Much political hay is being made on cable news this week regarding the never-ending Mueller investigation. Most of the Mueller investigation has happened behind closed doors with thousands of hours of interviews. Something that has been needling the back of my brain the last few weeks, however, is just how fortuitous court filings have been - both in timing and in content - to telegraph just exactly what is happening. More than a few of these filings happen when the president is planning a trip out of the country, and are designed to further handcuff President Trump from implementing his policies by making him politically radioactive.

Those filings are the leaks that should be excoriated by legal scholars and pundits. Filings that are filled with partial redactions meant to titillate and provide fodder for the endless, breathless and hysterical coverage. They are written to provide maximum political destruction that can be repackaged and rewritten to continue the never-ending news cycle, meant to help exact electoral revenge ahead of the 2020 election.

It is not about rule of law, but protecting the power of Washington, D.C. and punishing someone who wants to change that entrenched structure. Those efforts are now reduced to claiming that the president committed criminal conspiracy by reimbursing his attorney, who paid off two women on Trump’s behalf.

If paying off women who want to sell stories alleging intimate involvement with powerful men is criminally chargeable as a campaign expense that is not reported, then there are a lot of people in D.C. who will be needing a good criminal attorney. That is, if the Congressional slush fund used to pay out sexual harassment settlements for our legislative body is anything to go by.

I get that Trump is a bridge too far for many people. He plays by rules that go against every political norm there is. Trump doesn’t respond to shaming. He punches back. He refuses to back down and accept even the terms of the argument. Even if he is wrong. And yes, even I can admit it… he sometimes goes too far.

None of that negates the appearance that the Mueller investigation is looking to nail President Trump, by hook or by crook, to ensure that America never makes this kind of horrible mistake ever again. It is an investigation in search of a crime designed to protect power and institutional bureaucracy that is out of control.

Digging into the sentencing recommendation memo filed by the Mueller team regarding Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen (at least the parts we are allowed to read), most involves personal tax fraud over the last five years regarding ownership of a taxi medallion. One charge though, that campaign finance violation, has sucked up every piece of oxygen in the national media bubble.

That isn’t even actually criminal, or it least it wasn’t until President Trump had the temerity to beat the most qualified candidate ever. In fact, the payment - if funded by the campaign, which it wasn’t - would not even be subject to reporting to federal election officials until after the election happened.

I would wager that few voting for Trump were shocked by the the alleged indiscretions. His reputation has been known for over 30 years.

Trump was elected to disrupt the norm, to shake up a city that has disappointed Americans of every political stripe for over 75 years. He was not elected to be a statesman speaker or defender of diplomacy and back room deals.

None of that excuses Michael Cohen’s transgressions.

That the continued prosecution of people on a single side of the political aisle, while the same actions by opponents on the other, are explained away, covered up or rewarded will not be beneficial to our republic in the long run.

If the payments to an attorney to pay for an intangible political gain are illegal, explain why the payment made by the Clinton campaign which led to the acquisition of the Steele Dossier was legal and for a moral good. I would say the release of that information carried more than a little influence in the election.

None of this is good for America and a society that is further divided every day.

This whole situation, actually, illustrates why Donald Trump won the presidency, and why trust in the institutions governing our lives continues to falter.

Staff columnist Toni Butero can be reached at or by calling (209) 862-2222.