Investigations Right in DC Podcasts

J. Christian Adams: All About the Mueller Report

My guest on RIGHT IN DC is J. Christian Adams, President and General Counsel of the Public Interest Legal Foundation which is dedicated entirely to election integrity. There was no one better I could have thought of to talk to about the bombshell news this past weekend of the Mueller Report finally being released. We discussed and analyzed all aspects of this report and the investigation, including its implications, through legal and political eyes. We also discuss Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Gen. Flynn and others caught up in the investigation, the mainstream media’s response, the weird, unprecedented over-the-top targeting of President Trump, what the crazies are going to do next, will there be pardons, and much more.

BIO: J. Christian Adams serves as President and General Counsel of the Public Interest Legal Foundation. He is also the founder of the Election Law Center, PLLC. He served from 2005 to 2010 in the Voting Section at the United States Department of Justice. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller “Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department” which examines the Department’s election and voting rights record. Prior to his time at the Justice Department, he served as General Counsel to the South Carolina Secretary of State. He also serves as legal editor at PJMedia.com, an internet news publication and appears frequently on Fox News and has appeared at National Review, Breitbart, the Washington Examiner, American Spectator, Washington Times and other publications. He has a law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law. He is a member of the South Carolina and Virginia Bars.

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TRANSCRIPT

Gayle Trotter

This is Gayle Trotter, host of Right in DC. Today our guest is J. Christian Adams. There was no one better I could have thought to have on today to talk about the bombshell news from this weekend. Christian is the president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation and you’ve probably seen him on Fox often. Thank you so much, Christian, for joining us today.

JCA

Thanks, Gayle.

GT

This was a huge weekend. Can you summarize for our audience what happened?

JCA

Mueller essentially delivered the report to the Attorney General, who then wrote a summary about it that is now out in the public. The summary is not very long. It’s about two pages and its transmittal to Congress, the summary, and that is that there was no evidence at all of Russian collusion between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government. It just didn’t exist and there were no more indictments to come down. The investigation is essentially done, and it was a whole lot of nothing, it seems. That the whole purpose of it was to root out this conspiracy between Trump and Vladimir Putin to defeat Hillary, and it just did not exist.

GT

Do you think that there was a thorough investigation undertaken by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team?

JCA

The letter goes to great lengths to detail the number of FBI agents, the number of lawyers, the number of subpoenas, the grand jury testimony, the enormous expenditure of resources that went into this investigation. It, frankly, staggers the imagination how much went into it. As far as whether or not it’s thorough, all you can do is look at the massive expenditure of time and money to answer that question. The answer is yes.

GT

Do you feel like this report or the summary of the report from Attorney General Barr exonerates President Trump and his campaign team?

JCA

The central purpose of the Mueller investigation was to figure out if there was coordination, collusion, conspiracy, and cooperation between the Russian government, Russian interests, and the Trump campaign in order to defeat Hillary. That was the whole central purpose of this investigation and we now know that the answer is no, that there was none. As far as whether or not that exonerates the President, I can’t imagine anything that could exonerate him more when it comes to this, now we know, false charge that Trump campaign officials and the president were working with the Russians to defeat Hillary. The answer is clearly 100 percent no.

GT

What do you think about Attorney General Barr and Rod Rosenstein spending the weekend going through the report and coming up with this summary? Do you think it’s an adequate summary of what’s in the report or do you think that further information should be released?

JCA

I have had to do this on many different Justice Department reports, where you read it and you summarize it. My summaries usually appear as articles somewhere, but it’s not a difficult task to read a report, even if it takes several hours, and to write a two-page summary of it. I’m not struck by the challenge of having to prepare a document that captures what’s in the larger report. It’s not rocket science.

GT

You previously served in the Department of Justice, correct?

JCA

Right.

GT

You’re very familiar with the policies and the procedures of the Justice Department?

JCA

The policies and procedures of the Justice Department, in this particular case, are also public, that it’s part of the code of regulations of the Justice Department that the public could look at and see how it’s supposed to work. It’s followed it pretty closely.

GT

You feel like the procedures have been followed. Andy McCarthy has gone into this a lot, that Mueller has basically been a line prosecutor. He’s not part of the independent counsel statute, which was let to expire after the Bill Clinton investigation. He is part of the, I guess, machinery of the Department of Justice. Do you feel, given your knowledge of the policy and procedures of the Department of Justice, that it’s pretty much been followed up until now?

