Cohen, Manafort, and Three Felonies a Day

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By Kevin Price, National News Editor, USADC.

If you had your TV on recently, on virtually any channel, you likely noticed the headlines about the conviction of Paul Manafort and the plea deal of Michael Cohen.  Both of these started as a result of Special Counsel’s Robert Mueller’s investigation of those nearest to Donald Trump, ultimately in order to get cooperation from them to get damning evidence against the President as it relates to the Russian probe.  These two men are not the only ones in the cross hairs of Mueller. Others who are under Mueller’s scrutiny include Michael Flynn, Manafort’s business associate Richard Gates,  George Papadopoulos, Alex van der Zwaan, Richard Pinedo, 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies.  Mueller has been very busy.

What is interesting is that in many of the cases in question, several had nothing to do with Trump and the Russian probe.  Sure, that’s the information Mueller wants, but it appears he is glad to get them on any charges in order to get their lips to loosen up about Trump.  All this reminds me of the old cliche from the Soviet Union era, which is “Three Felonies a day.”  What this expression meant was that there were so many laws in the Soviet Union, they could always convict one of something if the government felt it was necessary. When you look at the brute force of the law being deployed by Mueller and his team, it appears that philosophy is at work in the US as well.

This is not new, it has been going on for generations.

The National Center for Policy Analysis created a report on the work of two organizations that are working together to try and persuade Congress to stop writing criminal laws in such a manner that leaves innocent people vulnerable to unjust prosecution. I am not saying any of the accused are innocent (or guilty), but the way the law is now, virtually all of us are criminals and do not even know it.  That reality needs to change.

One of the things interesting in the report are those working together in stopping this cynical legalistic environment.  The two groups are the Heritage Foundation, which is one of the nation’s most well known conservative think tanks, and the other is the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Together they prove the saying that “politics makes strange bed fellows” is still true, since the latter organization is better known for its work with progressive groups and causes.

According to a report the two organizations jointly produced:

  • Over twenty federal laws that went into effect in 2005 and 2006, in order to fight nonviolent crime, lack an adequate provision that one accused of breaking the laws must have criminal intent. Good law, historically, has always required such provisions. It is imperative that the government prove “both a guilty act and a guilty mind.” Without such, bad judgment and even mistakes could (and have) become criminal.
  • On that rare occasion when the Congress makes a new law that includes a provision for a “guilty mind” (criminal intent), it is “often so weak that it does not protect defendants from punishment for making honest mistakes, or committing minor transgressions.”

For centuries the legal code of most Western countries had required “criminal intent” as a part of all laws designed to fight crime. This was in order to make sure laws were created to protect the public good and not be used for agendas, such as vendettas against political enemies rather than true threats to the general population (which many are arguing is exactly what is happening with the Russia probe).

It is interesting that, after centuries of writing laws that protect the rights of individuals and require proof of ill will, that the Congress has forgotten this simple, but important, practice. It is time for the Congress to develop specific tests to make sure these laws comply with the spirit and the letter of the law.

In addition to being the National News Editor of USA Daily Chronicles, Price is also a syndicated columnist, host of a nationally syndicated radio show (The Price of Business), a multi-award winning journalist, and a frequent media personal on shows around the country.

This article was done in collaboration with www.USDailyReview.com, a media partner. 

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