Prosecutors must not seek convictions via bribes because their job should be finding justice
Imagine for a moment that Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s attorney, went to witnesses in the Mueller special investigation and said, “The president will give you (fill in the blank), if you will give evidence and testify favorably for the president.”
No one needs to speculate what would happen when this became public. Mr. Giuliani would face a slew of charges, including bribing witnesses. He would be disbarred, and it would be the biggest public corruption scandal since Robert Mueller started his witch hunt.
Rudy Giuliani would not do something like that. But the question everyone should be asking is why is Robert Mueller’s team doing that?
Since Robert Mueller was named special prosecutor and started his witch hunt, he has obtained several guilty pleas. Three are important to the ongoing “investigation.” Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty, as have Richard Gates and George Papadopoulos.
In each of those cases, the special prosecutor’s office cut a deal. They all pleaded to “process crimes,” such as making false statements to the FBI. The government then agreed to either drop or not pursue much more serious charges. And as a condition of the plea, the defendants each agreed to “cooperate” with the government.
In each of those cases, the three defendants dodged what could amount to decades in prison in exchange for pleas to offenses that at worst would carry a couple of years and at best could result in house arrest.
The defendants in these cases faced astronomical legal bills. Michael Flynn put his house up for sale to help pay his legal bills. The prosecutor handed the defendants an incentive to plead guilty. Minimal, if any, prison time and you won’t be bankrupted by the legal bills related to the investigation.
Bribery of a witness — in plain, non-lawyer English — is the exchange of something of value for testimony. That is exactly what happened here. Each of these defendants and now potential witnesses was told, if you plead guilty, you won’t spend decades in prison and the government will not crush you with ongoing legal fees that you cannot afford.
Criminal defense lawyers have long decried the ability of prosecutors to cut deals with defendants for favorable testimony. And defense lawyers have also, often pointing out that if they tried to offer something to a witness they would end up in jail, too.
If Mr. Mueller’s case is so great, why does he need to bribe witnesses?
The answer is that the case against President Trump is not great. Each of the defendants, now witnesses, has pleaded to a minor offense. Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, noted that Department of Justice guidelines require federal prosecutors to make plea bargain offers to the most severe offense the prosecutor believes he or she can prove. So, either Mr. Mueller believes the Department of Justice guidelines don’t apply to him, or the best he can prove are these “process crimes.”
There are special ethics rules that apply to prosecutors. Prosecutors are not supposed to seek convictions at all costs. Their job is to seek justice.
Unfortunately for America, this special prosecutor’s office does not understand that.
And that is why Robert Mueller and his team should be shut down immediately.
• Judson Phillips is the founder of the Tea Party Nation.
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