President Trump's legal team and his defenders are taking an aggressive defensive stance, now that Special Counsel Bob Mueller has announced an initial hiring of 12 attorneys, some of whom appear to harbor political leanings.
In an appearance on ABC's This Week, former House Speaker, and Trump advisor, Newt Gingrich suggested it raises questions of a politically motivated prosecution.
"The first four names are all people who gave to Democrats," Gingrich said. "Now in this environment with a Justice Department where 97 percent of the donations last year went to Hillary -- 97 percent -- explain to me why I should relax as a Republican."
On the same program, Adam Schiff (D-CA.,) the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee dismissed that claim as a simple case of a Trump surrogate doing his boss’s bidding.
“The President is attacking Bob Mueller, and therefore Newt Gingrich is attacking Bob Mueller," Schiff said. "But the reality is that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle find Mr. Mueller to be a man of incredible integrity and courage. It's going to take a lot more than a few presidential tweets, or Newt Gingrich, to try to besmear this very good man."
According the Federal Election Commission records, among Mueller’s hires, Jeannie Rhee donated $5,400 to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
Andrew Weissmann, a longtime Mueller associate, donated six times to President Obama's political action committees for a total of $4,700.
James Quarles, an assistant special prosecutor on the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, donated more than 10 times to Democratic PAC's over the last 30 years, for presidential candidates Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton. He has also donated to Republicans -- including Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz and former Virginia Governor George Allen.
Add to those apparent political leanings the Special Counsel's potentially limitless spending -- paid out of DOJ's budget.
Throw into the mix a prosecutor's power. In a 2013 scholarly article entitled, “Ham Sandwich Nation, Due Process When Everything is a Crime," University of Tennessee Law Professor Glenn Reynolds wrote: "The actual decision whether or not to charge a person with a crime is almost completely unconstrained."
George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley believes the political contributions of some members of the Mueller team are troubling.
"It's surprising that Robert Mueller went to these attorneys. Most special prosecutors involved in this type of litigation would have avoided as much as possible people with political ties or contributions." he added, "When you're investigating the president of the United States, you should be trying to avoid any questions of political bias or influence."
The Special Counsel's Office defends the hires, noting that federal law, "prohibits the Special Counsel from taking into consideration political affiliation in its hiring."
Just as troublesome to the White House: Mueller hire Michael Dreeben has argued on behalf of the government on the need to expand the definition of obstruction of justice. While a second hire, Andrew Weissman, has a reputation for aggressively turning witnesses.