort (growing evidence). Yet, Donald Trump, his lawyer and his surrogates continue to accuse the special prosecutor’s office of being on a “witch hunt.”
In the counter-intuitive world of Deprogramming101, we like to give credit where credit is due (i.e. Senator Richard Shelby contributing to Doug Jones victory in Alabama). So let’s, for argument sake, stipulate “witch hunt” is the correct analogy for the current investigation into electoral malfeasance. This requires that we actually examine what happened in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692.
According to HistoryofMassachusetts.org, “More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft and 20 were killed during the hysteria.” Of more importance, in terms of the Mueller investigation, are the options offered to the accused once charged with practicing the dark science. Among them, again according to HistoryofMassachusetts.org:
… a confession was the single best way for the court to gain a conviction and an execution for charges of witchcraft. The irony is that none of the accused Salem witches who confessed were convicted or executed but all 19 people who refused to confess were found guilty and executed.
How did Salem prosecutors procure these confessions? They would present suspects with “spectral evidence,” the appearance of accused’s shape or spirit in multiple locations, or incidents of physical afflictions–vomiting and muscle spasms–suffered by “bewitched” Salem residents (actually caused by fungus ergot in grains such as rye and wheat). Suspected witches were asked to explain these evil feats. Those who denied the “evidence” were found guilty and in some cases executed. Those who pleaded guilty were spared.
Which brings us back to Mueller’s access to Trump transition emails, first reported by Axios correspondent Mike Allen on Saturday morning. While this evidence in the Trump/Russian investigation is hardly fabricated, it is likely being used in a similar mode as that in the Salem witch trials. Just imagine the interviews with members of the Trump inner circle such as Reince Priebus (October 13), Sean Spicer (October 17), Jared Kushner (November) and Hope Hicks (December). During their interrogations, each, presented with specific emails, was probably asked, “Did you send or receive these emails? And if so, how do you explain them?” Like Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos, confessing and an attendant plea deal leads to a slap on the wrist, or at worse, fines and minimal jail sentences. Those who do not cooperate face further prosecution and possibly decades, if not a lifetime, of imprisonment.
In other words, it is not the prosecution which has the most to lose from a comparison to the Salem witch trials, but the accused who have the most to gain. With one major exception. They may actually be guilty of the crimes for which they are charged. And confession not only spares them harsh punishment but actually helps Mueller and this team uncover the truth.
On Saturday, Politico reported Kory Langhofer, representing Trump for America, sent a seven-page letter to the House and Senate oversight committees charging Mueller with “unlawfully obtaining tens of thousands of private emails during its investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s president election.” Once you stop laughing at the very idea of the people who urged Russians and WikiLeaks to share hacked emails using the term “unlawful,” you must ask whether there is any merit in this accusation.
Fortunately, several legal experts have already provided a strong clue this action is just one more case of Trump team obfuscation and misdirection. If Trump’s legal advisors truly believed Mueller had acted improperly, their most effective course of action would have been to petition a judge for an injunction, prohibiting Muller from using the emails as evidence in his investigation. They did not. In other words, their choice of going to Congress is about building a political case against Mueller, not a legal one.
Late Saturday night, Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office, issued the following statement.
When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner’s consent or appropriate criminal process.
You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to realize what Carr is communicating through this statement. Both Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos have copped a guilty plea on at least one charge in return for their full cooperation. Both were involved in the transition. One as the future national security advisor and the other as the most powerful “coffee gofer” in political history. You can bet the farm both gave written permission for Mueller to access their email accounts which includes both digital correspondence they sent and those they received from the likes of Jared Kushner, Donald Junior and possibly even Mike Pence who headed the transition. Furthermore, “appropriate criminal process” implies investigators obtained warrants which further undercuts charges in the Langhofer correspondence to Congress.
One last point. The acting administrator of GSA at the time Mueller obtained the emails was Tim Horne, who was appointed to that position on January 20, 2017 by none other than Donald J. Trump. This is significant for two reasons. First, Horne would have had to sign off on the transfer of agency materials to the special prosecutor. Therefore, blaming “deep state” operatives has no validity. Second, and more importantly, it is clear Trump’s legal team was caught off-guard by the Axios story. This means Horne did not report Mueller’s request for or the surrender of emails to the White House. Either the court order forbid the agency from doing so, or Horne realized tipping off Trump or his legal team might result in his own legal jeopardy.
For what it’s worth.