Trump Denounces ‘Witch Hunt’ Again as He Touts Judge Who Criticized Mueller’s Office
President Donald Trump used his appearance at the National Rifle Association annual convention Friday to attack Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the investigation into possible Russia collusion during the 2016 campaign.
The president spoke at the gun lobby group’s annual gathering in Dallas, but while the event was about the 2nd Amendment and guns, the president apparently saw it as the perfect platform to go after America’s justice system. Trump specifically seized upon the news from earlier Friday, when a federal judge, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, voiced concern over the idea of a special counsel in general.
“It’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special counsel has unfettered power to do whatever he wants,” Judge T.S. Ellis told federal prosecutors during one of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort‘s first court appearances. The comment prompted speculation that, perhaps, Manafort’s charges, which include money laundering and tax evasion, could be dropped. Most experts, however, still say that’s unlikely.
Regardless, Trump took the judge’s remarks as a win. The president partially quoted an article from CNN, an outlet he says he regards as “fake news,” to the crowd of thousands gathered for the NRA annual convention in Dallas.
“Judge T.S. Ellis, who is really something special I hear from many standpoints – he is a respected person – suggested the charges before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia were just part of the Mueller team’s designs to pressure Mr. Manafort into giving up information on President Donald Trump or Russia’s involvement in the campaign,” Trump said, appearing to read from a separate news report.
“I’ve been saying that for a long time. It’s a witch hunt,” Trump said before tossing a piece of paper behind him.
“Then,” Trump continued reading, “none of that information has to do with information related to the Russian government or coordination with the campaign of Donald Trump.” The president kept quoting from an article, saying, “Then, ‘how does this have anything to do with the campaign?’ the judge asks.”
While I am no lawyer or legal expert, I have listened to and read the works of other highly regarded lawyers who say that even though the president and his team claim the money-related charges against Manafort are outside the scope of Mueller’s jurisdiction, the fact of the matter is that the crimes were still uncovered. Thus, they are prosecutable. To say that just because a possible crime was discovered as the result of an investigation into unrelated matters is to abandon the U.S. justice system and the rule of law, which Trump claims he wants to protect.
So long as the appropriate permissions were gathered to obtain evidence in a case (and I have no information to suggest those permissions were not granted in Manafort’s case), a legal charge such as the one against Manafort is valid. It may not be politically convenient. In fact, the Russia investigation is nothing short of a nightmare for the Trump administration. That said, the president cannot have it both ways. Either he supports the rule of law, whether or not it directly affects him and his presidency, or he doesn’t.