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Our Long National Nightmare is Just Beginning

robert-mueller

In the immortal words of Warren Zevon, “Send lawyers, gun, and money. The shit has hit the fan.”

Less than four months into the Trump administration—it seems more like four years—we have a special counsel investigating ties between key officials, quite probably including the president himself, and a hostile foreign power. Devlin Barrett, Sari Horwitz and Matt Zapotosky for WaPo:

The Justice Department appointed a special counsel Wednesday to investigate possible coordination between President Trump’s associates and Russian officials — a clear signal to the White House that federal investigators will aggressively pursue the matter despite the president’s insistence that there was no “collusion” with the Kremlin.

Robert S. Mueller III, a former prosecutor who served as the FBI director from 2001 to 2013, has agreed to take over the investigation as a special counsel, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein announced. The move marks a concession by the Trump administration to Democratic demands for the investigation to be run independently of the Justice Department. Calls for a special counsel intensified after Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey last week.

“In my capacity as acting attorney general I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter,” Rosenstein said in a statement. “My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”

Mueller, often described by those who worked for him as a stern and press-averse disciplinarian, issued a characteristically terse statement: “I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability.”

This is, as Philip Shenen writes for POLITICO, Trump’s worst nightmare come true.  This naturally brings to mind Gerald Ford’s line when he took over the presidency from Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal: “Our long national nightmare is over.” Unless Trump follows Nixon’s example and tenders his resignation, this move will likely prolong this particular bad dream.

Under terms of his appointment by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Mueller will have wide powers to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” and—beyond that—“any matters” that arise from the investigation, including perjury and obstruction of justice.

The wide scope suggests an inquiry that is almost certain to last for years, given the history of these sorts of investigations, and will have an unpredictable impact on near year’s congressional midterm elections and the early jockeying in the 2020 presidential campaign. There are likely to be strains between Mueller’s inquiry and those being conducted on Capitol Hill, especially if congressional investigators want to give immunity to targets of Mueller’s investigation in exchange for their testimony, which would complicate the former FBI director hopes of ever obtaining criminal convictions.

Mueller’s selection was widely welcomed. “By reputation alone, I think he’s an excellent choice,” said Carol Elder Bruce, a Washington lawyer and former federal prosecutor. She said that Mueller, given his broad management experience at the FBI and from his previous career as a Justice Department prosecutor, would know where to turn to build a staff and organize an investigation in a hurry. “It won’t take him long to get organized,” she said. And indeed, Mueller is already bringing several staffers with him from WilmerHale, the law firm where he was working before resigning to take the special counsel job.

Given the dizzying number of scandals and brouhahas surrounding this team since it took office—have I mentioned it’s been less than four months?—the appointment of a special counsel was perhaps inevitable. Having lived through the shit shows of Watergate, Iran-Contra, and Whitewater/Lewinski—the latter two since coming of age politically—I’ve dreaded the possibility. The nature of the endeavor is a massive, drawn-out fishing expedition with no real boundaries. The Iran-Contra investigation went on forever, most infamously including an indictment of key officials and damning allegations about George Bush’s conduct as vice president on the eve of his bid to be re-elected president—some six years later. And even those of us who thought Bill Clinton was rightly impeached over his perjury in the Lewinski matter had misgivings about the way Ken Starr’s investigation unfolded.

Alas, given the firing of Comey, an Attorney General who is himself under suspicion, and a Republican Congress that seems content to put the short-term interests of their party over those of their country, there were no good options.

