By John Ruberry
The biggest catch, so far, for the Mueller Probe is the sentencing last week of political consultant and lobbyist Paul Manafort, who was briefly the chairman of the Donald Trump presidential campaign.
Manafort, a very conspicuous Washington insider, pleaded guilty to charges of tax and bank fraud, and to lying to federal investigators. But nothing Manafort pleaded guilty to, or was even charged with, involved the Trump campaign colluding with Russia. And none of the other guilty pleas Mueller has collected has had anything to do with collusion.
What about that Russian troll farm? Those indicted Russians aren’t accused of colluding with the Trump campaign.
Back to Washington, or if you prefer, the Swamp. There are a lot of sleazeballs in DC and if you just start investigating people indiscriminately, you will find a lot of Paul Manaforts who are up to no good. But as far as I know, our law enforcement agencies still need reasonable cause to start poking around. That means if you are driving a car with tinted windows, it does not give police the right to pull you over because, well hey, you might have stolen merchandise in the back seat.
Let’s say I’m wrong–and we are in a new era. Which means now local cops, FBI agents, and anyone with a badge can investigate you without probable cause. If that is the case, I know a good place for these newly empowered sleuths to start looking.
My hobby of urban exploration brings me to all nooks and crannies of Chicago. And there’s one street corner that jumps out as a center of crime. Just last week news broke that one of the no-goodniks who has been an active member of the group that congregates there will accept a guilty plea deal. And another person, an ex-con, who used to hang out on that block but doesn’t anymore, pleaded guilty too. Since 1973 thirty-five members of this makeshift gang have served time in prison. What about other people who operate there? Are they engaged in illegalities?
I’ll wager many of them are. Perhaps a even majority of them.
Now, this Chicago street corner is not in the parts of the city, such as the West Side of the South Side, traditionally associated with high crime. It’s downtown–on LaSalle Street between Randolph and Washington. The address is 121 North LaSalle Street. Yes, that is where you’ll find Chicago’s City Hall.
And yes, since 1973 thirty-five members of the Chicago City Council have served time in federal prison. Alderman Willie Cochran of the 20th Ward, according to multiple news reports, will plead guilty to a single count of wire fraud later this month and resign his seat. Cochran’s predecessor, Arenda Troutman, did a spell in the house-of-many-doors for tax and wire fraud.
The other “legislative gang member” in the news is Edward Vrdolyak. The former 10tn Ward alderman on Thursday pleaded guilty to tax evasion. In 2011 Vrdolyak served a brief sentence in federal prison for his involvement in a fraudulent real estate deal.
The Chicago City Council clearly is a nest of criminality. When Robert Mueller finally finishes his Russian collusion investigation, I believe he should immediately pull up his stakes and begin a Russian collusion probe of the City Council. While of course it’s highly unlikely any of Chicago’s 50 alderman are colluding with Russia, because the City Council obviously harbors crooks, Mueller will certainly find evidence of multiple crimes being committed.
Mueller can pick up the ball and run with the federal criminal complaint against Ald. Ed Burke of the 14th Ward involving alleged extortion.
After that, Mueller can, well, investigate all 50 member of the City Council and look into, well, everything. Just as he is doing with his Trump-Russia probe.
Any casual observer of Chicago’s political scene will be shocked if Mueller’s wide net didn’t haul in more lawbreakers among Chicago’s aldermen.
Or perhaps most members of Chicago’s City Council are honest and all the bad ones are always found out. That could explain why most aldermen are opposed to expanding the wide ranging powers of Chicago’s inspector general to include investigating the City Council.
John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.