The swamp strikes back

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - BY WES­LEY PRUDEN

Alot of snakes and scor­pi­ons live with the al­li­ga­tors in the swamp, and there are even more dan­ger­ous mon­sters there. No swamp crea­ture is dead­lier than a Wash­ing­ton lawyer.

The pres­i­dent is be­gin­ning to un­der­stand why he should never have agreed to his at­tor­ney gen­eral ap­point­ing a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor. We’re sup­posed to call him a “spe­cial coun­sel,” which may sound more upright, more punc­til­ious and less fear­some, but words don’t fool any­one who lives in the swamp. A spe­cial coun­sel is hired to de­stroy the prey, like the gun­fighter hired in Cheyenne to chase the sod­busters out of the val­ley.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween a Cheyenne gun­fighter and a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor is that the Cheyenne gun­fighter is as­signed to pro­voke a spe­cific sod­buster to draw on him. A spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor can choose an al­ter­nate tar­get, just so he hits some­body. Ken­neth Starr was hired to in­ves­ti­gate Bill Clin­ton’s in­vest­ments in White River wa­ter­front prop­erty and wound up in Bubba’s un­der­wear, and ev­ery­thing went down­hill from there.

Robert Mueller was hired to in­ves­ti­gate Don­ald Trump’s Rus­sian con­nec­tions, to get an in­dict­ment for some­thing. “The Rus­sian scan­dal” is rec­og­nized now to be a dry hole. So Mr. Mueller and his crack team of pre­vi­ously un­em­ployed swamp lawyers are mov­ing on to play the voyeur among the pres­i­dent’s busi­ness ven­tures. Maybe there’s some­thing there. If not in the pres­i­dent’s ven­tures, maybe some­thing ne­far­i­ous in the busi­ness of his chil­dren or other as­so­ciates.

The pres­i­dent, frus­trated, an­gry and dis­dain­ful of the par­ti­san per­ver­sion of politics in the swamp — undrained as it al­ways will be — de­nounces the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion as a witch hunt, and that’s about right. That’s what th­ese spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tions are de­signed to be. “I am to­tally not sur­prised that Mr. Mueller is fol­low­ing [all] leads,” Steven Cash, a knowl­edge­able lawyer in the swamp, tells The Hill, the Capi­tol Hill po­lit­i­cal daily. “That’s the way all in­ves­ti­ga­tions are con­ducted, par­tic­u­larly into com­plex re­la­tions of busi­ness peo­ple.”

The frus­tra­tion and anger on all sides will only get more in­tense as the long, hot sum­mer fades into the long, hot au­tumn and then into a long, hot win­ter. “[Mr.] Mueller crosses the ‘red line’ into po­ten­tially all of [Mr.] Trump’s bil­lions in trans­ac­tions. We now face a par­ti­san war of in­ves­tiga­tive at­tri­tion.”

For a re­puted mas­ter of swamp nav­i­ga­tion, the Don­ald re­vealed him­self to be some­thing of a klutz in an in­ter­view with The New York Times, where he ac­cused Robert Mueller of a “vi­o­la­tion” of his and his fam­ily’s busi­ness deal­ings, and hinted that he holds “dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion” on the pros­e­cu­tor, pre­sum­ably ob­tained about the time he in­ter­viewed him as a po­ten­tial re­place­ment for James Comey as di­rec­tor of the FBI. A sim­i­lar hint that he had the goods on Mr. Comey turned out to be, like the Rus­sian scan­dal it­self, a noth­ing­burger.

“The next day, [Mr. Mueller] is ap­pointed spe­cial coun­sel. I said, ‘what the hell is this all about?’ Talk about con­flicts. But he was in­ter­view­ing for the job. There were many other con­flicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.” The pres­i­dent later added: “I have done noth­ing wrong. A spe­cial coun­sel should never have been ap­pointed in this case.”

Or in any other case, he might have added. The idea of a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor is an abom­i­na­tion, as events have proved. There’s no short­age of lawyers with writs of law and au­thor­ity that run as straight and true as need be. Since it de­fies be­lief that an at­tor­ney gen­eral, any at­tor­ney gen­eral, would ap­point a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor with­out clear­ing it with his boss the pres­i­dent, any pres­i­dent, the ques­tion that Don­ald Trump could use­fully ask him­self is, “why did I do it?”

The spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor serves at the mercy of the man he is in­ves­ti­gat­ing, and the pres­i­dent can sack him any time he feels the urge. This il­lus­trates the ab­sur­dity of the spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor of­fice. Jay Seku­low, one of the pres­i­dent’s lawyers, has re­minded ev­ery­one that the pres­i­dent can rid him­self of Mr. Mueller if he thinks the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is not pro­ceed­ing as he likes.

If he does, he should do it in a mea­sured and straight­for­ward way, not with a vol­ley of im­pul­sive tweets, and ex­pect the roof to fall on him. Repub­li­cans who are more or less his friends are warn­ing him not even to think about it. A re­mark­able diss­ing of the at­tor­ney gen­eral, who has done noth­ing to de­serve it, or a jab at Rod Rosen­stein, the deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral who ac­tu­ally ap­pointed Mr. Mueller, is a fool’s way to bring it on.

But logic is not nec­es­sary in the great game of pres­i­den­tial politics, where the first rule is to be­ware of the swamp. It’s full of crit­ters that know how to get you. Wes­ley Pruden is edi­tor in chief emer­i­tus of The Times.


Robert Mueller

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