by Victor Davis Hanson
Donald Trump’s former consiglieri Michael Cohen, along with being charged with tax avoidance and improper business deals, allegedly is guilty also of trying to leverage money and attention by exaggerating his influence with candidate and later President Trump.
In other words, Cohen to spec followed the standard creepy daily fare for Washington and New York wannabe fixers. But did we need Robert Mueller’s 18 months and $40 million to uncover and redirect to federal attorneys what was largely self-evident? Could not the U.S. government long ago, without the prompt of a special counsel, have uncovered that Michael Cohen did not fully pay his taxes—in the manner of an Al Sharpton, Timothy Geithner, and Tom Daschle?
The diabolical Cohen also tried to enforce, extend, or create non-disclosure agreements (Swampese for hush money) with two women from Trump’s past. The two reappeared out of nowhere in 2016, apparently to translate their alleged Trump hookups of a few hours in years past to notoriety and additional profit in the new age of “President Trump.”
In other words, Michael Cohen was a sort of rough-hewn version of former Bill Clinton crony Vernon Jordan. The latter, remember, was the erstwhile Clinton fixer who in 1998 had sought to keep the still unknown Clinton paramour Monica Lewinsky quiet—and to whisk her away from the Washington media, by arranging for Monica a quid pro quo $40,000 a year job with Revlon in New York, via Clinton friend and Revlon CEO Ron Perelman—all with impunity.
Cohen certainly lacked the tact and savvy of another Clinton clean-up specialist, Betsey Wright, who in 1992 coined the term “bimbo eruptions” for her efforts to track down and neutralize any sudden public confessionals from the legions of past Clinton hookups.
Who knows, had we a Robert Mueller in 1933 he might have been able to charge General Douglas MacArthur and his alleged bagman, aide Major Dwight Eisenhower, with at least something for secretly delivering a bribe of $15,000 to MacArthur’s then 19-year old mistress, Isabel Rosario Cooper (who allegedly had been the general’s mistress since she was 16). The plan was to get her out of the United States and away from the reporting of sleazy muckraker Drew Pearson, who was eager to break the story.
Cohen’s efforts to pay off the Trump gals were understandably rebranded by federal attorneys into the acquitted John Edwards-style “campaign finance violations.” And who knows, now Cohen may well have to pay far more than the existing record federal elections commission fine of $375,000 involving 1,300 undisclosed contributions levied on the 2008 Barack Obama campaign—an event generally ignored by the media given the extenuating hurrahs of 2009.
Mueller and the New York federal attorneys were rightly upset that Cohen allegedly lied and admitted that he lied under oath. By all means, let us jail Cohen for subverting the entire foundation of our legal system that must rely on honest testimonies in all government inquiries.
And in that same spirit, let the Department of Justice also charge former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for lying under oath when he deliberately misled Congress about NSA surveillance (and admitted to lying), and John Brennan as well, who as CIA director lied on two occasions about drone collateral damage and CIA surveillance of Senate staff computers (and admitted to such), and has serially misrepresented his efforts with then-Senator Harry Reid to seed the Steele dossier.
And let us indict either the former director James Comey or the deputy director Andrew McCabe of the FBI—or both—for making false statements to federal investigators and Congress, given their respective testimonies under oath about leaking to the press and the role of the Steele dossier in FISA warrants cannot be reconciled.
With all due respect to Michael Cohen, what is currently destroying the concept of the American system of jurisprudence are not the self-serving lies of such a minor shady operator, but rather the deliberate and more artful prevarication under oath of the nation’s top intelligence and law enforcement officers.
The Loco Act
General Michael Flynn, the special counsel also asserts, might have sort of, kind of not registered as a foreign agent when making contracts with the Turkish government, the normal stuff of Washington revolving door entrepreneurs.
I think any good D.C. journalist could swiftly send Mueller the names of 1,000 Washington wheeler-dealers, starting with Bill Clinton and Tony Podesta, who might fit his definition of failing to register under the statutes of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Any time a prosecutor resorts to name-dropping ominously the ossified “Logan Act” (as in criminalizing Flynn’s talking to Russians), it is a de facto admission that he has no credible case and is throwing around smears and slanders to see what will stick. The Logan Act never does.
