Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
$16.7 million. That’s the bill for the Mueller investigation.
The last spending phase, from October to March, included $2.7 million in salaries with another $532,340 in travel expenses. And there’s no sign that this hideously expensive circus is ever going to end.
The latest high-wire act in the circus is yet another accusation aimed at Paul Manafort. This time, Mueller’s favorite target is being accused of witness tampering. Like most of Mueller’s favorite charges, such as making false statements, this isn’t a crime being uncovered, but arises from the investigation.
The accusation is also obviously a means to an end. Mueller had bet everything on pressuring Paul.
The pre-dawn no-knock raid of Manafort’s home was unnecessary, but intimidating. And Mueller’s people were grousing ever since Manafort had been released from house arrest.
In December, they wanted to rip up his agreement because he had supposedly been working on an editorial which violated the gag order, even though it was never published. This time around there’s another claim that he was in contact with his old buddies “in an effort to influence their testimony and to otherwise conceal evidence”. Now the goal may be to move Manafort from home to prison.
Is the Special Counsel’s Office really worried about Manafort’s editorials or chats with old colleagues? It’s more likely that Andrew Weissmann, Mueller’s Democrat pit bull, believes that will soften him up.
But why does the SCO keep returning to Manafort? It’s obvious if you look at Mueller’s mission.
Rod Rosenstein authorized Mueller to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump”.
After multiple indictments, browbeating, raids and assorted acts of political intimidation, Mueller has spent $16.7 million and come up with zero evidence of collusion between Trump and the Russians. But Rod Rosenstein worded his order with more loopholes than an amateur knitter. It’s not the official campaign, but individuals associated with it. No matter how slight their association might be.
Parts (ii) and (iii) then authorize Mueller to essentially go on a fishing expedition wherever he likes. But if the fishing expedition doesn’t bring home the biggest fish in the White House, then it’s all wet.
Considering the size of those travel expenses, there’s obviously been plenty of fishing. But Mueller and his gang of Democrats still need to take a crack at (i) or, “individuals associated with the campaign”.
And there are only so many of those.
Mueller got to work by looking for anyone associated with the Trump campaign who had international connections. On the Clinton campaign, that would have been a huge list. But the Trump campaign was anti-establishment and so it had fewer of the usual establishment campaign professionals who work different countries and offer their services across borders.
Hillary’s campaign chair, John Podesta, had his former firm shut down due to fallout from its alleged consulting work for a pro-Russian movement in Ukraine. Robby Mook, Hillary’s inept campaign manager, had a background with the National Democratic Institute working in the Middle East.
And there were two other NDIers on her staff.
Hillary’s campaign payroll director had joined from the Russian American Foundation. Earlier, Huma Abedin had mentioned hooking up RAF people with the State Department at the request of a Clinton Foundation donor. (There’s nothing illegal there, but imagine the field day that the media would be having if Trump’s payroll director had come from an organization with that name.)
David Plouffe, Obama’s ‘08 campaign manager, had received $100K in speaking fees from a company doing business with Iran’s major terror hub. David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist, had founded a company that did election work for a former Nigerian Muslim dictator who was also backed by Obama. Axelrod’s former firm had also butted into Ukraine.
But it would be hard to find any big names in the political world who hadn’t done the Ukraine circuit.
That wasn’t true on the Trump campaign. Trump’s original campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and his ultimate campaign manager, Steve Bannon, didn’t fit the mold. That left Manafort, who had only served as campaign manager for some months, but who had worked internationally.
If Mueller were trying to find Clinton campaign people with foreign connections, there would have been an embarrassment of riches. But the most obvious target on the Trump campaign was Paul Manafort.
Like every bad cop, Mueller took the path of least resistance, starting with an easy target and working his way back to the crime. The tactics, a pre-dawn raid, patting Manafort’s wife down in bed, were the police state nastiness you expect from a partisan investigation of the political opposition.
But unnecessary thuggery also stinks of desperation and a weak case.
Mueller is under pressure to deliver, not from President Trump, but from Democrats and his media allies. If he brings down a president, he’s a hero. But if he doesn’t, he goes down in history as a shmuck.
If he can’t get Manafort, then he’s stuck with pressing down on his B-list, or settling for George Papadopoulos. And no one in the SCO seriously thinks Papadopoulos can bring down a president.
If Mueller can land Manafort, then he’s got a campaign manager. And though Manafort’s actual ties to Trump were glancing at best, most of the public won’t know that. Rosenstein’s order says, “campaign of President Donald Trump”. And it doesn’t get more ‘campaign’ than the campaign manager.
But if Mueller trots out Papadopoulos, a low-level unpaid intern who lied on his resume, forget about it.
While the media cheers every Mueller move, there’s an implicit admission here that he doesn’t have what he needs. Harassing Manafort with new accusations is demoralizing, but if Manafort had anything to give Mueller, why wouldn’t he have already negotiated a deal that would have made all this go away?
Mueller is a lefty fantasy of bringing down Trump. And Manafort is Mueller’s fantasy.
Unlike the #resistance celeb twitterati, the media echo chamber tossing out hot takes and the lefty conspiracy theorists assembling grand plans, Mueller is experienced enough to know better.
He knows that he needs to go big or go home. Either he gets a big fish or he can run out the next 5 years commuting to the office in southwest Washington, D.C., running up the bill, and fishing for anything on anyone to stay in the headlines and the good graces of Senate Dems. If he loses Manafort, it’s over.
Robert Mueller is 73 years old. He has a long career as an establishment swamp creature. But he’s never made a real difference. When he dies, he’ll be another swiftly forgotten footnote in Washington D.C.
Mueller isn’t bright. Despite glowing media adjectives (from an establishment which will turn on him in a second if he fails to deliver), he isn’t honest or incorruptible. But he is dogged and ruthless.
And with the disproportionate powers on his side, that’s usually been enough.
If there’s one quality that defines him, it’s certainty. Mueller is always certain even when he’s wrong. Especially when he’s wrong. From the anthrax case to today, Mueller doubles down when he’s wrong.
As one aide put it, Mueller is “someone that can’t accept the fact that he screwed up.”
Mueller has a great deal of power to double down. And that’s what he’s doing with Manafort. But no amount of doubling down on being wrong will set Mr. Mueller’s final bid for immortality right.