Russiagate. The story that moves faster than the speed of light. Since the firing of James Comey, and the revelation that Comey allegedly documented Trump’s attempt to have him stand down on the investigation of disgraced former national security adviser and Pizzagate aficionado Michael Flynn, the White House has been reeling and in a state of mixed chaos and paralysis. The original attempt to assert that Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein was the reason that Comey got fired not only infuriated Rosenstein, who was confirmed by a broad bipartisan majority based on his reputation as a straight shooter, it was also rapidly debunked by Trump himself, who admitted that Comey was fired based on the Russia investigation – either not realizing or not caring what the implications of that disclosure were.
The implications, for anyone who didn’t grasp it, were that Trump engaged in what could easily be construed as obstruction of justice – a felony and ostensibly an impeachable offense. That point was not lost on Rosenstein, however, who salvaged his integrity as well as the independent reputations of the DOJ and FBI by appointing Robert Mueller as special counsel to take charge of the FBI Russia/Trump investigation.
Let’s begin breaking this down by taking a look at Rosenstein’s memo appointing Mueller:
The stated purpose of Rosenstein’s Order was to “ensure a full and thorough investigation” of the Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election – likely an subtle expression of Rosenstein’s opinion that the congressional investigations have not been diligently pursued, and also an attempt to stave off political influence on the process. What is exceptional, however, is the broad scope of the investigation, not only encompassing any links or coordination between Russia and individuals associated with the Trump campaign, but “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” That could potentially encompass efforts by Trump allies to derail or delay the investigation or provide cover to Trump and his associates for any wrongdoing. If I was Devin Nunes, I’d be worried. Jason Chaffetz may also find his seeming agreement not to get bogged down in investigating potential (or actual) Trump ethical violations problematic going forward.
The reference to 28 C.F.R. 600.4(a) relates to the general scope of a special counsel’s powers, which are set forth in the legislation enabling such counsel. Per that regulation, the jurisdiction of a special counsel includes “the authority to investigate and prosecute federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, the Special Counsel’s investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses.”
The pick of Robert Mueller, a former FBI Director himself, should be worrisome to the Trump camp. He has a reputation for being tenacious, independent, and prosecution driven. He knows how to build a methodical case. In 2004, as FBI Director, he and then Deputy AG Comey were instrumental in standing up to Dick Cheney and literally threatened to resign if an unconstitutional domestic surveillance program was renewed by George Bush, a famous story that had Mueller and Comey racing to the hospital to stop Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card from extracting a signature on the renewal of the program from a barely-coherent AG John Ashcroft. They made a bold stand for the rule of law and the Constitution to prevent an unconstitutional program from continuing, and they were ready to put their careers on the line to do it. Mueller is the perfect pick to dig deep and prosecute whatever crimes are discovered.
James Comey, thou art avenged.