Robert Mueller, in his current state, should not have been allowed to supervise the Russia collusion investigation. But the greater question is, how long has Robert Mueller been like this?
The regulation on the appointment of a Special Counsel provides that the person named as the Special Counsel “shall be a lawyer with a reputation for integrity and impartial decision making, and with appropriate experience to ensure both that the investigation will be conducted ably, expeditiously and thoroughly, and that investigative and prosecutorial decisions will be supported by an informed understanding of the criminal law and Department of Justice policies. The Special Counsel shall be selected from outside the United States Government.” The regulation further provides that the Special Counsel’s responsibilities “shall take first precedence in their professional lives, and that it may be necessary to devote their full time to the investigation, depending on its complexity and the stage of the investigation.”
On July 24, 2019, Democrats staged vivid and irrefutable proof that the appointment of Robert Mueller came to violate these principles. Watching even a few minutes of the hearing testimony, it swiftly became apparent that the stammering and confused Robert Mueller lacked even a basic understanding of the underlying facts of the Russia collusion investigation.
How, for example, could anyone following the story not be familiar with Fusion GPS? It was clear that Mueller didn’t write the report as he seemed to read for the first time excerpts cited by interrogators. He didn’t know what was and was not in the report. He didn’t write his letter to AG Barr complaining about Barr’s summary of the underlying conclusions. He didn’t write his script in the May 2019 press conference. Mueller can’t keep his story straight about whether he would have indicted the president but for the Justice Department Policy prohibiting the indictment of a sitting president. He didn’t even know that one of his top attorneys who headed up the Papadopoulos investigation (Jeannie Rhee) actually represented Hillary Clinton in litigation over emails.
So I’ll ask this again: How long has he been like this?
Did Mueller’s mental acuity recently fail or was it evident at the point then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed him? Former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a man who was instrumental in getting a Special Counsel appointed, declared on CNN that “Director Mueller delivered exactly the performance that I think I and many people expected.” Rosenstein might have noticed something with regular and intense oversight of the probe. But Rosenstein, who landed his first job out of law school with Mueller and considered Mueller his role model, appeared to have taken a hands-off approach. According to USAtoday, “Rosenstein said oversight of the inquiry requires only ‘a fraction’ of his daily work. He estimated that less than 5% of his week is related to briefings or other matters involving Mueller’s investigation.” Rosenstein may have delegated oversight to his principle assistant Ed O’Callaghan and the Associate deputy Scott Schools. CNN reported that these two men met on a bi-weekly basis “with the special counsel team.” Was Mr. Mueller present in these meetings? Did Schools and O’Callaghan ensure that Mueller made his Special Counsel work, “first precedence,” in his professional life, that Mueller was ensuring “impartial decision making,” and that the investigation was conducted “expeditiously” in compliance with “Department of Justice policies?”
With the benefit of hindsight, we can conclude that Mueller knows so little about his own report that he must not have been engaged in the oversight of the investigation. Not only did the probe fail to proceed “expeditiously,” it frequently violated rules intended to curb prosecutorial abuse. If, as is now apparent, the leadership of the probe fell to the next tier of the appointed attorneys, this would mean Andrew Weissmann, the reputed “top lieutenant” of Mueller, Aaron Zebley, Mueller’s former chief of staff who sat with Mueller as he testified in the July 24 hearing, and perhaps Jeannie Rhea, who headed up the Papadopoulos prosecution. Weissmann worked for the Government at the time of the appointment of Mueller and should have been prohibited from assuming de facto control of the probe for his lack of independence and political bias. Mueller, Rhee and Zebley all came from WilmerHale, a law firm that represented Clinton’s interests in lawsuits related to Clinton’s email troubles. Both Rhee and Zebley personally and actively represented Clinton’s interests shortly before joining the Special Counsel’s office. They should have had nothing to do with a Special Counsel investigating Clinton’s political opponent-let alone taking on a leadership role.
After watching Mueller in the hearings and learning of McCabe’s assessment that Mueller performed as he expected, it leaves one to wonder whether Mueller’s passivity and lack of engagement might have been desirable for the get-Trump team assembling to nullify the 2016 election. Unfortunately for the get-Trump crowd, Chairmen Nadler and Schift lacked the common sense to know better than to put Mueller in front of the camera in the state we all observed. Nobody should rejoice in the humiliation of an elderly man. But history owes a debt to the revelation of the probe’s original sin: the appointment of an unqualified leader who let a band of Trump-hating partisans run amok.