Do you remember when the great Willie Mays fell down chasing a fly ball during the 1973 World Series? Here was Mays, one of the most graceful and agile athletes ever to play center field, author of some of the most remarkable fielding plays in baseball history, and now 42 years old, playing for the Mets in the last days of his outstanding career – and tripping over his own feet. It was a sad end to a distinguished career.
I couldn’t help thinking of the “Say Hey Kid” while watching Robert Mueller’s rambling, awkward, uncomfortable and disjointed testimony before two Congressional committees. It was clear that he was out of his element, unfamiliar with much of the report that bears his name that he clearly did not write and arguably did not read. He seemed to be suffering some of the natural effects of aging – and suffering even more (as I have seen with other distinguished people), from shady handlers and manipulators hiding behind Mueller’s reputation for probity to carry out the nefarious schemes of the Resistance.
Mueller responded, well over 200 times, with some variation of “I cannot respond,” “that is beyond the purview of the investigation,””I don’t remember,” “I don’t recall,” “If it’s in the report, it is accurate,” “I can’t get into that,” “can you repeat the question?” and the like. He erred in identifying the name of the president…who appointed him a United States Attorney. He fumbled for words, obvious words. He was surrounded by handlers who seemed to prop him up and feed him lines, not a principal in the process but a figurehead.
And that makes the composition of his investigative team so suspicious. Did he really not know the politics of his staff attorneys and investigators? Was he unaware that all supported Hillary Clinton and a half dozen contributed money to her campaign? Did he even ask?
Had Hillary Clinton been a defendant in a criminal case (or Donald Trump, for that matter), and these attorneys had been questioned about their fitness to serve on a jury, all of them would have been barred for potential bias. It is an obvious conflict, and an obvious question that should have been asked of each of them: did you contribute to or actively participate in either campaign? That it was not is a clear indication of Mueller’s manipulation.
As was this: the unethical and un-judicial standard of a potential defendant not being exonerated. Such a thing is unknown in our – or any – fair-minded judicial system. The presumption of innocence is sacred, for several reasons including the impossibility of ever proving one’s innocence of anything. After all, there might be no evidence of criminality now but who’s to say such evidence won’t appear in a month, year or decade from now? That is why prosecutions require the foundation of probable cause that a crime was committed (a standard that was not even met in this case) and conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
That such deference was not granted to Donald Trump is outrageous.
As was this: the only evidence of collusion between a candidate and a campaign was not investigated by Mueller. That was the Clinton’s campaign’s solicitation of and payment for the salacious and unverified Steele dossier published in Russia that was used to facilitate spying on American citizens. (Unmentioned were the tens of millions of funneled by foreign entities to the Clinton Foundation, which mysteriously has packed up its tent and disappeared.) “Beyond the purview of my investigation”? That was supposed to be the essence of his investigation. Mueller should have just admitted that the purview of his investigation was to dig up any material on Trump, and present it without the right of cross-examination or any substantive challenge.
The horrors of Russian interference that purportedly disrupted and corrupted American democracy has still not quite been explained. What did they do? Meet with campaign officials? I assume that the campaigns on both sides met with foreigners representing several dozen countries. I myself greet several Russians every week. Is that collusion?
Apparently they purchased ads on the Facebook that influenced…who exactly? As the joke (by now, old) goes: did the Russians convince Hillary not to campaign in Wisconsin? Even Bill thought that was a big mistake. What did the Russians do that influenced the election? And note that the conflation of “Russians” and “Russian government” is not at all warranted without further evidence.
Politicians are almost always duplicitous and labor to sound pious and sincere, but let’s be frank: do foreign governments take an interest in American elections? Of course they do. That is because most countries’ interests will be furthered by one side winning and hindered by another side winning. It is why the US routinely interferes in Israel’s elections, with the Obama State Department even being censured by Congress for spending American money to try to defeat PM Netanyahu in 2013. The British, French, Germans, Italians, Australians and Israelis all have an interest in who the American president is. As do the Russians, Iraqis, Iranians and Pakistanis. Sometimes countries will overtly favor one person, other times they will covertly support one over the other, and some countries – usually adversaries – will try to acquire dirt on both parties to hedge their bets and use the information to their advantage in future relations. That has been a Russian tactic for decades – and one of a nation’s most common uses of its intelligence agencies (and even diplomatic corps) is to gather information on candidates and positions, predict outcomes, and try to reach out to any and all campaigns. I doubt that the Russians are atypical, as I don’t doubt that the US does the exact same thing in other countries. (See the histories of Chile, the Philippines and Iran for just a few examples.)
The whole process has been a bizarre farce since the beginning and has corrupted the American legal establishment in ways that will reverberate for quite a while. The tendentiousness is blatant. The misstatements by so many Dem representatives were reprehensible. It is clear that collusion (if it did occur) is not a crime. Period. So, can a person obstruct justice to impede an investigation into a non-crime? That seems more like obstruction of injustice. Does one obstruct justice by asking an investigator, prosecutor, or judge to go easy on someone? If so, that type of “obstruction” occurs every day, and I have probably violated it hundreds of times. But that is not obstruction. Nor is ranting in private about the injustice of it all, nor is calling a political witch hunt a political witch hunt.
There were repeated references to Michael Cohen pleading guilty and going to prison for “campaign violations.” Well, that is an obvious falsehood. Cohen was prosecuted for tax evasion and fraud having nothing to do with Trump – and admitted to a host of other violations simply at the behest of prosecutors who would not otherwise have accepted a deal. Just because he pleaded guilty to a campaign violation does not even mean that there was a campaign violation, as anyone who has ever pleaded guilty to a seat belt violation instead of a moving violation can attest.
How Trump won remains a mystery only to elitists who know little about the country in which they reside but pontificate about all the time. It seems pretty apparent that the Dems hope to perpetuate these investigations through 2020, hoping that the country tires of Trump and the whole tumult. But the danger to the country is enormous – not just the indifference of politicians to the real problems the country faces but also the harm to its international reputation, the invitation to even more insidious interference in the future, the corruption of the legal process, and the nightmare of an agency with limitless power focusing its enmity and unlimited resources on a political target. That is the stuff of banana republics.
When the Torah taught us “Justice, justice, you shall pursue”(Devarim 16:20), the Kotzker Rebbe explained the redundancy by averring that justice must be pursued only through means that are just. Justice is distorted when the means to attain it are perverse.
Let Mueller rest and retire. He had his Willie Mays moment today and it is sad to end a distinguished career on such a depressing note. But, had I been on the committee, I would have closed with this statement:
Mr. Mueller: “There is compelling evidence that your staff was biased against Trump from the beginning and that you purposely omitted or ignored exculpatory evidence. You may not be guilty of prosecutorial misconduct – but nor have you been exonerated of it.”
Unfortunately, those who think that will be the last word on this matter will be sorely disappointed. And Jews – and Jewish organizations – that fail to appreciate this President’s pro-Israel and pro-Jewish policies, and can never find a good word to say about him, are both foolish and ungrateful, and will yet be called to account by the Jewish community and all right-thinking people.