No stacking the deck
Robert Mueller forgets that in Washington perception is reality
Robert Mueller III has always got high marks for probity, integrity and honesty, but as a Washington lawyer of considerable talent he should know that sometimes it’s the perception that counts most. Mr. Mueller is asking a skeptical capital to take too much on faith.
Mr. Mueller is just now recruiting lawyers for what may be an eight-year investigation into the life and times of Donald Trump, with an indictment of the president at the end, though for just what it could be is not yet clear. So far all his lawyers are faithful Democrats, who have over the years put a lot of their money where their mouths are.
One of his latest recruits is Elizabeth Prelogar, a lawyer in the Office of the Solicitor General, to work on what is still being loosely called “the Russia probe,” an inquiry into allegations that the president, or his surrogates or maybe just people he knows “colluded” with the Russians to, well, it’s not clear what they think the president and his men might have been up to, but we’re supposed to think was something not good.
Miss Prelogar was once a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was so upset that Mr. Trump might win the election that she threatened to move to New Zealand if he did, presumably because accommodations at the South Pole are not sufficiently comfortable. Miss Prelogar was once a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, a faithful Obama Democrat. According to the records of the Federal Election Commission, Miss Prelogar was a contributor to the presidential campaigns of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Nothing wrong with that, up to a point. She was entitled, as a citizen, to give money to any candidate she chooses, within the specified limits on campaign contributions. But that entitles everyone else to consider the contributions as evidence that she’s a partisan Democrat.
Miss Prelogar is merely the latest of several lawyers recruited by Mr. Mueller who have given large amounts of money to Democratic candidates. One of them, James Quarles, has over the years contributed $33,000 to such candidates. Others have given lesser amounts.
Some of Mr. Trump’s friends and supporters worry that this is a cause for worry that Mr. Mueller, sworn to conduct a fair inquiry, is not concerned about appearances. Perhaps he is only concerned about whether he gets the cuffs on his quarry.
Observed Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House and a onetime candidate for president, to the Daily Caller: “When you say to me, ‘Do I worry about [Mr.] Mueller as an investigator?’ . . . As a historian, yes, I’d worry. And then you look at who he hired and it gets worse.”
Surely the pool of competent lawyers that Mr. Mueller could draw on includes one or two who are not partisan Democrats on the prowl for a kill and a satisfying return on investment. Either Mr. Mueller is oblivious to perceptions, in a town where perception is regarded as fundamental, or he has decided that his quarry is so unpopular and is such an “unredeemed deplorable” that he need not concern himself with protecting the president’s right to a fair investigation. There’s a word for this, and it’s not a pretty one.