JCA

I wasn’t in on the investigation so I can’t speak for the investigation itself. What I can speak about is the fact that this is a criminal investigation and this essentially a closure memo. In the United States, and that’s what makes our country unique and great, is criminal investigations are not public affairs because you have grand juries and grand juries can compel testimony from just about anybody. Actually, yes, from just about anybody. We don’t release that information because we don’t make criminal investigations public in the United States.

That’s an enormous power. It’s been used throughout history to abuse other people. What we do in the United States is we have secret criminal investigations using secret grand juries. In this particular case, Mueller produced a report that has a lot of the secret information, and that’s in keeping with the procedures of DOJ by giving it to the Attorney General and the Attorney General, under the procedures, has the power to decide to summarize portions of it. That’s exactly what’s happened here.

GT

People who are not lawyers or not used to being involved in criminal investigations, who generally get their idea of law from television, which sometimes is accurate, sometimes is not, I think sometimes people think, “Oh, if you don’t want to talk, you just take the Fifth and you don’t have to answer any questions you don’t want to answer,” but it’s more complicated than that. I think you draw a great point about the grand jury, that people will go into these secret grand jury investigations and they will be compelled to answer questions. That may not implicate them in criminal matters, but certainly are embarrassing and could be detrimental to their business or their family. I think you’re making the point that the reason we try to keep this information private is because of the great harm that can come to people even when there is not the ability, by the government, to prosecute someone for a particular crime; is that correct?

JCA

Right. What goes on in a grand jury exercises some of the state’s greatest power. Power, as we all know, is subject to abuse. That’s why those proceedings are done in a way to protect people. If evidence of a crime emerges, then the grand jury can indict and then everything becomes public after that and then there’s an open process in the Constitution for a public trial, but in order to protect people before there’s actually an indictment, those things are done in secret.

GT

I think you raise a really good point about once an indictment is issued that it all becomes public. But at that point, anyone who is implicated in the crime has the ability to come forward and defend themselves. We, in this country, place a very high burden on the government in order to make sure that people are not falsely convicted of crimes. Can you talk a little bit about how that viewpoint or theory of not smearing people and not allowing them to basically defend themselves, how that works in our criminal system?

JCA

Right, and going back in history, you could make accusations against somebody in other countries and then, frankly, in the English system before the Constitution, and those accusations would destroy them. It would be over with. Their reputation, their business, their livelihood would be lost. That was enough to destroy political opponents.

What we have instituted in our country is a secret system where a grand jury thoroughly collects information, hears testimony under oath (by the way, lying to a grand jury is in itself a crime) and they decide whether or not there’s enough evidence that a crime may have occurred. If there is and there is an indictment, the prosecutors have to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt. So what the system does is protect the innocent from abuse of power by the government. As we have learned in this whole affair, there was no Russian collusion and that’s precisely how it was supposed to work, is that the grand jury hears testimony and if no crime was committed, the whole thing evaporates like fog in the summer morning.

GT

It’s so fascinating because when you think about those protections, unfortunately some people fall prey to getting caught up in misstatements or lies to the government in furtherance of trying to protect themselves, even though there’s not an underlying crime that occurred or happened. When I’m referencing this, I’m thinking about some of the very newsworthy plea agreements and guilty verdicts against people like General Flynn, Paul Manafort, and the ongoing legal jeopardy that Roger Stone is in. What do you think about these people who were caught up in the investigation of Russian collusion that we now know never happened, that it was just either an illusion or it was something used to try and undermine the election or reverse the election, or, if nothing else, to make President Trump and his administration less effective than they would have been if they hadn’t had to be constantly aware and responding to this investigation?

JCA

That’s a great question. Manafort is a different animal. I will get to him in a second. But when it comes to Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, their criminal charges were sort of these weird transactional ones, lying to the FBI, 18 U.S.C. 1001. That is the ultimate trap. When you talk to the FBI or any federal official, frankly, and you lie, it’s a crime. And I don’t think a lot of people are aware of that statute. Martha Stewart sure is.

It’s fascinating power and it’s why we have the Fifth Amendment. Michael Flynn and Roger Stone could have said, “I’m not going to talk to you.”  Under the Constitution, we have an absolute right to not talk to the police. Even if you’re subpoenaed by the police to testify in front of a grand jury, you have an absolute right to say, “I have nothing to say.”

GT

Like Lois Lerner did, right?

JCA

Exactly. The Fifth Amendment is very clear that you do not have to testify. Yet for some reason, it seems so many Americans are unaware of it and go rambling off and say things they shouldn’t say to FBI officials. That’s what happened to Roger Stone, apparently, or allegedly, and same with Michael Flynn.

