President Donald Trump’s former campaign aide George Papadopoulos was sentenced to jail and a fine Friday, having pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators.
The charge was based in part on Papadopoulos misleading investigators about contacts he had with people having Russian ties. They included professor Joseph Mifsud, a mysterious character who allegedly approached Papadopoulos in 2016 offering to connect him with Russians in possession of “thousands of emails” containing damaging information about then-candidate Hillary Clinton. Interestingly, Mifsud, also believed to have had ties to the Deep State and Hillary Clinton, has been missing for a year and presumed dead.
Sixteen months into the alleged Trump/Russia collusion investigation led by Robert Mueller and his heavily weighted pro-Democratic Party staff, they must be ecstatic over the Papadopolous conviction, proving able to get a low-level Trump campaign aide sentenced to a whopping 14 days in jail and fined $9,500. It was not an impressive rate of return for the money invested in an investigation costing an estimated $10 million to $20 million. Meanwhile, the investigation is yet to produce any damning evidence of collusion.
Probably next to be sentenced will be an American hero – Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn – who briefly served as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser before getting caught up in Mueller’s witch hunt. Mueller’s team manipulated Flynn in hopes he would become a lynchpin into proving collusion. His team was wrong. Charged with lying to the FBI, Flynn, ironically, was basically forced to lie about having lied as investigators simply would not accept the truth.
Flynn’s prosecution or, more appropriately, his persecution, was reminiscent of that suffered by French military officer Alfred Dreyfus over a century ago. Wrongly convicted of treason – largely due to his Jewish heritage – he was sentenced to life in prison in 1894. It was a sad outcome for an honorable patriot who found himself caught up in the political influences of the day. While Dreyfus had truth on his side, it mattered little for those for whom truth was immaterial.
While a noticeable difference between Dreyfus and Flynn is that the former always asserted his innocence and the latter admitted guilt, numerous pressures plagued Flynn. These were pressures he could only escape by lying about lying.
It should be kept in mind the pressures to which Flynn was subjected were applied by those to whom truth, even as a matter of law, need not be considered. Few people realize what a special counsel’s investigative powers allow. He enjoys tremendous flexibility in charging a witness with lying during an investigation. Where two people tell two different stories, making it difficult to determine which version is true, this poses no dilemma to a special counsel, who can choose whom to charge and whom not to. The obvious tendency here is to select the bigger fish to so charge in hopes of manipulating a witness in furtherance of the investigation’s main focus. Thus, the power is exercised as part of a ploy to obtain leverage over a party powerless to stop an investigator’s steamroller.
It was this trap that ensnared Flynn. Having found someone telling a story contrary to Flynn’s, Mueller could accuse the general of lying. We need then to understand the pressures Flynn was under.
This is where the special counsel takes on the role of a bully, applying leverage to get the accused to do something clearly against his own interests in admitting guilt. The general faced enormous financial pressure if he chose to fight the charge. Undoubtedly, pressure also came in the form of a veiled threat by Mueller that, absent a guilty plea, the special counsel might go after Flynn’s son.
As one very familiar with courtroom guilty pleas, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff wrote in 2014 that innocent people enter guilty pleas every day. (Just ask Brian Banks who pleaded guilty to rape, serving five years before it was determined in 2012 he never had committed the crime.)
Rakoff noted the unimaginable stress of a criminal investigation, not only upon the accused but the family as well, comes in various forms – financial, physical, mental and emotional. When prosecutorial duress is thrown in, a guilty plea may well follow.
Sadly, Flynn, a man of honor who had dedicated his life to serving his country, was forced to lie about having told the truth. It is for this reason Trump’s lawyers are reluctant to have the president interviewed. Even if everything Trump said to Mueller were truthful but Mueller had another witness in the wings ready to say something contrary, it would be Trump, like Flynn, being charged with lying.
Thus, so charging a witness basically boils down to the special counsel’s whim. Were Trump to be so charged, obviously, he has the financial wherewithal to defend himself. But the charge, itself, would arm his critics, similarly uninterested in truth, with ammunition to attack him. This is what former Mayor Rudy Giuliani alluded to when he suggested in the special counsel’s interview, “truth isn’t truth.”
While Mueller and his investigative team have taken a slash-and-burn approach in their pursuit of substantive evidence concerning Trump/Russia collusion allegations, they seem to have no guilt over destroying the careers of honorable men, like Flynn, who have been drawn into the investigation’s vortex.
While the Mueller investigation has focused a spotlight on the shadowy dealings of some disreputable actors, nothing, to date, supports the intended purpose of the investigation. Sadly, as the investigation drags on – with Democrats clamoring for Trump’s impeachment for Russian collusion and Mueller unable to provide evidence of same – lost in all this is the hardship suffered by Flynn. Much like Alfred Dreyfus, an innocent man’s remarkable career has been tarnished by those pursuing a political agenda.
When the truth ultimately caught up to Dreyfus, he was pardoned, clearing him of his conviction. Hopefully, the truth will also catch up to Flynn, clearing him of his.