The gang at Lawfare echo the widespread praise for the selection of Mueller in particular and point out changes in authorities since the last go-round:

It is also worth noting that the office into which Mueller steps is different from the office occupied by independent counsels like Kenneth Starr and Lawrence Walsh. Per regulations issued by the Attorney General in 1999, when the independent counsel statute lapsed, the Attorney General may appoint a special counsel from outside the Justice Department to conduct investigations of certain sensitive matters, such as those that present a conflict of interest for Department personnel or in “other extraordinary circumstances,” where in light of these circumstances “it would be in the public interest…” Note that these special counsels are not just appointed by the Attorney General—or, in this case, the Deputy Attorney General who is acting in place of the recused Jeff Sessions—at his discretion but that they also, to some extent, answer to him. For example, the Attorney General can request “an explanation for any investigative or prosecutorial step” and may, with notice to Congress, countermand him. So unlike the independent counsels of old, Mueller will not be entirely separate from the Justice Department—for better or for worse.

In Mueller’s case, that distinction is less of a concern than it would be for many other appointees. Mueller is of sufficient stature that any effort to rein him in would likely provoke an immediate scandal if he were to go public, and that means his threat of resignation is a very potent weapon. He also has the kind of experience that ensures he will not be shy when it comes to construing the limits of his jurisdiction. He arguably does not necessarily need the kind of statutory guarantees of independence that the old statute offered; in some respects Mueller is kind of his own guarantee.

They go into some detail about related matters and the differences between the investigation that Comey was conducting and the ostensible scope of Mueller’s remit, concluding that it “should allow Mueller to take on whatever matters come up and expand his jurisdiction within reason to include new developments in what appears in from the press to be a sprawling morass of matters. It is certainly capacious enough to include any allegations of obstruction of the investigation that Mueller might want to look into.”  Which, to my lay thinking, seems not meaningfully different from the rules Lawrence Walsh and Ken Starr worked under.

And, as previously noted, this is unlikely to wrap up anytime soon. So they re-up their call that some other investigative body be empaneled:

So should we all just be satisfied the Trump-Russia affair is in good hands and wait for Bob Mueller to let us know whether there’s a problem? Hardly.

It is important to recognize that the matter of a special counsel is largely distinct from the questions related to congressional investigations, and having a special prosecutor does not resolve the question of whether we need a select committee or some kind of independent commission, in addition to the investigation already ongoing in Congress.

I wouldn’t hold my breath on that score.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Jen says:

    It will be interesting to see how the administration handles this. The president seems constantly on edge (that speech to the Coast Guard graduates yesterday was self-serving, as per usual, whining about no politician has ever been treated worse *in history*–Nelson Mandela would perhaps beg to differ). He is defensive and paranoid and cannot let things go.

    Given the fervor of his base and the fickle attention span of the general public, if he simply buckled down and did the job at hand, it’s possible he could weather this–if there truly is nothing there.

    He is incapable of buckling down and doing the job, because he lacks the attention span, the will, and the intellect to do so. He will obsess about this daily. He should consider resigning, if not for the country then for his health and that of his staff. If he remains in office we will likely continue to see utter chaos and his unraveling.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 42 Thumb down 1

  2. Lit3Bolt says:

    Ready to recant your “Bureaucratic Insurgency” post?

    Trump, Pence, Flynn, Sessions, and the GOP leadership all – wittingly or not – compromised themselves the minute they started meeting with Russians in secret and pocketing money from Turkey and Russia. They are a threat to the national security of the United States.

    Almost every leaker and “bureaucratic insurgent” in this administration are going to be vindicated as true patriots.

    However, your pedantic concerns about the “Deep State” were duly noted.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 4

  3. Mark Ivey says:

    President Trump should delete his Twitter account, shut up, and lawyer the f**k up now. Be he will not.

    Oh well, he can always resign and get a pardon from Pence or flee to Russia when the shit truly hits the fan for him..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  4. CSK says:

    @Jen:

    I think it’s possible that Trump could be pressured/cajoled into resigning by Ivanka and Jared, but that’s a step they’d only take if his continued presence in the Oval Office was starting to cost them serious money. There’s big bucks in being the president’s daughter and son-in-law.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  5. Jen says:

    @CSK: Agreed. On that note, it’s interesting that one of Trump’s properties in the Caribbean just went on the market for $28 million. Raising cash, maybe?

