Today’s word from anonymous, unnumbered “official sources” — that is some deep cover they’ve got going there — to Washington Post reporters Sari Horwitz, Matt Zapotosky and Adam Entous (count ’em) goes like this:
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is investigating the finances and business dealings of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, as part of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
FBI agents and federal prosecutors have also been examining the financial dealings of other Trump associates, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Carter Page, who was listed as a foreign-policy adviser for the campaign.
The Washington Post previously reported that investigators were scrutinizing meetings that Kushner held with Russians in December — first with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and then with Sergey Gorkov, the head of a state-owned Russian development bank. At the time of that report, it was not clear that the FBI was investigating Kushner’s business dealings.
The officials who described the financial focus of the investigation spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Let’s pause here for a brief moment with Professor Glenn Reynolds. Glenn translates the journalese for the untutored reader. “Not authorized to speak” means “unprofessional” and/or “illegal.”
Round about paragraph seven the Post reporters concede this much:
Mueller’s investigation is in a relatively early phase, and it is unclear whether criminal charges will be brought when it is complete.
Now this is rich. We have no evidence of wrongdoing by the president or his campaign. By contrast, however, the air of criminality injected by “official sources” and their media conduits itself constitutes a gross form of wrongdoing.
Again, however, translation is required. Here we can draw on the expertise of former Assistant United States Attorney Andrew McCarthy, whose translation also addresses the parallel New York Times version of the leak (“A former senior official said Mr. Mueller’s investigation was looking at money laundering by Trump associates. The suspicion is that any cooperation with Russian officials would most likely have been in exchange for some kind of financial payoff, and that there would have been an effort to hide the payments, probably by routing them through offshore banking centers”):
Allow me to translate. The investigators have no evidence of Trump campaign coordination with Russia and, if it is possible, they have even less cause to believe there was a bribe (for the coordination that did not happen), and less still to believe the bribe (that there’s no reason to believe happened) was conveyed in a deceptive manner that amounted to a felony money-laundering violation.
Get it? In the absence of an evidentiary predicate for a criminal investigation, a bunch of smart lawyers are theorizing that if there had been some kind of collusion, there might have been a money trail. On that pretext, they have moved on to a new crime they speculate, but have no evidence, may have occurred. This enables them to start poking around people’s banking records, business ledgers, tax returns and the like.
Inevitably, it will be forgotten that there was no evidence of the collusion, of the bribery for the collusion, or of the money laundering for the bribery for the collusion – i.e., no evidence supporting the rationale for the fishing expedition. Instead, Mueller’s team will be on to theorizing financial irregularities that have utterly no connection to Russia, the election, collusion, or anything that the investigation was supposed to be about in the first place.
We have entered a zone of what Hunter Thompson would call deep weirdness. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — the man responsible for Mueller’s appointment and supervision of the investigation — issued this statement Thursday night:
Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous “officials,” particularly when they do not identify the country — let alone the branch of agency of government — with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated. Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations.
Well, thanks. We’re cynical out here in flyover country without the advice. The last thing we need from Rosenstein is this particular encouragement. We need him to raise holy hell to find out who’s doing what under his nose.