by Tony Shaffer
The Mueller Report marks the third time that an investigation has cleared the Trump campaign of allegations that it “colluded” with the Russian government. They had their three swings…and they have struck out.
The Special Counsel investigation received by far the most media attention, but it’s just the culmination of one in a series of progressively more farcical and politically motivated investigations, all of which have failed to achieve their true goal: overturning the result of the 2016 presidential election. The origins of which were developed using political weaponization of process, procedures and tools of a very powerful national security infrastructure.
First, the FBI conducted its own regular investigation into supposed Russian collusion. Even Peter Strzok — the FBI agent so hell-bent on taking down Trump that he talked of the investigation as an “insurance policy” — admitted he was hesitant to join Mueller’s team because he felt there was “no big there there” based on his role in the FBI’s collusion probe. Lisa Page, the former FBI attorney who was once Strzok’s mistress and temporarily worked with him on the Mueller probe, also told Congress it was possible this investigation found “literally nothing” linking Donald Trump or his campaign to the Russian government.
Then, shortly before President Trump’s inauguration, the Senate Intelligence Committee launched its own investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Despite spending more than two years interviewing more than 200 witnesses and reviewing hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, that investigation, too, came up with no evidence to substantiate claims of collusion.
While that investigation was still in its early stages, Democrats and the media successfully pressured then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself and got Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to conduct yet another probe into the fabricated allegations of collusion.
Mueller himself did little to dispel the appearance of political motivation when he hired a team of rabidly anti-Trump lawyers for his investigation. Clearly, within months of his investigative efforts in 2017 he knew based on FACTUAL evidence there was no collusion…but undeterred, he remained silent and continued his investigation.
The narrative began as a campaign season ploy by the Clinton campaign to turn an off-the-cuff joke Donald Trump made about Russians finding Clinton’s missing emails into a sinister international conspiracy to destroy American democracy.
After they lost the election, the Clinton camp’s desire for revenge merged with what the DoJ and FBI had been doing using Pentagon assets (Stephan Halper in the lead – who was funded by the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA)) as “lurers” in Inspector Clouseau quality efforts to create artificial links between the Trump Campaign officials and Russia. The need to offer rationalizations for their candidate’s embarrassing underperformance. They selected Russiagate as the best option within hours of Donald Trump’s historic victory.
Before Mueller turned in his final report, Comey wrote an op-ed for The New York Times in which he claims he doesn’t actually care whether the report contains any damning evidence against the President. The important thing, he says, is preserving the American people’s faith in the legal system and their investigative agencies.
But Comey’s disingenuous effort to demonstrate his impartial devotion to the rule of law ignores the central issue: the longer this outrage lasted, the more that ideal was undermined and eroded.
If one political party is able to keep the other party’s President under constant surveillance, tear through his associates’ documents, and subject his staffers and family members to endless rounds of hostile interviews and subpoenas, then our political system is already deeply compromised.
There are uncomfortable “dangling participles” regarding the justification for all investigations into the Trump Campaign and the inbound Trump administration just after the inauguration – uncomfortable strings that run through the effort like a spiderweb…the center of the web being the Obama White House. The DoJ and FBI leaders employed intelligence capabilities that are heavily restricted. The FISA warrant process was badly abused. Innocent citizens identities were “unmasked” by senior Obama officials and the tenants of Section 2.9 “Undisclosed Participation” of intelligence officers as defined in EO 12333 were abused. The only place wavers could have been granted for departing from legal restrictions was the then (2016) National Security Director Susan Rice – Rice who wrote a very suspicious memo on inauguration day that stated that these activities were conducted “by the book” – my instincts are that her approvals were anything but “by the book” and should be investigated.
The whole country has just suffered through a two-year experiment in treating a partisan conspiracy theory as a legitimate basis for a criminal investigation, and it culminated in one of the most heavy-handed, meandering, and vicious investigations in the history of the Department of Justice. This cannot happen again – to a sitting President or to any American citizen.
We already know that Democratic politicians won’t give up their witch hunt against President Trump. After three strikes, though, the American people shouldn’t hesitate to send them back to the dugout. And now, it’s President Trump’s team at bat. Batter up!
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Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer is a retired senior intelligence operations officer and Acting President of the London Center for Policy Research.
Photo “Tony Shaffer” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 3.0. Background Photo “Department of Justice Building” by Coolcaesar. CC BY-SA 3.0.