After an avalanche of bad press this week, the Trump White House finally caved. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller is now special counsel for the investigation into Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. The decision will shape the Trump presidency in unforeseeable ways. Right now, considering the ongoing political siege against the administration, this looks like an unnecessary risk that could turn into a major blunder.
Yes, there are clear, thoughtful reasons for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel (the replacement position for the better-known “special prosecutor” role, which expired under statute in 1999). Many Americans right now are skeptical of the effectiveness and impartiality of our core law enforcement institutions to handle the Trump-Russia case under the standard Department of Justice chain of command. It’s one thing to laugh at the waste and incompetence at the Department of Motor Vehicles, but if the DOJ isn’t trusted, there’s a real problem. Getting this right is important.
To be sure, the special counsel appointment will restore some confidence in federal law enforcement’s ability to handle this politically charged case, at least in the short term. It also will take some heat off of a White House press operation that has lately been a circular firing squad of loose cannons. For those who believe the only way forward for Trump is to put a man of Mueller’s stature at the head of the most momentous—and contentious—presidential investigation since the Monica Lewinsky affair, this may not just seem like a good option, but the only option.
That’s assuming the Democrats and assorted Trump critics in media are actually interested in reestablishing respect for our justice system, and getting to the truth of the outrageous accusations (of treason, no less) that beleaguer the president and his administration. Unfortunately, the Democrats likely have other plans, and will capitalize on the investigation itself for partisan ends irrespective of the eventual outcome. Thus the GOP’s tendency to concede to notions of fair play becomes a political liability.
This Will Be Likely to Turn Fast
While this week the media will write hagiographies about Mueller, the same propaganda apparatus that has evinced a nearly pathological hatred for Trump will exert unimaginable public pressure on him in due time. And if it starts to look like Mueller might fail to take some scalps to placate the apoplectic anti-Trump Left, the media storyline about this legendary public servant will dramatically shift. Just as we saw with recently pink-slipped FBI Director James Comey during his last months in office, he will go from hero to hack in the blink of an eye.
Additionally, this adds to an undeniable momentum for the “impeach Trump” crowd. First National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was fired, then Attorney General Sessions recused himself, then a series of sensationalized Trump missteps, and now a special counsel has the reins of the DOJ’s most politically sensitive investigation.
The mere existence of the special counsel will be taken by many on the Left as vindication that they were right all along, that Trump is every bit the sociopathic falsifier they have claimed he is, and that the dictates of justice demand a warm Trump administration body in a cold, soul-crushing cell. They have gotten a recusal, and a firing. Now they want a conviction.
All of this will encourage the worst elements of the Democrat Party and embolden those pathologically predisposed to hating Trump. The media will do everything in its power to isolate senior Trump figures over the course of the investigation, insinuating guilt based on leaks of evidence, then sanctimoniously demanding the alleged perpetrator be frog-marched out of the White House long before any charges are brought, if ever. The media, much more so than the Democratic Party, has been successful at simultaneously demanding the Trump administration take certain actions, then citing those very actions as an admission of disarray, incompetence, or dishonesty inside the White House.
The President’s Enemies Are Salivating
There are also the unknown unknowns of collateral damage from the investigatory process. In perhaps the most well-known case of this, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former Vice President Cheney’s assistant for national security, was charged and convicted with crimes that had nothing to do with the original purpose of the special counsel’s case. Patrick Fitzgerald did his modern interpretation of Inspector Javert, and a man had his life almost ruined because of it. If anyone thinks the same fate may not await a hapless Trump staffer, they are not well enough acquainted with our treacherous web of federal laws.
Right now our political parties are in the middle of a partisan street fight. A special counsel may calm worst of the brawling for a few days, or even a few weeks. But in time, Democrats will thoroughly politicize the investigation, drag it out, and we can be assured they will find only one outcome acceptable. Ultimately for them, this isn’t about what is right, it’s about what is useful, and they have been given an invaluable tool to bludgeon the opposition, speculate wildly about the latest investigative findings, and maybe collect some trophies of ruined Trump staffers along the way.
Democrats somehow avoided a special counsel for Hilary Clinton’s server, despite the Loretta Lynch tarmac meeting and all the glaring conflicts of interest that came before it. They weren’t going to let ethics get in the way of politics. It’s a lesson the GOP has failed to learn. Republicans may pat themselves on the back for taking the higher road today, but in time, they may come to realize that in their efforts to show the country there is something more important than winning, they lost to a Democrat opposition that finds such notions quaint.