After this week of political and legal drama, what comes next?
This week reminded me of the Watergate hearings of the 1970s, when I was part of the Nixon administration and every day was a day of anticipation. What would the Washington Post or the New York Times break next?
In those days there was no social media or cable television, so what you read in your newspapers or watched on the evening network news carried the story.
To those of us currently riveted by the drama and concerned about where it may go, we obviously want to know what’s next. Unfortunately, only one person really knows the full picture and what the strategy and timeline are.
The president doesn’t know. His lawyers don’t know. The Congress doesn’t know. The Supreme Court doesn’t know. The media don’t know. And certainly, the public doesn’t know.
The man who knows is Robert Mueller. Hopefully, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker knows some of it, but I doubt it. And that’s one of the problems with the special counsel game.
What is Robert Mueller going to do next, who is he investigating, and when will his report be finished? Those are the questions on the minds of most White House watchers, including the president and many Americans who are passionately following the nation’s ongoing soap opera.
The president’s outside counsel, defender and principal attack dog, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, laid it on the line in an interview this week: “Our strategy is … to do everything we can to try to convince Mueller to wrap the damn thing up, and if he’s got anything, show us. If he doesn’t have anything, you know, write your report, tell us what you have, and we’ll deal with it. He can’t prosecute him [Trump]. All he can do is write a report about him, so write the g--damned thing and get it over with now.”
Giuliani’s too smart and experienced not to know there is nothing in his arsenal or the president’s that can force Mueller’s hand or speed up his report.
When he is done, he will be done. And we will all know it. Whatever he and his powerful team of lawyers find in their long, drawn-out investigation will be reported to the head of the Justice Department – be that acting Attorney General Whitaker, or the just-nominated William Barr many months from now when he is confirmed. What that individual decides to do with the report is as unpredictable as the conclusions and recommendations that will be in it.
Of all the experienced lawyers in the country, I have felt from the time of Mueller’s appointment that he was the wrong man for the job. As competent and distinguished as his career has been, he is too high profile and too conflicted by his friendships – especially with James Comey.
Robert Mueller is too tough and too experienced to be pushed around by anyone, and this is his last hurrah. He also can do more than write a report – just ask Michael Cohen.
So, who is Robert Mueller? Robert Mueller is a pro’s pro. That is the opinion of most anyone who has ever dealt with him over his long and distinguished career as a prosecutor, high-ranking Justice Department official, U.S. attorney, and director of the FBI. He’s not someone you want investigating you or coming after you, even if you are the president of the United States. He is extremely competent, well prepared, and not to be underestimated.
On top of that, he was authorized to pick a team from the best and brightest ranks of the Justice Department. Unfortunately, many on that team, in addition to being skilled lawyers, turned out to be Democratic donors who may show a partisan bias against the president and his party.
Of all the experienced lawyers in the country, I have felt from the time of Mueller’s appointment that he was the wrong man for the job. As competent and distinguished as his career has been, he is too high profile and too conflicted by his friendships – especially with James Comey, his successor at the FBI, and other associates in the Justice Department. How do you rein him in, if necessary, as the attorney general or acting attorney general is authorized to do? If you attempt to replace him, you will long regret it.
It’s also Mueller's last hurrah, and every lawyer wants his last court case to be remembered forever. Robert Mueller’s long career will be judged on this assignment.
It’s also his last hurrah, and every lawyer wants his last court case to be remembered forever. Robert Mueller’s long career will be judged on this assignment.
If his actions lead to an impeachment process by the House as many Democrats want it to, the chaos that follows will overshadow everything else in his career.
If he finds the president and his campaign did not collude with Russia or anyone else, many Trump haters will cry cover-up.
If the president’s supporters feel that he has been victimized by a “witch hunt,” they will always make Mueller public enemy number one.
And if he finds evidence of Russian interference in our election process, as he was tasked with when appointed, he will have served his nation ably and will have fulfilled his charge.
My unsolicited counsel to the White House is this: Be prepared for battle and lawyer-up. Mueller’s team is the best. Mr. President, yours need to be every bit as good, if not better.