In the beginning … waaaaay back in the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, I thought Trump’s candidacy was a joke. A bad joke, to be sure, but a joke all the same. I kick myself now, but not too hard, for political pundits with far more experience in these matters than I, made the same mistake. I genuinely thought that Trump’s candidacy was nothing more than a publicity stunt, something to keep his name in the headlines. And then, on the night of November 8th, 2016, when it became obvious that Donald Trump was winning this election, I truly thought that he was as surprised as any by his win. They say a fool is born every minute … well, I lay claim to the minute of 3:12 a.m., 06 June 1951!
I no longer think that Trump was surprised, but rather I think he would have been surprised if he had lost. There is not a doubt in my mind but that Donald Trump worked through his campaign staff and family to collude with none other than Vladimir Putin and the Russian government to ensure his win. There is too much smoke for there not to be a fire, and Trump himself exhibits signs of guilt every day. But mine is not the opinion that matters. What matters now is cold, hard evidence that Trump either assisted the Russian government or, at the very least, was aware of their efforts and remained silent. And that onerous task belongs to special counselor Robert Mueller and his team of investigators.
Mueller, selected for the position of Director of the FBI by President George W. Bush in September 2001, has earned the respect of members of Congress, both republican and democrat.
“I think the best advice would be to let Robert Mueller do his job.” – Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan
“I don’t think it’s going to influence Bob Mueller’s work one way or another. I’m pretty confident just knowing him and knowing the way he conducts himself he doesn’t wake up in the morning and read those things and have them impact his ability to do his job. He’s going to do his job.” Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio
“It sort of looks paranoid to me. If he fired Bob Mueller, I think you’d see a tremendous backlash response from both Democrats but also House Republicans.” Republican Representative Michael McCall.
Robert Mueller III is well-respected across party lines. He is considered a man of honour and has cultivated a reputation for independence and fairness throughout his career. Yet Donald Trump claims that he and his investigators have ‘conflicts of interest’ and Trump’s lawyers and aides are “scouring the professional and political backgrounds of investigators hired by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, looking for conflicts of interest they could use to discredit the investigation — or even build a case to fire Mr. Mueller or get some members of his team recused.”
Former Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr praised Mueller at length. “I don’t think there’s a legitimate concern about Bob Mueller,” Starr said, explaining that the former FBI director was “honest as the day is long.”
Thus far, it appears that the ‘conflicts of interest’ Trump’s lawyers and aides are looking into are centered around the fact that Mr. Mueller interviewed with Trump for the position of FBI Director that was vacated when Trump fired Director James Comey. I see no reason why this would create a conflict of interest, nor do most of the legal analysts whose opinions I have read. The other things they are looking for are donations to Democratic candidates and investigators’ past clients.
Although Mueller is still hiring investigators just one month into the probe, these are a few of the people who so far comprise his team:
- Aaron Zebley, Mueller’s chief of staff when he was FBI director
- James Quarles III, former Watergate investigator
- Jeannie Rhee, former deputy attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel
- Andrew Weissmann, DOJ criminal fraud section chief
- Michael Dreeben, DOJ’s deputy solicitor general
You can read more in-depth background of each of these people here.
Several among them have, in fact, made campaign contributions to Democratic candidates including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. However, according to Justice Department rules, making a campaign donation does not constitute a ‘personal or political relationship’ that would be considered a conflict of interest.
It seems to me that any attempts on the part of Trump associates to discredit Mueller’s team this early in the investigation are strong suggestions of Trump & Co having something to hide. An interesting article in The Washington Post shows Trump’s response vs how a president who had nothing to hide would respond to some of the tough questions. I am not alone in my speculation:
“It’s early in the game to begin to impugn the prosecutors,” said Philip Allen Lacovara, a Watergate prosecutor and a Republican. “It’s a pre-emptive nuclear strike. If you’re afraid of what the prosecutors are going to find out, you try to debunk anything they might come up with in advance by attacking them.”
Unlike Trump, Mueller knows how to keep quiet, and has imposed “stringent controls to prohibit unauthorized disclosures that deal severely with any member who engages in this conduct.”
Tuesday morning on Good Morning America, Newt Gingrich blasted Mueller and his still-forming team. “These are bad people,” Newt Gingrich told George Stephanopoulos. “I’m very dubious of the team.” Every person listed above is highly qualified, and as far as I can tell, have no dark skeletons in their closet. The continued negativity from Trump, his lawyers and his aides certainly do lead to perceptions of guilt.
So, would Trump fire Mueller? Who knows … the man is a loose cannon and anything is possible, though it would, in the minds of most, be as good as an admission of guilt and would have the potential to take him down the same road Richard Nixon walked some 40+ years ago. However, there are differences. We currently have a Congress, the majority of whose members appear to be blindly dedicated to Trump. And Trump has no conscience … none at all. I cannot predict what will happen, but I certainly hope, for the sake of our democracy, that this investigation is allowed to continue unfettered. Stay tuned …