    And, despite some media speculation that Trump’s lawyers made him give up his Twitter account due to the near 24-hour silence, he appears to be tweeting again this morning. He still cannot spell “counsel.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  6. Mikey says:

    And here we go…hahahahaha…”councel.”

    Donald J. Trump‏ @realDonaldTrump

    With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special councel appointed!

    https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/865169927644340224

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  7. Mikey says:

    And he called the appointment of the special counsel “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.”

    Which makes sense, actually, when you realize for Trump history didn’t actually start until the day he was born and he’s probably forgotten about JFK being shot and all.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  8. gVOR08 says:

    Off topic, but Roger Ailes has died. The man who more than any other, except Murdoch himself, created and profited from our polarization. A man who ended in scandal and ignominy of his own making. All I can say is goodbye. Good. Bye.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  9. James Joyner says:

    @Lit3Bolt:

    Ready to recant your “Bureaucratic Insurgency” post?

    If anything, the passage of time has hardened my stance on the matter. Trump has demonstrated just how important our political norms are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

  10. Tony W says:

    I must say I was relieved seeing this news yesterday. One fears our institutions are not strong enough to stand up to an unprecedented kleptocratic despot, but perhaps we are going to be okay.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  11. CSK says:

    @Jen:

    @Mikey:

    What further proof do you need that Trump truly does “love the poorly educated”?

    I think he’s even more stupid and ignorant than Sarah Palin.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  12. Franklin says:

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 0

  13. michael reynolds says:

    It’s all quite complicated. This is not in my opinion a case of the cover-up being worse than the crime. I think in this case it’s the crimes, specifically money-laundering, corruption, violations of the emoluments clause, collusion with a hostile foreign power. Obstruction isn’t good, but being the tool of a foreign dictator is a wee bit worse.

    How do you get out of this mess? Resigning like Nixon isn’t going to do it unless you’ve got a no-prosecution deal from Mueller. Trump could use his powers to pardon all his henchmen, but that only covers federal crimes and the states attorneys might still move in and put Flynn, Manafort and Kushner in jail. Can a POTUS pardon himself?

    And Trump has his alleged empire to consider. If the suspicion is correct that he’s been getting by on Russian money, well, that’s not going to work post-presidency. This all threatens not just Trump the man, but the Trump business and brand. Everything Trump is on the line now. His entire life is crashing down around him and I don’t see how he saves himself or his business. The House would probably be doing the man a favor impeaching him because I don’t think Mangolini has the strength to cope with this. He should be put out of his (and our) misery as soon as possible.

    As of yesterday this became a crime story as much as a political one. Trump is in serious jeopardy. His crimes don’t magically go away once he leaves office. If he isn’t impeached he could be arrested on his way out of the White House the day after the new president is inaugurated. Trump could die in prison. He needs a deal of some sort. Pity he’s not actually any good at deals.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  14. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @gVOR08:

    to paraphrase the great Bette:

    “You should never say bad things about the dead, only good … [Roger Ailes] is dead. Good.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  15. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    A few thoughts:
    The appointment of Mueller gives me faith that our system is working. Dinged up and hobbled, but working.
    Second, this thing has gone far enough to make me think that there has to be some there there. It’s been going on for almost a year, and Comey was asking for more help just before he was fired last week.
    And lastly, Dumb Don’s twitter rant this morning sounds like the protestations of a scared man-child. No President in history has been treated worse? Four Presidents have been shot dead.
    Anyone who voted for this buffoon has serious mental health issues and should seek professional help. Yes…all 63 million of you.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  16. Jen says:

    @HarvardLaw92: (or anyone else who might know…)

    Who covers the legal bills of any White House staff who are asked to visit with Mueller? Are they responsible for maintaining their own legal counsel on their own dime, or is this a bill that we taxpayers will shoulder?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. CSK says:

    @Jen:

    I’m fairly sure that this $28 million property on St. Martin that Trump’s trying to unload (he bought it for $20 million in 2013) isn’t the first chunk of real estate he’s tried to divest himself of recently. I suspect–oh, hell, I know–his finances are in considerably worse shape than he’d like us to believe. Next up on the block: Mar-a-Lago.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  18. Pch101 says:

    The nightmare began when the Republican party became a club for anti-intellectual racists who reject factual information whenever it inconveniences them (which is to say, much of the time.)

