Mueller Indictment Implications

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The ramifications of the recent indictments are explored by California attorney Robert Barnes writing Feb. 17 in the journal Law and Crime Does Mueller Indictment Mean Clinton Campaign Can Be Indicted for Chris Steele? Text below with my bolds.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted foreign citizens for trying to influence the American public about an election because those citizens did not register as a foreign agent nor record their financial expenditures to the Federal Elections Commission. By that theory, when will Mueller indict Christopher Steele, FusionGPS, PerkinsCoie, the DNC and the Clinton Campaign? Mueller’s indictment against 13 Russian trolls claimed their social media political activity was criminal because: they were foreign citizens; they tried to influence an election; and they neither registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act nor reported their funding to the Federal Elections Commission.

First, if Mueller’s theory is correct, three things make Steele a criminal: first, he is a foreign citizen; second, he tried to influence an election, which he received payments to do (including from the FBI itself); and third, he neither registered as a foreign agent nor listed his receipts and expenditures to the Federal Election Commission. Also, according to the FBI, along the way, Steele lied…a lot, while the dossier he disseminated contained its own lies based on bought-and-paid for smears from foreign sources reliant on rumors and innuendo.

Second, if Mueller’s theory is correct, three things make FusionGPS a criminal co-conspirator: it knew Steele was a foreign citizen; it knew, and paid, Steele to influence an election; and it knew, and facilitated, Steele neither registering as a foreign agent nor reporting his funding from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to the Federal Election Commission.

Third, if Mueller’s theory is correct, then three things make PerkinsCoie a potential target: it knew Steele was a foreign citizen; it knew, and paid, Steele to influence an election; and it knew, and facilitated, Steele neither registering as a foreign agent nor reporting his funding from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to the Federal Election Commission, by disguising its receipt of payments from the Clinton campaign as a “legal expense.”

Fourth, if Mueller’s theory is correct, then three things make the DNC a potential target: it knew Steele was a foreign citizen; it knew, and paid, Steele to influence an election; and it knew, and facilitated, Steele neither registering as a foreign agent nor reporting his funding from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to the Federal Election Commission, by disguising its payments to Steele as laundered legal expenses to a law firm.

Fifth, if Mueller’s theory is correct, three things make the Clinton Campaign a potential target: it knew Steele was a foreign citizen; it knew, and paid, Steele to influence an election; and it knew, and facilitated, Steele neither registering as a foreign agent nor reporting his funding from the Clinton campaign to the Federal Election Commission, by disguising its funding of payments to Steele laundered through a law firm as a “legal expense.”

Don’t expect such an indictment. Mueller chose his targets because he knows they will never appear in court, never contest the charges, and cannot be arrested or extradited as Russian citizens. Mueller’s unprecedented prosecution raises three novel arguments: first, that speaking out about American politics requires a foreign citizen to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act; second, that speaking out about American politics requires a foreign citizen list their source and expenditure of funding to the Federal Election Commission; and third, that mistakes on visa applications constitute “fraud” on the State Department. All appear to borrow from the now-discredited “honest services” theories Mueller’s team previously used in corporate and bribery cases, cases the Supreme Court overturned for their unconstitutional vagueness. The indictment raises serious issues under the free speech clause of the First Amendment and due process rights under the Fifth Amendment.

Robert Barnes is a California-based trial attorney whose practice focuses on Constitutional, criminal and civil rights law.

Summary

Don’t overlook the implication in the final paragraph, namely that expressing opinions about candidates is protected free speech, even for foreigners. Mueller presents indictments he will never have to prove in court to create the appearance of a crime. His circus needs a crime as justification, and to go after targets for conspiring or lying about that “crime”. It is a clever, but flimsy legal fiction, as Barnes shows it could apply to a lot of political discourse.

And social media is an unlikely place to apply some legal standard, since people, robots and puppets say all kinds of things often hiding behind handles.  In case you have forgotten, Dave Chappelle reminds us what the internet is like in the classic video  What if the internet was a real place?

 

 

6 comments

  1. hunter · February 20, 2018

    Watching a slow motion coup attempt requires a strong stomach.

    Like

  2. hunter · February 20, 2018

    This essay raises an interesting question:
    Is George Soros a registered foreign agent?

    Like

  3. hunter · February 20, 2018

    Ooops. Please disregard that.
    He hides his vast wealth offshore but he is, sadly, an American.

    Like

  4. Ron Clutz · February 20, 2018

    hunter, don’t overlook the implication in the final paragraph, namely that expressing opinions about candidates is protected free speech, even for foreigners. Mueller presents indictments he will never have to prove in court to create the appearance of a crime. His circus needs a crime as justification, and to go after targets for conspiring or lying about that “crime”. It is a clever, but flimsy legal fiction, as Barnes shows it could apply to a lot of political discourse. And social media is an unlikely place to apply some legal standard, since people, robots and puppets say all kinds of things often hiding behind handles.

    Like

  5. Gengis · February 20, 2018

    Yes but does it not exposed the DNC and ‘crooked Hilary?’ When will these charges surface?

    Like

    • Ron Clutz · February 20, 2018

      Gengis, I think that Mueller is not inclined to do that right thing. More likely that the Inspector General’s report will get into it. The DOJ IG is investigating the FBI role regarding the 2016 election and is expected to report in March or April 2018.

      Like

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