Last week, Ms. Gies’ column argued for full release of the Mueller report and asserted that “many are afraid of what is happening to our country.”
While we who have followed the investigation would like to see the whole truth, there are laws that may prohibit full release of the report.
This column will address each of Ms. Gies’ questions regarding what the report may reveal.
- Is our government in control or is Putin?
I cannot give a rational response to an irrational question.
- Why is President Trump enamored with Putin?
There are at least 11 incidents where the president has praised Putin. His praise for the quality of the World Cup in Russia is innocuous. More serious was Trump’s statement that he believed Putin when he said Russia did not meddle in our 2016 election.
I can only guess why our president would praise Putin. Perhaps Trump believed that Putin could help in his dealings with China or North Korea or that by speaking positively to Putin he might get concessions that otherwise would not be possible.
President Trump has also criticized Putin and Russia. He blamed Putin for chemical attacks in Syria in support of al-Assad. He cancelled meetings with Putin at the Group of 20 summit, imposed sanctions on Russian government officials to prevent their travel to the U.S, upheld sanctions imposed on Russia as a result of their invasion of Crimea and sanctioned Russian energy and defense industries.
- Was the Trump campaign colluding with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election?
The short summary of the report says no. To believe otherwise would require Democrats to declare Mueller and Attorney General Barr to be liars.
- Why is the government not taking steps to prevent interference in the 2020 election?
Apparently, Ms. Gies is unaware that the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Russians indicted for interfering and issued an executive order to allow sanctions on countries that interfere in our elections.
The Department of Homeland Security is helping local officials in all 50 states deal with election interference.
The FBI is working with companies to combat future attempts at interference.
The director of National Intelligence has established a working group of cyber and intelligence experts to improve election security.
- How could so many Trump associates be indicted without Trump knowing about their activities?
None of those indicted or convicted were found guilty of any crime regarding Russian interference.
Is Ms. Gies suggesting that the owner of a business is guilty of some crime if employees are found guilty of theft, embezzlement or murder?
- Why did the president not divest his business holdings?
Democrats base their arguments on the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. The clause has never been litigated, so there is no legal precedent as to whether it applies to President Trump.
The president established trusts to isolate his interests in his businesses. A federal court has thrown out one case that demanded Trump sell all of his properties.
The 1989 Ethics Reform Act exempted all presidents from its provisions.
Not until the current case regarding the Emoluments Clause is resolved can there be a determination as to whether a president must divest, place in a blind trust or by some other mechanism have no contact with his businesses.
- Finally, Ms. Gies demands that the “test of honesty and transparency” demands release of Mueller’s full report without redactions.
Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure require that grand jury testimony be kept secret, with exceptions such as “grave hostile acts of a foreign power,” and there being a strong public interest.
What constitutes “grave” and “public interest” would be a battle over interpretation.
Furthermore, it is a crime to disclose the names of people who are mentioned in a report but not indicted unless a court intervenes.
Ms. Gies must be unconcerned with legal violations that would occur without either redacting portions or obtaining a court order. Scholars expect such a court case would take years to litigate.
Contrary to Ms. Gies’ views, adherence to the law, the Constitution, precedent and the right to privacy do not equate to “(burying) our heads in the proverbial sand.”
She is right that we should be “afraid of what is happening to our country.” Some favor transparency over privacy, investigations with no evidence of wrongdoing and labeling policy differences as “questionable activities.”
Innocent until proven guilty, probable cause for search and seizure and the Constitution are becoming increasingly irrelevant.
We ought to be afraid of what is happening in our country.
Rich Kiper is a Leavenworth Times columnist.