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News on The 700 Club: August 8, 2017

As seen on "The 700 Club," Aug. 8: As US warns Russia on meddling, critics decry Mueller 'fishing expedition’; Israeli prime minister’s wife looking at a fraud indictment?, and more. Read Transcript


Welcome to the 700 Club.

We've got Alan Dershowitz today talking

about the special counsel, and obstruction of justice,

and what all these things mean.

But President Trump has called the investigation into,

so-called, collusion with the Russians a witch hunt.

But others are calling it a danger

to the civil liberties of Americans,

because of political differences can be

turned into criminal offenses.

Then, anyone can be a target.

At the same time, the government

does believe that Russia did try to interfere with the election,

even if the Trump campaign itself wasn't involved.

Heather Sells brings us the story.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made it clear

that the US believes Russia's actions

have damaged the relationship between the two countries.

Tillerson spoke with the Russian foreign minister

in the Philippines this week at a meeting of Southeast Asian

Nations.

Trying to help them understand just how serious this incident

had been and how seriously it damaged

the relationship between the US, and the American people,

and the Russian people.

This has created serious mistrust.

US intelligence agencies believe

Russia interfered in last year's election.

But Moscow has vehemently denied any attempts at meddling.

The problem now, retaliatory sanctions overwhelmingly passed

by Congress last month has sparked a tit for tat.

The president signed the bill, despite his objections to it.

And the Russia issue carries over

to special counsel Robert Mueller's probe

into that meddling.

Some are concerned that he's gone

beyond the scope of his original mandate,

and could be going on a so-called fishing

expedition that would lead to looking into other activities

or crimes.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

says Mueller is not going too far.

The special counsel is subject to the rules and regulations

of the Department of Justice and we don't

engage in fishing expeditions.

Rosenstein says if Mueller finds evidence

of other wrongdoing, he will have to ask for permission

to expand his investigation.

There are also questions about Mueller's impartiality

because he has Hillary Clinton donors on his team.

And, there's concern about Mueller

impaneling a grand jury.

Does that mean that the probe has now turned

into a criminal investigation?

Rosenstein says no.

Many of our investigations, Chris,

involve the use of the grand jury.

It's an appropriate way to gather documents.

Sometimes you bring witnesses and to make sure that you

get their full testimony.

It's just a tool that we use, like any other tool,

in the course of our investigations.

Like it or not, the rush hour probe and the many questions

surrounding it appear to be far from over,

and we may be dealing with this investigation for some time

to come.

Heather Sells, CBN News.

Well, with us now is a brilliant constitutional

attorney.

He is the Felix Frankfurter, Professor of Law,

emeritus at Harvard Law School.

Professor, you have a new book out, called Trumped Up!

Criminalizing Politics is Dangerous.

Why is that?

It's extremely dangerous to argue

that every time a political figure you disagrees with

does something that you disagree with, that it's a crime.

They've added something new to their arsenal.

Now if they disagree with you, they call you a racist.

So, they use the term crime, they

use the term racist, as a weapons to try

to silence their opponents.

I was called a racist by Congresswoman Maxine Waters

and others because I made the observation,

that no criminal lawyer would disagree with,

that the prosecutor has obtained a tactical advantage by moving

the case from Virginia, which is a swing state,

to the District of Columbia, which is 95% Democratic.

Nobody would disagree with that point,

but suddenly I'm a racist.

Suddenly, Donald Trump is a criminal

because you disagree with his political points of view.

This is very dangerous.

It distorts terms like criminal and racist,

and makes them less powerful because it's crying wolf.

If you call everybody a racist, no one is racist.

If you call everybody a criminal, no one's a criminal.

And it's a very serious infringement on civil liberties

to be arguing politics by throwing around

terms like crime and racism.

You made a very cogent statement a year or so ago,

that the President of the United States cannot obstruct justice

if he talks to his attorney general or the FBI head

to discuss the case.

Would you elaborate on that please?

Well, my precedent to that is no one

other than Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson insisted that his attorney general

prosecute Aaron Burr.

Every president in modern history

has had contact with the Justice Department.

President is, after all, head the unitary executive.

The Justice Department works for the president.

It's part of the executive branch.

