Chad Benson fills in for Jim Geraghty today. Grab a stool as we serve up three impeachment-related martinis. Chad and Greg respond to Nancy Pelosi demanding articles of impeachment to be drafted against President Trump. They also wade into the firestorm over a constitutional law professor invoking Trump’s 13-year-old son Barron during her pro-impeachment testimony. And they react to a Washington Post columnist wringing her hands about what the media can still do to gin up more support for impeachment.
A top lawyer in Texas says the Mueller investigation appears to be nothing more than effort to charge people with crimes unrelated to Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign and he says recent revelations of rampant partisanship on the part of prosecutors on the case ought to be the death blow to this probe.
Robert Henneke served a an assistant attorney general and a top litigator for former Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. He is now general counsel and president of the Center for the American Future at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
Within recent weeks, Mueller fired Peter Strzok for highly partisan texts to his mistress. However, three other figures are also under scrutiny.
Top Mueller deputy Andrew Weissman attended Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election night party and later lavished praise on Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to enforce President Trump’s first travel ban.
Justice Department official Bruce Ohr was severely demoted for improper contact with officials at Fusion GPS, the firm paid by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee to dig up opposition research on Donald Trump. This week, Fox News confirmed Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS during the campaign.
Another Mueller prosecutor, Jeannie Rhee, represented former Obama Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.
On Tuesday, thousands of text messages between Strzok and his paramour, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, revealed a lot of ugly but not illegal Trump bashing. However, one other text is getting scrutiny as possible intent to use the FBI as a weapon in case Trump won the election.
“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way [Trump] gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” texted Strzok. “It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40,” he added in a text dated Aug. 15, 2016.
Henneke is stunned.
“It’s a monster red flag. The role of the prosecutor, the role that I had when I served as a prosecutor, really gives you so much power in making choices that can put people in prison or ruin careers. It can result in serious consequences,” said Henneke.
“It is so critical in that role that you and everyone you associate with hold themselves out as being the utmost objective, impartial and strong champions of the law and of justice,” said Henneke.
“Of course people have opinions. But it’s not when people have opinions. It’s when those people are so partisan or when those opinions seem to be driving the outcomes rather than the duty to the oath that you swore in upholding the Constitution and executing the duties of your office,” said Henneke.
He says in the American system, the people grant the government certain powers, but when politics supersede the law, all Americans suffer.
“It’s a grant, not an entitlement. All of that is under the premise that the government is going to discharge its duties safely. Otherwise, if you conceded that power to parties who are going to further their own interests and their own partisan objectives, that’s when you get into tyranny,” said Henneke.
“If you can vest this much power in a special prosecutor that’s going to use agents that have more allegiance to Hillary Clinton than they do to justice and the Constitution in going about this situation, then how can we trust that government in looking at other types of citizens, maybe with less political power,” said Henneke.
It’s not the Mueller personnel that bother Henneke. He says the process Mueller is pursing also strikes him as odd.
“The overall approach is very concerning and puzzling. Unpacking the layers of this, there doesn’t seem to be anything at the core,” said Henneke.
Henneke believes the whole probe is based on a flimsy premise offered up by Obama holdovers in the intelligence community. He also blasts the Mueller team for their irresponsibility with the information they may be gathering.
“It seems that this has just been packed by innuendo, speculation and leaks and accusations that have led into a reactionary launching of this investigation when really the parameters and the need for it I don’t think were defined from the get-go,” said Henneke.
Leaks are commonplace in the Mueller investigation, and Henneke says that’s another clear sign that the prosecutors are not even-handed.
“If there is a significant issue that would require this type of special counsel outside investigation, there’s no reason that all of this should be happening in the public arena through leaks, through anonymous sources, through innuendo and so forth,” said Henneke.
“Furthermore, it just underlines what I see as a lack of integrity in this. This is all some sort of capital intrigue-type drama and not what it is supposed to be, which is a criminal investigation of supposedly serious allegations,” said Henneke.
Based on suspect prosecutors and a shaky premise, Henneke says the sooner the Mueller probe shuts down the better.
“I think that this special counsel prosecution should be shut down. I don’t think there was a sound basis for creating it. I think the reason it continues to churn is not because of having uncovered any real substance, but because of the partisanship and media perception stepping in,” said Henneke.
He also thinks the special counsel should be used much more sparingly.
“We need to be putting people in positions of government that we can trust to have the integrity to not need to create special counsels to do the job of what these positions should stand for in the first place,” said Henneke.
While he thinks the probe should be shelved, Henneke thinks the actual results will be far more damaging, both to individuals and the nation.
“I think people’s lives and careers are going to be ruined, not because of uncovering the original basis for the investigation. I think that’s already happening with some of the results,” said Henneke, who believes the damage to the U.S. will be far worse.
“The end result will be some bitterly fought partisan outcome that most of the American people will look at and see from either side of the political spectrum as untrustworthy, corrupt, and providing further evidence that the problem in our country really is in Washington, D.C.,” said Henneke.
“This is just one other example of how our government is no longer serving the interests of the people,” said Henneke.