Mueller is discreet, disciplined and on the President's caseby Sam Tanenhaus / December 14, 2017 / Leave a comment
As Republican leaders submit to Donald Trump, and the Democrats store ammunition for the 2018 midterms, all eyes turn to Robert Mueller, the special counsel, who since mid-May has been, almost invisibly, looking into the Trump-Russia connection. Such investigations can drag on for years. The Watergate break-in happened in June 1972. The “smoking gun” tape of President Richard Nixon confirming there had been a cover-up wasn’t released until July 1974 (Nixon resigned a month later). The first report on the Whitewater real estate deal that plagued Bill Clinton was published in 1992. Clinton was eventually impeached by the House of Representatives in December 1998.
But Mueller seems on a faster schedule. In six months, the net he has cast—dozens of witnesses, some sitting for day-long-interrogations—looks like a noose around the Oval Office. The first big break came on 1st December, when Trump’s former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to “knowingly” making “false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” to the FBI about his discussions with Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in December 2016; the main topic of their conversation was lifting the sanctions President Barack Obama imposed on Russia for tampering with the US election.
A year ago Flynn and the White House denied that such conversations took place. But intelligence officials had listened in—and told the press about it. Flynn then admitted that he had lied, not just to administration officials, but to the FBI. An admission of guilt from so important a figure would ordinarily cripple the first year of a presidency. But in Trumpworld the unthinkable is commonplace.
The president wallows in scandal. Why else hire Flynn in the first place? He was already lethally damaged goods, having been fired from running Pentagon intelligence in 2014 after squandering resources digging up “evidence” of non-existent plots involving “radical Islamic terrorism”—“Flynn facts,” as they became known. Both Obama and Sally Yates, the acting Attorney General in the first days of Trump’s presidency, warned him against Flynn, who was under federal investigation for accepting $530,000 from the Turkish government, which made him the paid agent of a foreign nation. But Trump, the heedless crackpot-in-chief, decided Flynn was just the guy for a job previously held by heavyweights like McGeorge Bundy and Henry Kissinger.
Given Flynn’s misdeeds,…