To many on the right in the United States, it seems like the Robert Mueller investigation, particularly the focus on Paul Manafort, is petty and politically-motivated. Some are even wondering why the special investigators are going after him at all, considering the crimes that are being taken to court have nothing to do with the alleged Russian ‘collusion’ that was the supposed purpose of the investigation.
Now, the Manafort legal team may have a chance to turn the tables, and they may even call Rod Rosenstein to testify as a witness. He decided not to prosecute Manafort 8-years-ago on these same charges. This point was driven home by Judge Andrew Napolitano on Fox News, even while there was a seeming media blackout about this information elsewhere.
Andrew Napolitano spent eight years as a judge on New Jersey’s Superior Court. During that time he issued several notable decisions, including one that declared that random DUI checkpoints were illegal, both under federal laws and the state’s own constitution.
During a discussion on Fox News on Wednesday, he talked a bit about the ongoing persecution of Paul Manafort.
Napolitano has an interesting take on the law, because he is conservative-leaning (though he often identifies strongly with libertarian ideals), has spent time as a judge, and even teaching law.
Judge Napolitano mentioned during the conversation that when the team came before Judge T.S. Ellis III to prosecute Manafort in the first place, the judge did not look kindly at their case.
According to him, the case appeared to Judge Ellis as an attempt by the Mueller team to squeeze the former campaign manager for something, anything that they could use against Donald Trump. Eventually, they managed to suggest otherwise to Ellis, but some still believe that viewpoint.
He pointed out that they are giving Manafort the “most legal pressure” that they possibly can, after all. They’re giving him “two trials, two months in solitary” confinement, both of which are likely to be harrowing experiences for the former manager of the successful campaign.
Napolitano also mentioned that on the other hand, they could have been simply acting as prosecutors.
He did say that the other side of the coin could be simply that the special investigators were looking into claims of ‘collusion,’ and instead found bank fraud, money laundering, and other similar crimes, as well as a failure to update his Foreign Agent Registration Act paperwork to declare he was working on behalf of a Ukrainian politician.
The former judge also pointed out that the lawyers representing Paul Manafort are former federal prosecutors, who are now working in private practice, and that they are every bit as capable as the people Mueller has cobbled together.
Most interesting of all, however, he pointed out one of the arguments that they are likely to use in the courtroom.
According to Napolitano, this isn’t the first time that Manafort was investigated. Eight years ago, these money laundering charges were investigated, by the FBI and the federal government, but the lobbyist was exonerated.
The man who exonerated him was none other than Rod Rosenstein, currently the Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice, and the person overseeing the Mueller special investigation.
Napolitano suggested that Manafort’s lawyers may even ask Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to take the stand, and demand that he explain his rationale(s) in not pursuing these charges when they were discovered.
However, this raises another important question that the defense team will likely ask.
Why, if Rosenstein was involved in this case before and did nothing with it, would he not recuse himself from the case now? It would be improper for him to oversee a case he had already been involved in, after all.
This is just the latest strange discovery in a special investigation that has been filled with them.
At least, for Manafort, who is still facing two federal cases, and who has been in jail, held in solitary confinement, since he was accused of attempting to influence witnesses two months ago, this should provide some hope.
He’s been one of the biggest targets of the special investigation, and it seems like there may be some light at the end of the tunnel for him after all.