And the president can make the decision

who to prosecute and not to prosecute.

It's not the right way to handle things.

I would not urge the president to do that,

but there's nothing illegal about a president

instructing the Justice Department who

to prosecute and to not prosecute.

There's long historical precedent.

That's another example of people taking

things they disagree with and suddenly saying, oh,

that's an obstruction of justice.

That's a crime.

It's just historical nonsense.

He goes before Congress, testimony

says, "I think that was obstruction of justice,

and therefore we ought to call for a special prosecutor."

The next thing you know, his close friend Mueller

is named special prosecutor.

But you say that there was no crime.

There was no obstruction of justice in that discussion

between him and the president.

Is that right?

I think that's absolutely correct.

But what Comey did was much worse.

He didn't just go in front of Congress,

or go in front of the media, he leaked the material

and laundered it through a law professor friend.

And when the former head of the FBI

is now doing the leaking instead of stopping the leaking,

something wrong is happening in this country.

He said a terrible, terrible precedent,

and should never have been involved

in leaking material and laundering it

through a law professor.

That's just not the way the FBI should operate.

Rosenstein said, well, we really

need to limit what Mueller is going to do.

But how is it going to be done?

He's got like a fishing license, and you also mentioned the fact

that he's moved the grand jury from Virginia to Washington,

which is primarily democratic, and he's

loaded up his staff with pro-Hillary Clinton supporters.

Isn't that a bit of a conflict?

Well, recently we could disagree about whether or not

people on staff can be fair, if District of Columbia

can afford a fair trial.

All I said was that you got a tactical advantage by moving it

from Virginia, which is a swing state,

to the District of Columbia, which

is overwhelmingly Democratic.

I don't think there's a criminal defense

lawyer in the world who would disagree with that statement.

And yet, it resulted in me being called a racist.

And on CNBC last night, I was asked by the commentator, am

I being paid by Donald Trump, and I'm called a Trump lackey.

I supported Hillary Clinton.

I'm a liberal Democrat.

I'm not doing this for Donald Trump.

I'm doing this for all Americans as a civil libertarian.

If Hillary Clinton had gotten elected,

and people were screaming lock her up,

and trying to create crimes to charge her with,

I would be saying the same thing.

And the people who today hate me would love me

and the people who today love you would hate me.

That's what it means to be a civil libertarian.

Sometimes what you say helps one side,

sometimes it helps the other.

That's not the reason I'm doing it.

I'm doing it to help the civil liberties of all Americans

who suffer when we turn political differences

into crime.

And that's the thesis of my book, Trumped Up!

Why the Criminalization of Politics

Endangers American Democracy.

I want to ask you another question about the limits.

Under the rules of the Justice Department,

a special prosecutor is supposed to investigate specific crimes.

There has to be a crime.

And, what is the crime?

And is he restricted to investigations

of that matter or can he just go on a fishing expedition

and help himself wherever he can find anything?

Well, we know what happened with Bill Clinton.

They started out investigating financial corruption

in Whitewater, found nothing, and ended up

investigating him for Monica Lewinsky for a sex act.

There are very, very few restrictions

on what an independent counsel, a special counsel,

special prosecutor can do.

They follow what they see.

I always analogize it to the great book

by Herman Melville, Moby Dick.

Captain Ahab had an obsession.

He had to get the white whale, even

if it costs him his life and the life of its crew.

And I think when you have a special counsel,

they have to find somebody.

If they don't, they will have wasted the taxpayers' money.

And that's what's wrong with bringing somebody on board

and saying, we want you to find crimes.

That reminds me of what Lavrentiy

Beria, the head of the KGB, said to Joseph Stalin.

He said, show me the man and I'll find you the crime.

You can find criminal activities against almost anybody

who's involved in complicated business, complicated politics.

If you look hard enough, and if your goal is

to find criminal activity, that's not the way democracy

should operate.

By the way, we're not the only country

that's suffering from that.

In Israel today, Prime Minister Netanyahu

is being hounded by trivial charges of criminal conduct,

that maybe he took some cigars or champagne,

or his wife took some trays of food,

and they're trying to get him out of office.

Not politically, not through the legal means,

but through some efforts to try to criminalize

political differences.

