How’s That Russia Probe Doing?
Terry H. Schwadron
Dec. 21, 2017
You can’t help but notice that Team Trump has been organizing quite vocally about bias in the FBI in an attempt to discredit Special Counsel’s investigation and to pre-empt whatever results that office will report.
In a variety of recent announcements and news stories, President Donald Trump’s lawyers and those from the transition team, selected Republican congressmen, and any number of citizen supporters are popping off about perceived political bias among senior FBI agents in an attempt to undercut the legitimacy of any investigatory results from Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. One Fox News host called biased investigators as akin to a “coup” of the White House by a renegade FBI.
Pretty far out, you say?
All this is based on emails of one FBI agent, who was chatting electronically with his girlfriend about the news of the day and criticizing Trump in his postings. Mueller fired him a few months ago.
It is as if by repeating the criticisms louder and more often, the effort will gain public support and raise serious questions about any prosecutions that emerge. These efforts are likely to have the opposite effect.
As if in return Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va), lead Democrat on the investigative Senate Intelligence Committee, termed those criticisms as “a growing chorus of irresponsible and reckless” voices that are calling for an end to special counsel Mueller’s investigation of the president’s ties to Russia. Warner, who is rather restrained, warned strongly and unusually that firing Mueller could lead to a “constitutional crisis.”
If you haven’t been following these developments as hyperbolically breathtaking, here are some summary reports from the front:
· Trump’s personal legal team plans to meet with Mueller’s office this week, for example, in hopes of getting Mueller’s group to agree that the investigation of the president himself is nearing an end, and that there is no reason to believe there are charges aimed specifically at Donald Trump, their client. Fat chance of that. Indeed, some now suggest that the investigation will continue through much of 2018, when there is, um, an election. And, as the investigation creeps closer to Trump himself, things are liable to get more contentious.
· According to news reports, Mueller’s office has access to tens of thousands of emails from the Trump campaign and the transition team obtained through the government’s General Services Administration. Lawyers for the Trump transition — a different group than his personal lawyers — think the email grab was illegal somehow. But whatever the legal case, the prosecutorial team has seen the emails, and will be in a position to know who is lying or has lied to the FBI about participation in various meetings or positioning toward Russian connections or other questionable activities. Weirdly, those lawyers had appealed to Congress to demand that the Justice Department hire a second special counsel to investigate the bias claims and the email issues, as if Mueller’s group does not understand proper legal procedure.
· NBC News reported that In the weeks after he became the Republican nominee on July 19, 2016, Trump was warned by senior FBI officials that foreign adversaries, including Russia, would probably try to spy on and infiltrate his campaign. The report was based on several sources. The warning came in briefings for Trump and Hillary Clinton and the candidates were urged to alert the FBI about any suspicious overtures to their campaigns. Of course, by then, some of the key meetings with Russians offering “dirt” on Hillary had already taken place, but no one from the campaign did call the FBI.
· The Wall Street Journal called on Mueller to quit the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying that the probe is biased, based on the recent reports that one of its senior investigators had been dismissed over text messages that reflected negative information about Trump. The editorial board said Mueller “is too conflicted to investigate the FBI and should step down in favor of someone more credible.”
Meanwhile, the president insists that there has been no collusion with Russia by him or his campaign and insists that he has no plans to try to fire Mueller. The president is silent about whether firing former FBI Director James B Comey Jr. in an avowed attempt to stop the investigation represents an obstruction of justice. Instead, he seems to tacitly endorse a smear campaign by his loyalists.
And those Republican congressmen are waving their wagging fingers once again about investigating Hillary (I am not the President) Clinton, as if we both care and insist that these efforts find partisan charges on both sides. Fans will cheer to hear that Senate Republicans now want to investigate collusion charges involving Green Party nominee Jill Stein, who gathered only a relatively few number of votes.
Certainly, there will be more charges filed against others in the Trump transition and White House teams, even if those charges start out as official lies to the FBI from what the emails have shown the prosecutors. It is also certain that the investigation will become increasingly complicated with different branches following continuing Russian attempts at influencing the outcome of U.S. elections, the obstruction of justice charges, and a separate set of probes into possible illegal financial and personal relationships overseas.
We ought to turn a muted ear to the complaints about the investigations and focus on what we will do with the inevitable results.