A funny thing happened on the way to impeaching Donald Trump. After two-years of investigations by a highly politicized FBI and a Special Counsel stacked with Clinton supporters, Robert Mueller's probe has resulted in the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, the arrests of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, and the indictment of 13 Russian nationals on allegations of hacking the 2016 election - along with the raid of Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen.
The nation has been on the edge of insanity waiting for that much-promised and long awaited link tying President Trump to Vladimir Putin we were all promised, only to find out that there is no link, the deck appears to have been heavily stacked against Donald Trump by bad actors operating at the highest levels of the FBI, DOJ, Obama admin and Clinton camp, and the real Russian conspiracy in the 2016 election was the participation of high level Kremlin sources used in the anti-Trump dossier that Hillary Clinton paid for.
Now, as the out-of-control investigation moves from the headlines and into court, the all-encompassing "witch hunt," as Trump calls it, may be in serious jeopardy.
As of Friday, three separate Judges have rendered harsh setbacks to the Mueller investigation - demanding, if you can believe it, facts and evidence to back up the Special Counsel's claims - in unredacted format as one Judge demands, or risk having the cases tossed out altogether.
The first major setback happened in February, when the federal judge assigned to the criminal case against Trump's former National Security Advisor, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ordered Mueller's team to turn over any "exculpatory evidence" to Flynn's defense.
Instead, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan issued the order "sua sponte," or at his discretion, invoking the "Brady Rule" - which requires prosecutors to turn over previously unfiled evidence that might have a material impact on a defendant's case. Two days before Sullivan issued the order, Mueller filed a motion for a protective order regarding the use of evidence in the case, including "sensitive materials," which would be provided to Flynn's lawyers by the office of the Special Counsel.
This development generated a significant buzz in conservative circles, with the implication being that perhaps Flynn might not have pleaded guilty in light of certain evidence.
We also know that the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn - one of whom was anti-Trump counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, did not think Flynn was lying to them - something James Comey was recently caught lying about himself.
Fox's Judge Andrew Napolitano thought Sullivan's decision at the time was a complete bombshell.
"Why would he we want that after General Flynn has already pleaded guilty? That is unheard of. He must suspect a defect in the guilty plea. Meaning, he must have reason to believe that General Flynn pleaded guilty for some reason other than guilt." -Andrew Napolitano
And as we noted yesterday, some have suggested that Flynn pleaded guilty due to the fact that federal investigations tend to bankrupt people who aren't filthy rich - as was the case with former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo, who told the Senate Intelligence Committee "God damn you to hell" after having to sell his home due to mounting legal fees over the inquiry.
“Your investigation and others into the allegations of Trump campaign collusion with Russia are costing my family a great deal of money — more than $125,000 — and making a visceral impact on my children."
Is it not possible he just plead guilty because of the financial burden it created and is creating on our family?? https://t.co/gx5sLLa1K9— 🇺🇸MFLYNNJR🇺🇸 (@mflynnJR) April 23, 2018
Let's not forget about the time Mueller's team at the FBI massively screwed up the 2001 anthrax case after 9/11 - ruining the life of SAIC employee Steven Hatfill when it mysteriously leaked that he was the FBI's prime suspect. Mueller assured Congress in a closed-door January, 2003 session that Hatfill was their man based on shaky evidence which was later deemed unreliable. Effectively, he needed a scalp. Hatfill was professionally and financially ruined until he sued the US Government for $5.8 million.
“It’s like death by a thousand cuts,” Hatfill, who is now 56, says today. “There’s a sheer feeling of hopelessness. You can’t fight back. You have to just sit there and take it, day after day, the constant drip-drip-drip of innuendo, a punching bag for the government and the press. And the thing was, I couldn’t understand why it was happening to me. I mean, I was one of the good guys.” -The Atlantic
Then there's the judge in the Manafort Case, who excoriated a Special Counsel attorney on Friday during a "motion to dismiss" hearing. A leaked transcript of the heated exchange between attorney Michael Dreeben and Eastern District of Virginia Judge T.S. Ellis reveals that the entire Manafort case is in jeopardy if the Special Counsel doesn't produce an unredacted copy of the original order from Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein authorizing the original investigation.
