Mueller caught in a trap of his own making
Special counsel Robert Mueller looks likely to face a huge humiliation in court and a massive public relations disaster. And it couldn't happen to a more deserving guy. Unless a Trump-appointed judge bails him out and grants an exception to federal law, trampling on the rights of the defendants he indicted, Mueller will have to go into court to try a case he doesn't seem to think he can win – or else face the humiliation of dropping the charges he brought against 13 Russian entities (some of which did not exist at the time of the alleged crime) with great fanfare.
Richard Pollock of the Daily Caller News Foundation reports:
Special Counsel Robert Mueller asked a federal judge Tuesday to reject the four-decade-old speedy trial law in the case against 13 Russians and three Russian companies and has asked for an indefinite delay to the Russian collusion trial.
It is the second time Mueller tried to delay the trial. Judge Dabney L. Friedrich, a Trump appointee, rejected the earlier request without comment and ordered the case to go forward.
One of the Russian companies – Concord Management and Consulting – entered the U.S., hired American lawyers, and demanded a speedy trial. The Speedy Trial Act is a 44-year old federal law that dictates that a federal criminal case must begin within 70 days from the date of the indictment.
If the defendant is demanding a speedy trial, there ought to be a very good reason for denying that right. And Mueller's excuse is – let's be blunt – not merely lame, but due to his own misbehavior.
The "complexity" of the case warrants excluding the speedy trial law and delaying the trial, Mueller argued in Tuesday's court filing.
A "district court can, on its own motion or at the request of a party, grant an excludable continuance if 'the ends of justice served by taking such action outweigh the best interest of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial,'" Mueller wrote.
"This case also warrants a continuance and exclusion of time to accommodate the voluminous discovery at issue and to allow sufficient time for the Court to resolve certain outstanding procedural issues unique to discovery in this case," he continued.
I am no lawyer, but the problem with this excuse is obvious to even me: if the case is so complex that extra time is required, then why was the indictment brought in the first place? Why did the special counsel rush the indictment when he now confesses that it was too complex to go to trial?
Andrew McCarthy, who is a brilliant and distinguished attorney and ex-federal prosecutor, agrees with my less well informed opinion that it is too late to make the complexity excuse. He adds an important note about whose rights would be violated:
"Speedy trial rights belong to the defendant, and if the defendant pushes for a trial within the 70 days, the government has little cause to complain," McCarthy said. "If the case was too complex, the government had the option of holding off on seeking an indictment until it was ready to proceed to trial. When a prosecutor files an indictment, it is tantamount to saying, 'We are ready to go.'"
Another gambit is being employed by Team Mueller to attempt to justify a delay:
... Mueller informed the court on May 16 his office was prepared to enter two terabytes of Russian social media into the record, thereby flooding the docket with a huge amount of evidence, all of it in Russian. The volume could fill 3,000 CD-ROM discs.
And McCarthy debunks this move:
It's "inappropriate for a prosecutor to manufacture complexity and then contend that things are too complex," McCarthy told TheDCNF. "If a prosecutor is disclosing mountains of foreign language materials without an understanding or explanation of their relevance to the case, that is a delaying tactic and an attempt to chew up the defendant's resources."
The tactic "is apt to make the presiding judge very angry," he added.
My surmise is that Mueller never expected the Russian defendants even to show up because they are immune from any penalties, being resident in Russia, where an American court verdict could be disregarded with no extradition possible. The indictments, in other words, were for show, to persuade the pubic that his multi-multi-million dollar operation was producing results and going after nefarious actors from Russia.
Again, being blunt, it looks to me as though Mueller was showboating, using the justice system for propaganda purposes but without an apparent actual case ready to go forward. I am no expert at all on the canons of legal ethics, but this does sound like an abuse of the federal courts if there was no intent to proceed with a prosecution on a timely basis within the requirements of the law. The defendant, Concord Management and Consulting, which retained a top-tier law firm, Reed Smith, for its defense counsel and is pushing for the timely trial to which it is entitled, may well wish to pursue some sort of ethics complaint if Judge Friedrich does not grant Mueller's plea for a delay and Mueller then moves to dismiss charges. That is obviously up to the company and its law firm
If Judge Friedrich already dismissed an earlier plea for delay without comment, why would he now change his mind?
It is hard to see how this case will end up as anything but a humiliation in court and a gigantic public relations disaster for Mueller and his merry band of Democratic Party donors.