Why you should trust Mueller’s investigation
Special counsel neither villain nor avenger
Half of Americans doubt that special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia and the 2016 election will be “fair and even-handed,” according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll that was completed the day before Mueller indicted Roger Stone for false testimony and obstruction of justice. The indictment sent President Donald Trump to Twitter, again, to label Mueller’s investigation a “WITCH HUNT!”
Can the American people trust the Mueller investigation? Is it fair? Is it being conducted ethically? Who should we believe when the president tells us we can’t trust law enforcement?
On the one hand, it’s bizarre to even ask such a question. Mueller is a Marine veteran and a career public servant who has capably demonstrated his loyalty to the rule of law through decades of service at the Justice Department and the FBI. When he was named special counsel, Republicans, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, voiced complete confidence in him.
Mueller leads a team of highly qualified public servants who have worked at Justice for many years, without regard to which party holds the presidency. Their demonstrated loyalty is to the law, not a partisan cause. They have forgone high-dollar private-sector jobs because they are committed to justice.
Despite Trump’s efforts to denigrate them, they aren’t “Angry Democrats” or angry anything. They are hardworking people, and you would expect a president to be proud of them. Let me tell you why so many people like me, who served alongside some of these folks and worked in the Justice Department like they do, have faith in them.
First, Mueller’s reputation is unimpeachable inside the Justice Department. His conduct was so far beyond question during his tenure as FBI director, transitioning the bureau to address foreign terrorism in the wake of 9/11, that his term was extended by a Democratic president despite his initial appointment by a Republican.
No leaks and no diatribes
His selection as special counsel in 2017 did not come into question until his critics realized that he was committed to finding the truth, not just to checking the box. To the extent he has been publicly reviled since then, it is because he has prosecuted people after developing convincing evidence against them, without fear or favor.
Republicans have historically billed themselves as tough on crime. It is nonsense for them, and a president who once exhorted law enforcement officials to avoid being “too nice” to people they were arresting, to criticize Mueller for doing his job. And it defies common sense to criticize Mueller as untrustworthy when every defendant he has indicted before Stone, except for Russian defendants who have not submitted themselves to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts, has either pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial. Mueller has lived up to his reputation in the eyes of judges and jurors, and this should give people confidence in the investigation.
Second, we can judge the credibility of the investigation by how it has been conducted. No leaks. No political diatribes from the bully pulpit of the prosecutor. And when the special counsel’s office believed a recent BuzzFeed story was not accurate, Mueller and his team issued a rare statement saying so.
No hysterics, no finger-pointing
Judge them by their demonstrated fairness and conduct. When criticized, they have not responded. Mueller has confined his public pronouncements to pleadings and to the courtroom, as he should. And so far, we’ve seen that he only pleads what he can prove.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker says the Mueller probe is coming to a close. We don’t know what the ultimate result will be. Mueller may conclude the president was completely unaware of Russian efforts to influence the election. He may conclude that while there is some evidence senior campaign officials conspired with Russia, the admissible evidence is insufficient to establish guilt at trial. Stone, who pleaded not guilty on Tuesday, could be the last defendant he indicts. Or there could be more to come.
Whatever the result, Mueller has run this investigation in a manner that deserves the confidence of more than 50 percent of the people, whether they support the president or not. He is neither villain nor avenger. He is a prosecutor — one who has shown that he knows how to stay in his lane but at the same time will not yield it.
Early in the investigation, Mueller learned of an effort to smear him and pay women to falsely accuse him of sexual harassment. His reaction was classic Mueller — he reported the crime to the FBI and went back to work. No hysterics. No finger-pointing. Mueller trusted the system, when he himself was at risk. We can trust him.