Andrew Miller, an Associate of Roger Stone, called to testify before the grand jury hearing evidence in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into interference in the 2016 election by Russia, has been held in contempt of court for refusing to appear. Stone is a Florida lobbyist and former Nixon staffer who has long been a Republican party operative, and a confidant to Donald Trump. Miller is a former aide to Stone.
The finding, made by U.S. District Chief Judge Beryl Howell, came in a sealed session on Friday in which the court considered Miller’s refusal to appear after losing in a court battle earlier this month to quash a subpeona calling Miller to testify. Howell issued a detailed, 93 page ruling ordering Miller to testify, which Miller has now defied. Howell has stayed the contempt ruling to allow Miller’s legal team to appeal to the court of appeals.
According to the Washington Post, which reviewed transcripts from an earlier hearing held June 18th, Mueller’s interest in Miller has to do with seeking information about Wikileaks and it’s controversial founder, Julian Assange, as well as the website DC Leaks, and the hacker Guccifer 2.0. American Intelligence and law enforcement agencies have tied DC Leaks and Guccifer 2.0 to Russian cyber ops. Wikileaks is considered a hostile foreign spy agency, and is suspected of ties to Russia. Edward Snowden, the most infamous leaker (or, some would say, whistle-blower) of the Obama era, who unveiled much of America’s cyber spying operations (ostensibly as a form of privacy activism) now resides in Russia, where he is safe from U.S. extradition.
Stone had revealed, through several posts on Twitter, and public statements, that he had advance knowledge of the release by Wikileaks of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Authorities believe the documents were obtained by Russian state hackers, as part of Russia’s efforts to help Trump win the election. Efforts which Putin has arguably admitted to.
After the hearing, Miller’s lawyer Paul Kamenar remarked that the finding of contempt was at their own request, “in order for us to appeal the judge’s decision to the court of appeals.” Kamenar also said that he believes the case will rise to the Supreme Court, which has flipped to a Conservative majority with the surprise retirement of former Justice Anthony Kennedy. The Kennedy retirement comes amid a cloud of controversy, and the Trump administration acknowledges engineering the retirement, though not, they insist, through any untoward pressure.
If Kamenar’s strategy is to appeal his way to the Supreme Court, as he has suggested, it raises a danger to democracy. Combined with the fact that the Republican party appears to have gone all in on protecting President Trump, and the Supreme Court under Trump has shifted to a majority of Republican appointees, this suggests Kamenar hopes to move the case to a venue ruled by politics, as much as the law. And thereby cover-up whatever it is Miller knows.
This could endanger the Mueller Probe, because President Trump has nominated D.C Federal Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who is a former White House Staff Secretary who served former President George W. Bush, to replace retired Justice Kennedy. Kavanaugh has said he believes a sitting President is essentially above the law, and should be immune to prosecution. He has also said, in a March, 2016 video, when the contest between Clinton and Trump for the White House was in full swing, that he would drive “the final nail” into the coffin of the law that authorizes a special counsel.
Miller’s legal team is being funded by a right leaning group, the National Legal and Policy Center. The NLPC is a non-profit rated 2 stars by Charity Navigator, which styles itself as a watchdog group, but which the Center for Media and Democracy’s Source Watch calls a “front group” loosely affiliated with the State Policy Network and the American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC), and with what Source Watch calls “deep ties” to the Koch Brothers. The NLPC was founded by Ken Boehm and Peter Flaherty, both long time Republican operatives who followed Ronald Reagan from California to Washington D.C., with initial funding from Richard Mellon Scaife, a Reagan backer and regular right wing political financier.
The NLPC has been active in defending the tobacco industry, and opposing health care reform, Obamacare, and the political efforts of Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent in the 2016 election. NLPC chairman Peter Flaherty is a regular columnist on the right, frequently submitting articles to the right wing website the Daily Caller, and also to the The Hill, and appears regularly on Fox News.
Flaherty’s writings and media appearances are troubling, considering his role in bankrolling a legal fight to stymie the investigation into the Russian interference in our election. They expose a far right leaning in and a sympathy for nationalist ideologies.
Flaherty once complained on Fox Business that the collection of racial information could expose discrimination. He argued in the Daily Caller that police killings of black people underpinning the Black Lives Matter are a hoax, claiming his staff had prove that “the alleged police misconduct did not exist or was exaggerated in every case.” Flaherty also condemned the removal of Confederate statues, which white supremacist groups have derided as a war on the “heritage” of white people. And has argued that Black Lives Matter was to blame for the violence perpetrated by white supremacists in Charlottesville, at the first Unite The Right rally, where anti-nazi protester Heather Heyer was murdeded in a neo-nazi terrorist attack.
And the legal argument Flaherty is funding has been to challenge the constitutionality of Special Counsel Mueller’s appointment, and his authority to investigate. Which fits with a strategy to land the case in the Supreme Court, whose primary role is to rule on matters of what is and is not constitutional, and which may imminently have a strong right wing bias, and a new Justice who believes the President is above the law, and Special Counsels should be against the law.
And so, it seems perhaps Kamenar’s strategy is to keep whatever Miller might know secret as long as possible, by preventing his testimony while dragging the case through the appeals process, and stalling for time to have the case heard by the Supreme Court. Presumably hoping to do so after Kavanaugh is seated. And then to challenge, and perhaps upend, the entire Mueller investigation. Potentially allowing anyone who conspired with Russia to influence the election in 2016, including any in the President’s inner circle, or the President himself, to get away with treason.