    The nightmare continued when its primary system failed to keep this guy out.

    The nightmare got worse when the electoral college failed to do its job by rejecting him.

    This is merely the byproduct of all of those systemic failures. This was inevitable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  19. Laura Koerber says:

    I think Ford was wrong: the nightmare was not over when Nixon left office. People who were part of the conspiracy stayed active in the Republican party and continued the party’s drift into unprincipled authoritarianism.

    The same with Iran-Contra: too many people did not go to jail, did not lose their reputations, stayed active Republicans, and accelerated the party’s decline into the political branch of the oligarchy.

    The Bush admin was full of scandals, too: Gonzales had to resign, the Valerie Palmer incident.

    Can we acknowledge here that the Republican party is full of people who have no respect for the institutions of representative government and no respect for the law? Because when th same problem occurs over and over and over….authoritarian misconduct is baked int he bread of the Republican party at this point. A feature, not a bug.

    The nightmare is not the investigation and it is not the trials and it is not the punishments and it is not the public nature of all of this. The nightmare is when a few people take the fall and the rest get away with it.

    The worst outcome for America would be Trump resigning. If he does, the Republicans will unite behind Pence, claim that Trump was not a real Republican or conservative, claim they had nothing to do with him getting the nom, didn;t support his Presidency, nothing to look at here, let’s all move on. Moving on will mean that the Republicans who have been normalizing attacks on the rule of law and on representative government will continue the attacks.

    The best outcome for America would be for this “nightmare” to go on and on and on until a whole long list of Republicans are in jail and/or have lost their seats in Congress.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 1

  20. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jen:

    They are paid their normal salary for the time, but if they require legal representation, the cost is funded out of their own pocket.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  21. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @CSK:

    I suspect–oh, hell, I know–his finances are in considerably worse shape than he’d like us to believe

    * frantically raising hand *

    I know! I know! 😀

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  22. Davebo says:

    @Jen: Good question. Under the expired independent counsel law there was a provision to reimburse innocent parties ensnared in investigations but only of course after the fact when they weren’t indicted in the investigation.

    Not sure about now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. Hal_10000 says:

    @Mark Ivey:

    Every lawyer in my Twitter feed is saying that. He needs to shut the hell up. But he can’t. He won’t. He has to get the last word in. I am dubious that Trump will resign. His tendency, when under fire, is simply to double, triple, quadruple down. The only way he steps down is either under intense legal pressure or for reasons of health. And then only if he can run out and say he accomplished all his goals as President.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  24. Hal_10000 says:

    I had a depressing thought this morning. If the Trump Administration really does implode, many of the principles will get 6- or 7-figure book deals to talk about how it all went down. Kind of depressing for those of us who wouldn’t mind getting two figures for our books.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  25. Jen says:

    @Hal_10000: They will end up needing that money to pay the legal bills they are all going to be saddled with, apparently.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. CSK says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    I know you do, and I’d love to hear every juicy detail. Would you accept a bribe of some really superior single-malt Scotch? 😀

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  27. Scott says:

    @Lit3Bolt: @James Joyner:

    I know the term “Deep State” is pejorative but here are other more positive terms: resilient, stable, institutional. I consider it conservative in the truest sense. Conservative should not be confused with right wing radicalism and nihilism. I am glad we have a ship of state that is slow to turn. It won’t overturn and sink.

