(Before reading today’s story, please read Part 1 published yesterday, December 17th)
Who Remembers Sandy Berger?
Berger was an American political consultant who served as the United States National Security Advisor for President Bill Clinton from March 14, 1997, until January 20, 2001. Before that, he served as the Deputy National Security Advisor for the Clinton Administration from January 20, 1993, until March 14, 1997.
Here’s what Berger did:
On July 19, 2004, it was revealed that the United States Department of Justice was investigating Berger for unauthorized removal of classified documents in October 2003 from a National Archives reading room prior to testifying before the 9/11 Commission. The documents were five classified copies of a single report commissioned from Richard Clarke covering internal assessments of the Clinton Administration’s handling of the unsuccessful 2000 millennium attack plots. An associate of Berger said Berger took one copy in September 2003 and four copies in October 2003, allegedly by stuffing the documents into his socks and pants. Berger subsequently lied to investigators when questioned about the removal of the documents. In April 2005, Berger pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material from the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
Berger was fined $50,000, sentenced to serve two years of probation and 100 hours of community service, and stripped of his security clearance for three years. The Justice Department initially said Berger only stole copies of classified documents and not originals, but the House Government Reform Committee later revealed that an unsupervised Berger had been given access to classified files of original, uncopied, uninventoried documents on terrorism. During the House Government Reform Committee hearings, Nancy Kegan Smith — who was the director of the presidential documents staff at the National Archives and Records Administration — acknowledged that she had granted Berger access to original materials in her office.
On December 20, 2006, Inspector General Paul Brachfeld reported that Berger took a break to go outside without an escort. “In total, during this visit, he removed four documents … Mr. Berger said he placed the documents under a trailer in an accessible construction area outside Archives 1 (the main Archives building).” Berger acknowledged having later retrieved the documents from the construction area and returned with them to his office.
On May 17, 2007, Berger relinquished his license to practice law as a result of the Justice Department investigation. Saying, “I have decided to voluntarily relinquish my license. … While I derived great satisfaction from years of practicing law, I have not done so for 15 years and do not envision returning to the profession. I am very sorry for what I did, and I deeply apologize.” By giving up his license, Berger avoided cross-examination by the Bar Counsel regarding details of his thefts.
Of course, the FBI was involved in the Justice Department investigated the Berger incident. That meant Robert Mueller was tasked to “oversee” that investigation. As aggressive as Mueller can be about pursuing the wrong man, he showed surprising leniency and laxity when it came to the case of Samuel “Sandy” Berger. He was found to have stuffed the documents in his socks and otherwise hidden them. His punishment was that he was allowed to plead guilty in 2005 to a single misdemeanor. He served no jail time but had to give up his security clearance for three years.
The staff of Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., authored a 60-page report about the theft of the documents, in which he said: “The Justice Department was unacceptably incurious about Berger’s Archives visits.”
Then There was Scooter Libby
As lax and lenient as the Department of Justice was with Berger, the opposite was true in other cases. After Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA employee was leaked, a special counsel operation was set up to investigate the leak. Mueller’s deputy Comey pressured John Ashcroft to recuse himself from the case on the grounds he had potential conflicts of interest.
Comey named Patrick Fitzgerald, his close personal friend, and godfather to one of his children, to the role of special counsel. Mueller, Comey, and Fitzgerald all knew the whole time that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was the leaker. Yet they set things up so Fitzgerald would aggressively investigate the Bush administration for three years, jailed a journalist for not giving up a source, and pursued both Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.
Comey even expanded the investigation’s mandate within weeks of setting up the special counsel. (Sound familiar?) Libby, who was later pardoned by President Trump, was rung up on a process charge in part thanks to prosecutorial abuse by Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald encouraged a witness to give false testimony by not providing exonerating evidence to her and Libby’s attorneys. The Wall Street Journal and Commentary have write-ups on the saga.
In 2016, the FBI kept getting involved in the presidential election. Political considerations rather obviously played a role in Comey showing deference to Clinton in July 2016 in the investigation into her mishandling of classified information. Political considerations also played a role — he says subconsciously — in Comey’s decision to announce a probe into Clinton’s mishandling of classified information had been reopened shortly before the election.
It wasn’t the first time the FBI meddled in a U.S. election. In 2008, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, was indicted by a federal grand jury following a lengthy investigation by the FBI and found guilty eight days before Election Day. Stevens narrowly lost his re-election bid as a result and died in a plane crash a couple of years later.
