Mueller’s abuses on view for the world to see

Something struck a raw nerve in this country when 26 agents showed up with automatic weapons drawn in a pre-dawn raid to arrest Roger Stone, terrorizing his deaf wife. Suddenly, all the mumbo jumbo about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation being objective and focused on national security melted away in the face of a police-state action so completely inexplicable.

There could be no real excuse for such a potentially dangerous, life-threatening action except to use police power for the purpose of intimidation, under the color and cover of law.

Imagine the outcry if 17 vehicles and an amphibious unit had shown up to take one of Hillary Clinton’s aides into custody for lying about whether she had a mail server. Or to pick up disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner’s laptop. The outrage would have thundered across the country, echoed by the mainstream media. Civil libertarians would have jumped on the bandwagon. Congress would be calling for more supervision and restraints on the power of Mueller and his office.{mosads}

Now, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointee who put former Trump presidential campaign chairman Paul Manafort in jail without bail and gagged him, is considering putting a gag order on Stone, a former Trump campaign operative. She said this is a criminal trial, “not a public relations campaign.” So what was CNN doing at Stone’s arrest and how did they get there? The arrest and indictment of Stone are evidence of a very public relations-conscious prosecutor. What were the indictment of Russians beyond the reach of prosecution about, if not PR?

Stone has called this a politically motivated prosecution. He is entitled to his full, unabridged First Amendment rights, especially in the face of such an unprecedented all-powerful, unaccountable machine that has certainly sought to convict him before trial. Stone may or may not be helping himself with his TV interviews but he is entitled to them, and the public has a right to hear him.

I am disappointed that more Democrats in Congress — who would obviously agree that the manner of the arrest and such arbitrary gag orders violate their basic beliefs — don’t join Republicans in questioning these actions for fear that anything that undermines Mueller in turn helps President Trump. They fail to see that the more dishonest they appear, the more they are in fact helping Trump. The true swing voters are not so insipid as to think actions like this are right because they are waged against political opponents. Swing voters don’t have political opponents and are not driven by partisanship. They care more about country than party.

The special counsel has enormous power and this arrest is, perhaps, the clearest, most visible sign of its potential abuse. Remember that Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein under questionable circumstances and despite Mueller’s own conflicts of interest, having interviewed with Trump for the FBI director job just the day before. He then hired a team filled with Democrats and even lawyers who represented the interests of the Clintons. The discovery of the extreme bias of former FBI officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, through their text messages, appears to be the tip of the iceberg rather than the iceberg. Their text messages while they were in Mueller’s employ have gone missing. Yeah. Right.

The benefits of the $30 million Mueller investigation are sparse to date. We have some meaningless indictments related to a Russian troll farm, some unreported taxes and lobbying, and a series of crimes created by the tactics of the investigation itself.{mossecondads}

Yes, there obviously was a string of contacts with Russians who were peddling one thing or another, but they have not amounted to anything remotely resembling the preposterous idea that Donald Trump, a billionaire in his own right, was an agent of Russia. If anything, the Clinton campaign had more contacts with Russians in its attempt to destroy Trump. Frankly, neither of the campaigns conspired to do anything but to try to get the drop on their opponent.

The most destructive force here appears to be the Mueller investigation itself because not only did it commit a string of constitutionally questionable actions, it also it drove a stake into the foreign policy objective of having a better relationship with Russia so as to peel them off of alliances with China, Syria and Iran. Russia needs us a lot more than we need it, and yet the real damage of the Mueller investigation is that it made détente with Russia impossible.

Of course the Russians, like the Chinese in the past, were trying to throw disinformation into our campaign. We had the Voice of America broadcasting for many years right into their society, along with a sophisticated spying apparatus. China, for the first time facing pressure from the United States for its unfair trade actions, is now moving into the vacuum Mueller created and strengthening its alliance with Russia.

Hopefully, the Mueller investigation will now wrap up after two full years. Likely its report will be designed to sow doubt rather than create finality, ignoring that this was all instigated by a fake, discredited dossier. If anyone lied to the FBI and caused the resources of the United States to be wasted, it is Christopher Steele — and yet, there is no evidence that any action is being taken to hold him accountable for the biggest hoax in American history. This is akin, in size and scope, to the Dreyfus affair in France. It may even languish for a while as that case did, but I predict there will be justice eventually for those who falsely created this hit to our democracy and foreign policy.

The act of arresting Roger Stone with an army of lawmen may seem trivial — and yet, it is the most visible action of an investigation drunk with its own power. It reminds us all just how broken this system is when an unelected, unconfirmed appointee can wield this kind of power in a democracy. A gag order would only compound these abuses.

Mark Penn is a managing partner of the Stagwell Group, a private equity firm specializing in marketing services companies, as well as chairman of the Harris Poll and author of “Microtrends Squared.” He served as pollster and adviser to President Clinton from 1995 to 2000, including during Clinton’s impeachment. You can follow him on Twitter @Mark_Penn.

Tags Donald Trump Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Mueller investigation Paul Manafort Paul Manafort Robert Mueller Robert Mueller Rod Rosenstein Roger Stone Roger Stone Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections Special Counsel investigation

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