So this is a spreading phenomenon

that endangers democracy all over the world.

You very cogently suggested a while ago

that this should be a presidential commission.

If they want to talk about Russia,

let the commission do it.

Can we transition, do you think, from the special prosecutor

or special counsel to the special presidential

commission, and shut Mueller down?

Or is that possible in today's world?

I think we made a mistake.

We should never have had a special counsel,

because I didn't see any evidence of crime.

We should have had an independent commission,

bipartisan, nonpartisan of the kind that

was appointed after 9/11, to look into the impact of Russia

on elections.

That's not a Democrat-Republican issue,

that's an American issue.

If the Russians are trying to impact our election,

doesn't matter whether they're doing

it to help one side or another.

They shouldn't be doing it.

And if we have an independent commission,

we'd already know what was going on because it

would be done in the open.

Instead, a grand jury is always done in secret.

So we're not going to find out what actually went on

with Russia, unless and until the grand jury decides

to indict.

And if it decides not to indict, we'll have learned nothing.

If it decides to indict, there may be guilty pleas.

So we'll never know what happened.

It was the wrong vehicle, the wrong mechanism,

for trying to get the kind of information

that all Americans are entitled to,

namely did Russia tried to influence the outcome--

not only this election but previous elections--

and will they try to influence the outcome

of future elections.

Can we shift at this point the narrative

from the special counsel to a commission that you suggest?

Can it be done?

It'll be very difficult to do that,

but I think appointing a special commission would still

be a good idea.

And it would take a lot of the steam

away from the special counsel, because he operates in secret,

he operates behind closed doors without the defendants

having their lawyer present.

Grand juries hear only one side of the evidence, only one side.

That's why it was said by the Chief Judge of New York,

a prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.

It's the easiest thing in the world,

because all there hear is one side,

whereas the commission will hear all sides of the issue.

We'd even invite the Russians to come and testify.

We'd invite Democrats, Republicans,

we would hear everything.

But now we're not going to hear anything, because it's

behind closed doors.

Professor, brilliant analysis.

Thanks for being with us.

We appreciate it so much.

Thank you.

Alan Dershowitz, distinguished professor, Frankfurter chair,

Harvard Business School, and former--

I might add--

Yale Law School grad a couple of years after me.

Let me ask you this, because you

have said this and the professor has now said this.

There should never have been a special counsel appointed.

Who could have and should have stopped that?

Well, you see the problem was the attorney general

had recused himself.

So he let this Rosenzweig take over, and he never--

I mean, I tell you what, I've run many businesses.

CEO.

If I had a vice president in my company, who

would appoint a lifetime tenure of somebody who

is an avowed enemy ready to destroy me,

and he put him in without my knowledge,

I mean, what would you do?

In any business situation, you'd fire that guy on the spot.

But Trump is stuck, because this Rosenzweig

made that decision, yet his attorney general has recused

himself so he's out there all by himself,

didn't confer with the president.

It was an outrage how this was done.

Absolute outrage.

And whether you can roll it back in now--

but now there are some Republican senators saying,

well, we want to pass a bill that forces the president

to keep this guy Mueller, whether he likes it or not.

This is an outrage, what they're doing.

It's an outrage.

And it will hurt the country.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your country,

this is my country.

What we want to do is get jobs.

We want to do is have a tax cut.

What we want to do is have a balanced budget.

What we want to do is move forward boldly into the future.

We don't care so much about whether some Russian talk

to some political campaign five years ago.

It doesn't matter.

But the Democrats made a big deal of it,

and they're willing to destroy this society.

And you heard the professor talk about the man Ahab

who was willing to kill himself, his crew, and his ship

in order to get one big white whale.

We've got to win got to stop chasing the whale,

and get this country back on its feet.

We've got major problems.

We've got North Korea.

We've got Iran.

We've got the breakup of the European Union.

You've got all this stuff going on that imperils us,

and we have to stop this nonsense.

But instead of that we've given up

a fishing expedition and an unlimited budget,

apparently, to a zealot who's going to do everything

he can to nail somebody for a, quote, "crime," that we're not

sure it will ever happen.

Whoo.

The result of the swamp.

Well, that swamp is--

the swamp creatures are winning already.

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