Discovering the breadth, scope and timing of the Inspector General’s Investigation has proven to be clarifying.
An investigation that began in January 2017.
500 employees. A $100 million budget. 1.2 million documents already in the Inspector General’s possession. For delivery to the House Judiciary Committee by January 15, 2018.
An investigation that, to my knowledge, has experienced no leaks.
An investigation tasked with examining the DOJ and FBI:
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) will initiate a review of allegations regarding certain actions by the Department of Justice (Department) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in advance of the 2016 election.
With freedom to expand wherever evidence leads:
If circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider including other issues that may arise during the course of the review.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz can look at anything he wants to.
Including the Mueller Investigation.
Each day, we are presented with new details in regards to the Mueller Investigation. Details not related to the Investigation’s target – Trump-Russia collusion – but to the investigation itself.
Details specific to some of the investigators and – as I’ve detailed in previous posts – the Clinton Campaign and Obama Administration.
These details have come to light precisely because of the ongoing – and seemingly massive – Inspector General Investigation.
But are these newly disclosed details specific to the Mueller Investigation.
Or are they details that are incidental to the Mueller Investigation.
There’s potentially a big difference.
I’ve opposed the appointment of a Special Counsel from the beginning. These things have a way of becoming a hunt in search of a target.
And there are some very valid concerns.
In his article, One Mueller-Investigation Coincidence too Many, Victor Davis Hansen runs through the litany of conflicts and troubles plaguing the Mueller Investigation. I have already covered most of the large ones. Here are some of the smaller – but still troubling – items from the article:
At least six of Mueller’s staff of 15 lawyers, who previously had donated (in some cases quite generously) to Hillary Clinton’s campaigns.
Andrew Weissmann [a top member of Mueller’s Team] praised Sally Yates, an Obama-administration holdover at the Trump Department of Justice, for breaking her oath of office and refusing to carry out President Trump’s immigration order.
Another attorney on the Mueller staff, Jeannie Rhee, was at one time the personal attorney of Ben Rhodes, the Obama deputy national-security adviser. Rhee also provided legal counsel to the Clinton Foundation and was a generous donor to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Aaron Zebley, who once served as Mueller’s chief of staff and is a current senior member of Mueller’s team, represented Justin Cooper. [Cooper] was the IT staffer who set up set up Hillary Clinton’s likely illegal and unsecure server at her home, and who purportedly smashed Clinton’s various BlackBerries with a hammer in fear they would be subpoenaed.
Hansen sums it up in this fashion:
In inexplicable fashion, Mueller seems to have made almost no effort to select attorneys from outside Washington, from diverse private law firms across the country, who were without personal involvement with the Clinton machine, and who were politically astute or disinterested enough to keep their politics to themselves.
I’ve known about these specific conflicts but haven’t detailed them previously as they paled against other issues – like those involving FBI Agent Peter Strzok. But they are worth noting.
It’s Hansen’s last point – more a question – that I’ve found myself repeatedly returning to since the formation of Mueller’s team.
Why would Mueller construct an investigative team using the specific people he selected.
It’s clear that more damning details will be forthcoming – they’ve been coming out faster than I can chronicle them.
As Hansen notes:
Donald Trump at this point would be unhinged if he were to fire Special Counsel Mueller — given that the investigators seem intent on digging their own graves through conflicts of interest, partisan politicking, leaking, improper amorous liaisons, indiscreet communications, and stonewalling the release of congressionally requested information.
Indeed, the only remaining trajectory by which Mueller and his investigators can escape with their reputations intact is to dismiss those staff attorneys who have exhibited clear anti-Trump political sympathies, reboot the investigation, and then focus on what now seems the most likely criminal conduct: Russian and Clinton-campaign collusion in the creation of the anti-Trump Fusion GPS dossier and later possible U.S. government participation in the dissemination of it.
From the very beginning, I’ve maintained that any collusion with Russia lay on the side of the DNC, the Clinton Campaign and the Obama Administration.
