Republicans – and Democrats – should take a breath. For once, all Americans should be happy. Deputy Attorney General, Rod J. Rosenstein, formally named Robert S. Mueller III, a widely admired, no-nonsense former Republican and Democratic FBI Director, to oversee – and conclude – the insinuation-saturated investigation into whether or not, and to what degree, Russia may have sought to influence the recent US presidential election.
Why should Republicans and Democrats be happy? Ten reasons.
First, the Attorney General’s wise recusal and Deputy’s swift appointment moves this distraction from politics to legal inquiry– where it belongs. This is good for the country. Leaks may happen, but the White House and Congress can get back to legislating.
Second, the media can sniff, but Mueller is a consummate professional, which is why two presidents appointed him FBI Director. Expect front pages to yield thin pickings. This too is good for America. It turns down the post-election hysteria on this issue.
Third, Mueller’s reputation for being thorough, as well as efficient, offers light and quiet at the end of an unusually dark and noisy tunnel. If Russians sought to disrupt faith in democracy, he will say so. If there was no collusion of any sort, with any intent, by any party – he will say so. If some other conclusion is warranted, he will say so. Period.
Fourth, Mueller is not after a second career. He is not going to use this assignment as means to another end. He is content with his status, wise man of the law. There is a bit of William Webster and George Marshall about the man. This means he is unlikely to be scoring political points, one way or the other. He is unlikely to want a book, movie or publication of salacious notes. He is about duty, as called. We need more of that.
Fifth, Mueller’s penchant for close attention to detail means he will not miss vital facts, but will likely stick to the assigned inquiry, not succumbing to that age-old “independent counsel” lark – launching ever-widening inquiries on spurious grounds.
Sixth, Mueller’s assignment represents a brilliant political move, the equivalent of castling in chess. While bringing forward a player with great versatility and respect to hold an important square, the move elevates respect for the FBI and diminishes interest in the controversial departing director, who held that post for a third of Mueller’s time.
Seventh, the move demonstrates extraordinary good judgement on the part of the Deputy, and by extension the Attorney General. Necessarily, it reflects faith in wise men by wise men, as well as in the FBI, rule of law and pursuit of truth. This validates the president’s commitment to law enforcement, rule of law and truth.
Eighth, the appointment is reestablishes America’s longstanding commitment to openness, particularly when the “independent counsel” statute lapsed almost 20 years ago, and multiple prior Attorney Generals resisted initiating similar truth-seeking, including the last two, who resisted parallel calls for inquiries into possible mis-, mal- and nonfeasance by high-ranking members of the Obama administration.
Ninth, while some Democrats and media hounds will credit themselves for this decision, the truth is that its speed, authenticity, clarity and level of professionalism speak to a new and un-politicized Department of Justice. America needs this change. We need the confidence that flows from such clarity of reasoning, and an end to infusion of politics into what has always been a non-political domain.
Finally, America should take a deep breath for another reason. This was a decision that many called for and few expected; a moment of choice based on moral goodness and taking a step beyond what was necessary, into what was simply good for the country. If the investigation finds something, so be it. If it finds no material collusion, which is what I personally expect it will find, the nation is again stronger for having asked.
Robert Charles is a former assistant secretary of state for President George W. Bush, former naval intelligence officer and litigator. He served in the Reagan and Bush 41 White Houses.