Mueller appointment could be a Trump win
Move stems the growing concern about president’s unpredictable behaviour
What a tangled web of idiocy and apparent incompetence from the command centre of what is supposed to be the world’s most powerful and influential nation.
The potential negative international impact of Trump’s behaviour during the first four months of his presidency is profound. And the stakes for Canada are particularly high, including issues relating to trade, the environment, our resource sector and not least, the Canada/ U.S. security interdependence.
So what is the impact of the U.S. Justice Department’s appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to oversee the Russia/Trump campaign connection, and inevitably other matters, including Trump’s possible obstruction of justice in his dealings with the discharged James Comey?
Is the Mueller appointment a positive breakthrough as is claimed by most of the media? Not necessarily. In fact, it could well be a lifesaver for President Donald Trump’s first term.
Why? Mueller’s mandate is to determine whether any of the many allegations outstanding against Trump constitute criminal activities.
As in our legal system, the onus in U.S. criminal law is for the prosecution to prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.
As past similar appointments have shown — remember the Starr Whitewater/Clinton allegations — inquiries of this kind are inevitably long and drawn out, with frequently inconclusive results. More significantly, especially in this situation, they are conducted in private.
Trump will therefore be sheltered by the privacy of the extended Mueller proceedings. He has already condemned the appointment but in my view in a deliberately deceitful way.
In fact, the appointment will give him the time and breathing space to separate himself from the negative media drumbeat and get to work on his troublesome policy agenda — protectionist trade initiatives; restrictive immigration laws (including “The Wall”); tax breaks for the business elite; further demolition of the Affordable Care Act, and more.
What about the Congressional hearings underway in the House and Senate? All are operating with Republican majorities and it is very likely that those majorities will, on any critical issues, now defer to Mueller, especially in light of the virtually unanimous — and no doubt deserved — praise and respect for Mueller’s objectivity and legal talents.
And even if the Congressional committees do proceed and in some instances reach decisions critical of Trump, few if any are predicting that their potential negative conclusions would come close to justifying even the commencement of impeachment proceedings.
All of this raises serious doubts about the White House’s claim that they were totally unengaged and surprised by the Justice Department’s Mueller appointment. It seems more likely that the president’s more astute advisers were parties to this clever manoeuver and correctly saw it as the best way to stem the growing concern about the president’s unpredictable, erratic behaviour.
It is assumed that Mueller will be dealing first with the Putin connection. The general assumption is that Putin hated Hillary Clinton and saw in Trump a leader who was more inclined to favour U.S./ Russian accommodation — less American concern, for example, with the Crimean annexation and the Russian incursion in eastern Ukraine and a greater willingness to relax U.S. economic sanctions.
This analysis ignores the longer-term and much more serious objective of the Putin-led regime — namely, to deepen and exploit conflict among the economies of the West by having the U.S. led by an inexperienced, totally unpredictable president.
While much has changed since George Kennan articulated the post-war Soviet containment policy, his analysis of Russian-led opposition to the West remains applicable to Putin’s essential goals. John Lewis Gaddis’ remarkable biography of Kennan sets out the Soviet policy and structure as follows.
The Soviet regime, says Geddis, functioned on two levels: a visible one, where the diplomatic formalities were observed and there was full participation in international organizations; and an invisible one, where the objective was to combine with other like-minded nations and groups to “disrupt national self-confidence” in the West, “hamstring (its) measures of national defence, increase social and industrial unrest (and) stimulate all forms of disunity.” Sound familiar to today’s situation?
Recently Putin was prominent in China, supporting President Xi Jinping’s massive multi-nation infrastructure project, the “One Belt, One Road Initiative,” along with most of the rest of Eurasia as well other nations increasingly skeptical of U.S. leadership.
Forbes Magazine has named Putin “the world’s most powerful individual” for each of the last three years. Little wonder that he looks and sounds so pleased, not only in the pictures of himself, but with the exclusive Russian photos of his minions invited by Trump to the Oval Office. Presumably Mueller will deal with that bizarre occasion as well.
Former-FBI director Robert Mueller listens as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington in this 2012 photo.