The lawyer finds a per­ma­nent client

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - Wes­ley Pruden is edi­tor in chief emer­i­tus of The Times. BY WES­LEY PRUDEN

Ev­ery lawyer has a bit of the am­bu­lance-chaser lurk­ing deep in his heart, and dreams of one day land­ing a per­ma­nent client. Even a lawyer as dis­tin­guished, as eth­i­cal, as high-minded, as above all re­proach and as dis­dain­ful of per­sonal glory and profit as a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor.

A spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor, any spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor, is nec­es­sar­ily a canker sore on the body politic, but sharp enough, as am­bi­tious enough, to get him­self ap­pointed spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor, or spe­cial coun­sel. “Coun­sel,” suggest­ing dis­tance and pro­bity, sounds more seemly than “pros­e­cu­tor,” which sug­gests a hint of grub­bi­ness. We’ve all seen the movie about the tricks a clever pros­e­cu­tor uses to nail coon­skins to the wall on his way to higher of­fice.

The Wash­ing­ton Post’s block­buster that Robert Mueller III (the most fa­mous Wash­ing­ton name with that many Ro­man nu­mer­als since Robert Grif­fin III quar­ter­backed the Red­skins) has Don­ald Trump in the crosshairs of his ri­fle is hardly news. Of course the pres­i­dent is his tar­get. That was the point of the dance when it was first dreamed by the losers early in the morn­ing of last Nov. 9. Mr. Mueller knows bet­ter than any­one that once he marches up the hill he has to march down with the corpse of a pres­i­dent.

When he does he will be the toast of the great Amer­i­can swamp. The search con­tin­ues for the ev­i­dence that proves the pres­i­dent sold the White House, the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion with all its trea­sures and maybe even the

Lin­coln Memo­rial to the Rus­sians.

But that’s old stuff now. No­body re­ally be­lieves there’s a lit­tle black dress with a tell-tale stain hid­den some­where in Moscow. The end­less search for Rus­sian plun­der was all the Democrats had, and they had to keep the nar­ra­tive run­ning un­til some­thing authen­tic turned up.

There’s prob­a­bly no smok­ing gun ly­ing about in the search for ev­i­dence of pres­i­den­tial obstruction, ei­ther, but Mr. Mueller has hired a hun­dred lawyers, bulking up an in­ves­ti­ga­tion with a mile-long tail and he can eas­ily keep the me­ter run­ning all the way through the Don­ald’s sec­ond term.

The Post’s block­buster, in­so­far as any blocks were busted, con­sists mostly of in­nu­endo, heavy breath­ing and clever if trans­par­ent tricks of the writer’s trade, wear­ing out the verb “sug­gests” in dis­cussing what “of­fi­cials” and “peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter” were said to have nudged, shrugged and winked to the writ­ers. All anony­mously, nat­u­rally.

The au­thors of the Post ac­count fi­nally con­ceded that in­ves­ti­gat­ing a pres­i­dent for “pos­si­ble” crimes is “a com­pli­cated af­fair,” even if ev­i­dence of a crime is found: “The Jus­tice De­part­ment has long held that it would not be ap­pro­pri­ate to in­dict a sit­ting pres­i­dent.” Not in­ap­pro­pri­ate so much as im­pos­si­ble.

The way to in­dict and con­vict a pres­i­dent of “high crimes and mis­de­meanors” is plain and clear with­out the in­nu­endo, heavy breath­ing and “sug­ges­tions” by un­named par­tic­i­pants in “in­ter­views.” Congress, which has sev­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tions al­ready run­ning or at hand, col­lects ev­i­dence and de­cides whether to im­peach, by a vote of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and con­vict, by a vote of two thirds of the U.S. Se­nate, and no nu­clear op­tion.

This pres­i­dent is im­pa­tient, as all builders of a Man­hat­tan sky­line would be im­pa­tient. Com­fort­able in the rough high­pres­sure at­mos­phere of car­pen­ters, brick­lay­ers, bull­dozer op­er­a­tors, in­spec­tors, bankers and other money-men, such builders of­ten don’t fare well in the toils of gov­ern­ment ser­vice, where sloth, in­do­lence and in­er­tia are the cul­ti­vated virtues.

Mr. Trump has an ego of con­sid­er­able size, as many peo­ple have no­ticed, and he some­times cuts corners in deal­ing with min­ions, as he usu­ally re­gards all oth­ers to be. Ei­ther he didn’t know, or didn’t think about ap­pear­ances when he sug­gested (to use a fa­vorite word of cer­tain hunters try­ing to bag a pres­i­dent) to James Comey that it would be nice if he could go easy in his in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Mike Flynn. That’s not some­thing even a pres­i­dent ought to do.

But it hardly smells like ev­i­dence of an obstruction of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Mr. Comey, who may have been the most del­i­cate six-foot-eight cop in town, could have told the pres­i­dent, even the pres­i­dent, where to get off. In a lawyerly way. In­stead he re­treated to a safe space to write a love note to him­self.

A pres­i­dent should know by now, with all the prece­dents be­fore him, what hap­pens when he agrees to a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor. He’ll have a per­ma­nent ache in an em­bar­rass­ing place. He ought at least to put a sell-by date on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. If Mr. Mueller III can’t find the ev­i­dence of a high crime or a mis­de­meanor in three months time, it might not be there. All those lawyers could look for a client some­where else.


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