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Thursday, September 17, 2020

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Can you imagine the uproar if it was discovered that President Trump or anyone associated with him had erased texts and emails from their government-issued cellphones while special counsel Robert Mueller was conducting his Russian collusion probe?

What would House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have done? Or Rep. Adam Schiff? And how would the media have covered the story?


Here’s what would have happened.

Every elected Democrat in America would have climbed on top of their soapboxes and cried to the high heavens that crimes were committed. Democratic Congressmen Schiff and Jerry Nadler would immediately begin a new round of congressional investigations.

Mrs. Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer would lead a chorus calling for another impeachment of the president. The media would trip all over themselves in reporting on the story with wall-to-wall coverage every day of the week. And the political pundits on those programs would pompously pontificate pondering how could something so egregious happen in America.

They would draw comparisons to Watergate and the infamous 18-minute gap that President Nixon’s secretary, Rosemary Woods, admitted was her fault when she claimed she accidentally turned off a tape machine.

Bob Woodward would appear daily on CNN and MSNBC, not talking about his new book, but talking about this. And at CNN, there would be a reunion of sorts, where Mr. Woodward would join Carl Bernstein decrying not only the destruction of evidence but the destruction of the rule of law itself.

That is how it would be if President Trump or anyone close to him had done what members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team have done.

And what they’ve done is destroyed evidence.

A recently released report from Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz revealed that there was a gap from Dec. 15, 2016, to May 17, 2017, where the FBI failed to provide any text messages in response to the IG’s request for information. Additionally, the IG’s report indicates that more than two dozen members of Mr. Mueller’s team deleted federal records by wiping their cellphones clean in what appears to be an effort to hide texts and emails from the investigators.

And Andrew Weissmann, the lead prosecutor in Mr. Muller’s Russia probe, has admitted to having, on at least two occasions, erasing data from his government-issued phones. 

Indeed, Mr. Weissmann rose to prominence by prosecuting and convicting the accounting firm Arthur Andersen for doing the same thing he has admitted to having done. If the standard Mr. Weissmann used to convict Arthur Anderson is used against him, then Mr. Weissmann has admitted to committing the crime of obstruction of justice.

I’m old enough to remember the Watergate coverup. It led to the resignation of a president. For nearly a year-and-a-half, it was all the rage. The network news covered the story every day. It was sensational. Hundreds of books were written about it. And if the destruction of texts and emails revealed in the Mr. Horowitz’s IG report were done by Mr. Trump and his people, this would be Watergate all over again.

But that is not how it is.

Today, there is a corrosive double standard at play because this subject involves the possible corrupt acts of the very people who were investigating Mr. Trump. And my fellow Democrats and the media are pretending that this destruction of evidence to cover up the possible wrongdoing of Mr. Trump’s investigators is no big deal.

But it is a big deal.

According to Mueller lead prosecutor Weissmann, any person or entity that destroys documents that include texts and emails during an investigation and prior to a subpoena has committed the crime of obstruction of justice.

This is precisely what Mr. Weissmann has done.

Now we learn that the same conduct Mr. Weissmann convicted Arthur Anderson on, is the very same conduct he himself engaged in when he erased emails after IG Horwitz began his inquiry into misconduct by Mr. Weissmann’s team in the Russia probe.

If the standard Mr. Weissmann used against Arthur Anderson is used against him, then he has admitted to committing a crime.

In a free country, federal prosecutors, FBI agents, judges and special counsel investigators must be subject to the same laws and have the same standards apply to them as well. They are not above the law.

If the media continue to look the other way at wrongdoing when it doesn’t suit the narrative they want to create, then our freedoms are not safe and our democracy will not long endure.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to say that to passively accept injustice is to cooperate with it. The media’s failure to expose the possible corrupt acts of the Mueller team and the double standards they apply reveals a bias that is so one-sided that it is not an exaggeration to say that the media have become a partisan political organ instead of the finder and the exposer of the truth.

• Rod R. Blagojevich served as the 40th governor of Illinois.


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