Despite contortioned coverage by the elitist New York/DC media cabal, the most important FACT to come out of the indictments of Paul Manafort and Richard Gates vis a vis the Trump campaign is the total lack – not even a hint – of criminal collusion or obstruction of justice. It is the latest and perhaps most significant indication of the absence of criminal collusion and obstruction.
You should notice that I use the term “criminal collusion.” That is because, despite the implications of the press, collusion is not against the law. So, even if there has been collusion by definition – and you could not run a political campaign or much of anything without extensive collusion – the activities must rise to the level of “criminal collusion.” That is a much higher bar.
Just to refresh the history. In terms of evidence suggesting criminal collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, former FBI director told President Trump on several occasions that there was none … a fact to which Comey testified under oath before Congress. In more than a year characterized by an unprecedented number of bureaucratic leaks designed to harm the Trump administration, not a single leak produced any evidence of criminal collusion or obstruction.
Considering that the entire Mueller investigation was launched to achieve the dual prosecutorial prizes of criminal collusion and obstruction of justice by Trump, it is both notable and remarkable that these indictments had nothing to do with those speculations. Mueller was given the authority to take the investigation into any UNRELATED criminal discoveries that might be uncovered. These indictments are just that – unrelated.
Of course, the elitist left-wing media is quick to spin the case to the prosecution by deploying some of the lowest forms of journalism and legal ethics – guilt by association. While none of the articulated crimes involve the campaign, the rabid Trump-hating reporters and their fawning panelists suggest culpability merely by nothing more than association. If a member of your bowling team turned out to be the Midnight Rapist somehow it involves you. That is essentially what is happening here.
To best understand the realities, it is necessary to make the distinction between the real courts and the kangaroo court-of-public-opinion where rules of evidence are trumped by speculation, gossip and ruthless partisanship, and where opinion displaces facts and evidence as the basis of judgment. It is in this arena where the media either fulfills or abrogates its responsibilities to either inform or misinform the public.
When operating professionally and ethically, the media fulfills its critical role by presenting to the public both the arguments of the prosecution and the defense. When, however, the media takes up the role of prosecutor, as in this case, it abrogates its responsibilities and good service by filtering or censoring facts inconsistent with the brief of the prosecution. In a real court, they would be found in contempt for withholding exculpatory evidence (that which refutes the prosecution case). In the court-of-public-opinion, the prosecutorial media routinely withholds such evidence.
Manafort and Gates indictments cast strong doubt on the allegations of criminal collusion and obstruction of justice and Manafort’s attorney made that point very emphatically in his public statement – something he is not likely to do if he was privy to information that might suggest otherwise. I suspect he got that assurance in his own in-depth questioning of his client.
As the Manafort/Gates indictments turned into a dry hole for the Never Trumpers, they seized on a new bright shiny object to dominate their news stories and salvage what they could of their preconceived politically motivated dubious narrative. It is the guilty plea of a hitherto obscure political operative George Papadopoulos
If you listen to the Trump campaign, he was some low-level volunteer, but if you listen to the Never Trump crowd, Papadopoulos was a key insider. Neither version is accurate.
Papadopoulos was a volunteer member of one of those ubiquitous policy committees that can be found on any major campaign. It held only one meeting. Anyone familiar with campaigns will know that such committees are more to reward volunteers and donors with a title and to play a role in strategy and tactics. I have served on many, and I cannot think of a case where I was called upon for anything more than another small donation. I once joked with the late Congressman Henry Hyde that the only thing unsolicited on his advisory committee was advice.
However, for whatever reasons and upon whatever authority, Papadopoulos apparently did seek opposition research that might be helpful to the campaign. He may have even passed along his information, or prospects of information, to a “higher ups.” To be emphatic, NONE OF THAT IS ILLEGAL, even if the source of the information was foreign.
Furthermore, the Papadopoulos guilty plea only relates to his having lied to the FBI about certain details of timing. Why he may have lied, we and the press have no idea. Was he concealing criminal activity? No evidence of that in his plea agreement. Was he just foolish, thinking he was protecting the Trump campaign when there was no need to do so? That is most assuredly a possibility?
What is critical is that the government did NOT indict Papadopoulos of Russian criminal collusion, obstruction of justice or ANY crime other than lying to the FBI. You may recall the cases of vice presidential aide Scooter Libby and craft and culture doyenne Martha Stewart. They both were convicted of obstruction of justice for lying to the authorities, not the accusations that triggered the investigations. That is now the situation with Papadopoulos. His guilty plea does not establish, not even implies, criminal collusion or obstruction on the part of the Trump campaign.
There is a media theory that Papadopoulos is a flipper. That by nailing him on an extraneous charge with sufficient jail time, he will fess up the more serious charges of criminal collusion. That is the hope of the political left, including the press. That remains to be seen.
According to a number of legal minds, a person who is offered a pass as a convicted liar does not have a lot of credibility in court when giving testimony to save his own skin. He would have to come up with hard evidence – and if such evidence did exist, it is likely to be in the hands of the Mueller team already. But, before the Trump folks get too giddy, there is always the possibility that the hard evidence exists and Papadopoulos will be used to legitimize it.
Despite all the meetings with various Russians and the offers of opposition research to the Trump and Clinton people, there is a reason why the legal minds say there is not yet any evidence of criminal collusion. Prodded by the press, many people in the court-of-public-opinion may consider any collusion as criminal because of the lack of rules of evidence and adherence to the law.
As I see it, the most like worst case scenario for Trump and the folks in the White House is that someone like Manafort may have crossed the boundary between collusion and criminal collusion. As of yet, there is no evidence of that.
It is important to keep in mind that while the press explodes the Manafort/Gates indictments in blockbuster fashion, these indictments come as no surprise. A month ago, I suggested that Manafort may have the best potential for indictment because of the huge amounts of money he had received from Russian interests without reporting as an agent of a foreign government. His business dealings even then did not pass the smell test.
What is most surprising to me is that after all these months and months of investigation by the most powerful investigators in our government, there was not even a thread of collusion to further unravel. While the Papadopoulos guilty plea is being overblown, there is a certain “stay tuned” quality to it. But that does not justify the rush to judgment
Larry Horist is a conservative activist with an extensive background in public policy and political issues. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman, and he has served as a consultant to the White House under Presidents Nixon and Reagan. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress and lectured at Harvard University, Northwestern University, Florida Atlantic University, Knox College and Hope College. An award winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.