President Trump pardons Conrad Black and investigates the FBI

It is a widely held belief that western legal systems today are not systems that produce justice. This week, American President Donald Trump pardoned Conrad Black as his Attorney General William Barr launched an investigation into government surveillance involving the Trump 2016 Presidential campaign. 

Conrad Black, a Canadian newspaper publisher who once owned The National Post and The Daily Telegraph and earned peerage in the British House of Lords, wrongly spent three years in an American prison on criminal fraud charges – “The two counts for which I have just received a presidential pardon, and of which I was "convicted" in 2011, after the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously vacated them only to have a self-serving appellate judge reinstate them, were for wire fraud and obstruction of justice,” as he wrote this week.

Describing the phone call he shared with the President this week, vindicating Mr. Black’s reputation, he writes,

He could not have been more gracious and quickly got to his point: he was granting me a full pardon that would "Expunge the bad wrap you got." He had followed the case closely and offered to come to give evidence at my trial in Chicago in 2007 on one of the counts (I was acquitted of that one). He said that there would be some controversy, "But you can handle that better than anyone." I asked "Do you authorize me to say that your motivation is that it was an unjust verdict?" He checked with the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, who was in the room, if this would be a problem legally, and was told and affirmed to me that I could say that was his motive and that he was reversing an unjust verdict. 

"We've known each other a long time," the president told me, "but that wasn't any part of the reason. Nor has any of the supportive things you've said and written about me." I suggested that he knew "better than anyone" the antics of some U.S. prosecutors. (I had had Robert Mueller as director of the FBI, which we caught installing illegal bugging devices in our home in New York and in many falsehoods; James Comey as deputy attorney-general, and Patrick Fitzgerald, now Comey's counsel, as U.S. attorney in Chicago. They were all, as my distinguished caller on Monday has described Comey, "bad cops.") We moved briefly on to generalities, greetings to wives, I thanked him for his call and again for the purpose of his call, and the conversation ended.

U.S. Attorney General Barr has now assigned John Durham, an attorney in Connecticut, to examine the origins of the Mueller investigation, in particular the FBI counterintelligence inquiry into the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016. Mr. Durham has previously investigated law enforcement corruption, the destruction of CIA videotapes, and the Boston FBI office's relationship with mobsters. He is set to continue to serve as the chief federal prosecutor in Connecticut.

Mr. Durham is tasked with examining the origins of the Russia investigation, determine if intelligence collection efforts targeting the Trump campaign were lawful and appropriate, and whether Democrats were the ones who improperly colluded with foreign actors. The investigation includes the pre-transition period, prior to November 7, 2016, including the use and initiation of informants, as well as potential Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuses.

Since last March, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz has been investigating wiretap applications from 2016 and political bias among FBI officials, and this is nearing its completion. Republicans also have been looking for answers from U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber, who was appointed a year ago by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to review surveillance abuses by the FBI and DOJ and authorities' handling of the investigation into the Clinton Foundation. Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm behind the Steele Dossier that asserted collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, was retained by the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee (DNC).