Ellis also said that Mueller shouldn't have "unfettered power" to prosecute Manafort for charges that have nothing to do with collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, and called out the DOJ's efforts in the case as an attempt by Mueller to gain leverage over Manafort.
"You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever. That's what you're really interested in." -Judge Ellis
The Judge also notes that the Special Counsel's indictment against Manafort doesn't mention:
(1) Russian individuals
(2) Russian banks
(3) Russian money
(4) Russian payments to Manafort
To which Dreeben provided an unsatisfactory lawyerly response about how everything is connected to everything (including, apparently, whether Trump paid a woman to keep quiet about consensual sex).
Last - but we're quite sure not least, was last week's ruling by federal Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump appointee, denying Mueller a trial delay over the high-profile February indictment of 13 Russians for interfering in the 2016 US election.
Mueller accused 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities - one of which was Concord Management and Consulting, of "knowingly and intentionally" conspiring to interfere with the election by using social media to disparage Hillary Clinton and support Donald Trump.
And Concord Management decided to fight it...
As PowerLine notes, Mueller probably didn't see that coming - and the indictment itself was perhaps nothing more than a PR stunt to bolster the Russian interference narrative.
I don’t think anyone (including Mueller) anticipated that any of the defendants would appear in court to defend against the charges. Rather, the Mueller prosecutors seem to have obtained the indictment to serve a public relations purpose, laying out the case for interference as understood by the government and lending a veneer of respectability to the Mueller Switch Project.
One of the Russian corporate defendants nevertheless hired counsel to contest the charges. In April two Washington-area attorneys — Eric Dubelier and Kate Seikaly of the Reed Smith firm — filed appearances in court on behalf of Concord Management and Consulting. Josh Gerstein covered that turn of events for Politico here. -Powerline Blog
Politico's Gerstein notes that by defending against the charges, “Concord could force prosecutors to turn over discovery about how the case was assembled as well as evidence that might undermine the prosecution’s theories.”
In a mad scramble to put the brakes on the case, Mueller's team tried to say that Concord never formally accepted the court summons related to the case, wrapping themselves in a "cloud of confusion" as Powerline puts it. “Until the Court has an opportunity to determine if Concord was properly served, it would be inadvisable to conduct an initial appearance and arraignment at which important rights will be communicated and a plea entertained.”
The Russians hit back against Mueller's attempt to delay - filing a response on Friday to let the court know that “[Concord] voluntarily appeared through counsel as provided for in [the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure], and further intends to enter a plea of not guilty. [Concord] has not sought a limited appearance nor has it moved to quash the summons. As such, the briefing sought by the Special Counsel’s motion is pettifoggery.”
And the Judge agreed...
A federal judge has rejected special counsel Robert Mueller’s request to delay the first court hearing in a criminal case charging three Russian companies and 13 Russian citizens with using social media and other means to foment strife among Americans in advance of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
In a brief order Saturday evening, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich offered no explanation for her decision to deny a request prosecutors made Friday to put off the scheduled Wednesday arraignment for Concord Management and Consulting, one of the three firms charged in the case. -Politico
In other words, Mueller was just denied the opportunity to kick the can down the road, and will likely be forced to produce the requested evidence or withdraw the indictment, potentially jeopardizing the PR aspect of the entire "Trump collusion" probe.
As Mueller's "witch hunt" moves from the headlines to courtrooms with no-nonsense Judges, dismissals and withdrawn cases risk further delegitimizing the already-beleaguered Special Counsel investigation of President Trump and the 2016 US election.
One wonders how much this whole thing has cost taxpayers so far?