Each new detail goes further to support this contention.
Which brings me back to the Inspector General’s Investigation.
In Rosenstein’s Testimony, the Inspector General & 1.2 Million Documents, I made the following comment:
The Inspector General can look at anything he wants to.
Including the Mueller Investigation.
Mueller, of all people, had to be aware of the Inspector General’s Investigation which preceded Mueller and his team. The IG Investigation was already well underway when Mueller was brought on as Special Counsel.
I doubt anyone would be willing to accept command of a second, more restrictive – and highly scrutinized – investigation without first vetting the IG’s ongoing Investigation.
Mueller likely knew the IG Investigation’s breadth and scope, possible targets, areas of investigation, intended timing – and possibly specific details.
He already knew the initial focus of the IG Investigation. That had been made public in the IG’s Statement.
Mueller knew details from the IG Investigation would eventually be brought into public domain.
So, the better question quickly becomes this.
Why would Mueller be willing to accept the job of Special Counsel in the first place.
I’ve been internally debating this question since Mueller was first appointed.
Mueller was the FBI Director from 2001 to 2013. Mueller joined the law firm of WilmerHale in March 2014. In early 2016, Mueller was tasked with helping steer talks in the VW Emissions case and became the court-appointed Settlement Master in the disbursement of the $14.7 billion settlement.
In late 2016, Mueller conducted an external review of Booz Allen Hamilton after a former employee was arrested for removing NSA classified information from its offices. In April 2017, Mueller was picked to oversee the $1 billion Takata Airbag restitution.
High profile appointments – requiring a certain level of perceived integrity.
The Takata Airbag Settlement role was cut short by Mueller’s appointment as Special Counsel on May 17, 2017, by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Mueller has been in that role ever since.
Some basic facts:
The Inspector General’s Investigation was well under way prior to Mueller’s appointment.
Mueller knew of the IG Investigation – breadth, scope, funding – and possibly specific details.
Mueller knew the results of the IG Investigation would be publicly released – and carefully examined against his investigation’s results.
As former Director of the FBI, Mueller was in a position to know details regarding at least some of those being targeted by the IG Investigation.
Mueller was leading a seemingly comfortable life in semi-retirement.
Mueller’s public reputation was – at the time – solid. Those of us who have followed the Uranium One scandal may beg to differ on this matter.
Mueller had been out of public office since 2013 – four years. Before the scope of the IG Investigation.
Now consider Hansen’s closing paragraph:
If such a fraudulent document [Trump Dossier] was used to gain court approval to surveil Trump associates, and under such cover to unmask and leak names of private U.S. citizens — at first to warp a U.S. election, and then later to thwart the work of an incoming elected administration — then Mueller will be tasked with getting to the bottom of one of the greatest political scandals in recent U.S. history.
Indeed, his legacy may not be that he welcomed in known pro-Clinton, anti-Trump attorneys to investigate the Trump 2016 campaign where there was little likelihood of criminality, but that he ignored the most egregious case of government wrongdoing in the last half-century.
This is a major journalist at the National Review saying publicly what much of the nation believes privately. Hansen is far from alone in his commentary.
Why would a former Director of the FBI return from private sector life with the goal of politicizing and twisting an enormous case of national scope.
Especially when a larger, parallel investigation is already well underway – and looking over your shoulder.
Nevertheless, Mueller’s Investigation so far appears to be a study in contradiction.
When Mueller accepted the Special Counsel role, he left WilmerHale. Mueller did not leave alone.
The firm said Aaron Zebley, who worked for Mueller at the FBI, and James Quarles, who was previously an assistant special prosecutor on the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, also resigned from WilmerHale and are expected to join Mueller’s investigation.
Although the article does not mention her, Jeannie Rhee also followed Mueller from WilmerHale.
