Is it possible to have a nuanced opinion about the Robert Mueller investigation into allegations of electoral collusion between the Trump circle and Russians? In today’s political climate, lots of knees are jerking left and right — calls to fire Mueller and demands for invocation of the 25th Amendment to eject President Trump from office as mentally unfit.
Both courses would be disastrous. The former would confirm beyond any doubt that Trump has indeed spent the past tumultuous year conspiring to obstruct justice and considers himself above our laws. It would stamp the Republicans as stooges happy to overlook Russian intrigue to undermine our nation’s electoral integrity (however successful or unsuccessful) and sow dissent among Americans, just to retain political power.
And resorting to impeachment or the 25th Amendment, as some Democrats and even conservative Republicans advise, would likely only encourage their ready abuse by Democrats and Republicans in the future when presidential elections don’t go their way and another president proves unorthodox, eccentric or dashes presidential norms. In the long run, this too would undermine our democracy.
Among the columns we’ve published on this furor, Waco-based constitutional scholar and longtime Republican Ken Starr, in a typically thoughtful piece republished from the Washington Post, offers a compelling argument for Congress assuming a greater role in the investigation. In so many words, he urges that congressional leadership take its Article I responsibilities more seriously and more solemnly. Fair point.
Yet in another piece on gerrymandering, former Texas Democratic congressman Charles Stenholm highlights a problem. While Judge Starr’s solution might well make sense in a constitutional vacuum with responsible GOP leadership, public polling repeatedly suggests people have very little faith in Congress to rise above partisanship. Devin Nunes’ bizarre, wildly inappropriate actions as head of the House intelligence committee not only confirms this but renders that committee’s parallel investigation of Trump a hollow charade.
It’s unfortunate that Robert Mueller wasn’t more discriminating in selecting his team, particularly an FBI agent whose emails reflect a sloppy anti-Trump bias some Republicans now cite as grounds for shutting down the entire inquiry. Yet it’s relevant that Mueller’s investigation has already yielded critical developments, including admissions by two Trump campaign officials that they lied. Trump’s own stunningly inconsistent statements on all this demand Mueller — a Republican, incidentally — be allowed to complete his work unmolested.
Saturday Trump vowed his cooperation with the Mueller investigation: “When you’ve done nothing wrong, let’s be open and get it over with because, honestly, it’s very, very bad for our country. It’s making our country look foolish.” Let’s for once take Trump at his word because, to carry his logic further, firing Mueller and ending a legitimate investigation would leave us a crippled republic where political lackeys coronate autocrats unaccountable to the law and scheming enemies abroad celebrate our damnable myopia and ebbing good judgment.