Let's Investigate For "Obstruction Of Justice" Every Prosecutor Who Has Ever Declined A Prosecution

Now that the 488 page Mueller Report is out, and we are informed that the whole “Russian collusion” story was a hoax from the get go, you may have the feeling that, at least, Mueller and his people had a basic clue as to what they were doing. If so, then you clearly haven’t yet looked at the 182 page Volume II. This is the part of the Report that supposedly addresses “obstruction of justice” by the President. The conclusion of Volume II is that, “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach [the] judgment [that the President did not commit obstruction.]”

Let’s see. The President never fired Mueller or any of his people, or restricted the scope of their investigation, even though he had the constitutional authority to do so. The President never instructed Mueller who should or should not be charged, or for what crimes, even though he had the constitutional authority to do so. The President never claimed either attorney-client or executive privilege. The President produced over a million pages of documents. So what exactly is there about “obstruction” that supports writing this 182 pages of blather?

It’s simple. In the alternative universe that these people inhabit, it can be “obstruction of justice” if an elected official takes a constitutionally authorized action, in particular the exercise of what is known as “prosecutorial discretion,” while thinking the wrong thoughts. . . .

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The New York Attorney General's Office Sinks To Yet A New Low

It was 20 years ago – November 1998 – when the desperately ambitious Eliot Spitzer got elected Attorney General of New York.  Spitzer proceeded to show the world how this office could be thoroughly politicized, using phony prosecutions of one financial institution after another to get his name in the papers on a daily basis.  By 2007 Spitzer had moved on to the office of Governor (in which he lasted barely more than a year before seeing his career implode in a prostitution scandal).  But the lessons that Spitzer taught about how to abuse the law enforcement powers of the AG’s office in the pursuit of personal ambition were not lost on his successors.

In the 2012 election, we got the even-more-desperately-ambitious (and darling of the progressive left) Eric Schneiderman as AG.  Schneiderman took the politicization of the office to a level even far beyond that of Spitzer, which is saying a lot.  For a review a small selection of Schneiderman’s improper activities, see my May 8, 2018 post, “Good Riddance To Eric Schneiderman.”  By the way, that post was occasioned by Schneiderman’s own resignation from office, again over an issue of mistreatment of women.  What is it about these guys?  Could it be that bad guys are actually bad in more than one aspect of their lives?

And now the 2018 election has given us one Letitia James as our next AG, to assume office on January 1.  Ms. James has most recently served as New York City “Public Advocate” – an elected office without observable responsibilities that principally serves to keep its holder in the public eye at taxpayer expense ready to step in to fill the next office when its occupant either implodes or is term-limited.  (The prior Public Advocate was Bill de Blasio.)  

What are the prospects for Ms. James? . . .

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The Out-of-Control NY Attorney General's Office Takes on ExxonMobil

Law enforcement is serious business.  We give prosecutors tremendous powers over the citizenry, including the powers to put people in jail and to impose enormous fines on businesses; and then we trust them to act with the highest levels of honesty and integrity and discretion to protect us from the bad guys while also upholding our civil rights.  Or at least, that is how you might think it ought to work.  

Then there is the New York Attorney General’s office.  Twenty years ago, that office began a long and accelerating downward spiral when Eliot Spitzer won the head job.  With Spitzer, bona fide law enforcement promptly took a back seat to pursuit of a new headline every day, preferably to be obtained by shaking down some disfavored financial institution under New York’s notorious Martin Act, which under vague language can be argued to authorize prosecution of every financial unfairness as criminal “fraud.”  After achieving multiple hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements from major institutions, Spitzer went on to become Governor, before resigning in disgrace in a prostitution scandal.  His success in the Martin Act shakedown game was not lost on his successors.

In 2011 the Attorney General job was won by Eric Schneiderman, another wealthy Manhattanite and a darling of the progressive left.  Schneiderman promptly upped the Martin Act shakedown game to become the primary focus of his office, devoting dozens of staffers to investigations of essentially every financial institution doing business in New York. Most of these investigations were for alleged misrepresentations to investors relating to the financial crisis that was already three years in the rearview mirror when Schneiderman assumed office, and involved wrongdoing, if any, that had already been thoroughly investigated and prosecuted (or not) by federal authorities.  So why waste precious law enforcement resources on such an effort?  Clearly, Schneiderman had other goals in mind, notably including not only headlines, but also protection money (“settlement”) payments from his targets, aggregating in the billions, that went not to the supposed investor victims of the alleged wrongdoing, but rather into slush funds controlled by Schneiderman himself that could be passed out to his progressive colleagues and supporters.

