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Turley: Mueller Seizure of Trump Emails an Illegal ‘Coup Stick’

Dec. 18, 2017 (EIRNS)—Constitutional legal expert Jonathan Turley of George Washington University presented Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s abuse of the law in his attempt to prosecute President Trump as following in the footsteps of the FBI’s notorious J. Edgar Hoover, in The Hill today.

Hoover, now a pariah, even to the FBI, tellingly said, "Justice is just incidental to law and order," says Turley, but nevertheless,

"Hoover’s attitude toward the use of federal power lingers like a dormant virus. Too often investigators interpret uncertain legal questions as a license for action."

Turley attacks Mueller’s seizure of tens of thousands of Trump transition emails from the General Services Administration, the custodian of all "transition" emails, as "legally unprecedented and strategically reckless."

Says Turley,

"[T]he blunt force approach taken toward the GSA is something of a signature of Mueller and heavy-handed associates like Andrew Weissman. As I have previously written, Mueller has a controversial record in attacking attorney-client privilege as well as harsh tactics against targets. As a U.S. Attorney, he was accused of bugging an attorney-client conversation. Mueller associate Andrew Weissman’s record includes "major reversals in past prosecutions for exceeding the scope of the criminal code or questionable ethical conduct."

Turley warns that Mueller’s move on the confidential General Services Administration (GSA)-held transition e-mails "takes his investigation into uncertain legal territory," and if upheld, could create some new law in his favor.

The GSA only provides space for transition records, while the National Archives controls access, and has expressly maintained that materials that [transition team] members create or receive are not presidential records, but private materials, and thus, the GSA has agreed to delete "all data on [computing] devices" used by transition staff.

When Mueller’s team found out that the transition records had not yet been deleted, it demanded them, while the Trump team claimed that they were privileged information and protected from discovery. Richard Beckler, General Counsel for the GSA, agreed with the transition team that the GSA controlled the records. However, when Beckler was hospitalized, Mueller’s team seized the thousands of messages.

Trump’s counsel sent a letter to Congress saying that Mueller’s office had denied pulling emails off the equipment (i-phones, etc.), but it was later revealed that such action may not have been necessary. In fact, the special counsel’s office had received tens of thousands of emails, including a very significant amount of privileged material, from the GSA while Beckler was hospitalized. There is no evidence that the demand for the materials was made in a court-approved subpoena.

Such actions are typical of Mueller associate Weissman, Turley says, noting that Weissman has had "reversals" of his illegal actions at the cost of millions (and ruined lives) in failed prosecutions. Any evidence, if tainted, could be thrown out, Turley says, as Lawrence Walsh, independent counsel in the Iran-Contra affair, saw his conviction of Oliver North overturned because the appeals court believed that it was "tainted" by evidence derived from North’s immunized testimony before Congress.

Turley concludes,

"If Mueller wants more than a coup stick prosecution, the move against the GSA was one door he should have opened, rather than kicked down in his investigation. Only time will tell, of course, but this is a legal complication that was as uncessary as it was unprecedented."