Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America welcome Judge T.S. Ellis reminding Special Counsel Bob Mueller that he does not have “unfettered power” in his investigation and that he shouldn’t use his position to compel testimony towards a desired end in his probe. They also also shake their heads as liberals are not getting upset with the Justice Department for enforcing existing gun laws and as officials in Broward County, Florida, admit that the Parkland shooter did avoid the criminal justice system for previous offenses by being enrolled in the school-based PROMISE program – and therefore never triggered any red flags when trying to buy guns. And they wonder why Trump supporters are so upset that John McCain doesn’t want President Trump at his funeral.
A federal judge blasted the special counsel investigation of Robert Mueller Friday, accusing the former FBI director of assuming “unfettered” authority and maintaining control of the Paul Manafort prosecution solely to squeeze out incriminating information about President Trump.
And a former federal prosecutor says this was an “unprecedented rebuke” of Mueller and his team, as well as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller probe.
“This was a smashmouth takedown,” said Joe diGenova, a former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. “To question the integrity, in essence, of Mr. Mueller, because of the nature of the case that he has in front of him in federal court, is truly unprecedented.”
On Friday, District Judge T.S. Ellis strongly challenged the authority Mueller and his team have to veer off into prosecuting financial crimes, such as the ones lodged against one-time Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort.
Ellis specifically wanted to know why Mueller’s team had no trouble referring the Michael Cohen case to the Southern District of New York but continues to handle the prosecution of Manafort on financial allegations unrelated to Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.
“I don’t see what relation this indictment has with what the special counsel is authorized to investigate,” Ellis said Friday.
“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud. … What you really care about is what information Mr. Manafort could give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment,” he added.
Ellis also took aim at Mueller’s approach to the investigation.
“What we don’t want in this country, we don’t want anyone with unfettered power. It’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special counsel has unlimited powers to do anything her or she wants,” said Ellis.
Ellis has been on the federal bench since 1987. diGenova says Ellis has a reputation for being a conservative but calm judge, which makes his comments on Friday all the more striking.
“I was absolutely stunned in a positive way that a judge, who was so fundamentally conservative in both his approach and his demeanor in court, was so appalled by what was happening in front of him. This is a very bad sign for Mueller,” said diGenova.
“This was a remarkable dressing down for Mr. Mueller,” he added.
“What it shows is that seeping out into the federal court system and judges is a sense that not only is the Mueller investigation out of control, but the supervision of it by Rod Rosenstein is either non-existent or out of control. That is a very bad sign for Mr. Mueller and Mr. Rosenstein,” said diGenova.
In addition to the specifics of the investigation, diGenova says the comments from Ellis mark an important moment.
“What we are watching here is the slow education of the American people through a civics lesson, which is being conducted through the media. People are discussing the law and the Constitution and the threat to our constitutional order that the Mueller investigation represents, because it started with no crime being investigated,” said diGenova.
“People are beginning to see that the original sin in the Mueller investigation was the outrageous memorandum signed by Rod Rosenstein appointing him, which mentioned no crime to be investigated,” said diGenova.
diGenova suspects the rebuke from Judge Ellis will likely quash any possibility of Mueller to subpoena President Trump.
“I don’t think he’s going to issue a subpoena because I think Bob Mueller knows he’s going to do something then which will take him down. That will be an act of suicide. But if he is arrogant enough to do it, it will destroy his investigation. It will take him down.
“This will be the kind of stupid overreach that frequently undoes constitutional officers,” said diGenova.
On Friday, Mueller’s attorney, Michael Dreeben, argued that prosecuting Manafort is within the scope of the investigation based on a letter signed by Rosenstein after the investigation began. Ellis demanded to see the letter within two weeks.
diGenova says Ellis will likely dismiss the case against Manafort if Mueller refuses to share the Rosenstein letter. Even if Ellis gets to see it, Manafort could soon get good news, given the timing of the letter.
“Remember, that letter came to Mueller from Rosenstein after the raid on Paul Manfort’s home in Virginia. That could be a very serious legal problem for Mr. Mueller,” said diGenova.
David French of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are amused by the media frothing over President Trump allegedly trying to have Special Counsel Robert Mueller fired seven months ago, while largely overlooking the fact that Mueller wasn’t fired. They also discuss President Trump’s major concessions on amnesty in his his immigration legislation framework – concessions that haven’t stopped his critics from accusing the president of being a white supremacist who is tearing apart families. And they throw up their hands as the majority leader in the California State Assembly proposes penalties of six months in jail or $1,000 fines for any waiter who gives a customer a plastic straw without being asked.
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.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are glad to see many liberals suddenly coming to the realization that Bill Clinton’s behavior towards women was inexcusable and his accusers were treated badly when they came forward during his presidency, but they also note that this epiphany comes when Democrats want the moral high ground in the Roy Moore saga and when the Clintons are of no use to them anymore. They also welcome the idea of a special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation, and Uranium One. And they note Rand Paul has hired a personal injury lawyer as the legal process unfolds against the neighbor who assaulted him, even as Sen. Paul asserts the two of them haven’t spoken in years.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America react to the news that the Justice Department named a special counsel to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign and the choice of former FBI Director Robert Mueller to lead it. They discuss reports that Michael Flynn told the Trump transition team that he was under federal investigation before becoming national security adviser but was hired anyway. They tear apart the idea from New York Times columnist Ross Douthat that Mike Pence and the Trump cabinet need to invoke the 25th amendment and begin removing Trump from office. And they note the passing and mixed legacy of media and politics titan Roger Ailes.