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News Link • Trump Administration

Do Not Speak to the Feds, Mr. Trump!


In the late 1980s, as federal prosecutors in Manhattan (where Rudy Giuliani was the U.S. Attorney) were leaking information to the media about the alleged misdeeds of investment banker Michael Milken, the Milken team asked to meet with federal officials. Milken and his lawyers believed that what Milken was doing was legal but perhaps misunderstood, and their stated purpose for meeting was to help "clear up" any misconceptions that federal agents and the media, which already had received illegal leaks from prosecutors about grand jury testimony, might have had.

After the meeting began, however, Milken's team quickly realized that the feds were not there to discuss the fine lines and regulation of large-scale finance, but rather to charge Milken with as many crimes as they could. Because leaking grand jury information to the media is a federal crime, Giuliani's prosecutors already had broken the law, so if any real criminals were in that conference room, they were employed by the U.S. Government.

We know how things turned out. The feds went after Milken's father (who was in his 90s at the time) and Milken's brother, letting Michael Milken know that they would find a way to throw both of them into prison (which would be a death sentence for the elder Milken) unless Michael Milken pleaded guilty. Faced with what really was a hostage situation, Michael Milken threw himself at the mercy of the court and ultimately went to prison for a couple of years. As one of the U.S. attorneys in the case bragged a few years later in a speech to law students at Rutgers University, the feds had criminalized what at worst were technical violations of ubiquitous securities regulations, violations that in previous years had not been considered crimes at all.

About 15 years later, Martha Stewart, who was being accused of insider trading regarding sale of some of her stock, met with agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to explain her side and to deny she was involved in illegal stock trading. The feds already knew she was not guilty of insider trading and never charged her with such. Instead, they charged her with lying to the FBI during the meeting, her "lies" consisting of denying she had not done what the feds already knew she had not done. Stewart also went to prison.

Today, we have the FBI "investigating" the charges that the Donald Trump campaign and Russian operatives colluded in order to defraud American voters and put The Donald into the White House. The investigation of a special prosecutor, led by former FBI chief Robert Mueller, wants to interview Trump and Trump has said he wants to meet with the Mueller team. Former federal prosecutor and now legal blogger Ken White tells Trump not to meet with Mueller and his agents, and I fully agree.

I have written about federal criminal law for more than a decade and have concluded that the term "honest federal agent" is an oxymoron. Federal agents, from FBI investigators to federal prosecutors, lie with impunity, as Judge Andrew Napolitano has written. It is in their DNA. Time after time, we have seen cases in which the feds lie and face no personal sanctions. Judges usually look the other way, although in the recent trial of Cliven Bundy in Nevada, a federal judge who previously had given the feds everything they wanted shut down the proceedings and dismissed charges because she had experienced her fill of having prosecutors and FBI agents lie to her and everyone else.

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