Push came to shove on Friday, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller was forced to admit in court filings that his case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has exactly NOTHING to do with his mandate, which is to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election. It certainly has nothing to do with his secondary mandate, which is to discover whether or not any members of the Trump campaign aided the Kremlin in their efforts to meddle in the election. In fact, we could go further and make the more obvious statement that it also has nothing to do with his other mandate, which is to determine if the president obstructed justice.
Which leaves us with only one question: What DOES Manafort have to do with anything?
In his filings with the Virginia federal court on Friday, Mueller’s team admitted: “The government does not intend to present at trial evidence or argument concerning collusion with the Russian government.”
To be clear, we’re not saying that Manafort is innocent of whatever charges Mueller is throwing at him. What we are saying is that none of this falls within the mandate presented to Mueller when he was appointed special counsel in this matter. He is way off the reservation, picking off members of Trump’s inner circle using charges that are completely unrelated to the issues at hand. He is using the broad powers of the Justice Department to apply pressure against these individuals, hoping that he can use unrelated charges to get them to flip on Trump. Which, fine, that’s a valid prosecutorial strategy; but there comes a point where one man has too much power, too much rope, and too much mandate. We’ve long passed that point where it pertains to Mueller.
Whatever the outcome of Manafort’s case, it will – by Mueller’s own admission – have nothing at all to do with the investigation into Russian collusion. Is this why the special counsel was appointed? To look into decade-old crimes committed by a person only briefly associated with the Trump campaign? We think not. We think there was no reason whatsoever that this could not have been handled by the Justice Department proper.
As far as we’re concerned, this filing is the first official sign that the Mueller investigation has run off the rails. It’s time for Rod Rosenstein, Jeff Sessions, House Republicans – hell, the president himself, if need be – to demand that this witch hunt be brought to a swift and unceremonious end. As Trey Gowdy told Rosenstein a week or two ago, it’s time to “finish it the hell up.”