◆ My Hunch: Yes, he will. And the ramifications will be huge
I’m betting Trump orders Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to ax special counsel Bob Mueller.
Trump’s reason—not that he needs one—will be the friendship between Mueller and Trump’s fired FBI chief, Jim Comey.
Trump could get that ball rolling, but then, I predict, shortly after the 2018 midterms, we’ll be calling Mike Pence, “Mr. President.”
An Impossible Triangle?
◆ MY ADVICE:
If I were advising Trump, which would be about as likely as my advising Rahm Emanuel, I’d tell him, “Stick with the special counsel you’re stuck with.”
Does Mueller Have a Conflict of Interest?
Trump’s Allies Now Say “Yes”
◆ MY ADVICE:
Give up this charge that the friendship between Mueller and Comey represents a “conflict of interest,” especially given that one of your closest cronies (think Newt Gingrich] couldn’t praise Mueller, a 12-year veteran of the top FBI job under both W. Bush and Obama, enough when Rod Rosenstein made the appointment last month. (See The Hill’s article on Trump allies attacking the Mueller-Comey relationship (link here).)
That high praise was bestowed, of course, before leaks seemed to reveal that Mueller’s probe had morphed from Russian collusion to, reportedly, investigating Trump personally for obstruction of justice over his allegedly pressuring Comey to drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. Not only that, but rumors are also swirling that Mueller is looking at Trump’s financial dealings and those of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
“Bobby Three Sticks” and His Friend
Mueller will not destroy his distinguished career and reputation, even for a friend
◆ Robert S. Mueller III (“”Bobby Three Sticks” to his friends) is close to heading home at the close of a distinguished career.
Among other honors, Mueller, 72, is a decorated Marine for service in Vietnam.
Mueller is not going to allow a personal friendship with Trump’s (and Hillary’s) enemy #1, Jim Comey, to sully his reputation.
One could argue that the fact that Mueller and Comey are friends will make Mueller more careful about charging Trump with obstruction of justice, etc. in the absence of a rock-solid case.
One could also argue that Mueller should have declined the appointment. The Hill this morning quotes a “Justice Department statute that says recusal is necessary when there is the `appearance’ of a `personal’ conflict of interest.”
Looking for a way this afternoon to postpone the pain of transcribing an interview tape from last week, I started to search narrowly whether Mueller had ever expressed his affection for Comey.
It took a matter of seconds to find this quote from Mueller in a Washington Post story dated August 23, 2013. (link here). The context is Mueller reflecting on the bittersweetness of leaving the FBI and turning over the job to Comey. Mueller called Comey a “`good friend,’ an `excellent choice’ and a `superb prosecutor.’”
Does Anyone on Team Trump Do a Google Search?
◆ Mueller’s affection for Comey should have been no surprise to anyone who follows Washington politics. Yet Gingrich tweeted that Mueller was “a superb choice…His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity. Media should now calm down.”
Did anyone on Trump’s press team research the relationship?
In 2004, the two men—Mueller then FBI chief and Comey deputy attorney general– survived the kind of experience—a civilian version of combat–that cements friendships.
“To Be, or Not To Be . . . FBI Director”
◆ Comey, who I think would have been better suited for a career on the stage than in law enforcement–ran up the stairs of the George Washington University Medical Center, to prevent George W. Bush’s attorney general, John Ashcroft, incapacitated after emergency surgery, from signing a reauthorization of a surveillance program. Mueller, also on the scene, backed Comey, then serving as acting attorney general in the wake of Ashcroft’s surgery, in calling the program illegal.
More important, Mueller assisted Comey in getting to Ashcroft’s bedside by ordering Ashcroft’s FBI agents to let Comey through. The two men, working together, thus succeeded in preventing Ashcroft from signing a document, thrust before him by W’s White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, and his chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., that would have reauthorized a program of warrantless domestic eavesdropping.
◆ MY FINAL ADVICE:
Again, if I were advising Trump, I’d tell him to keep his head down, his mouth shut and get on with the business of leading the country, so voters will care if Trump is forced from office because of what he has described, via tweet, of course, as a “WITCH HUNT.”
Carol Felsenthal is much-published author. Besides a long list of magazine credits, she has written a number of acclaimed biographies:
- Citizen Newhouse: Portrait of a Media Merchant,
- Power, Privilege, and the Post: The Katharine Graham Story,
- Princess Alice: The Life and Times of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, and
- Clinton in Exile: A President Out of the White House, a look at Bill Clinton’s post presidency
She is also a contributing writer for Chicago Magazine and the political blogger for their website, Chicagomag.com.
She has taught biographical writing at the University of Chicago and written profiles of everyone from Ann Landers to Michelle Obama.