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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 12/20/17

Trump Apologists Are Gunning for Mueller

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"The House Judiciary Committee's grilling of Rod Rosenstein this week also revealed a near-universal Republican consensus that the investigation is rigged," Andrew Sullivan wrote in New York Magazine.

Two Florida GOP congressmen, who flew with Trump on Air Force One to a Roy Moore rally, are gunning for Mueller. Rep. Matt Gaetz said the United States is "at risk of a coup d'etat" by Mueller. Gaetz introduced a resolution calling for Mueller's firing. And Rep. Ron DeSantis is sponsoring legislation to terminate Mueller's funding.

In response to a Washington Post tweet asking whether he would accept Mueller's findings as legitimate, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) responded, "Makes sense to see what they are first." Cornyn, who sang Mueller's praises when the latter was appointed special counsel, is now suggesting Mueller's findings would be "legitimate" only if Republicans liked them.

"Mueller poses an existential threat to the Trump presidency," said Chris Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax Media and a friend of the president. The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal concluded, "Mr. Mueller is too conflicted to investigate the FBI and should step down in favor of someone more credible."

The GOP effort to discredit Mueller seems to be a preemptive strike to provide political cover for his firing. Republicans apparently wish to neutralize negative fallout from Mueller's dismissal before the 2018 midterm elections.

In the words of Sullivan...

"Republican tribalism demands that the Mueller investigation be aggressively smeared in advance, its findings preemptively discredited, and its lawyers smeared for political loyalties, even when there is no evidence that this is affecting the special counsel's work."

Benjamin Wittes at the blog Lawfare is concerned that House Republicans "are braying for actions inimical to the very idea of independent law enforcement," adding, "They are doing it about someone, Mueller, with whom they have long experience and about whom they know their essential claims to be false."

The assault on Mueller is "unprecedented," according to Randall D. Eliason, a Democrat who worked in the US Attorney's Office during the Clinton administration and participated in the successful corruption prosecution of Illinois Democratic Rep. Dan Rostenkowski.

Eliason wrote in The Washington Post, "for the most part, the attacks are not based on anything Mueller has actually done. His investigation and the criminal charges he has brought so far appear solid and do not suggest any partisan bias." Eliason explained, "critics have seized on issues such as an FBI official who sent anti-Trump text messages, even though the official was booted off the Mueller team this past summer once the texts were revealed."

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said, "I understand the instinct to want to give cover to the president," but, "I am fearful that the majority's effort to turn the tables on the special counsel will get louder and more frantic as the walls continue to close in around the president."

The GOP is moving toward ending Mueller's investigation "aggressively and soon," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) tweeted. "I'm increasingly worried Republicans will shut down the House Intelligence Committee investigation at the end of [December]." He pointed to the refusal of the committee's GOP leadership to contact witnesses and request documents the Democrats have proposed. "It appears Republicans want to conduct just enough interviews to give the impression of a serious investigation," he tweeted. Schiff also noted that Republicans have scheduled no witnesses to testify in 2018.

In another tweet, Schiff wrote, "By shutting down the congressional investigations when they continue to discover new and important evidence, the White House can exert tremendous pressure to end or curtail Mueller's investigation or cast doubt on it. We cannot let that happen."

CNN reports that White House counsel Ty Cobb promised Trump that Mueller's investigation will wrap up early next year. Trump is convinced that Mueller will write a letter exonerating him. That is highly unlikely. Trump's attorneys are scheduled to meet with Mueller this week, which should provide more clarity about the investigation.

On Sunday, Trump denied he intended to fire Mueller, stating, "No -- no, I'm not," when reporters asked him if he was thinking of dismissing the special counsel. Yet, as it becomes clear to Trump that he will likely not be exonerated any time soon, he will probably order Rosenstein to fire Mueller. If Rosenstein refuses, Trump can fire him. It would then fall to Assistant AG Rachel Brand, whom Trump appointed in May, to dismiss Mueller. That would reprise the "Saturday Night Massacre" during the Watergate scandal, when Richard Nixon fired AG Elliot Richardson who refused to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox.

It is unlikely that Trump will allow Mueller to proceed as the investigation moves inexorably in the direction of the president.

Original published in Truthout

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Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and a member of the National Advisory Board of Veterans for Peace. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. See  (more...)

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