In 2002, James Comey was appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Manhattan. Early in his tenure he spoke to a gathering of his prosecutors. “Who here,” he asked from the podium “has never had an acquittal…?” Prosecutors proudly raised their hands. Comey surveyed the room. “My friends and I have a name for you,” he said. “You are members of what we like to call the Chickenshit Club.”
Comey went on to make the point to his prosecutors that they weren’t there to advance their careers or rack up large settlements that looked good in the press. They were there to do justice. They were there, Comey continued, to right the biggest injustices, not go after the easiest targets. But, as Jesse Eisinger argues in his book “The Chickenshit Club,” that’s exactly what prosecutors in the Justice Department did. And, I would argue, continue to do.
With that shift in prosecutorial practice (aided by increasingly lenient interpretations of the law from the bench who were pressured by politicians representing big money interests), the system became almost incapable of holding powerful white collar and corporate criminals accountable. I would add to that, holding powerful political criminals to account.
I invite everyone to look at the Mueller Report and the mumbly-mouthed statement of Robert Mueller today in that light. As Eisinger points out, prosecutors who were settling cases instead of prosecuting wrongdoers, “lost potent investigative tools and softened their practices, changes that have made it harder to gather evidence and conduct even the most basic investigations.”
The Mueller Report is almost a text book case of what Eisinger is writing about. Pursuing the indictment of criminals has come to be seen as too difficult. Again and again, Mueller says somebody lied, somebody withheld evidence, somebody destroyed evidence and so investigators couldn’t make the case. I would hazard a guess that in every investigation people lie, destroy evidence and withhold evidence. The job of the prosecutor is to overcome those obstructive tactics. Prosecution should be the “nasty trench warfare” Eisinger describes, not a game of cards at the gentleman’s club. But, Mueller played the gentleman’s game. He is now too embarrassed to testify and answer questions about it. He is hiding behind the argument that testifying would be too “political.” But, what Mueller has done is one of the most significant political moves in this entire story. He has helped Trump, et. al. absolve themselves of criminal responsibility and deny the collusive behavior they are so obviously guilty of.
It is completely obvious that Mueller, instead of arresting, jailing, pressuring wrongdoers, threw up his hands and whined that people obstructed the investigation. Mueller was afraid of the “slog; nasty trench warfare” that carried the “risk of humiliation” if he lost.
Eisinger writes: “Today the justice system is broken. Over the decade after Jim Comey’s speech, his words failed. The Justice Department succumbed. The department avoided the biggest cases. It became fearful of losing and lost sight of its fundamental mission to make this country a just place. James Comey would have no way of knowing it at the time, but his sermon to the Southern District prosecutors could have easily been a eulogy for the courage he hoped to muster. The Chickenshit Club ranks in the years ahead would only grow.”
Robert Mueller is now clearly part of the Chickenshit Club.
But, after the corporate media spent a year weaving the fiction that Robert Mueller was a savior, knew everything, saw everything, would right every wrong, they will not permit this reality to be spoken. They cannot admit to themselves that Robert Mueller is part of the problem he was investigating. First of all, he so narrowly defined his mission that he couldn’t possibly have found wrongdoing. He timidly accepted an OLC directive that he need not have paid attention to. He failed to make relevant parties to the investigation testify. He ignored crucial areas of investigation like Trump’s finances. His office recommended sentences for acts bordering on treason that were lighter than those for parking violations.
Mueller’s report, therefore, has become a crucial part of the consolidation of power of Trump and his cronies who are busily establishing a kleptocratic state. The corporate media cheerfully has gone along with it. Pundits still tie themselves in rhetorical knots trying to laud Robert Mueller while denying the reality that he protected himself and threw the country under the bus.