Robert Mueller turned in a disgraceful performance as Special Counsel, allowing himself and his staff to be used as a tool of the Democratic Party. He knew from an early stage that the core of what he was supposed to be investigating–“collusion”–did not exist. But he plowed forward, hoping to ensnare members of the Trump campaign or administration in process crimes. Meanwhile, he ignored the real scandal: the attempt by top-ranking officials at the FBI and CIA to swing the 2016 presidential election to Hillary Clinton, or, failing that, to disable the incoming Trump administration before it had a chance to get off the ground.
All the while, there has been a weird mystery about what, exactly, Mueller was instructed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to do. Byron York, who has followed the story closely, explains:
The 448-page Mueller report has been public for two months, so it might seem strange that the Justice Department’s original instructions to special counsel Robert Mueller, outlining what he was assigned to investigate, are still a secret. But they are. And now, it turns out those instructions were more extensive than previously known. Until now, it was widely understood that there had been two “scope memos” from DOJ to Mueller. Now, it turns out there was a third, as well.
On April 3, 2018, news broke that Rosenstein wrote a second scope memo to Mueller. Dated August 2, 2017 — just 10 weeks after the original appointing document — the second scope memo came to light as a result of court proceedings for the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. But most of it was blacked out. Still, the public could see that Rosenstein wrote that the original May 17, 2017 scope memo “was worded categorically in order to permit its public release without confirming specific investigations involving specific individuals. This [August 2] memorandum provides a more specific description of your authority.”
Rosenstein apparently went on to list several assignments, but only one was not blacked out. In that section, Rosenstein authorized Mueller to investigate allegations that Manafort “committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election for President of the United States, in violation of United States law,” as well as allegations that Manafort “committed a crime or crimes arising out of payments he received from the Ukrainian government before and during the tenure of President Viktor Yanukovych.”
This is interesting because the first charge, investigating whether Manafort colluded with the Russians–he didn’t–fell within the commonly understood ambit of Mueller’s assignment. But the second–whether Manafort failed to register as a lobbyist for a foreign country, which at the time, years before he had any involvement in the Trump campaign, was common practice–had nothing to do with the “Russia investigation” as normally understood. It was a mandate to trap Manafort in an irrelevant offense, presumably with the intent of getting dirt on Donald Trump.
Manafort had no such dirt to give, so today he is imprisoned, in failing health, paying an extraordinary penalty for an offense for which many wealthy and powerful lobbyists have gone entirely unpunished. Manafort was singled out only because he had the temerity to serve in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. This suggests that the entire Mueller enterprise was corrupt from the beginning.
Whatever else Rosenstein told Mueller remains secret to this day.
Now there is more. The Justice Department has recently allowed members of some congressional committees to view the scope memos, and out of that has come the news that there was a third scope memo to Mueller. Dated October 20, 2017, its contents remain a secret. But its very existence suggests something was going on behind the scenes in the relationship of Mueller and his supervisors at the Justice Department.
Was Mueller heading off in new directions, with Rosenstein belatedly giving him authorization to proceed? Was Mueller proposing to investigate people or events not known when he was originally appointed? Was there something else?
At the moment, the third scope memo, like most of the second scope memo, remains a secret.
Given what we now know about Russiagate and Mueller’s partisan “investigation,” there is no reason for such secrecy. Americans deserve to know what Bob Mueller looked into, and–this is a separate question–why. This whole operation has zero credibility, and its basis needs to be exposed to the light of day.