Special counsel Robert Mueller has squeezed President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen into pleading guilty to lying to Congress, potentially dealing Cohen a penalty of $250,000 and five years in prison, on top of penalties for eight other crimes unrelated to the Trump campaign and Russia to which Cohen pled guilty earlier in the year. Cohen’s plea came the same week right-wing author Jerome Corsi accused Mueller of trying to coerce him into admitting lying to investigators, all while Mueller nullifies a cooperation agreement with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, whom he accuses of lying when he agreed to cooperate in the first place.
Mueller has done a terrific job of portraying Trump campaign aides as liars. Low-level Trump campaign consultant George Papadopoulos has already served his fourteen-day sentence for making false statements to investigators. Former Manafort aide Rick Gates has pled guilty to a false statements charge. The same goes for former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Dutch lawyer and former Gates contact Alex van der Zwaan, and now Cohen. Yet he’s thus far failed to provide evidence that the Trump campaign committed any actual crime.
The special counsel has been far less successful at finding evidence that the Trump campaign committed any actual crime relating to the Russians. Every single charge brought against Trump associates relevant to the special counsel investigation—that is, Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election—amounts simply to lying in the course of the investigation itself. That strategy may work to throw lobbyists and lawyers in prison, but it undermines the effort to nail Trump for “collusion,” whatever that empty slogan is supposed to mean, with the Russians.
Why should we believe Mueller’s liars? The special counsel has the power to keep them out of prison or, at least in the case of Manafort, to lock them up for life and throw away the key. These proven liars have every incentive to sing whatever tune Mueller calls, which President Trump’s opponents hope will suffice in the absence of evidence that the Trump campaign committed a crime. How many more pawns will Mueller nail for procedural crimes before he is made to present his findings, or lack thereof, on American involvement in Russian election interference? How much longer must we endure an investigation in search of a crime?