To the degree there even exists a real 1799 Logan Act any more—which is meant to outlaw private citizens freelancing at foreign policy to undermine the current U.S. government—the locus classicus would obviously be citizen John Kerry’s secretive meetings this year with the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Kerry allegedly commiserated with Zarif over the Trump Administration’s cancellation of the Iran Deal and was seeking ways to keep the vestiges of the deal and their joint anti-Trump private channels alive until there was regime change in Washington.
If Mueller is more concerned about transition teams than with purely private citizens like Kerry, he could look back to 2008 rumors that senator and candidate Obama allegedly suggested to Iraqis that they reconsider and put off their ongoing basing arrangements discussions with the Bush Administration until there was a new administration in power in 2009. The Logan Act, then, is nothing other than a talking point brought up whenever the exasperated out-of-power party wishes to suggest it was once undermined by the current in-power party.
While being threatened with the Logan Act, Flynn allegedly did not recount his conversations in a way that matched transcripts of furtive surveillance of the Russian ambassador. Translated, that means Flynn was likely reversed targeted on the chance of catching him in a perjury trap. In the old days, liberals would have argued that the warrant for such surveillance—originally based in part on a fictitious Steele dossier that created a sort of government hysteria to monitor all things Trump and Russian—contaminated all that followed as the “fruit of a poisonous tree.” And according to the “exclusionary rule,” Flynn would have never faced perjury charges had he not been reverse targeted for perfectly proper conversations with the Russian ambassador who was targeted for surveillance.
Flynn may have been unmasked largely due to a mysterious last-minute Obama executive order vastly expanding government access to surveillance transcripts—and in hope of guaranteeing that the names of those whom the Obama Administration had spied on would be unmasked and leaked to the press.
In other words, “Russian collusion” that spread throughout the government and the media after the 2016 election to undermine Trump’s transition and presidency can be traced almost entirely to Christopher Steele’s machinations.
What then is the Mueller chase all about?
In reductionist terms, in the midst of a political campaign, and as “insurance” for an expected Clinton victory, had Hillary Clinton not hired the Perkins Coie law firm (masking her own role) to hire Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS, to hire foreign national Christopher Steele, to hire foreign national Russian sources, to spin yarns about Donald Trump’s alleged “collusion” (spiced up for media leakage with lurid stories of Trump urolagnia), to create 11th-hour election anti-Trump hysteria throughout the media and federal government, then special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation would never have existed.
Or is it even worse than that?
Had Hillary Clinton just won the election as she was supposed to do, and Donald Trump, as he too was supposed to do, just sulked back in humiliation and media ridicule to his penthouse suite at Trump Tower, then the 2016 campaign’s sensationalized leaked yarns from the Steele dossier would have at best warranted a tiny lurid goodbye hit piece on Trump from the New Yorker or Vanity Fair. But simply by winning, Donald Trump brought untold misery upon his family, friends, associates—and himself.
What all the later unmaskings of U.S. citizens’ names by Obama officials, all the daily leaking of “bombshell” rumors to warp an election, transition, and presidency, all the lying under oath, all the texting of Page and Strzok, all the machinations of Andrew McCabe and James Comey, all the FBI insertions of informants, all the involvement of the CIA, Justice, and State Department in seeding the rumors and slander, all the collusion of a foreign national spying on a presidential candidate—what it was all about in the end was simple: In 2016, legions of bureaucrats wanted to score points in Hillary Clinton’s foreordained new administration by vying with each other to “insure” her blowout, to brag they had done in the ogre Trump, and to expect not so much impunity as adoration for their illegal but supposedly patriotic service beyond the call of duty. Trump was not just to be defeated but humiliated and destroyed as a lesson.
Then Clinton lost—or rather she blew a sure Electoral College victory.
All at once, the embarrassing comic-book contents of the ridiculous Steele dossier became the scapegoat. Accordingly, those still stunned, dumbfounded,and furious in the media and government immediately once again found the campaign collusionary dossier useful—now not to destroy candidate Trump, but rather to explain the inexplicable, and to ruin the culprit for her defeat and overturn the verdict of the election.
And given the ensuing hysteria, within about seven months the creation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller was the result.
Hillary Clinton, Christopher Steele, and Robert Mueller are all joined at the hip.
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Victor Davis Hanson is an American military historian, columnist, former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He was a professor of classics at California State University, Fresno, and is currently the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict was Fought and Won (Basic Books).
Photo “Michael Cohen” by Lawrence Scherer.
Photo “Courtroom” by Karen Neoh. CC BY 2.0.