The respect of the voter

Contrary to France, in the nited States, the Judiciairy cannot attempt to influence the results of a vote, or give the impression of doing so. It is not a law but read some about it below. Maria Rodriguez-McKey

 

 

EDERAL LAW ENFORCEMENT

About That 60-Day Rule…

By Quinta Jurecic

Monday, September 3, 2018, 12:06 PM

As of this Friday, Sept. 7, there will be 60 days until the November midterm elections. According to Rudy Giuliani, that means that the Mueller investigation will—or, at least, should—conclude a significant proportion of his investigation before then:

Just a few days before 60 day run-up to 2018 elections. If Mueller wants to show he’s not partisan, then issue a report on collusion and obstruction. They will show President Trump did nothing wrong. Then we will have to admit you were fair. And we will.

Giuliani has been peddling this talking point for a while now, insisting variously that Justice Department policy requires Special Counsel Robert Mueller to conclude the Russia investigation by the end of this week or that the Mueller’s office must simply lie low for the two months in the runup to the midterms.

The only problem with this argument is that it’s wrong. And helpfully, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz spelled out exactly why it’s wrong in three short pages of his recent report on the FBI’s conduct in the Clinton email investigation.

Two years ago, Jane Chong dove deep into the supposed 60-day rule in a Lawfare post on FBI Director James Comey’s October 2016 letter on new developments in the Clinton investigation. As she wrote then, there is no formal rule barring Justice Department action in the days immediately before an election. Rather, the “rule” is more of a soft norm based on what former Attorney General Eric Holder himself described as “long-standing Justice Department policies and tradition.” In a guidance Holder issued in 2012, the attorney general wrote that, “Law enforcement officers and prosecutors may never select the timing of investigative steps or criminal charges for the purpose of affecting any election, or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party”—which, Chong noted, leaves a wide loophole for actions taken near an election without the purpose of affecting that election. In 2016, Attorney General Loretta Lynch issued a similar memorandum with the same language, as the inspector general report lays out.

Chong’s post was, in fact, cited by the inspector general report in the office’s own analysis of whether Comey had violated the supposed 60-day rule. “The 60-Day Rule is not written or described in any Department policy or regulation,” the report says. Investigators canvassed a range of “high-ranking [Justice] Department and FBI officials” on their own understandings of the guideline, which the report describes as “a general practice that informs Department decisions.”

This short section of the 500-plus-page report shows broad agreement among the current and former Justice Department officials interviewed that there is some kind of principle against taking action in such a way as to potentially influence an election, though the interviewees do not precisely agree on the contours of that principle. Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara stated, investigators write, that “there is generalized, unwritten guidance that prosecutors do not indict political candidates or use overt investigative methods in the weeks before an election.” Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates located the cutoff more precisely at the 90-day instead of the 60-day mark.

The inspector general’s office also interviewed Ray Hulser, the former deputy assistant attorney general for the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department, who was involved in the drafting of Lynch’s 2016 election integrity. Interestingly, Hulser told investigators that the Public Integrity Section had actually considered codifying the 60-day rule in the Lynch memo, but had decided not to because such a policy would be “unworkable.”

So not only is Giuliani incorrect in stating that Mueller has some obligation to wrap up all or part of his investigation before Sept. 7—the policy he’s describing as a matter of wishful thinking is actually one that the Justice Department considered and rejected.

All this is before we even get to questions about what actions Mueller might consider to potentially have an effect on the election, especially given that the second Paul Manafort trial is set to begin at the end of September. And, as Bharara noted on Twitter, while President Trump’s

6 questions about the timing of the Mueller investigation

Louis Jacobson on Friday, July 27th, 2018 at 10:57 a.m.

Does the Justice Department have guidelines for what to do when investigations bump up against elections?

Bottom line: The department urges that prosecutors avoid making political moves around an election. This has generally been interpreted as keeping quiet around election time, but the department does not set a specific time period.

The most on-point document is a 2012 memo written by then-Attorney General Eric Holder, which says in part:

« Simply put, politics must play no role in the decisions of federal investigators or prosecutors regarding any investigations or criminal charges. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors may never select the timing of investigative steps or criminal charges for the purpose of affecting any election, or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party. Such a purpose is inconsistent with the department’s mission and with the Principles of Federal Prosecution. »

In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s Manual says, « Employees in the Department of Justice may not . . . use their official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the result of an election. »

In fact, what the Holder memo advises in the case of close calls is to undergo further consultation, with the public integrity section of the criminal division for further guidance.

« Some say there is a 60-day dark period, where public filings should not occur, but that is not part of any written policy, » said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. Still, she added, « Mueller may avoid activity on the eve of the election in an abundance of caution or to avoid the appearance of partisanship. »

What sorts of activities would a prosecutor be expected to refrain from during a pre-election quiet period?

For Mueller’s team, that would likely mean temporarily curbing the announcement of official acts, such as indictments and plea deals. So far, the Mueller team hasn’t been making announcements beyond that, so refraining from public comments would simply be a continuation of Mueller’s current practice.

Investigative activities such as witness interviews and document searches could keep churning on during an election-related quiet period. « The investigation could continue until and after the election, » said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor.

I would say 30 days before an election is about as close as Mueller would likely want to go » with a public announcement, Zeidenberg said.

Levitt agreed. « I think the closer it gets to an election, the less likely it is that Mueller issues a significant indictment or releases a significant summary to Congress before the election, rather than waiting until after, » he said.

One thing will be harder for Mueller to avoid: Whether he ultimately makes a major announcement before the election or after it, one side or the other will criticize the timing he chooses.

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