Revelation of a new arrest in special counsel Robert Mueller’s wide-ranging probe into Russian election meddling adds to the growing body of evidence that the investigation has little to do with President Donald Trump, a lawyer said Tuesday.
The latest target of the Mueller probe is Alex Van Der Zwaan, who had worked for the prominent law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Prosecutors last week charged him with lying about his talks with someone identified in court papers only as “Person A.”
Prosecutors accuse Van Der Zwaan of misstating the date of the conversation — 2014 instead of September 2016.
Van Der Zwaan also stands accused of deleting and failing to produce emails sought by the special counsel’s office.
Van Der Zwaan is now the 18th person charged so far. The total includes 13 Russians accused of conducting political activity under false pretenses; two former Trump associates accused of lying to the FBI — former national security adviser Michael Flynn and campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos; and former campaign executive Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates, for conduct predating the campaign.
Robert Barnes, a constitutional and civil rights lawyer based in California, said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” Tuesday that those defendants all resemble Van Der Zwaan in an important respect — they have nothing to do with Trump or Russian collusion.
“It’s sort of the magical ability of the Mueller team to keep indicting people for things that don’t actually involve the Trump campaign … So it’s another process crime where a lawyer didn’t take his own advice to never talk to the FBI without another lawyer present,” he said.
Barnes said the longer the Mueller probe goes on, the more it calls into question why Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein ever appointed him.
“It’s the only special counsel appointment I’ve ever seen that didn’t identify any crime as the basis for the authorization in the first place,” he said. “Rosenstein appeared to be more motivated by whatever he did in signing off on FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] warrants he probably shouldn’t have signed off on.”
Barnes said neither the Department of Justice nor Mueller ever identified a crime they were investigating or who supposedly was connected to it.
“It was just almost this grand inquisition authorization for Mueller to go about doing whatever he wants to do,” he said. “And so far, he’s disparately targeted Republicans for matters that, for people who are tangentially connected to the Trump campaign, for things that don’t actually concern the campaign and don’t actually concern Russian collusion.”
Barnes took a shot at Mueller (pictured above), calling him a “fix-it man for deep state, FBI and other problems.”
Investigators should be looking at 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, whose campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) paid opposition research firm Fusion GPS to dig up dirt on Trump during the campaign, Barnes said.
The firm contracted with former British spy and FBI resource Christopher Steele, who produced a dossier of allegations against Trump culled primarily from unnamed sources in Russia. Former FBI Director James Comey said the allegations were “salacious and unverified.”
Still, the dossier was essential to the FBI’s justification for seeking FISA surveillance warrants against Trump aides. According to a four-page summary memo produced by Republican staffers on the House intelligence panel, former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe acknowledged during closed-door congressional testimony that the agency would not have sought a FISA warrant for volunteer Trump campaign foreign-policy adviser Carter Page without the dossier.
“The actual collusion of actual corruption that took place, and the prosecution, should be of Christopher Steele and the Clinton campaign,” Barnes said.