IS BOB MUELLER THE ESTABLISHMENTS STALKING HORSE?
Bruce Thornton, FPM
The threats to our constitutional order posed by the special counsel investigation.
The appointment of Robert Mueller, James Comey’s BFF, as special counsel stinks to high heaven. Forget the bipartisan encomia to Mueller’s “ethics” and “professionalism” and “integrity” and all the other usual question-begging praise the elite shower on each other to justify their power and privilege. Such mutual admiration and reciprocal puffery is just one of the ways that DC is “Hollywood for ugly people,” given that both industries are in the business of selling sows’ ears as silk purses. We heard all the same praise about Comey, who has been exposed as self-righteous, conniving, and cowardly, his ethics trimmed to his careerism. He proves that all political appointees and “public servants” should be judged guilty until proven innocent.
And right now Mueller demands particular scrutiny and suspicion. Why should we ordinary citizens, who don’t know him from Adam, believe that he can set aside his friendship with Comey and be fair and objective? Especially after Comey confessed he leaked his memo about Trump’s comments because he “thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel,” and he is likely to be a witness? And mirabile visu, that special counsel just happens to be his close friend? And a Democrat, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, just happens to be the one making the appointment of a man under whom he served from 1990-93? And what about new information that Mueller was interviewed by Trump to replace Comey? Was the topic of why Comey was fired part of the interview, which could make him a witness in his own investigation?
Worst of all, this same DOJ, along with the FBI and maybe Mueller’s team, is still springing leaks that are poisoning the integrity of the nascent investigation. It seems to me that a man of such high integrity as Mueller would have put the investigation on hold until the leakers were rooted out, in order to insure the integrity of the investigation. But then, a man of integrity wouldn’t agree to head up an investigation that involves one of his closest friends, who has an axe to grind against the target of the investigation. Nor is Mueller’s past record of substituting his will for the law reassuring. In 2006 he raided the offices of Representative William Jefferson without getting permission from the legislative branch. He seized documents not pertinent to the investigation, and refused to return them when asked by the executive. As the Wall Street Journal writes, Mueller “let his prosecutorial willfulness interfere with proper constitutional and executive-branch procedure,” a bad habit he shares with Comey.
Or consider the staff Mueller has assembled, comprising lawyers from old his law firm, and Andrew Weissmann. All are contributors to the Democrats, though in their defense, it serves the interests of lawyers to have Democrats in power. After all, the regulatory Leviathan is a Klondike of lucrative litigation. Weissmann, however, is a particularly suspicious choice. As the Journal points out, he headed up the five-year-long Enron investigation, which led to the prosecution of the Arthur Anderson accounting firm. The 2002 conviction was later overturned by the Supreme Court––after 28,000 employees lost their jobs. More interestingly, one of Weismann’s harshest critics was the New York Observer, which in 2015 called Weismann a “Stunningly Bad Choice” on the part of the DOJ for Chief of Criminal Division Fraud Section. The owner of the Observer at that time was, wait for it, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and aid, who leakers now tell us is in the investigatory crosshairs.
Again the Journal nails it: “With that history, can Mr. Weissmann fairly judge the actions of the Trump family and campaign? And knowing that history, why would Mr. Mueller choose Mr. Weissmann for his prosecutorial team when the appearance of fairness is crucial to public acceptance of the result?”
Finally, as Andy McCarthy has steadfastly documented, Rosenstein’s appointment of a special counsel “failed to follow regulations that permit a special counsel only for criminal investigations— Rosenstein instead put Mueller in charge of the Russia probe described in Comey’s March 20 testimony. Again, that probe is a counterintelligence investigation.” As a consequence, there are no limits to the investigation, which can now encompass whatever Mueller wants. In short, as McCarthy continues, it is a “fishing expedition”:
It is already straying far afield from suspicions about Trump collusion in Russia’s election-meddling — which, we need to remind ourselves, is the purported rationale for the probe, and thus for Mueller. The probe’s focus has morphed from collusion to obstruction: the chief-executive’s weighing in on Flynn’s prosecution, pushing for disclosure of true information that he was not a suspect in the Russia investigation, and firing of the FBI director — all actions Trump was constitutionally entitled to take.
It reminds me of Stalin’s head of the secret police, Lavrentiy Beria, who infamously said, “Show me the man, and I can show you the crime.”
Trump, of course, must shoulder some of the blame for allowing this to happen. He should have cleaned house at the DOJ and FBI the day after he took office. Given the obvious hatred of him on the part of Democrats, and given the amount of leaks and vitriol aimed at him since election day, Trump should never have left Democrat appointees or agency lifers in their jobs. Furthermore, since the Russia investigation is a counterintelligence, not a criminal one, Jeff Sessions did not legally have to recuse himself, and so should not have, leaving Rosenstein in place to appoint Mueller. And as much as Trump’s tweets delight his base, there’s no need to throw fuel on an already raging fire.
But the real issue here is not Trump’s missteps. It is the tidal wave of illegal leaks coming from the bipartisan minions of the Leviathan state who refuse to accept the outcome of a legal election, and who will seek to reverse it by any means necessary––fake news, vulgar and vitriolic rhetoric, simpatico federal judges, Democrat fifth columnists in the federal agencies and bureaucracies, and now the powerful weapon of a special counsel unaccountable to the people or their representatives in Congress.
Contrary to some of Mueller’s fans, no one “deserves respect” because of the recommendations of friends and colleagues, least of all a political appointee unknown personally to the vast majority of voters. Respect is earned by doing the right thing not as defined by partisan, professional, or ideological interests, but because it is lawful, moral, and just. As the Journal writes, “The country needs a fair investigation of the facts, not a vendetta to take down Mr. Trump or vindicate the tribe of career prosecutors and FBI agents to which Messrs. Mueller and Comey belong.”
I hope Mueller proves his critics wrong. I hope he quickly confirms the obvious: that there was no collusion by the president with Russia, nor was there any “obstruction of justice” in Trump’s comments to Comey. By doing so Mueller can reaffirm the Constitutional order now being undermined by Trump’s enemies.
On the other hand, I for one will not be surprised if the investigation drags on until October of 2018, and a damning report is released just in time for the midterm elections. If so, the contrast with the failure to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the criminal behavior of Hillary Clinton––for which, unlike the case of Trump, there is ample evidence already in the public domain––will be a glaring example of the Democrats’ and some Republicans’ hypocrisy and disdain for the bedrock principles of equality before the law, and the sovereignty of the people rather than federal agencies and their clerks.
If there are facts unknown that damn Trump, then they should be discovered and publicized. But if the investigation descends into innuendo, interpretative sophistries, and a toxic cloud of rumor that lead to a legally elected president being brought down solely for partisan gain, then Mueller will share the blame for such an assault on the Constitutional order.
Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, a Research Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, and a Professor of Classics and Humanities at the California State University. He is the author of nine books and numerous essays on classical culture and its influence on Western Civilization. His most recent book is Democracy’s Dangers and Discontents (Hoover Institution Press),