The comments occur slightly after the 15:00 mark.
President Donald Trump closed out his re-election campaign on Monday night with a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he proclaimed that he was possibly the “most innocent man” in U.S. history. A number of dumbfounded attorneys promptly seized on the comments, which were made after the president railed against former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling.
The president, who is currently being investigated by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office for potential tax fraud and other possible financial crimes, preceded his declaration of innocence with several objectively false claims.
“The Russia hoax—and after spending $48 million, 18 angry Democrats, and smart people—vicious—they were vicious, they were smart. If they could find any little morsel—and they went over taxes—and they went over everything you could go over,” Trump said. “They spent $48 million dollars, two-and-a-half years—the Mueller investigation scam and they come up ‘no collusion,’ there’s no collusion after all of that, which makes me perhaps the most innocent man anywhere in the history of the United States.”
The actual cost of the Mueller investigation, which brought at least 199 charges against 34 people—including 26 Russian nationals and six of Trump’s former advisers and associates—is estimated to have been approximately $31.6 million. That total cost does not include what the government recouped from former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was convicted of several financial crimes that led to fines and asset forfeitures totaling approximately $16 million, more than half of that spent on the investigation itself. Other estimates of Manafort’s forfeitures amounts are even higher, and he wasn’t the only one who had to pay up. Either way, the Mueller probe cost total pales in comparison to past presidential investigations such as Whitewater or Iran-Contra, which came with price tags of $70 million and $47 million, respectively.
The Mueller investigation also did not address “collusion” as it is “not a legal term” (Mueller himself said this); and prosecutors did not go after the president’s tax returns, as former top Mueller lieutenant Andrew Weissmann has confirmed several times in recent months.
Trump’s “most innocent” claim aligns with other past statements from the president, including that he is the “least racist person anybody is going to meet,” “the most transparent president in U.S. history,” and “the greatest president” in history.
Attorneys, on the other hand, suggested that Trump may not be as innocent as he claims, with many alluding to the fact that the president may be fearful of losing the protections afforded to him by the office. As recently as Monday, the New York Times reported as follows:
In unguarded moments, Mr. Trump has for weeks told advisers that he expects to face intensifying scrutiny from prosecutors if he loses. He is concerned not only about existing investigations in New York, but the potential for new federal probes as well, according to people who have spoken with him.
While Mr. Trump has not aired those worries in the open, he has railed against the democratic process, raising baseless doubts about the integrity of the vote.
“He’s utterly terrified of losing his immunity from criminal prosecution,” wrote conservative attorney and onetime Trump voter-turned-Lincoln Project co-founder George Conway.
He's utterly terrified of losing his immunity from criminal prosecution. https://t.co/FUuntXRq2K
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) November 3, 2020
“The self-pardon practically writes itself,” attorney Andrew Fleischman remarked.
The self pardon practically writes itself https://t.co/ISxpe3pOM6
— Andrew Fleischman (@ASFleischman) November 3, 2020
Public defender Scott Hechinger and former Florida assistant state attorney Joanna Sandstrom both noted that the president’s claim was not something usually said by innocent people.
Innocent people don’t say things like this. https://t.co/5SADG6SRC3
— Scott Hechinger (@ScottHech) November 3, 2020
Trial lawyer tip:
When someone says they are “the most innocent anywhere”, they’re guilty https://t.co/111lfcP10R
— Joanna Sandstrom (@SandstromJoanna) November 3, 2020
UC Berkeley law professor Orin Kerr and attorney Greg Chernack both noted it was unlikely that the “least racist” person in the world was also the “most innocent.”
I just thought it was incredibly unlikely that the same guy would be both “most innocent” and “least racist.” I mean what are the odds?
— Greg Chernack, Noble Comm., 1st Dep Dir, Prop/Agit (@GChernack) November 3, 2020
The above is far from an exhaustive sampling of the reaction, which was seemingly without end.
[Image via YouTube/screengrab]
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