Opinion

Donald Trump Jr.’s Fox News Performance Was a Laughably Weak Response to Mueller

The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., believes that Special Counsel Robert Mueller hasn’t discovered any real crimes because the alleged offenses Mueller has discovered a) happened a long time ago anyway and b) don’t have to do with collusion. How do we know this? Trump Jr. said these things on Fox & Friends bright and early Monday morning.

“I’m old enough to remember two weeks ago when Mueller was gonna be the savior. That is what they’re trying to do,” he said. “They’re not investigating actual crimes anymore. They’re literally trying to find something they can make a big deal of. If that isn’t apparent to people around the country. ‘This is going to be it. We finally got him.’ I’ve been hearing this for two years [that everyone is going to go to jail],” he said.

“They put incredible pressure on regular guys that couldn’t afford million dollars in legal fees, got them to slip up, say something incorrectly,” he added. “There are no actual crimes. There is only things that people did in past lives. In 2006 before we even thought we’d ever get into this crazy world.”

He also called the investigation a “total farce.” There’s so much wrong here, but it’s not hard to know where to begin because the bulk of what has been said here has been said many times over.

First, let’s preface this with the language of Mueller’s mandate, for the umpteenth time:

(i)  any links and/or coordination 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; and

(iii)  any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).

(c) If the Special Counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters.

It doesn’t really get much clearer than this last line: “[A]uthorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters.”

To Don Jr.’s point, Mueller has not yet revealed the kind of smoking gun conspiracy involving the Russian government, Trump campaign, and/or then-candidate Donald Trump himself that political opponents have hoped for. Nor has Don Jr. himself been ensnared by the investigation, as individuals like Michael Avenatti have predicted on numerous occasions.

On the other hand, Trump Jr.’s characterization of the special counsel hiding in the shrubbery waiting to pounce on low-level operatives who can’t defend themselves in court just to corner them into making a mistake is not based in reality. Michael Flynn pleaded guilty; Michael Cohen pleaded guilty; Rick Gates pleaded guilty.

What did they plead guilty to? “Knowingly and willfully” making a materially false statement or concealing material fact(s). Materiality in law means “that which is important or which is not merely of form but of substance.” In other words, this is not merely “getting [people] to slip up, say something incorrectly.”

Related to this, these are real crimes. You know what else is a real crime? Bank fraud and tax fraud. Mueller has spent a long time prosecuting former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Manafort’s crimes might be said to have happened “a long time ago,” but he’s still accused of defrauding America of millions of dollars because of “greed.” As Mueller’s team said:

He nonetheless cheated the United States Treasury and the public out of more than $6 million in taxes at a time when he had substantial resources. Manafort committed bank fraud to supplement his liquidity because his lavish spending exhausted his substantial cash resources when his overseas income dwindled.

Mueller even explained why it was necessary to prosecute Manafort, even if these criminal acts occurred years ago and were not related to the Trump campaign.

“[W]hile some of these offenses are commonly prosecuted, there was nothing ordinary about the millions of dollars involved in the defendant’s crimes, the duration of his criminal conduct, or the sophistication of his schemes,” Mueller said in a recent sentencing memo for Manafort in the Eastern District of Virginia. “Manafort committed these crimes over an extended period of time, from at least 2010 to 2016. His criminal decisions were not momentary or limited in time; they were routine.”

Does Trump Jr. really believe that bank and tax fraud is fine if it happened a long time ago?

In addition to this, the idea that Mueller has not found nor spoken anything of collusion up to now is also wrong. There’s a reason he cares that Manafort lied about sharing Trump campaign poll data with Russian operative Konstantin Kilimnik, but we still don’t know the full story. There’s also a reason he opposed Roger Stone‘s bid to get a new judge in Washington, D.C. by revealing that the investigation into Stone came out of a search warrant that was common to the criminal investigation of Russian military intelligence officers indicted for allegedly hacking the DNC in 2016:

The government related this case to the earlier indictment returned in United States v. Netyksho pursuant to Local Criminal Rule 57.12(a)(1)(iii) as a prosecution against a different defendant that “arises from a common . . . search warrant” and from “activities which are a part of the same alleged criminal event or transaction.” In particular, evidence in this case was found in accounts that were subject to search warrants executed in Netyksho. Moreover, the alleged obstructive conduct in this case was directed at a congressional investigation into conduct that formed the basis for the criminal charges in Netyksho.

[Image via Fox News screengrab]

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.

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