Time for sunshine on Trump-Russia investigation

Time for sunshine on Trump-Russia investigation

Democrats are squawking about President TrumpDonald John TrumpProsecutors investigating Trump inaugural fund, pro-Trump super PAC for possible illegal foreign donations: NY Times George Conway: Why take Trump's word over prosecutors' if he 'lies about virtually everything' Federal judge says lawsuit over Trump travel ban waivers will proceed MORE’s order to release the material used by the FBI and the Justice Department to initiate the investigation of his campaign. These minority committee chairs, soon likely to be in the majority, claim it’s unfair, an abuse of power, one-sided.

Since when have these “Guardians of Our Republic” ever been against the release of more information from our government? Obviously, only when such release might put a dent in the Russia cloud that they have deliberately perpetuated regardless of the drip, drip, drip of evidence implicating high-ranking FBI, CIA and Justice officials in wrongdoing.


This investigation of the Trump campaign, his administration, family and associates has gone on for more than two years without any serious evidence supporting the Russia-Trump collusion theory. And, increasingly, it looks like there never was any real evidence to support the launching of the largest investigation of an administration in history. It’s the only known investigation ever by an outgoing party of the incoming officials of the other party. It was whipped up by opposition-research firm Fusion GPS, former British spy Christopher Steele and partisans in the Obama administration, creating a vast echo chamber with information that was never substantiated in any material way and, on the face of it, was preposterous. (No one ever offered Trump campaign adviser Carter Page $19 billion for anything.)

Now, before Americans go to vote, is precisely the time to unmask publicly this information; if it favors the current administration, then the originators of the investigation will have even more explaining to do. Information that was used to start an investigation can’t possibly be exculpatory unless, in the light of day, it appears forced, false or incomplete. After all, it was used to convince judges that crimes were being committed by Trump and his associates.

Based on what we see in the prosecutions, there appears to have been three tranches of allegations behind the investigations — the “tip” from Australian diplomat Alexander Downer that George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosIntel panel expects to refer more cases of suspected lying to Mueller The Hill's Morning Report — Takeaways from the battle royal in the Oval Office Papadopoulos, out of prison, now subject of docuseries MORE had some generalized advance information about email hacking, the Christopher Steele dossier, and the then-Acting Attorney General Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesIs Mueller team bludgeoning to get narrative it wants? The Hill's Morning Report — Where the Kavanaugh nomination stands Hillicon Valley: 50M affected by Facebook hack | Google CEO to testify on Capitol Hill | Tesla shares slump after SEC sues | House Intel votes to release Russia probe transcripts | Dem holds up passage of key intel bill MORE investigation of Gen. Michael Flynn for potential Logan Act violations. The Mueller probe systematically pursued all of them to the prosecutorial limits, until every witness was bludgeoned into cooperation.

The Papadopoulos case yielded tremendous speculation but no collusion — just a rather pointless prosecution against him, resolved with 14 days in jail. The best they got from the former Trump campaign adviser was a nod at a meeting that maybe Trump should meet Vladimir Putin. It remains unclear whether FBI plants were sent to entrap him, and others, but that may come out in these documents.

The famous dossier pointed fingers at Page, Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen and onetime campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortProsecutors investigating Trump inaugural fund, pro-Trump super PAC for possible illegal foreign donations: NY Times Swalwell says Butina guilty plea shows 'influx of Russians' into US ‘political bloodstream’ Hillicon Valley — Presented by AT&T — Officials warn of threat from Chinese spying | China blamed for Marriott hack | Trump open to intervening in Huawei case | FCC mulls ending merger ban on 'Big Four' networks | California floats tax on texts MORE as the collusion masterminds. Page was extensively spied upon, apparently to no avail. Cohen did not take the fabled trips to Prague or anywhere else and, yet, his financial life was investigated anyway and he became a victim of the Mueller probe. He is now part of a Stormy Daniels insurance policy if the main investigation fails to take down the president.

Manafort quite rightly sought a plea deal after losing part of the first trial, and he admitted he did not pay taxes or file lobbying reports, but none of the charges against him include collusion with Russians. I would not hold my breath for any bombshell revelations from him. He could add more color to a Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer, but that meeting was not a crime.

Gen. Flynn is set to be sentenced and it’s unlikely he will get even 14 days, given his record of service to the nation. He was deliberately targeted by Yates, an outgoing Obama official, who intercepted legitimate transition calls with the Russian ambassador and dispatched the FBI to question Flynn about those, even though she already had a transcript showing they were benign. The actions of former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryOvernight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — Court blocks Atlantic coast pipeline | Kerry calls Trump climate actions 'profoundly dangerous' | EPA asked to investigate Pruitt Fox News hits John Kerry: Trump's actions on climate change are 'profoundly dangerous' for planet The Hill's 12:30 Report — Cohen gets three years in prison | Fallout from Oval Office clash | House GOP eyes vote on B for wall MORE in meeting with Iranian ministers — a country with which we have no diplomatic relations — are 100 times more troubling, as he is actively undermining the policy of the current administration.

Then there is Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneRoger Stone challenges Dems to produce WikiLeaks evidence Google chief defends company during Capitol Hill grilling Alex Jones heckles Google CEO heading into House hearing MORE. He may have texted with one of the hackers of Clinton campaign emails, but he rejected operatives’ efforts to get him to pay for Hillary dirt. Here, Mueller is having less luck trying the same playbook used on others, of finding something in his personal or business life to deploy as leverage against him.

Investigating people in this manner is so completely un-American that Congress should pass legislation to prohibit it in the future, especially when there are political considerations. We investigate crimes, not people. Here, people were named and then investigated until crimes of any kind were found.

So, two years, a trail of ruined lives, shredded constitutional protections, an administration under a cloud, and no collusion. All that’s really been uncovered is a single meeting with a Russian lawyer who actually dined the night before and after the Trump Tower meeting with Glen Simpson of Fusion GPS, who testified he didn’t speak to her about it, even though she was his client.

It’s time for the shroud of secrecy around this investigation to be lifted, for everything to be put in public view. The Justice Department — and even Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinMueller’s real challenge Graham vows to push Trump’s AG pick through Judiciary Committee House GOP set to grill Comey MORE, who has brazenly defied congressional subpoenas — must comply with these very lawful and appropriate orders without delay. It also is time for the media to give full, fair coverage to any and all revelations that come out of these documents, regardless of who it hurts or helps.

President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaA sea change for sexual conduct on campus Anti-wall is not a border policy: How Democrats can sell an immigration plan Obama receives Robert F. Kennedy human rights award MORE once famously said that “elections have consequences,” and he was right. But those consequences can’t be the weaponization of our intelligence assets and the setting-off of investigations to bring down a newly elected government we don’t like. Policy changes should be the consequence.

We have elections every two years, and that’s the right route for Americans to express their frustrations. Investigations, especially without probable cause, are most often the wrong way  — and maybe this additional sunlight on what was done here will bring us together around needed reforms to prevent this from ever happening again. Remember, the ends don’t justify the means. It is the means that justify the ends.

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.