WASHINGTON – Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) compared the Russia investigation to the Salem witch trials on Friday and suggested that special counsel Robert Mueller expand his probe to cover Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Gingrich also said the president of the United States technically “cannot obstruct justice.” However, he warned Trump to be “very careful” after offering to testify under oath in the probe, emphasizing that criminal law is much different than New York real estate law, with which Trump is most familiar as a businessman.
In an interview with PJM, Gingrich predicted that “somebody, somewhere is going to be convicted of something” and it “probably almost certainly won’t be Trump.”
He also advised Trump to take a break from tweeting his thoughts about the investigation and post “positive tweets” on his account.
“Look at the whole Russian fantasy. What happened election night was the Democrats said Hillary can’t have lost and certainly Donald Trump can’t have won, so somebody cheated. Putin cheated. You realize this is all Putin’s fault? And that means there must have been collusion. You realize they must have colluded? So far the last six months everybody on the left is walking around chanting ‘watch for the Russian connection. Watch for the Russian connection. Look for the collusion,’” Gingrich said during a discussion about his new book, Understanding Trump, at the National Press Club.
“It turns out, even Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee, says there is zero evidence of collusion. So now the newest one is, ‘ah, but there was obstruction of justice over the collusion.’ So, the fantasy that didn’t occur is now being replaced with – well, technically, the president of the United States cannot obstruct justice. The president of the United States is the chief executive officer of the United States. If he wants to fire the FBI director all he has to do is fire him,” he added. Feinstein was the vice-chairwoman on Intelligence in the last Congress and is currently the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee.
The 2012 Republican presidential candidate continued, “If John F. Kennedy had fired J. Edgar Hoover over investigating the wiretapping of Martin Luther King Jr., the people would have thought there was obstruction.”
Gingrich said Mueller would likely not be able to find any collusion or obstruction so he is going to examine finances. Gingrich told the audience Mueller is qualified to lead the investigation but he’s surrounding himself with the wrong people.
“He is surrounding himself with a corrupt group of people who are going to engage in a witch hunt,” Gingrich said, comparing the investigation to The Crucible by Arthur Miller. “It’s about the witchcraft trials in the late 17th Century in Salem, and actually that’s the mentality of the left right now. The left right now is engaged in the Salem witchcraft process. We know somebody is evil. We know somebody is bad. I wonder who we should burn at the stake? Maybe it’s you, whoever you are.”
Gingrich elaborated on his concerns with Mueller’s team during an interview with PJM.
“My first concern is who they are, in the sense that they donate to Democrats. In one case, which is ironic, it’s an attorney who defended the Clinton Foundation against Freedom of Information Act requests. I mean, talk about bringing in someone to guarantee non-transparency – that’s what she did. I mean, it’s crazy,” he said.
“The second is that several of them grotesquely overreached as prosecutors – one was repudiated 9-0 but only after they had destroyed 85,000 jobs, and the Supreme Court said 9-0 there was no crime but that particular lawyer had destroyed 85,000 jobs at Arthur Andersen [LLP]. Why Mueller would bring a person like that in, unless it’s going to be a hunt, unless what they are going to do is get a scalp?” he added.
Mueller’s team includes James Quarles III, who was an assistant special prosecutor during the Watergate investigation and is an expert in campaign finance; Andrew Weissmann, his former general counsel at the FBI and a Justice Department fraud expert who led the Enron Task Force; Michael Dreeben of the DOJ’s solicitor general’s office, who is an experienced Supreme Court litigator; DOJ attorney Lisa Page, who has vast experience in organized crime and money laundering cases; and Aaron Zebley, Mueller’s former special counselor at the FBI who is known as his right-hand man. Arthur Anderson LLP v. United States, the Enron-related case mentioned by Gingrich, was argued by Dreeben.
Gingrich told PJM that even though he doesn’t believe Trump will be convicted of a crime, “if I was working for Trump, I would never meet with these guys without a lawyer and I would be very careful.”
He added, “I hope the president’s lawyers can explain to him the difference between New York real estate law and a criminal investigation with the full power of the U.S. government. This is a very dangerous business.”
Gingrich recommended Mueller expand the Russia investigation to cover Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton and Tony Podesta, co-founder of the lobbying firm the Podesta Group and brother of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.
Gingrich mentioned the money that was paid to Bill Clinton from a Russian finance corporation during the time Hillary Clinton was serving as secretary of State.
“This is the part that drives me crazy and it’s a sign of just Republican incompetence – we should look at Russian influence efforts and Russian propaganda efforts, but then let’s start with the Clintons. Why is it that we are really worried about Paul Manafort and we’re not really worried about these other people?” he said. “What’s the difference between John Podesta’s brother and Paul Manafort? If we’re worried about money, well, why aren’t we worried about a half of a million dollars to Bill Clinton?”
Gingrich said he wants the Russian probe, which is being conducted by Congress as Mueller proceeds with his own investigation, to be bipartisan. He suggested broadening the probe to examine how much foreign money influences the American political and higher education systems.
“We ought to know the total amount of money that’s been poured into the Clintons and the Podestas. I think that would be fair,” he said. “Frankly, I would expand it. I would like to know how many countries like Saudi Arabia give money to universities who end up being propagandists for the countries that are giving them the money.”
Gingrich said Trump should start posting more tweets about topics not related to the Russia investigation.
“I think probably he’d be better off to be tweeting about infrastructure and job creation and helping veterans,” he suggested. “He has so many positive things to tweet about. Maybe he ought to spend a month focusing on positive tweets.”