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The Mueller Investigation: Its Size and Scope

mueller

It is early days for the Mueller investigation, but still there are some interesting developments.  One is the appointments made by Mueller.  The special counsel has hired 15 lawyers, most of whom are on detail from other parts of the Department of Justice.  And the special counsel has plans to hire more lawyers.  My first reaction to this was amazement.  Fifteen lawyers are a small law firm.  What could possibly justify hiring this number, not to mention more people?

It is easy to be cynical about this.  Mueller has an incentive to maximize his power and knows that it will be difficult for the Trump Administration to constrain his hiring.  But I suppose there is another side to it.  For one, we don’t know that all of these people are working full-time for Mueller.  For another, the scope of the investigation is extremely broad.  According to congressional sources, the main lines of inquiry are: “ Russian meddling in the presidential election; whether anyone inside the United States conspired to help; and whether any wrongdoing has been committed in the surprise firing of FBI Director James Comey, who said he believed he was let go to relieve pressure on the Russia probe.”  This is a broad topic and perhaps many lawyers are needed.

Still, the breadth of this inquiry raises its own questions.  Why is there such a broad criminal inquiry?  Russian meddling is certainly a serious issue, but is a criminal investigation the best way of handling it?  But these are questions for another post.

The breadth of this inquiry and the personnel and resources available to Mueller raise very serious questions about incentives.  Mueller now has an incentive to take a long time looking through these matters.  He also has an incentive to find something – after all, if he spends large amounts of money and finds nothing, the whole enterprise looks bad.  By contrast, if he finds something, and secures some convictions, he is justified and a hero to many.

These are not abstract concerns.  They have occurred over and over again with independent and special counsels.  Just think back on the most recent case of Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation of the Valerie Plame affair.  Although Colin Powell’s Deputy Richard Armitage gave out the information on Plame, nothing happened to him – which was the reason for the special counsel in the first place – but Libby was convicted for allegedly misleading the investigator, even though one of the lead witnesses appears to have misunderstood her notes.

I have recommended a way of addressing this problem of special counsels over-prosecuting.  While the longer version is here, the short version is as follows: One counsel should be assigned the initial job of investigating a matter.  He then decides whether or not anyone should be prosecuted.  If someone is to be prosecuted, the prosecution is conducted by another counsel.  In that way, the initial counsel does not have an incentive to prosecute in order to make himself more important.  In fact, the initial counsel might gain in reputation by concluding that no wrongdoing occurred, since it might enhance his reputation as a person of integrity.

Reader Discussion

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on July 13, 2017 at 09:43:46 am

Interesting observations and concerns.

It would be quite the twist of plot if the investigation actually turned up something on HRC, but that's probably just the stuff of novels.

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Paul Binotto
on July 13, 2017 at 10:04:07 am

Then again, are not the Clintons nothing BUT cheap pulp fiction?

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gabe
on July 13, 2017 at 10:22:45 am

That old quip, "Truth is stranger than fiction" definitely could have been coined with them in mind...

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Paul Binotto
on July 13, 2017 at 11:22:31 am

That old quip, “Truth is stranger than fiction” definitely could have been coined with them in mind…

Survey Question #1. Complete the sentence: ‘Truth is stranger than fiction’ definitely could have been coined with _____ in mind.’”

What percentage of people would respond, “The Clintons”? Not Anthony Weiner. Not Kim Jung Ill. Not Lady Gaga or Kanye West. Not any member of the Trump Administration. Not Jesus. Not Hitler.

Nope, the Clintons.

Quite obviously, some people would offer this answer. But I have to think that this fact reveals more about those people than it does about the Clintons themselves.

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nobody.really
on July 13, 2017 at 11:23:43 am

Now that the secret’s out, I may as well come clean.

Yeah, Mueller III is assembling a team to investigate Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Not everybody who is contributing has chosen to make themselves known—for obvious reasons. But our participation is known to the Executive Branch. And Trump is not exactly a tight-lipped about secrets; ask Israel.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that, when asked if Russia was solely responsible for campaign meddling, Trump blurted out “Nobody.really knows.”

Thanks a lot, Mr. President. You stay classy.

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nobody.really
on July 13, 2017 at 11:29:05 am

Really?

And just why is that?

Would not the same, then , be true for those who would offer The Trumpster, or Kim Jung-il (sp?).

Perhaps, it may be more accurately asserted that "But I have to think that this fact reveals more about those people than it does about the Clintons themselves" actually says more about the crafter of this assertion than about those who do not accept the "aura" of the Clintons.

Just saying, brudda!!!

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gabe
on July 13, 2017 at 11:46:38 am

Oh, my remark wasn't meant to be mutually exclusive to the Clinton's by any means. In fact, you came up with some very suitable alternatives for which the phrase may be equally apt.

I must admit, I am quite amazed that you would include Jesus in this category. For, it infers the concession that He, is in fact Truth. ha-ha.

To test your knowledge of Latin (or of Google Translate): "[P]rorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est" - Tertullian's work, De Carne Christi (ca. 203-206).

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Paul Binotto
on July 13, 2017 at 13:59:43 pm

Ahh, this must be that nagging project you visit here to elude? In that case, you may need to change your moniker to "First.to.know" .

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Paul Binotto
on July 13, 2017 at 14:35:53 pm

And now the other secret is out:

https://townhall.com/tipsheet/katiepavlich/2017/07/13/the-next-fbi-director-plans-to-look-into-collusion-between-clinton-campaign-and-ukraine-n2354468

or does nobody.really not know this?

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gabe
on July 13, 2017 at 15:25:35 pm

So the plot thickens, or the swamp...

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Paul Binotto
on July 13, 2017 at 15:53:46 pm

[D]oes nobody.really not know this?

Well, surely there exists SOMEBODY who hasn't heard about it.....

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nobody.really
on July 13, 2017 at 17:03:27 pm

I think Old Vlad may not have heard about it as he seems unusually quiet these days; then again, he has his own *escapades in Ukraine to worry about!

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gabe
on July 14, 2017 at 10:16:11 am

Trump's right, this is nothing but a witch hunt. Hillary is the real criminal here and she's the one who need to be investigated.
http://freedomnews.today/

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cnk guy
on July 15, 2017 at 13:24:36 pm

There's no urgency about investigating the Clintons. Politically, the Clintons are toast, and a Democrat liability. If there is an immediate threat, it is Trump-Russia, though personally I hope there is nothing there.

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Ron Wl

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.