Manafort is a different beast. What happened there was this investigation starts and next thing you know, all of his dealings over the last five, six years come under the microscope and it turns out he’s moving money from various European governments or clients and moving it through crazy things, like rug stores in Alexandria, Virginia. And so he gets hit with a whole bunch of stuff totally unrelated to the predicate behind the Mueller investigation in the first place, which is supposed to be Russian collusion, which we now know didn’t exist, but, by golly, Manafort’s moving a million dollars through an Oriental rug store is going to send him off to the pokey.

GT

I have always wondered about those rug stores. They seem like they’re always going out of business. I don’t know if you’ve have seen that too.

JCA

Yes, yeah.

GT

On Manafort, you’re familiar with investigations and the way that suspects are treated. It did seem like the treatment of Manafort was very heavy handed, that the judge, I think it was his case, maybe it was Judge Ellis, said that it seemed like the government was not only trying to get him to sing, but to compose. You saw the raid of Manafort’s house at an early time and with guns drawn and his wife was terrified, which is a little bit unusual, my understanding is, for the crimes that he was charged with, and being put in solitary confinement. That’s not to take away from the serious crimes that he plead guilty to and was convicted of, but do you think that his treatment was harsher because there was an effort to try and turn him against the president?

JCA

It happened to Roger Stone too, don’t forget. The strange pre-dawn raids on people who I’m quite certain had the U.S. attorneys or the FBI called up (these people were all represented by counsel) had called the counsel, I have a funny feeling that they would have turned themselves in. In the case of Roger Stone, there was a CNN crew in tow because they had been tipped off by someone in the FBI. Senator Chuck Grassley is very keen to get to the bottom of that. This is how government plays. It’s the same as we’ve seen throughout the centuries, that big government always is abusive. Here we go, we got more of it.

GT

Right, and that’s really tough, I think, for conservatives, because you served in the Department of Justice. There are many good conservatives and people fair-minded about politics in the Department of Justice in these positions of power in the federal government. Yet, it seems like it is very hard to overcome a lot of the impulses towards power and political influence that certainly people at these agencies fall prey to. What advice would you give to people who are interested in being in those types of positions but are disgusted or disappointed or disillusioned that they sometimes do not live up to their high calling?

JCA

I don’t know what advice to give them, but I know that people in those positions always have to be cognizant of the limited state of government that is envisioned by this country and that kicking down doors in the middle of the night is really – I mean, you’re dealing with a political consultant. This is not MS13. It’s a little strange.

GT

Right. I mean, it would be one thing if you thought he was a flight risk. Then you just put surveillance on him, right? You wouldn’t necessarily have to go in, guns blazing.

Have you followed the commentary on the release of this letter from Attorney General Barr on Sunday afternoon?

JCA

The left is still in a state of mass hysteria. This has been a mass hysteria event. I said that on Fox, and it reminds of the Millerites. A lot of people don’t know what the Miller Rights were, but in 1844, the country sure did, because they were a religious sect who claimed that the world was going to end on a very particular day, October 22, 1844. They were completely convinced this was going to occur, just like all the guys at MSNBC are completely convinced that there was Russian collusion. What happened was they sold all their stuff, they went into this state of mass hysteria, just like we’re seeing with Trump, and then October 22nd came and went and the world didn’t end. They were completely obliterated. Their world was not validated. It just reminds me of that. It’s like, “Oh, there’s Russian collusion, we’re sure of it. We’re going to see Jared marched out by the FBI,” and then it doesn’t happen. What happened? It was this mass hysteria event.

GT

Byron York wrote a good piece talking about the five things that did not happen in this investigation and the conclusion of it. I don’t remember all the five points, but one of them was that President Trump did not fire Bob Mueller. How much did we hear that in commentary on CNN, MSNBC, at the major networks?

JCA

Endless. There was this lust among those commentators to see people in handcuffs. I think, by the way, that’s why they did what they did to Roger Stone and Manafort, is because among the FBI, there are people who are sympathetic to the Adam Schiffs of the world regarding this. These, perhaps lawyers of the Department who were involved in this, we know a lot of them were Democrat partisans that were on Mueller’s team, something has to account for tipping off CNN. I think that in part it was to satisfy this lust that the crazies had to see people in handcuffs and physically abused and physically marched around. They openly said they wanted to see that. Why not throw them Roger Stone in handcuffs?

