Mueller's Russia probe becomes a Turkey trot
For Special Counsel Robert Mueller's next headline, the target is former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The New York Post reports:
Special counsel Robert Mueller is probing an alleged plot by former White House National Security Adviser Mike Flynn to return a Muslim cleric living in the US to Turkey in exchange for millions of dollars, according to a report.
Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., were allegedly to be paid as much as $15 million for delivering Fethullah Gulen to the Turkish government, sources with knowledge of discussions Flynn had with Turkish officials told the Wall Street Journal.
If the allegation is true – that Flynn actually plotted to sell a dissident down the river in exchange for a $15-million cash payment to his own bank account – it's obvious he should be indicted. What an amazingly venal and barbaric crime, if true. Of course, this is just leaks, not a court of law, and the facts may turn out to be different from the allegations in the shocking report.
All the same, it does raise questions about the broader picture and the mandate of the office of the special counsel.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller was originally appointed to his office last May to uncover evidence of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign in the U.S. election in 2016. Leftists alone were hired on his team, so it was obvious that only the Trump administration would be targeted, not any broader picture of collusion, whatever the party.
That said, he couldn't find any collusion, at least nothing he could bring charges on, and now his mandate has wandered to anything and everything bad any associate of Trump may have done. We had decades-old corrupt-appearing acts in the case of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was Mueller's first headline, and now we have Turkey collusion in the case of Michael Flynn as Mueller's second.
What Mueller is doing is what every special counsel and special prosecutor has done – let the investigation run like a rabbit until someone gets bagged. The bagging is what justifies the investigation. It was the same in the case of the Ken Starr investigation, which targeted Clinton corruption in the case of Whitewater but ended up getting Bill Clinton busted for the Lewinsky affair. While it's right that wrongdoing be busted, one wonders why it can't be done the normal way, through normal law enforcement channels, and why a special counsel's mandate can't be more precisely defined.
It also raises issues of fairness, given that no special counsel was appointed during the Obama administration even with scandals as diverse as the Fast and Furious gunrunning, the Benghazi talking points, the Benghazi bust of the filmmaker, the tarmac meeting between U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton, the fake email addresses at the EPA, the Hillary Clinton unauthorized private server, the EPA destruction of the Animas river on Indian lands, the IRS targeting of political dissidents, the sale of 20% of U.S. uranium to Russia, and others. These weren't policy differences; these were self-serving bad acts that needed investigation.
As Donald Trump has said, it's a witch hunt. It's a quest to get someone indicted for anything he can be indicted for. It makes one wonder if all new presidential administrations should start out this way – get a special counsel to hose all the wrongdoing in everyone's long-ago, and then see how things go.
Because although it seems right to investigate and indict in the case of Flynn, it's not the government we asked for. The special counsel's office ought to be re-engineered.