December 2017

The White House, congressional Republicans, and the gadflies of conservative media are trying to portray Robert Mueller’s investigation as ‘biased’. The latest to pile on is Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) — who suggests that Mueller is as bent as another favorite target of the right:

“I mean, if Bob Mueller were any more biased, we’d have to give him press credentials for the mainstream media,”  — Matt Gaetz

It’s a conservative twofer —  tying their boss’s nemesis to their favorite whipping boy. But let’s have a look at their claim of bias.

First, if I thought like a conservative, I would bring up Matt’s DUI arrest, the subsequent dismissal of the charges, and the fact that his dad was a prominent local politician — then I would let the innuendo fall where it may. But I don’t, so I won’t. And we’ll move on to the meat of the accusation.

The foundation of the bias charge is the discovery that some Mueller team members exchanged anti-Trump messages and that others made political donations to Democrats and Hillary Clinton.

The right-wing is in a tizzy over the revelation that FBI agent Peter Strzok exchanged anti-Trump texts during the 2016 campaign with another FBIer, Lisa Page, with whom he was having an affair. When the exchanges came to light in the summer of 2017, Mueller’s reaction was swift,

“Immediately upon learning of the allegations, the Special Counsel’s Office removed Peter Strzok from the investigation,”Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, said in a statement. “Lisa Page completed her brief detail and had returned to the FBI weeks before our office was aware of the allegations.”

Strzok was assigned to HR. Which I assume is the FBI’s version of Purgatory.

(And let’s note the news of the Strzok/Page brouhaha was broken by the NY Times & WaPo — so shouldn’t the rabid right call it ‘fake news’?)

As for the campaign contributions, Greg Jarrett of Fox News reports that eight lawyers on Mueller’s team gave campaign donations to Democrats, including (I’m guessing ‘including’ — he’s unclear on the subject) five who donated to Hillary. Which is not as damning as it sounds when you consider that there are 52 people on Mueller’s team.

And I’m sure that some donated to Republicans, including Trump.

And what of Mueller himself? He served as a Marine in Vietnam. He was appointed acting deputy Attorney General during Bush Sr.’s administration. Later he was named FBI director by Bush Jr. And confirmed 98-0 by the Senate.

It’s not just that he had Republican and bipartisan credibility, he also garnered respect form the legal community when he faced down the White House in 2004.  John Ashcroft, AG at the time, was sick in hospital when the Bush administration tried to approach him to extend the NSA’s warrantless search program. Acting AG James Comey (yes, him) wouldn’t allow it, and Mueller backed him. Both threatened to resign, and the NSA program was modified.

Now Republicans are twisting that event to suggest that Mueller and Comey were bosom buddies – and that Mueller’s motivation is nothing more than revenge for Donald Trump firing his ‘friend’ as FBI Director.

Such is politics.

Leaving aside Mueller’s probity and the hysterical nature of Republican claims, how would Mueller be biased? He can’t make things up. I suppose he might ignore exculpatory evidence — but Trump, other possible defendants and the Republicans as a whole can afford the best lawyers. (Although looking at Trump’s team you wonder if the money is being well spent.)

Others claim Mueller is ignoring Hillary Clinton’s crimes. But whatever Hillary did or did not do has no bearing on what Trump and his campaign and then his administration did.

Also thrown into the mix is the claim that Mueller has exceeded the scope of his mandate. But he was given extensive liberty to pursue leads wherever they took him. Trump may like to say that investigation of his finances is off-limits, but he is wrong.

There has also been some huffing over whether Mueller’s team legally obtained some .gov email subpoenas. But any defendant has the right to address that, should he be indicted. Mueller is not judge and jury. Any claim of wrongdoing on Trump’s part would still need a House impeachment and Senate trial to result in any penalty to the President.

Other defendants would have the usual constitutional protections in a criminal procedure.

Further, Republican appointees lead the Dept of Justice and the FBI. They have steadfastly supported Mueller and see no evidence of bias or unprofessionalism.

Republicans control everything. The fact that they aren’t welcoming Mueller’s investigation as an opportunity to clear Trump’s ‘good’ name is telling. That they are instead squawking about the ‘deep state,’ and other imaginary cabals clearly points to a fear that Mueller is getting the goods. And some people are going to be found guilty of some stuff.

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