GT

I think that’s a really important word that has not been said but is so apt for describing the reaction by the commentators, the lust for seeing the downfall of others. I notice in a lot of the commentary, it was repeated over and over again, this is a good day for America, this is a good day for Americans. You don’t want a president or a president’s campaign who’s colluded with the enemy, essentially. Then you have responses from people like Preet Bharara, formerly of the New York Office.

JCA

He was the U.S. Attorney.

GT

Yes.

JCA

He was the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York.

GT

He had a tweet this morning that he’s not going to let it go. My question for you: You have raised this lust issue. I am curious, you and I lived through the denunciation of George W. Bush and we saw how H.W. Bush was treated, Ronald Reagan was treated. I date myself going back a little bit to Gerald Ford, but seems like this lust or this unhinged mass hysteria directed Trump is at a fever pitch that we have never seen before. Maybe it’s just the primacy of recency that we’re living it, so it’s seems more extreme than how it’s been in the past. But I certainly, my observations, is that it’s just off the charts. In trying to assess, I’m sure it’s different for different opponents of Trump, but what would you say is really behind the mass hysteria and the complete targeting of President Trump?

JCA

You’re now getting into something that we don’t have time to fully explore. But to try to distill it down, you mentioned Bush. I was struck by Dana Perino yesterday saying that, “Oh, Trump shouldn’t say anything about this right now. He should draft a carefully worded statement while he’s on Air Force One with his staff and issue a carefully worded written statement,” which of course means Trump is going to do exactly the opposite of whatever Dana Perino thinks is right.

He goes right out onto the tarmac and he speaks in sentence fragments and says, “No collusion. No Russian collusion. Complete exoneration.”  He absolutely drills home the main simple talking points that then totally flow through the media narrative and absolutely wins the high ground in contrast to Dana Perino’s suggested strategy. I think what drives the left so bonkers is that Trump knows how to do this. They were used to having tethered goats as presidents. Tethered goats meaning they can chomp at George Bush’s hindquarters all day long and they’re never going to get kicked in the face. I think that the institutional left is used to the Bush family being nice. And suddenly they have a guy who punches back.

By the way, this bothers all the Never-Trumpers greatly too in the Republican Party.

GT

Yes.

JCA

But the reality is it is modern tactical necessity. Because if you don’t do what Trump does, you will turn into what George Bush did, which is roadkill. And God, I loved George Bush. I think he was the right man at the right time, but he signed bills and legislation thinking that he would be suddenly be loved by Al Sharpton. No sooner did the ink dry that he’s being called a racist. Trump understands his enemy in a way that the Bushes never did.

GT

Yeah, you had George W. Bush signing PEPFAR, which helps the African continent with AIDS and all the things that George W. Bush did and the failure to respond on a lot of things. I agree with you, I think he was the right person for the time, but he did not punch back.

I think you have a brilliant insight too, Christian, that Trump, even though he is caricatured as being of low IQ and talking like a fourth grader, how brilliant is it to, what you said, to go out there, say the top line, and you don’t give the media the chance to cut and paste if you say something else. But the other quote that I love that he said yesterday is, “America’s the greatest country on Earth.”  If you only give them a few things and they need tape of you today, or yesterday, they have to play those clips. And they can make fun of you or whatever.

JCA

Exactly.

GT

But that’s the message that’s going to resonate with the American people, except for the people who don’t think America is great.

JCA

You’re right. They have to play the clip. That’s the bottom line. Here’s the other part of this:  People in D.C. and people who have Ph.D.s and master’s in public policy and work at think tanks don’t understand this, and I didn’t understand it. I confess I didn’t understand this at first. Trump speaks in a language that mainstream regular American innately responds to. People who drive trucks and deliver bread and work in stores and cut wood, they talk like this. They don’t talk like they’re Kennebunkport. Trump understands that. That’s why he is so popular among the segment that the Republican Party hadn’t been able to reach since 1984.

GT

I went on Fox News on Saturday to discuss this when we knew that the summary was coming, but we didn’t have the summary. The other guest and I got into it because I was saying it’s not an exoneration, but the point I was trying to make is that prosecutors don’t exonerate people.

JCA

That’s right.

GT

You are presumed innocent. As an American, you are presumed innocent. The entire setup is that you’re blameless to begin with. I got cut off before I was able to fully make that point.

JCA

This is why I don’t do panels.

GTA

Smart. That’s a good practice tip. Thank you, Christian.

I am curious, now that we have the summary, where do we go from here?