As noted above, Zebley represented Justin Cooper, Clinton’s IT Staffer. Jeannie Rhee, was at one time the personal attorney of Ben Rhodes and also provided legal counsel to the Clinton Foundation. She was a donor to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Quarles has known Mueller over 20 years. His last governmental role was during Watergate.
Mueller had FBI Agent Peter Strzok as a part of his investigative staff. Strzok is later discovered to have his fingerprints on almost everything that has transpired since the discovery of Hillary’s private server. Strzok also has connections with Bruce and Nellie Ohr – and Fusion GPS. Strzok is one of the key people in the creation and dissemination of the Trump Dossier.
Worse still, the discovery of a Strzok text message appears to indicate collusion with Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe to alter or influence the 2016 Presidential election by utilizing the Trump Dossier. Strzok was removed from Mueller’s team by Mueller (per reports) after the IG Investigation – not Mueller – discovered the information.
Some of Mueller’s Defenders only serve to cast more doubt on Mueller’s role:
Speaking on behalf of the vast majority of the American people, Republicans in Congress be forewarned:any attempt to remove Bob Mueller will not be tolerated.These are BS attacks on him/his staff that are blatantly political-designed to hide the real wrongdoing. Country not party
— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) December 14, 2017
When Eric Holder’s running defense…questions are immediately raised…
But then we are faced with initial results from Mueller’s Investigation.
Mueller’s first indictments were handed down on October 30, 2017, against Paul Manafort and Richard Gates who were indicted by a federal grand jury on 12 counts.
Within hours of Manafort’s indictment, it was reported that Tony Podesta would be stepping down from his role as Chairman of the Podesta Group.
Manafort and the Podesta Brothers could potentially lead to much bigger targets within the Clinton Campaign and the Obama Administration.
These targets suggest a particular focus. As I wrote in The Manafort Indictment – Podesta Connections & a Message to Influence Peddlers:
I am hopeful that more concrete investigations are currently underway – with more indictments to follow. But I also think there might be something more subtle going on. Consider what is really being targeted in the Manafort Indictment.
Mueller appears to be making it known that the Clinton Era of Influence Selling is finally coming to a close.
So, here we are.
Mueller hires a group of highly regarded lawyers – many of whom also appear to be highly partisan. Mueller’s team has been hit with a series of disclosures – especially those on FBI Agent Peter Strzok and Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr.
At the same time, the actual indictments brought forth by Mueller appear to be focused on stemming rampant influence peddling in Washington. The biggest casualty is actually the brother of long-time Clinton loyalist John Podesta.
Seemingly contradictory reference points leaving no logical conclusion.
Which is why I keep returning to the Inspector General’s Investigation.
The Inspector General’s Investigation covers similar ground to Mueller’s Investigation – but the IG Investigation is broader. Potentially much broader.
The Inspector General, in his investigation, can look at anything he wants – including the Mueller Investigation.
It was the Inspector General who caught members of Mueller’s team (Strzok and Page) sending damning texts.
That’s a pretty explicit and unambiguous message that someone is looking directly over your shoulder…
This is no small point.
As I’ve noted, IG Michael Horowitz already has in his possession 1.2 Million documents. He appears prepared to hand them over to the House Judiciary Committee – and almost certainly members of the Senate – by January 15, 2018.
The results of the Inspector General’s Investigation will be publicly released.
Whatever Mueller’s actual intent, whatever his investigation brings forth, the results of his investigation will be overlaid, compared and contrasted with whatever is forthcoming from the Inspector General’s Investigation.
Mueller knew this before he took the Special Counsel position.
Now ask yourself this simple question.
What happens if Mueller provides results that conflict with the Inspector General.
If he does, what happens when Mueller is challenged on potential disparities by the IG and/or Congressional members. Worse still, what happens if Mueller is presented with solid and contradictory evidence from the IG Investigation.
Mueller’s Investigation seems positioned to be caught in the jaws of the Inspector General’s Investigation.
Maybe that was the plan all along.
But if so, Mueller should have been smart enough to know it.
newer post The Inspector General’s Implied Oversight