FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 9, 2012, before the House Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

 

I posted yesterday and today on the roasting district court judge T. S. Ellis gave to Robert Mueller’s team in Friday’s hearing on the prosecution of Paul Manafort.

It now appears that the only real case Mueller has filed involving anything vaguely resembling a Russian (can anyone explain why the two Russian FusionGPS subcontractors who were at the famous Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. have yet to be questioned by the special counsel’s office?) is on the verge of going full Chernobyl or Kursk, depending upon your favored Slavic metaphor.

In February, to huzzahs of delight from the media, the Democrats, and the NeverTrump people, Robert Mueller announced, via his errand boy Rod Rosenstein, the indictment of thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian entities for a variety of alleged computer crimes during the 2016 election.

This was supposed to be the silver bullet that brought down Trump. But, when you took a close look at the indictment it was pretty obvious it was a public relations scam. Mueller had come under a lot of criticism for indicting people on the flimsiest of pretexts and was showing zero interest in actually pursuing his charter. As I said in my prescient post, If Mueller’s Indictment Isn’t A Nothingburger You Could Be Forgiven For Making That Mistake:

Summary.

The project began in 2013 as a way of attempting to cause confusion in the U.S. presidential campaign. Mission accomplished. This indictment is a nothingburger. It tells us damned little we didn’t know from press accounts and there are no arrests on the horizon. Two of the three entities were already sanctioned so indicting them does nothing. There is absolutely nothing in here that even hints that the Russians involved in this had any help from anyone in the U.S. Maybe that indictment is coming but there is not a hint of it here.

This interference is exactly what Comey described around September 2016 when he said the object of the Russians was to create division. There is no evidence presented here that there was any greater goal than creating turmoil.

The interference seems aimed at bolstering what all of us thought were the LEAST LIKELY candidates in the primary: Trump, Sanders, Stein. The Russians attacked Cruz and Rubio and other GOP candidates as well as Clinton. After the election they helped organize anti-Trump rallies.

More importantly, there is no evidence here that there was any coherent strategy–or that they really knew what they were doing–beyond garden variety trolling.

I’m not authority on campaign finance law, but I’ve never heard of anyone, foreign or domestic, indicted for creating Facebook posts and tweets supportive of a candidate.

Claims like this:

and this:

are fatuous nonsense. If anything this indictment makes Trump’s case that his campaign did not cooperate with Russia.

I’d be perfectly happy packing these people off to Gitmo but I have say that I find it is pretty underwhelming. At no stage, thus far, is it an investigation that merited the appointment of a special counsel.

This scam seemed foolproof. The thirteen Russians were never going to be caught. Two of the three companies were already under US sanctions and not likely to worry a whole lot about a US indictment. Mueller got the press. No work was involved. All is good.

Then in April, the most amazing thing happened. One of the indicted companies informed Mueller that it had retained US counsel and would see him in court. You could hear the collective sphincters of the special counsel’s office snap shut as far away as Kenosha, WI.

Now the little publicity stunt, the bone tossed to the NeverTrump crowd, suddenly became a liability. Just how big a liability became obvious yesterday and today.

Because the Russian oligarch has enough money to hire real lawyers who fight for a living, Mueller faced real opposition rather than people with no resources to defend themselves. You can be excused for looking at the manhandling Mueller’s people took from Manafort’s legal team and concluding they aren’t used to doing much besides bullying indigent defendants into a plea bargain. Via Bloomberg:

Eric Dubelier of Reed Smith, who represents Concord Management and Consulting LLC, has posed dozens of questions to Mueller’s prosecutors, demanding detailed information about how prosecutors built their case and the identity of all witnesses and cooperators.

According to a filing Friday in federal court in Washington, Dubelier even wants prosecutors to catalog U.S. efforts to influence foreign elections around the world since 1945.

They are also demanding their right to a speedy trial.

This is how a competent legal team attacks a case that is built upon allegedly secret information. Keep in mind, Mueller’s team is not above lying to the court when it serves their purpose. They claimed that Manafort was in contact with Russian intelligence operatives in 2016 but when required to produce the evidence that supported that claim they admitted there was none. Mueller will either have to provide the defense with the information upon which they based an indictment or there is no case. There is no such thing as “trust me” evidence.

The government was put on the defensive and reduced to arguing that the defendant had not been properly served with a summons to try to avoid an arraignment scheduled for the coming week.

They got bad news today.

A federal judge has rejected special counsel Robert Mueller’s request to delay the first court hearing in a criminal case charging three Russian companies and 13 Russian citizens with using social media and other means to foment strife among Americans in advance of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

In a brief order Saturday evening, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich offered no explanation for her decision to deny a request prosecutors made Friday to put off the scheduled Wednesday arraignment for Concord Management and Consulting, one of the three firms charged in the case.

On Wednesday, we’ll see what kind of a case Mueller has. I suspect it is a shallow and suspect as everything else he’s touched. If this case is dismissed, and that is a very real possibility, then the Russia portion of Mueller’s investigation is fatally injured in the media and in public opinion and everyone will see the investigation the way the judge described it Friday

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