JCA

I think what will happen is the crazies will still be the crazies. They’re going to demand that the whole report come out and Nadler, Chairman of House Judiciary, is going to call up a parade of people to keep the fire burning in the crazies. They want blood and so he’s going to do something to keep the conspiracy theories going. The problem is I’m not sure that Congressional Republicans, because, remember, they pride themselves on being based on reason and logic, and I don’t think Congressional Republicans will fully understand the power of what the Congressional Democrats are going to do next, and that is to keep the conspiracy alive. I think that’s what’s coming next, is where we go from here, as the battle shifts. I, frankly, think it shifts scenario that the Democrats have a lot of advantages, because they understand mass psychosis. They understand emotional appeals to lunatics because that’s what they do best. I think that what it means is, where we go from here, is this is going to keep on going.

GT

It’s unfortunate then when Republicans held the majority of the House. They weren’t able to use the power of the committees and investigations and hearings very effectively, in my view, but certainly the Democrats, as you’re saying, are more skilled and they understand what the power of that can be.

If Attorney General Barr is called before some of these committees, I guess probably judiciary intelligence, who knows, maybe commerce, who knows. They will try to get him up there for anything all the time, right? Do you think he should go? Because we have had Loretta Lynch, Eric Holder, other people who have put off coming and testifying before Congress. Do you think he should go and what kind of responsibility does he have as Attorney General to not answer every picky question because of, like, we were talking about the grand jury testimony and things like that?

JCA

These were not symmetrical hypotheticals about Holder and Lynch because as we said a moment ago, the Republicans are ill equipped to fight with a Democrat who doesn’t want to answer questions. They just don’t. For example, you mention that the Republicans didn’t seem to use their investigative powers effectively when they were in the majority. Part of that is, remember, Devin Nunes from California tried to and on multiple issues, he was told to stop it by the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.

GT

Yes.

JCA

So you had this crazy situation where Nunes was getting some very good stuff and the speaker of the House wanted to talk about tax cuts, or something that a very large majority of the country likes, but doesn’t really care much about.

GT

Yeah, I think that’s a critical point. Do you think that President Trump should pardon General Flynn? He seems like the most obvious one, because as far as we know, there is nothing that he has been accused of unrelated to the investigation of the non-collusion. Then from there, what do you think President Trump should do with the other folks who had been caught up in this?

JCA

Well, Flynn is a particular fruitful area to examine a pardon because the circumstances of that case are so peculiar, where a bunch of FBI agents trudged up to the White House in an effort to sort of frame Flynn and Flynn thought they were coming up for a policy briefing. Remember, Flynn was in the White House and these FBI guys come up and start asking him questions. They were trying to get Flynn to lie. It’s not even clear he did lie. I think that the FBI agents indicated that he did not have the requisite intent to commit this crime. I think Flynn is probably a very good place to start with pardons.

GT

To talk about this too. You made the point at the very beginning of our discussion, which I think is a critical, excellent point that every American should know and take to heart, you said people shouldn’t talk. You have the Fifth Amendment right to not talk to federal investigators. You made the point to anybody in government essentially. The problem is if you’re in the White House and you’re having a meeting with FBI agents and you have no idea that you are under investigation or anything like that, that doesn’t work. You can’t do that if you’re in the administration and not talk to your government people who are supposed to give you intelligence and tell you what’s going on. I think that’s an excellent point that you made, that he got caught up in this. Even the agents who reviewed it said that they didn’t think he was being duplicitous. And because the force of the federal government is so large and the cost of defending yourself and the problems to your reputations and your family, you might decide to enter a plea agreement even though you had very tenable arguments about how you didn’t actually do whatever it is you’re accused of.

JCA

Right. I think this is the starting line for Trump pardons, is Michael Flynn.

GT

I think that is a great point to end on, Christian. Thank you so much for joining us. If people want to read your excellent work and follow you, where can they find you online?

JCA

Oh, heavens, try PublicInterestLegal.org, but also at PJ Media.

GT

This is Gayle Trotter. You can like me on Facebook. You can follow me on Twitter. You can follow me on Instagram. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel. You can subscribe to this podcast, Right in DC, on iTunes, and you can leave a review. You can also support this podcast on Patreon. We have great T-shirts as gifts for patrons, courtesy of Hard Hits Custom Apparel. We would like to thank Trio Caliente, a local D.C. group, for the music on our podcast. This is Right in DC.

About the author

Gayle Trotter

Gayle Trotter is an attorney, political analyst and columnist who regularly appears on TV, such as Fox News, contributes to The Hill, The Daily Caller, Townhall and other well-known political websites, and is a frequent guest on radio shows across the country providing an insider’s view of Washington, DC. Read More