"An economic miracle is taking place in the United States and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous, partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation."
-- President Donald Trump in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday
"The constitution does not allow reasons of state to influence our judgment: God forbid it should! We must not regard political consequences, how formidable so ever they might be. If rebellion was the certain consequence, we are bound to say, 'fiat justitia ruat caelum.'" [Let justice be done though the heavens fall]
-- William Murray, chief judge in Britain, 1772
I am no expert on federal investigations but have followed one closely for more than two years. I have learned a lot. A couple of things seem worth mentioning.
I will not give opinions about the convictions, which are under appeal, in the case involving former state Sen. Jon Woods of Springdale. I only use the case facts to make some points.
The investigation into Woods' grants from the state's General Improvement Fund began in July 2014. Woods was indicted in March 2017. Note the interval: two years and eight months.
This started as a kickback case. Awarding state grants in return for payoffs is about as simple as a corruption allegation gets. But then the case grew into a big Medicaid fraud and bribery investigation. The investigation is now halfway through its fifth year. No end is in sight.
It is no slight to federal agents involved to note the Woods' case is not comparable in scale, difficulty, complexity or political consequence as an investigation of the president of the United States. This particular president also owns a multi-national real estate empire to look into. Throw in the involvement, coordinated or not, of the intelligence network of a hostile foreign government.
Here is my point: Critics of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the president's campaign complain it has dragged on too long with no results. Measure those remarks by comparing Mueller's pace with the comparatively normal Arkansas case.
Mueller's team convinced a grand jury to make its first indictment in a mere eight months after the special counsel's appointment. That appointment came in May 2017, almost three years after the Woods investigation began. Mueller's team secured or helped secure indictments on 34 people and three companies to date. Seven have pleaded guilty. Another was convicted by jury.
Mueller's probe is not dragging. It moves too fast, if anything. Compare this special counsels' record with other, more relevant probes such as Watergate or Iran-Contra. He outpaces them all.
Critics say the Mueller has not found collusion. So? In Arkansas, bribes paid in the Medicaid scandal have nothing to do with state General Improvement Fund grants to a private college in Springdale, where things began.
Even a hunting dog knows finding a scent and knowing where it will lead are not the same thing. He may also find other scents along the way.
Mueller's team cannot legally or ethically ignore suspicious matters that do not happen to be collusion or do not directly involve the president. In exactly the same way, investigators in Arkansas could not ignore evidence of Medicaid fraud and bribery while investigating kickbacks from grants.
Argue either of these investigations started from political motivations. Argue the congressional investigations firing up certainly do. In the justice system, note how little difference motivation matters to a jury, either in a trial or a grand jury. What matters is evidence. As for Congress, do not attribute solely to partisan witch hunting what can better be described as a partisan feeding frenzy.
Argue others did not get this level of scrutiny. Those others never went before both houses of Congress and made a threat like this: "If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation."
Translation: If you want legislation -- if you want him to sign bills -- call off the dogs. President Richard Nixon's famous 1974 state of the union remark -- "One year of Watergate is enough" -- was mild by comparison.
Mueller's investigation may end tomorrow, or go on for years. He is not the only investigator, either. The southern district of New York's investigations is not close to finished. Others have just begun.
This is not close to over. Wishing it away or making threats does no good. If anything, it further shows the need.
Commentary on 02/09/2019
Print Headline: Though the heavens fall