Veteran journalist Art Moore was editing a story on the Trump-Russia probe last October when he heard a knock at the door. He saw a couple of men in suits on the front porch of his suburban Seattle home and thought they were Jehovah’s Witnesses making the rounds. But they weren’t missionaries there to convert him; they were FBI agents there to interrogate him, sent by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The G-men wanted to talk about WikiLeaks, specifically whether the Trump campaign had any connection to the hacktivist group’s release of thousands of emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s campaign during the 2016 election.
The two FBI agents – cyber-crimes experts Jared Brown and Aleks Kobzanets, the latter of whom had a Russian accent – grilled Moore, an editor for the news site WND.com, for about 90 minutes. Among other things, they asked about former WND correspondent Jerome Corsi and whether he had any advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ dumps of Clinton campaign emails. Corsi, who is friendly with the president, had used Trump confidante Roger Stone as a source during the campaign.
“They were clearly on a fishing expedition,” Moore said, recounting the incident to RealClearInvestigations publicly for the first time.
“They seemed desperate to find something to hang onto the narrative” of Russian collusion, he said.
A former Associated Press and Christianity Today reporter who co-authored a best-selling bookon homeland security, Moore said he believed the special counsel secretly looked through not just his personal emails and text messages, but also his phone records, even though the agents assured him he was not a target of investigation.
Weeks earlier, two other agents had shown up — also unannounced — at the suburban Virginia home of his boss, WND.com founder and editor Joseph Farah, asking similar questions about WikiLeaks. They focused on staff editorial conference calls Corsi had joined in August and October 2016. They asked who normally edited the stories filed by Corsi. Farah mentioned Moore, and another team of agents was deployed to Gig Harbor, Wash., where Moore works from home.
Not long after the interrogation, the 64-year-old Farah suffered a stroke and is still incapacitated. His nationally syndicated column has been suspended indefinitely as he undergoes therapy.
Now that Mueller has ended his probe finding no election collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, 10 witnesses and targets of his sprawling, $35 million investigation agreed to speak with RealClearInvestigations because they are no longer in legal jeopardy. They include several people who became household names during the two-year probe – including George Papadopoulos, Carter Page and Roger Stone – as well as lesser-known figures whose lives were also upended and finances imperiled when they came into Mueller’s crosshairs. Only three of the 10, Papadopoulos, Stone and a political consultant named Sam Patten, were charged with a crime. Patten received three years probation but no jail time for failing to register as a foreign agent; Papadopoulos served 12 days for lying to federal agents; and Stone awaits trial on false statements, witness-tampering and obstruction charges.
Their firsthand accounts pull back the curtain on the secret inner workings of the Mueller probe, revealing how the special counsel’s nearly two dozen prosecutors and 40 FBI agents used harshly aggressive tactics to pressure individuals to either cop to crimes or implicate others in felonies involving collusion.
Although they interacted with Mueller’s team at different times and in different places, the witnesses and targets often echoed each other. Almost all decried what they called Mueller’s “scorched earth” methods that affected their physical, mental and financial health. Most said they were forced to retain high-priced Washington lawyers to protect them from falling into “perjury traps” for alleged lying, which became the special counsel’s charge of last resort. In the end, Mueller convicted four Trump associates for this so-called process crime, and investigated an additional five individuals for allegedly making false statements – including former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Some subjects of investigation said Mueller’s agents and prosecutors tried to pressure them into admitting things to give the appearance of collusion. They demanded to know if they had spoken to anyone with a “Russian accent.” They threatened to jail them “for life” and to drag their wives or girlfriends into the investigation.
Former special prosecutors say the tactics used by Mueller’s team appear excessive.
“You have to be particularly sensitive to preventing agents and prosecutors from becoming a runaway train of righteousness that might otherwise justify conduct that is questionable or unnecessarily gratuitous,” former Independent Counsel Robert Ray said.
Witnesses said Mueller’s office not only seized their emails and text messages, but also obtained their call records from their service providers, as well as their travel records, including flight and hotel information. His team literally poked around in their garbage cans, they said, and looked at their Google searches, among other invasive actions.
Some have formally complained to the Justice Department that their privacy was violated. Others have filed legal complaints, maintaining the Special Counsel’s Office abused its authority. Corsi, for one, is suing Mueller personally for millions of dollars for unconstitutionally spying on him and harassing him and his family, as well as allegedly leaking secret grand jury information about him to the press in violation of his privacy rights. Still others want to see Mueller’s office criminally investigated for prosecutorial misconduct.
“Leaking grand jury hearing information to the press is a crime,” said former Independent Counsel Sol Wisenberg. “It can never be justified.”
It’s not clear if Attorney General William Barr’s recently announced review of the Trump-Russia investigation includes looking into the conduct of Mueller’s team, which was assembled and led by Mueller’s chief prosecutor Andrew Weissmann. The Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment.
A spokesman for Mueller’s office declined to comment beyond his final report. But Mueller in his press conference last week praised the professionalism of the prosecutors and investigators who helped conduct his probe, insisting they did so in a “fair and independent manner” and with “the highest integrity.”
These 10 witnesses find it beyond ironic that some partisans are now faulting Mueller for not doing enough to find incriminating evidence against Trump and his associates – “He blew it!” liberal HBO political talk show host Bill Maher said. They find it chilling that, equally unsatisfied, congressional Democrats seek to re-interview Mueller’s witnesses. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has sent letters to some of the peripheral witnesses interviewed for this story, demanding they produce more documents and testify before his panel, forcing them to relive their nightmare.
Insane efforts to prove something that never happened, when they knew there was nothing to find. If they could just create that shadow of a doubt, not for innocence but for guilt.
Some so willing to believe.
Herr Muller… er, Mueller was putting on quite a show for the entertainment of his liberal promoters who were wanting to see Trump supporters thrown to the lions. They all jumped up and down, rubbing their hands together at the thought of cuffing old men, driving people into bankruptcy or creating long-term health issues. In their mind, that’s what they get for supporting Trump and denying them of a wonderful Hillary administration of graft, theft, corruption and incompetence.
Sounds like someone we all know was there.
These are the “convictions” liberals are so proud of.
I wonder why CNN does not use environmentally friendly electric vehicles instead of the “black Suburban SUV” they always show up in? Do they hate the environment?
Again, note the contrast between how Hillary and her gang were treated and how Mueller treated Trump associates. In the end, NOTHING of what they suspected was found. All lies, all politics.
Imagine those people with all the power. The abuse we saw under Obama was only a prelude.
@kitt: What should be scary to every one is that if the FBI is allowed to continue in this manner they can find a way to indict any citizen costing them 10s of thousands of dollars to prove their innocence. If no one goes to prison for this type of behavior, this type of persecution will only get more intense! I wonder how the FBI would have behaved if there had been an actual crime?
@Randy: The 300 million dollar lawsuit will be out of the taxpayers pockets, the dream team should be responsible for all or some of that.