And now, why limit the Martin Act shakedown game to just financial institutions? In 2015, Schneiderman’s sights landed on the next obvious and perfect corporate target, Exxon Mobil --  home of tens of billions of dollars in annual cash flow ripe to be plundered, besides being vulnerable to having the catchphrase “climate change” attached to its name by reason of involvement in the oil business. . . .

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A Closer Look At Our Over-Criminalized And Badly Slanted Legal System

It's hard to think of any good that can possibly come out of the ongoing maniacal efforts to use the criminal law to overturn the results of our last election.  But here's the best I can offer:  At least we are getting a closer look than we usually get at our over-criminalized and steeply slanted legal system.  And maybe a few people are starting to pay attention.  We've let this monster get way out of control.  Can it be reined in?  Maybe a little.

If you are unfamiliar with this subject, you can get a lot of background by reading through my Archives under the tag "Phony Prosecutions."  There are about 60 posts there, covering everything from the extraordinary number of crimes (over 4000 just in the federal books!), to vague statutes, to shakedowns of legitimate businesses, to takedowns of political opponents, to prosecutorial coercion of witnesses, to misuse of civil asset forfeitures, and much more.  

The most recent post, just a couple of days ago noted that Michael Cohen had pled guilty to a violation of the campaign finance law because supposedly the payoff to Stormy Daniels constituted a campaign rather than a personal expense, and therefore Cohen's advancement of same constituted a campaign contribution in excess of the allowed limit of $2700.  However, under the same law, had the same payment instead been made with campaign funds contributed in accordance with the limits in a desperate attempt to avoid criminality, the payment could then just as easily have been prosecuted as misuse of campaign funds for a personal expense -- that's a crime too!  They've got you coming and going!  Everything is a crime! . . .

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Manhattan Contrarian Guide To Campaign Finance Law

As a sophisticated observer of the political scene and reader of the Manhattan Contrarian, you undoubtedly know why we have strict and intricate campaign finance laws:  They are "to get money out of politics."  Or something like that.

Or are they really about protecting incumbents and putting roadblocks in the way of challengers?  Or, even worse, are they about giving partisan prosecutors some tools to take down inconvenient Republicans while Democrats get a pass?  I'll let you be the judge.

First, the basics of how this works.  Much of which, by the way, you can blame on the recently-departed John McCain, via the so-called McCain-Feingold campaign finance law of 2002.  One of his many mistakes in life -- but then, we all make mistakes.  The central provision of this campaign finance law is that contributions to "campaigns" for federal office are limited in amount, essentially to $2700 per election cycle for an individual or $5400 for a couple.  Obviously, for such a restriction to work, it must then be illegal for a "campaign" to pay "campaign expenses" from a source other than the funds contributed in accordance with the limits.  Equally obviously, since you have raised "campaign funds" for your "campaign" in accordance with strict limits and representations, it must be illegal to use the "campaign funds" for other than "campaign purposes."  And, to make this all work seamlessly, all "campaign expenses" over $200 must be reported and accurately described to the bureaucrats at the Federal Election Commission.  Needless to say, any violation of these rules is a crime.

So let's see how these rules get applied in a few recent examples:

Trump/Cohen . . .

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Comments On The Carter Page FISA Warrant Application

Saturday evening in the very middle of the summer, and suddenly the Justice Department finally releases a number of long-sought documents relating to the Trump-Russia counterintelligence investigation.  One of the documents is the government's application to the FISA Court for a warrant to spy on Carter Page, a some-time foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, in the heat of the campaign for President.  The document is heavily redacted; indeed, well more than half of it is nothing but big black marks.  You know from the long delay in releasing the document, from the timing of the release, and from the heavy redactions, that this is an extremely embarrassing document to the Justice Department and the FBI.  But, however bad you thought it might have been, it's actually far worse.

Here's the takeaway:  The entire basis for the application to spy on the political campaign of the disfavored party was the completely unverified opposition research, paid for by the Clinton campaign, known as the Steele Dossier.  The only other things they cite are some articles in the media.  But those articles give every indication of having been completely derivative of leaks from the FBI itself, in turn based on nothing more than the Steele Dossier. 

Many others have beaten me to the punch in commenting on this matter, and I don't mean just to repeat what others have already said.  But this disgusting document is too important to let pass.  So here are a few comments:

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