The New Grand Inquisitor

May 11, 2018 Updated: May 11, 2018

Beware the sanctimonious who “know” they have God on their side, or in this case, the Law on their side, for they will wield their authority as they see fit. Believing in the righteousness of their cause, they will not let quaint, antiquated respect for fair play and individual rights stand in their way.

So it was with Tomás de Torquemada, and so it is with special counsel Robert Mueller. If cases need to be manufactured in order to arrive at the “just” result, then so be it. As the inquisitors of old relied on the rack to reach the “truth,” so will the New Inquisitor—the special counsel—rely on the 21st-century equivalent.

That the U.S. criminal justice system is being abused in such a manner is the conclusion of an appalled federal judge.

As reported by CNN on May 4, U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis, who is presiding in Alexandria, Va., over the federal criminal case brought against former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort, accused Mueller’s team of having no genuine interest in prosecuting Manafort, but rather seeking an avenue from which to launch a prosecutorial attack on Trump.

You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud,” Ellis said to prosecutor Michael Dreeben, as reported by CNN. Ellis then said the prosecutors were pursuing the case against Manafort because of its potential to “provide material that would lead to Trump’s ‘prosecution or impeachment,’” according to the network.

After ordering the prosecutors to transmit the document defining the scope of their authority—a demand they sought to refuse, arguing that it was not relevant—Ellis reminded them that it was for him to decide. Confronting their hubris, Ellis said the American people abhor unfettered power.

Interviews by the special counsel’s prosecutors of former Trump presidential campaign aides, for instance of Michael Caputo, appear calculated—not to garner evidence, but rather to create a pool of reluctant but bound witnesses. Caputo, as quoted in Paste, said that “the Mueller investigation really wasn’t trying to find something. … Every question they asked, they already have the answer to.”

These special prosecutors are not asking questions in order to learn from the answers. Rather, they only ask questions whose answers they are certain of, in the hope that these interviewees will generate what Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz refers to as “technical crimes.”

A string of such “crimes” can mean decades in jail for those who do not choose to play ball and turn on their former boss. Today, it is Trump’s people who face the rack; in some future political alignment, it might be the staff of … Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, or Joe Biden.

The New York Times, in an April 30 article, enumerated what it said would be Mueller’s probable questions for Trump. They demonstrate that the same perjury traps are being set for the president himself.

Following months of investigation and research, there can be little doubt that the prosecutors already know the answers to all or most of the presumed questions.  Were Trump to submit to the inquisitor’s questions, he would have as much likelihood of improving his situation as did Torquemada’s subjects of clearing themselves of charges of heresy.

What, in fact, is the scope of the special counsel’s mandate? More importantly, what is the rationale for the obstinacy with which its limits are hidden from the public? In an age when transparency is continuously affirmed as essential to the functioning of a true democracy, what is the justification for the opaque treatment accorded this vital document?

Why won’t the Justice Department (specifically Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein) release it? What is being hidden, and why? If this servant of you, the American people, chooses, unilaterally and without oversight and review, to not reveal the parameters of the mandate he has granted Mueller, then at the very least he should state a reasonable basis for this refusal.

Perhaps, after years of free rein, the Rod Rosensteins and Robert Muellers have come to believe that they do, indeed, have what Ellis has referred to as “unfettered power.”

Marc Ruskin, a 27-year veteran of the FBI, is a regular contributor and the author of “The Pretender: My Life Undercover for the FBI.” He served on the legislative staff of U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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