At a moment in history when the ACLU is quickly becoming a partisan left wing advocacy group that cares more about getting President Trump than protecting due process (see my recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal,) who is standing up for civil liberties?
The short answer is no one. Not the Democrats, who see an opportunity to reap partisan benefit from the appointment of a special counsel to investigate any ties between the Trump campaign/ administration and Russia. Not Republican elected officials who view the appointment as giving them cover. Certainly not the media who are revelling in 24/7 “bombshells.” Not even the White House, which is too busy denying everything to focus on “legal technicalities” that may sound like “guilty man arguments.” Legal technicalities are of course the difference between the rule of law and the iron fist of tyranny. Civil liberties protect us all. As H.L. Mencken used to say: “The trouble about fighting for human freedom is that you have to spend much of your life defending sons of bitches: for oppressive laws are always aimed at them originally, and oppression must be stopped in the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.” History demonstrates that the first casualty of hyper-partisan politics is often civil liberties.
Consider the appointment of the special counsel to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.” Even if there were such direct links that would not constitute a crime under current federal law. Maybe it should, but prosecutors have no right to investigate matters that should be criminal but are not.
This investigation will be conducted in secret behind closed doors; witnesses will be denied the right to have counsel present during grand jury questioning; they will have no right to offer exculpatory testimony or evidence to the grand jury; inculpatory hearsay evidence will be presented and considered by the grand jury; there will be no presumption of innocence; no requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, only proof sufficient to establish the minimal standard of probable cause. The prosecutor alone will tell the jury what the law is and why they should indict; and the grand jury will do his bidding. As lawyers quip: they will indict a ham sandwich if the prosecutor tells them to. This sounds more like Star Chamber injustice than American justice.
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