Has special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation been contaminated? This very good question was asked by the very credible Michael Warren of the Weekly Standard. In my view, the simple answer is: yes.
Enough has been disclosed in recent weeks that would create doubts about the objectivity and honesty of Mueller’s Russia investigation. Specifically, recent reports suggest that Peter Strzok, the deputy head of counterintelligence at the FBI, was working on Mueller’s investigation until he was removed during the summer, after Mueller discovered he had exchanged text messages critical of Trump with a lawyer assigned to the probe, with whom he was involved romantically. Strzok, it turns out, was also responsible for editing then-FBI Director James B. Comey’s description of Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified emails, reportedly softening the language from describing Clinton’s actions as “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless.“ Oh and by the way, several of the attorneys on Mueller’s team have collectively given over $62,000 in political contributions to Democrats. Are we supposed to pretend that this doesn’t show any bias? One attorney in particular, Jeannie Rhee, has donated more than $16,000 to Democrats since 2008 and even defended the Clinton Foundation in a racketeering lawsuit. She also defended Clinton in a 2015 lawsuit that sought access to her private emails, as well as Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser under President Barack Obama, during the House Select Committee on Benghazi’s investigation. At a minimum, all of this suggests favoritism toward Clinton and the Democrats.
Because even the slightest hint of partisan impropriety could have a disqualifying effect on the investigation, Mueller has got some explaining to do — what he knows about bias in his organization, when he knew about it, and what he plans to do to fix the problem and correct the discrediting optics.
Simply put, Mueller needs to rehabilitate his standing as an impartial, objective investigator. He needs to take an unbiased look back at the Clinton probe and answer obvious questions about Strzok’s role.
As he does so, Mueller should not stiff-arm the public’s right to know the motives of the FBI and his own investigators. The credibility of Mueller’s inquiry is hanging in the balance. He should publicly reveal the facts, confirm the integrity of his team and make clear that neither he nor anyone working for him is functioning as the Trump haters’ vehicle. Otherwise, Mueller will allow his probe to become one more of the partisan, hand-to-hand-combat sideshows that seem to infect every corner of American politics.
I have been a defender of Mueller. And I think of him as a serious, credible adult. But it looks as though he’s made some mistakes in allowing potentially biased personnel decisions to distract from the investigation’s mandated nonpartisan mission. He needs to reassert himself and confirm that mistakes were made, that he is aware of them and that he is doing something to reassure the public that he is still in charge of his team. Only then will the public and others be able to decide whether his investigation should be redeemed. At this point, if Mueller remains silent, it will be tantamount to acknowledging that his investigation is corrupted by bias and meant only to pick a fight and contribute to the division in America.