Email #335: “scope of legitimate inquiry”?

By indicting Manafort and Gates for tax fraud and money laundering that began in 2006, special counsel Mueller has established that the scope of his investigation extends beyond June 2015 when the Trump campaign officially began and includes actions that were not part of the campaign. Similarly, special counsel Kenneth Starr indicted President Clinton for lying under oath about a sexual affair even though the focus of his investigation was the Clintons’ involvement in White Water real estate deals.

But despite this precedent, President Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow said on Saturday that he would challenge the legality of Mueller’s actions if he looked at anything beyond Russian collusion, such as the President’s real estate deals. Sekulow said:

“We’d view that as outside the scope of legitimate inquiry.”

The President believes so too. When asked by the New York Times in June whether Mueller looking at his finances and his family finances unrelated to Russia would be a breach of his charge, the President answered:

“I would say yeah. I would say yes… I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make — from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that. Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one. Other than I held the Miss Universe pageant there eight, nine years … No, I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia. So I think if he wants to go, my finances are extremely good, my company is an unbelievably successful company.”

Do you agree with the President and his lawyer that if Mueller discovers evidence that the President committed crimes that are unrelated to Russian collusion that Mueller should not make those crimes public and prosecute them? For instance, if, like his predecessor Kenneth Starr, Mueller discovers evidence that the President had a sexual affair, whether in Russia or elsewhere, and whether with underage prostitutes or consenting adults, should he depose the President and record his testimony under oath? If Mueller discovers evidence of tax evasion that is unrelated to Russian collusion, should he suppress it? What illegal activities should he ignore?

You supported the scope of special counsel Starr’s investigations at the start of your career; will you now contradict yourself and oppose special counsel Mueller’s scope at the end of your career?

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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