Constitution Forced Mueller’s Hand

The Mueller Report is complete, and Donald Trump has been absolved of collusion with the Russians.

Mueller stopped short of saying that his investigation exonerated the president. However, if I were suspected of something, if my antagonists publicly predicted I would “die in jail,” and if I were investigated for 675 days, and they raided my personal lawyer and read everything on his hard disk, and leaned on my closest associates to incriminate me, and then had to admit the evidence didn’t support a legal accusation, much less a conviction, I would feel exonerated.

If I were one of the people who falsely accused a man on a daily basis, I would feel great shame and contrition now. But this is not in the Democrats’ repertoire. They merely shift their innuendo to Mueller, accusing him of a betrayal.

MSNBC Democrat Chris Matthews was scandalized that Mueller never interrogated the president. But nobody accused of a crime in America, since the ratification of the Bill of Rights, has been obligated to give testimony against himself. After some initial bluster, the president wisely decided not to match wits with head-hunting prosecutors.

Perhaps he respected his attorneys’ advice. Or maybe he saw for himself the landscape littered with the bleached skeletons of defendants who were a little too cavalier about about the Fifth Amendment. The fact that you are innocent doesn’t mean you have nothing to fear from testifying under oath, or interrogation by prosecutors.

His first National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, was convicted of lying to the FBI. The interview was so casual that Flynn had no legal counsel present, and the FBI agents didn’t give the usual warning about penalties for lying. He was not under oath. But from the moment he lied about an arcane United Nations matter, the prosecutors owned him.

The sentencing judge, who apparently wasn’t paying very close attention, berated him in court for representing a foreign country’s interests while serving in the White House. But Flynn’s contract with that country ended the previous year, before Trump appointed him National Security Adviser.

The judge stunned onlookers when he used the term “treason,” an embarrassing misstatement for a federal judge who ought to be familiar with the elements of the only crime that is defined in the U.S. Constitution. It can only be surmised that the judge believed Flynn guilty of much greater crimes than the prosecutors accused him of. This is the risk you run when you agree to casual interviews with the FBI.

The granddaddy of all perjury traps may have been in the Lewis “Scooter” Libby trial. Libby was Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff. He was accused of exposing a clandestine CIA agent’s cover.

A journalist testified that Libby had told her a State Department civilian overseas was in fact a CIA agent. She later wrote in her memoir that it was a misunderstanding, and that she may have helped convict an innocent man. A senior State Department official later admitted it was he who blew the CIA agent’s cover.

But Libby was convicted of making false statements to investigators, perjury in the grand jury, and obstruction of justice in an attempt to impede the investigation. It ruined his life. All he needed to do was to refuse to talk to people who wanted him to rot in jail.

The downside of the Fifth Amendment is that criminals can use it to frustrate investigations and avoid conviction. Government officials in the IRS and EPA have used it to prevent legislative oversight. But it’s a price that the Founders were willing to pay. It’s a firewall against tyrannical prosecution and wanton harassment.

In this case, it has helped force investigators to stick to the subject. Despite winning several confessions to unrelated crimes such as lying on loan applications, the investigation has been forced back onto the central question: did the President, or did he not, collude with the Russians to interfere in our elections?

There would be no cleverly designed perjury traps for Trump, no rabbits pulled from a hat. The investigation was forced back on track. And it was a successful investigation. We have our answer.

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