It was freak out time. Not just for me, but for lots and lots of people. It seemed that when it came things Trump, there were no adults in the room. Things were out of control and getting worse day by day.
Now there is an adult in the room – Bob Mueller. Mueller was appointed to be special prosecutor by acting attorney general Rod Rosenstein. to sort out the Trump/Russia stuff. This is a big step and a positive step.
It is interesting that just a few days ago, Rosenstein said that he saw no need for a special prosecutor. Something changed. I would point to two factors that may have affected his thinking (1) Trump’s statements about why he fired FBI chief, Jim Comey. The Donald probably had no idea that by saying he decided to fire Comey because of the Russia investigation, he was setting off a nuclear bomb that has huge political fallout, (2) Comey’s memos that apparently document Trump’s attempts to interfere with FBI investigations. These are smoking guns in obstruction of justice investigations.
Putting those two factors together, it is not far-fetched to say that the original storyline — that there is nothing to the Trump/Russia story — has lost all credibility, if it ever had any to start with. If there was nothing to it why would Trump risk so much by repeatedly trying to make it go away? That is not a legal analysis. It is more basic than that. Rosenstein most likely realizes that more is at stake than Trump himself. That “more” is the credibility of our public institutions.
There may be at least one more factor at work. Trump has not yet come up with a person to replace Comey. Early reports suggest that he has been considering replacing Comey with a person who has political interests. Someone who might be more inclined to protect Trump. Rosenstein may be acting now in order to cut off that possibility. Again, to protect the institutional framework, as opposed to the dude in chief.
That thought is confirmed when you think about who Bob Mueller is. As a former FBI director who served under republican and democratic presidents, he is widely respected. He has a lot of political capital. He is non-partisan. He is a highly professional and experienced prosecutor. As a marine who won the bronze star, he has demonstrated that he has huge huevos. He has said “no” to presidents before. And he won’t leak. This is not a dude who will quake in front of Trump. Nor is he a dude who is likely to screw this investigation up. He is a solid choice to do very important work.
So I say “bravo!” to Rod Rosenstein for making this decision. I feel relieved. We all should. There is now an adult in the room. And I look forward to Mueller sorting this stuff out.
And btw, thank the Lord that the US has people like Rod Rosenstein and Bob Mueller around who can be called on to raise the bar to public accountability. These sorts of folks don’t just appear out of thin air, They are nurtured within a system over time that empowers them to grow and when the need is there, to take charge of the situation at hand.
That gives me hope.
Oops! One more thing. The reason why this was all possible is that after Watergate, there was a recognition that presidents cannot investigate themselves. So Congress enacted a law that created the special prosecutor position. That law didn’t work very well, and eventually, it was canned. But when it was canned (under the Clinton presidency), the need to deal with the problem that a president can’t be trusted to investigate himself or herself was not forgotten. Key figures in the Justice Department (Reno and Holder) got new regulations in place — with assistance from Congress — that hopefully fixed the old crappy law that was allowed to die. That is the legal framework that we are using now. Let’s see how it works.
We can think of the story that is unfolding as a test of that learning process.