The prosecutors in that case repeatedly withheld exculpatory evidence that would have yielded a different verdict. The convictions were voided by U.S. District Court Judge Emmett G. Sullivan, who called it the worst case of prosecutorial misconduct he’d ever seen. Stevens’ attorney complained about FBI abuses and said: ‘To us, while this is a joyful day and we’re happy that Sen. Stevens can resume a normal life without the burden that he’s carried over these last years,’ he said, ‘at age 85, it’s a very sad story too. Because it’s a warning to everyone in this country that any citizen can be convicted if the prosecutor ignores the Constitution of the United States.”
Israeli Spy Ring
Another black mark on Mueller’s record at the FBI was the pursuit of what the bureau dramatically claimed was an Israeli spy ring operating out of the Pentagon. The news broke in August 2004 that a spy working for Israel was in the Department of Defense.
It turned out that the bureau had gone after a policy analyst who had chatted with American lobbyists at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Charges were also pursued against two AIPAC employees. Those charges were later dropped and the sentence of the first person was dropped from 13 years to 10 months of house arrest and some community service.
The Washington Post wrote: “The conspiracy case against two former AIPAC lobbyists came to an inglorious end in May when the government dropped all charges after 3 1/2 years of pre-trial maneuvers.”
It was a curious case: First, the lobbyists, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, were charged under an obscure section of the Espionage Act of 1917, a law that had been used only once before — unsuccessfully and never against private citizens for disclosing classified information. Second, they were targets of a bizarre sting in which they were fed false information suggesting that the lives of U.S. and Israeli operatives in Iraq were at risk and that American officials were refusing to take steps to protect them. The accusation was not that they brokered this information to some foreign enemy but that they offered it to everybody they could, hoping, among other things, to get a reporter from The Post to publish it so that it might draw the attention of the right U.S. officials and save U.S. lives. In short, even if the two were guilty as charged, they look more like whistle-blowers than spies.
It turned out the probe was led by David Szady, the same man who notoriously missed Russian spy Robert Hanssen in his midst while he spent years targeting an innocent man named Brian Kelley, an undercover officer at the CIA. For this good work, Mueller named him Assistant Director for Counterintelligence.
The “Weisman” Factor
Many of these examples of prosecutorial misconduct and abuse were done not by Mueller but by underlings. He should have been aware of what they were doing, which means he should take responsibility for the errors. If he wasn’t aware, that’s a very bad sign regarding his competence to supervise his special counsel deputy Andrew Weissman. (We have written previously extensively of Weisman’s long and egregious prosecutorial record)
If Mueller had no effective supervision against the abuses of the above underlings, why would anyone trust him to supervise his good buddy Weissman, whom he picked to run lead on his probe of Trump? Weissman destroyed the accounting firm Arthur Anderson LLP, which once had 85,000 employees. Thanks to prosecutorial abuse, jurors were not told that Arthur Anderson didn’t have criminal intent when it shredded documents. The Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction, but it was too late to save the company.
Weissman also “creatively criminalized a business transaction between Merrill Lynch and Enron,” which sent four executives to jail. Weissman concocted unprecedented charges and did not allow the executives to get bail, causing massive disruption to the families before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed most of Weissman’s case.
So this is the “guy” put in charge of chasing and finding proof that the current President, his campaign staff and others colluded with Russians to positively influence the 2016 election in Trump’s favor. There apparently was no collusion, so Mueller morphed the investigation into “Obstruction of Justice.” Apparently, there was no Obstruction found. Now we understand Mueller is looking into Trump business transactions as far back as the 1980s!
Does that sound like a Witch-hunt to you?
Let’s not forget: one could also argue that the above failures, except the Stevens case, were actually James Comey’s responsibility. That’s arguably true as well, but it also shows just how bizarre it is that Mueller was named to investigate a situation in which his friend and partner in prosecutorial abuse is so intimately involved.
I am certain that Americans expect all those in national public office to be honorable, honest, and to serve Americans within the positions for which they were elected or appointed. That includes the President of the United States. If and when there is real injustice, illegalities, and constant efforts to hide things from Americans, we all get an uneasy feeling.
When the Mueller probe was announced, I was skeptical. But my knowledge there are so many things in D.C. I don’t know or understand, I was perfectly willing for Mueller and Company to take a look. But two years later: there’s no there-there. They try to justify the $25 million taxpayers have paid directly to fund the investigation with the indictments that have come from the investigation. But as the light is shined on those indictments, we’ve learned they were either against Russians who were simply charged and will certainly never show up in American court to stand trial, or were not for actions people committed to collude with Russia in any way, but stem from actions taken by Mueller’s team in setting up those being investigated to misstate something — which is technically a lie — and have been charged (or threatened to be charged) for a federal felony!
Does that sound like justice to you?
It may be justice, but every American citizen is promised: “equal justice under the law.” I’m pretty certain General Michael Flynn, George
If it quacks and waddles, it’s almost always a duck.
And Mueller is quacking!