How a Special Counsel Disgraced Himself and the US Government
In his recent public statement, Robert Mueller admitted he was on a witch hunt. He didn't mean to do so, but his own words reveal as much:
And as set forth in the report after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.
By talking about whether or not the president was guilty of committing a crime, Mueller revealed the fact that he was not investigating whether or not the president committed the crime. Mueller would never confess to trying to pin any old crime on the president, but the way he expressed himself in those two sentences is a dead giveaway: he failed to identify the specific crime being investigated and thus telegraphed the fact that for the purposes of his investigation, any crime would do.
It is good to remember that every governmental system — no matter how democratic — retains absolute power when it comes to investigating criminal activity and meting out punishment for it. Even for an enlightened government, this potential for evil is a specter that can never be eradicated. For those who believe that power corrupts, the absolute power that resides with any government must be constrained. If it is not, some of the humans who work for the government may exploit their power to serve their own personal beliefs and interests. This is one reason why our legal system is not supposed to ever search for a crime to attach to a person. That Mueller was willing to do so in his investigation of Trump is a clear sign of corruption.
The wages of corruption are pain and sorrow for others. In this case, Mueller knew in advance that his investigation would impose financial costs and deliver blows to the reputation of anybody caught in his dragnet. An honorable investigator would know this and would subject such bystanders to as little inconvenience as possible. Only if compelling evidence suggests that some of these bystanders were implicated in the crime being investigated should it be thought acceptable to use strong-arm techniques to get the truth from them.
Such investigatory techniques as plea bargaining and charging for alternative crimes in order to extract incriminating information are justified only when a prosecutor sincerely believes that the central figure of the investigation is guilty of the specific crime being investigated. Hoping is not enough; the prosecutor must have circumstantial evidence strong enough to sustain such a belief. But now we know that there were no solid indications that Trump conspired with the Russians. If there had been, Mueller would have laid them out in the first volume of his two-volume report.
When Mueller admits in his first volume that he found nothing to suggest that Trump had committed conspiracy with the Russians, he is simultaneously admitting that efforts to shake information out of Page, Flynn, Papadopoulos, Manafort, Cohen, and Stone were motivated by a desire to get Trump and not by a desire to get at the truth. Mueller was willing to sink the American eagle's claws into those peripheral characters even though he had nothing on Trump. Now we know he had nothing, and if he had nothing by the end of his investigation, he certainly had nothing during it. This makes Mueller guilty of abusing the power of the state against individuals who had nothing to do with that nonexistent crime called Trump-Russia conspiracy.
Since Mueller knew all along that he would not be free to indict Trump because of the Justice Department rule prohibiting such an act against a sitting president, one would think he might have avoided damaging the lives of such peripheral people. After all, their sins of the past were coming to light only because of the happenstance of their connection to Trump. If there were something solid on Trump, then prosecutorial blackmail, though ugly, might be excused as a necessity. But to crucify them all just in the hope of finding something damaging against Trump — well, that betrays a cold-hearted streak of meanness at Mueller's core.
Under the circumstances, it is obvious that if Mueller had failed to pin at least something on some of those individuals, then his own unethical behavior would have been even more blatantly exposed. In this situation, Mueller's use of limitless state power to find some of them guilty of crimes was motivated by a desire to protect himself. This is one of the many ways that the power of the government can be misused by those who administer it.
Corrupt people often dress well and mouth deceits with the sincerity of a saint. Mueller fits the bill. His willingness to bring down untold pain and suffering on individuals who played no part in a crime that didn't happen exposes him as a rotten book with a gilded cover.
Gilded covers are de rigueur in Washington, D.C. A great many politicians and high-level bureaucrats have retained respectability based on this and this alone — and one must recognize that when the cover is appealing enough, there is a tendency for citizens to judge the person based on it. This is especially true since ours is a large and complex country in which nobody can be expected to develop a well informed judgment regarding the character of each of the many key players who manage our politics. With a sufficiently appealing cover in place, corruption within the book can proceed unchallenged.
Imagine the dismay, therefore, when a cheesy paperback named "The Donald" appeared on the scene and started boasting that only paperbacks can be truly transparent.