The leadership of the FBI and the rest of the intelligence community, as well as at least part of the DOJ redact (i.e. black out key portions of all sorts of documents) anything sensitive in order to serve their own often corrupt interests and not those of America’s national security. The redactions to the House Intelligence Committee’s report served to cover up the fact that the unverified Steele dossier was the basis of FISA court warrant applications. The redactions of Comey’s memos covered up the fact that Comey in his January 2017 meeting with President-elect Trump failed to mention that the report was about a Kremlin connection between Trump’s campaign team and not just about supposed Russian prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room with Trump. And that that January meeting was used as an excuse to give the media the go ahead to talk about and even publish much of the content of the Steele Dossier.

This seems to be the most logical conclusion one can draw, especially after the transcript of Paul Manafort’s trial was leaked to the media. What seems most glaring in the celebrated exchanges between Judge Ellis and Mueller team lawyer Dreeben, is that the Mueller probe is a hybrid beast: sometimes a counterintelligence probe in which criminal presumptions of innocence and burden of proof do not apply; and sometimes a criminal trial in which FBI agents can break down your door at dawn with guns drawn and you and your wife in bed.

Here’s how Judge Ellis puts it:

This was an ongoing investigation. You all got it from the Department of Justice. You’re pursuing it. Now I had speculated about why you’re really interested in it in this case. You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud. Well, the government does. You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever. That’s what you’re really interested in.

As most people had suspected, Muelller’s team was throwing its net wide as possible to get any sort of possible criminal activity – however unrelated to the search for Kremlin-Trump team connections it might be – in order to turn people like Manafort into witnesses against Trump. Did Deputy AG Rosenstein’s 2 letters (from May 17 and especially the second one dated August 2) actually allow them to do this?

Not an easy question to answer because nearly 3/4’s of Rosenstein’s August 2 letter (or memorandum to be more precise) is … you guessed it! Re-dac-ted! Why the heck the redactions? National security concerns, but of course. Here’s Judge Ellis again:

Are you telling me that in this indictment that’s before the court on Mr. Manafort, that I’m going to have to go through CIPA (Classified Information Procedures Act), that there’s going to a Section 4 filing (insider trading) that there will be classified documents, …

Judge Ellis also makes it clear that as a district judge he is not only authorized to look at classified documents but that he has had more than his share of experience with classified information. In the face of the Judge’s clarity on his ability to view classified matter, Mueller team lawyer Dreeben backs down and states that he “hopes” that this will not be the case.

So … it’s classified … as long as we can get away with it? Is that the operating mode for Special Counsel Mueller’s team? Again, the beast is sometimes a classified investigation when they don’t want to share discriminating evidence. And sometimes a criminal investigation when they want to scare the hell out of what they hope will be potential witnesses.

Look, Manafort has been up to his elbows in shady dealings around the globe with unsavory autocrats. But this is about an out of control special prosecutor. Like the way most special prosecutors tend to be or become. And there is someone far less sleazy that also has been almost certainly unfairly charged by Mueller’s team: Mike Flynn. And those redactions in the House report regarding Flynn have Andrew McCarthy – a former DOJ prosecutor whose continuing detailed coverage of the probes is worth checking out at National Review – so furious he’s demanding Trump stop the hell tweeting and shut the probe down.

The prosecutorial process is being hopelessly tarnished. Let’s hope future presidents don’t have to deal with this type of overreach.

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