Why you should trust Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion

Spe­cial coun­sel nei­ther vil­lain nor avenger

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS | OPINION - Joyce White Vance Joyce White Vance, a for­mer U.S. at­tor­ney in the North­ern District of Alabama, is a law pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Alabama School of Law.

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.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

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