Special Counsel Robert Mueller has completed his 22-month investigation into whether the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump conspired with representatives of the Russian government in a coordinated effort to secure the presidency for Trump.
Reputable media outlets have reported that there were 102 contacts and 28 meetings between the Trump campaign and operatives with ties directly to the Russian government or its intelligence apparatus. When confronted with evidence from either the media or law enforcement authorities about these contacts/meetings, the president, his family, and associates all lied about them before coming clean.
Special Counsel Mueller found that some of the actions flowing from or attributed to these contacts/meetings by the Russians constituted a conspiracy to defraud the United States.
The Special Counsel in February 2018 issued criminal indictments against 13 Russian individuals and three Russian companies for engaging in “information warfare against the United States.”
Despite Claims, No Exoneration for President
While the Mueller report said there was insufficient evidence for an indictable conclusion that the Trump campaign conspired with this Russian “information warfare” or in any way coordinated with Russian efforts to get their preferred candidate elected, the report stopped short of exonerating the president of having engaged in criminal activity during his successful campaign for the presidency.
However, there is more than sufficient evidence that Trump family members and campaign officials violated the law when they failed to report illegal contacts with Russians offering to help the Trump campaign and hurt the Hillary Clinton campaign—in particular, the Trump Tower meeting on June 9, 2016 when Donald Trump, Jr., the president’s son-in-law Jared Kusher, and Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort met with Russians trying to secure “dirt” on Clinton as promised by the Russian operatives.
Misprision of a Felony
The law these three individuals violated is one of the oldest criminal laws in the United States. Enacted in 1790, misprision of a felony is found in 18 U.S.C. § 4 and is defined as:
“Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”
Trump Jr., Kusher, and Manafort not only knew the Russians who orchestrated the Trump Tower meeting were violating the law by trying to interfere in a U.S. election, they failed to report it to the FBI or any other law enforcement agency—and, in fact, tried to conceal the crime by lying about its purpose.
That’s misprision of a felony.
In May 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Olson upheld a misprision of a felony conviction involving an individual charged with “concealing and failing to notify authorities of her business partner’s submission of false statements” to the USDA’s Rural Development Program in connection with a grant application.
Elements of Misprision
The three-judge panel reaffirmed the long-established rule that “[t]o establish misprision of a felony,” under 18 U.S.C. § 4, “the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt: ‘(1) that the principal . . . committed and completed the felony alleged; (2) that the defendant had full knowledge of that fact; (3) that he failed to notify the authorities; and (4) that he took affirmative steps to conceal the crime of the principal.’”
Both pre-and-post Trump Tower actions by Trump Jr., Kusher, and Manafort satisfy these four elements that constitute misprision.
And there is some evidence that President Trump in July 2017 tried to conceal this crime when he dictated a statement on Air Force One offering a non-criminal reason for the Trump Tower meeting which had only been recently uncovered by the media.
The Robert Mueller investigation is complete.
Crime of the Century
It established two clear certainties: Donald J. Trump got what he wanted in 2016, the presidency of the United States; and Russian President Vladimir Putin got what he wanted, the defeat of Hillary Clinton and the election of Trump. Some have said that Trump and Putin managed to “pull off the crime of the century” in the 2016 presidential election.
Foreign Meddling in Self-Rule
And this is exactly what the Founding Fathers of this nation were most afraid of.
In a recent op-ed piece in the Washington Post titled “How the Mueller report can still threaten Trump’s legitimacy,” Douglas Maggs emeritus professor of law at Duke University Walter Dellinger made this particularly poignant observation:
“During my years of teaching constitutional history, I reviewed day-by-day the debates at the 1787 Philadelphia Convention. I was struck by how often the Constitution’s framers voiced fears of foreign interference in American affairs. The delegates repeatedly fretted that the fledging nation would become a plaything of European politics, leading to the emergence of a ‘French party’ and a ‘British party’ that sap our capacity for self-rule. But I thought Americans would never tolerate foreign meddling, and I regarded their worries as unrealistic, even foolish. Until now.”
President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani and Islamphobist Fox News talk show host Jeanine Pirro have called President Trump’s investigators into his corrupt ties to Russia traitors and that they should be jailed for a host of crimes, including perjury.
The real individuals who should be prosecuted, we believe, are the members of the Trump family and his campaign mob associates who not only failed to report to the FBI but actively concealed the criminal contacts made to them by Russian operatives trying to procure the American presidency for Donald Trump.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr should honor his sworn constitutional duty to indict and prosecute individuals who violate the laws of the United States, including the president’s son and his son-in-law.