As the Trump presidency enters its fourth month, conservatives are eager for more legislative successes, more nominations and confirmations of judges, the rapid confirmation of a new FBI director and other achievements. Given the charges of collusion and obstruction that have dogged Donald Trump and his administration from before he took his oath of office as president, the appointment of former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III as a special prosecutor to oversee the Justice Department’s inquiry into those charges is a greatly encouraging development. In Mueller, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein has made an excellent choice that will allow Republicans to again concentrate on turning the country around.
It’s true that I have opposed a special prosecutor in the past. I did so for two reasons. First, if the allegations of the politicization of the IRS during Barack Obama’s presidency didn’t warrant a special prosecutor, then one certainly isn’t necessary now. Second, I feared that the individual chosen as special prosecutor would not be another Jacob Stein — the independent counsel who efficiently investigated charges against Attorney General-designate Edwin Meese when Meese was nominated for that job, clearing Meese within months. Instead, the appointee would be another Lawrence Walsh , who, for a variety of reasons, let his investigations into the Iran-contra affair linger and metastasize over years and years. Walsh was appointed in December of 1986. He submitted his final report on Aug. 4, 1993. I don’t want to relitigate Iran-contra; I merely point out that a six-plus-year investigation into any scandal is not what either special prosecutors (appointed by the attorney general or, in this case, his deputy) or the old independent counsels (appointed by a panel of judges under a statute now expired) were thought to be about.
The bar is lower for Republicans, of course, and so the media joined in the clamor for a special counsel here whereas the IRS scandal didn’t ignite such demands. But set that aside. With the right professional in the job, it is, as a practical matter of politics and government, better to go this route than to prolong the media frenzy about whether such a professional is needed.
Mueller is not just a seasoned investigator and prosecutor, a decorated combat veteran of the Marines, a widely respected former head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. attorney and of course director of the FBI. He also represents the potential for a decisive end to the Russian probe. He brings such credibility that if and when he says “there is no ‘there’ there,” responsible media will accept it. Those, such as me, who think all of the signs point to that conclusion regarding the president and the White House staff, will welcome that closure. The partisan left may not go along, but the public will.
There is no telling where Mueller’s investigation will go or how long it will take, but I have confidence that if it can be concluded quickly because the charges of collusion are baseless, he will follow that path, indifferent to critics of his conclusions or his timeline. He’s a serious and experienced person who has helped lead the battle against terrorism and knows that serious threats and crimes merit close inspection and indeed prosecution but political disputes robed in baseless charges do not.
If the president and his team in the White House did nothing wrong — and there is only innuendo, no hard evidence that they did — Mueller will reach that conclusion quickly. If former national security adviser Michael Flynn and others are innocent of the many charges leveled at them, they too should be happy that a straight shooter such as Mueller is in charge of saying so. Someone was going to have to make the final call, and Democrats (not all, certainly, but the responsible ones) will accept Mueller’s conclusions. In the interim, the president and Congress can refocus on saving the health-care system from its ongoing collapse, rebuilding the military, reforming the tax system and staffing up the judiciary. They will be able to do so because Rosenstein found the right person and the right person was willing to serve.