Fact check on ‘witch hunt’ column

Brett Siata

COLUMN

Re: Mueller ‘witch hunt’ illegitimate, August 8 column.

OK, fact check. Special counsels (since about 1999) are appointed by the Attorney General or the acting AG to investigate possible crimes for which there is a conflict of interest for the usual prosecuting authority (AG Sessions, who recused himself). There is no need for an existing specific criminal indictment.

In his appointment order Robert Mueller is authorised to continue the existing FBI investigation into efforts by the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and to investigate:

(i) any links and/or co-ordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and

(ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation;

He is furthermore authorised to prosecute any federal crimes arising from the above matters.

I’m not sure what you mean by your claim that the investigation is illegitimate based on James Comey’s friendship with Mueller. Mueller was appointed by acting AG Rod Rosenstein after Comey was fired by the President. Comey did hope that a special prosecutor would be appointed as a result but even so there’s no evidence to suggest that Mueller, a respected, conservative, unanimously senate-confirmed, long-serving former FBI director, has done anything wrong or acted impartially.

I’m also struggling to see your point regarding so-called conflicts. Are you suggesting the Democrats on the team are incapable of impartially carrying out their duties? They’re prosecutors, not witnesses supplying evidence. All that matters is that they do their jobs and so far I’ve seen no evidence that they haven’t.

You also highlight the fact that the majority of indictments (so far) are for Russian nationals unlikely to be extradited. I’d say this is irrelevant as it is Mueller’s job to investigate any Russian interference in the 2016 election, and establishing Russian involvement is necessary regardless of the likelihood of successful prosecutions.

You mention the Trump campaign’s former chairman, Paul Manafort. Manafort is charged with seven counts relating to conspiracy and false statements in the DC district court, and 23 counts of tax and bank fraud in the eastern district of Virginia arising from evidence uncovered during the July 26, 2017 FBI raid on Manafort’s home. These are federal crimes that could have been investigated by “any old prosecutor” but these came to light under Mueller’s investigation and he is authorised to prosecute.

You go on to assert that Mueller is extorting Manafort to “make up” evidence against the President; this is speculation and assumes Mueller is an idiot who doesn’t understand how evidence works.

Interesting that you say that the midterms will result in Republican majorities in the house and senate that will “keep the President safe from impeachment”. I would have thought their primary responsibility would be to do their jobs as outlined in the Constitution and consider the case for impeachment impartially based on any evidence brought to light, not to protect the party leader.

I think it’s fair to say neither of us knows precisely what the outcome of this investigation will be, but I think it’s necessary to at least try to get to the bottom of what happened in 2016.

Final fact checks:

“President Trump’s approval ratings are higher than Obama’s were at this point in the presidency.”

Not sure of the relevance of this but the President’s aggregate approval rating as of today is 41.5 percent, Obama’s was 45.9 percent for the same time. The only poll that reflects your figures is Rassmussen’s poll of August 2 which gave Trump 50 percent.

“. . . he is a man who has never backed off from a fight with anybody during his career . . .”

Of the roughly 1300 cases involving the President in which an outcome is known he has settled 175 times.

Re: Mueller ‘witch hunt’ illegitimate, August 8 column.

OK, fact check. Special counsels (since about 1999) are appointed by the Attorney General or the acting AG to investigate possible crimes for which there is a conflict of interest for the usual prosecuting authority (AG Sessions, who recused himself). There is no need for an existing specific criminal indictment.

In his appointment order Robert Mueller is authorised to continue the existing FBI investigation into efforts by the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and to investigate:

(i) any links and/or co-ordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and

(ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation;

He is furthermore authorised to prosecute any federal crimes arising from the above matters.

I’m not sure what you mean by your claim that the investigation is illegitimate based on James Comey’s friendship with Mueller. Mueller was appointed by acting AG Rod Rosenstein after Comey was fired by the President. Comey did hope that a special prosecutor would be appointed as a result but even so there’s no evidence to suggest that Mueller, a respected, conservative, unanimously senate-confirmed, long-serving former FBI director, has done anything wrong or acted impartially.

I’m also struggling to see your point regarding so-called conflicts. Are you suggesting the Democrats on the team are incapable of impartially carrying out their duties? They’re prosecutors, not witnesses supplying evidence. All that matters is that they do their jobs and so far I’ve seen no evidence that they haven’t.

You also highlight the fact that the majority of indictments (so far) are for Russian nationals unlikely to be extradited. I’d say this is irrelevant as it is Mueller’s job to investigate any Russian interference in the 2016 election, and establishing Russian involvement is necessary regardless of the likelihood of successful prosecutions.

You mention the Trump campaign’s former chairman, Paul Manafort. Manafort is charged with seven counts relating to conspiracy and false statements in the DC district court, and 23 counts of tax and bank fraud in the eastern district of Virginia arising from evidence uncovered during the July 26, 2017 FBI raid on Manafort’s home. These are federal crimes that could have been investigated by “any old prosecutor” but these came to light under Mueller’s investigation and he is authorised to prosecute.

You go on to assert that Mueller is extorting Manafort to “make up” evidence against the President; this is speculation and assumes Mueller is an idiot who doesn’t understand how evidence works.

Interesting that you say that the midterms will result in Republican majorities in the house and senate that will “keep the President safe from impeachment”. I would have thought their primary responsibility would be to do their jobs as outlined in the Constitution and consider the case for impeachment impartially based on any evidence brought to light, not to protect the party leader.

I think it’s fair to say neither of us knows precisely what the outcome of this investigation will be, but I think it’s necessary to at least try to get to the bottom of what happened in 2016.

Final fact checks:

“President Trump’s approval ratings are higher than Obama’s were at this point in the presidency.”

Not sure of the relevance of this but the President’s aggregate approval rating as of today is 41.5 percent, Obama’s was 45.9 percent for the same time. The only poll that reflects your figures is Rassmussen’s poll of August 2 which gave Trump 50 percent.

“. . . he is a man who has never backed off from a fight with anybody during his career . . .”

Of the roughly 1300 cases involving the President in which an outcome is known he has settled 175 times.

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Bill Hambidge - 11 days ago
Really glad that you took the time to answer that guy's tirade. Well done!

Patrick Cooper - 10 days ago
By way of clarification, Jeff Sessions shouldn't have recused himself as the law doesn't require this in the case of a counter-intelligence investigation. He cited the wrong law in his letter of recusal, anyway.

Incidentally, he recused himself the day after he had been sworn in and not having informed the President of his intention. The President, understandably, was quite angry about this.

If he hadn't done so, a special counsel wouldn't have been required.

Rosenstein should have recused himself as he authored the memo to dismiss Comey and therefore was a material witness in any charge relating to the obstruction of justice levelled at the President.





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