As President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, appeared at a court hearing in New York Monday, proceedings took an intriguing twist. It was a twist that would cause anyone to ponder the motivations of those orchestrating the entire Justice Department investigation into alleged collusion between the president’s campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 election. For reasons that are not entirely clear, U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood ordered the public identification of Fox News host Sean Hannity as one of Cohen’s clients.
There appears, so far, to be no legal necessity or justification for this breach of privacy. But considering that Hannity is one of Trump’s staunchest supporters and a vocal critic of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, one can hardly help but raise an eyebrow. On its face, it appears that Mueller, saddled with an investigation going nowhere, decided to weaponize the Southern District of New York (SDNY) in a somewhat desperate attempt to save his credibility. Rather than shut down an exercise in futility that has been a millstone around the neck of the federal government, Mueller set his sights on taking down Trump’s own lawyer. In doing so, he could at least walk away with a result that will assuage the hurt feelings of those who never wanted Trump to be president in the first place.
Spiraling Out of Control
It is hard to deny that the Justice Department’s Special Counsel investigation is spiraling out of control. To briefly put everything in perspective: After close to a full year and an unknown expenditure of taxpayer dollars, Mueller’s team of supposedly top-tier prosecutors and investigators are still searching in vain for evidence of something that has no legal definition and is not, in fact, a crime.
As disgraced former FBI Director James Comey told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in an interview Sunday evening, “…if you’ve been investigating something for almost a year and you don’t have a general sense of where it’s likely to end up, you should be fired because you’re incompetent.” Although speaking in the context of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, Comey was making a general observation – and one that could certainly be applied to Robert Mueller.
A No-Spin Look at the Recent Events
It is only fair to clarify a few reasonable observations on the legality of events that have taken place since the FBI a week ago raided Michael Cohen’s office and other locations used by him. The warrant was executed by the Southern District of New York and not by anyone working directly for Robert Mueller. This tells us that any evidence being sought was entirely disconnected from the Russia investigation. Mueller’s people must have discovered probable cause that an unrelated crime may have been committed and had to refer that matter to another entity since it was not within the scope of their own task.
Cohen went to court Monday to gain some control over how much of the material seized by the FBI could be used. He argues that some of that material is protected by attorney-client privilege. Since he is Trump’s personal attorney, this seems almost certain. It appears, though, that neither the FBI nor SDNY thinks the president and his attorney deserve the same deference extended to Hillary Clinton’s associates during the investigation into her use of a private email server.
In the course of that investigation, Clinton’s people were not only allowed access to documents and electronic devices handed over to the Bureau but were even permitted to retake possession of whatever they desired. It is also worth remembering that Hillary Clinton’s emails were subpoenaed. No doors were kicked in and nothing was removed without consent. Neither Hillary nor any of her associates were subject to any penalties for destroying electronic devices and erasing emails even after the subpoena had been delivered.
As for Sean Hannity being identified during the hearing, that might not violate attorney-client privilege, but it certainly appears extraneous to anything related to the investigation of Michael Cohen. Hannity has, apparently, never been represented by Cohen nor retained the lawyer for any legal work. It would seem that naming the Fox host was done for no other purpose than to embarrass or, perhaps, intimidate him.
An Investigation That Will End Badly for All
It is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore not just the elephant in the room but the elephant’s twin brother. That there is a breathtaking double standard in the way Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been treated by investigators is well beyond dispute. That Robert Mueller has – either through malice or incompetence – allowed the Russia investigation to morph into a vicious legal assault on the president of the United States and anyone associated with him is also hard to deny.
Cohen may well have committed some transgression for which he might end up being heavily fined. Unless it turns out that he has actually killed someone, he is probably not going to see prison time and the president will, in all likelihood, pardon him for anything of which he might be convicted. No-one honestly believes that any of this will culminate in charges against the president himself. The indefinite continuation and widening of this investigation, however, will do untold damage to the cohesion of the nation. Not only that, but it will set a very dangerous precedent for every future chief executive. No good will come of this, and the time has come to end this petulant farce – for all our sakes.