    May the Deep State thrive.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  28. dmichael says:

    @Tony W: Marcy Wheeler dissents from the view that this is an adequate method of dealing with Trump’s actions: https://www.emptywheel.net/2017/05/17/the-scope-of-the-special-counsel-appointment-is-totally-inadequate/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. Pch101 says:

    @Laura Koerber:

    There will be a time to impeach Trump. I would start in the spring of 2020.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @CSK:

    Eh, I’d be disbarred, but it’s a tempting offer. Make it a 31 year old Craigellachie and I might just consider it :-)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  31. KM says:

    @Scott:
    Indeed. The idea of a bureaucratic nation that persists beyond the transient nature of the Presidency (only 4 years for a reason) is the whole reason the USA or any nation with elected leaders works. Can you imagine a company that changes leaders & management every 4 years like clockwork, vastly changing its direction and tone, without the regular employees that keep churning out the product regardless of the hot mess upstairs? Somebody’s gotta come in every morning to make the coffee, file the paperwork and make sure sh^ gets done. Conservation in the face of ever changing detail – keeping the status quo in the face of chaos. The trains need to keep running regardless.

    People forget, the company is *not* the boss just like a ship is not its captain. Kinda hard to sail an aircraft carrier without sailors but sailors definitively can run an aircraft carrier without their captain. “Deep State” only became an insult when snowflakes realized all their bleating about WE WON!!!! means jack in the face of reality.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  32. gVOR08 says:

    Yes, Trump behaves like a spoiled child. But I recommend this piece at VOX by Matthew Yglesias:

    …that we should understand Trump’s behavior as resembling that of a little kid is fundamentally wrong.

    The truth is that Trump is no child. He’s 70 years old. And he’s not just any kind of 70-year-old. He’s a white male 70-year-old. A famous one. A rich one. One who’s been rich since the day he was born. He’s a man who’s learned over the course of a long and rich life that he is free to operate without consequence. He’s the beneficiary of vast and enormous privilege, not just the ability to enjoy lavish consumption goods but the privilege of impunity that America grants to the wealthy.

    Trump’s election by Republicans was not an aberration, it was an expression of what conservatism/Republicans have become. And Trump is not an aberration, he is a product of our system. He is the third generation in his family business. There’s a rule about that. And so is Jared.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  33. Todd says:

    @Pch101: @Laura Koerber: The problem is, the world will still be spinning, and significant events will still be happening while Donald Trump sits in the White House making decisions as Commander in Chief.

    Trump supporters who still insist that he’s done nothing wrong are, for the most part, merely willfully ignorant/uniformed. This doesn’t excuse them, but if any of us lived on a stead diet of Drudge/Breitbart/Fox, we’d probably be susceptible to the same delusions. Liberals who think it would be a great idea if Trump stays in office for as long as possible because they view it as politically advantageous for “our side” have no such alibi. Such people are consciously putting the good of their ideological “tribe” over the good of the country …. and it’s just as disgusting as when conservatives do it.

    Circumstances may end up dictating that Trump remains President for quite some time still. But it shouldn’t be something any responsible American wishes for.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  34. charon says:

    @Jen:

    My recollection from Lewinsky was lots of White House staff were burdened with crippling legal bills, many who had basically no involvement with anything scandalous.

    At this point, anyone working for Trump (in any way) would be smart to resign.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  35. DrDaveT says:

    most infamously including an indictment of key officials and damning allegations about George Bush’s conduct as vice president on the eve of his bid to be re-elected president

    I suppose I have to give you some kind of kudos for brass balls, to be able to write this shortly after defending James Comey’s deliberate sabotage of Hillary Clinton’s election chances. If saying true things about Bush at a time when people might care about them was ‘infamous’, why is insinuating false things about Hillary at an even more critical time somehow not?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  36. gVOR08 says:

    Our Long National Nightmare is Just Beginning

    No. It began Nov 9.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  37. Pch101 says:

    @Todd:

    If you replace Trump, you get Pence. That would be worse, because he might actually accomplish something.

    To have some semblance of reason in American politics, the Republican party needs to be destroyed. Let’s hope that Trump gets that party started.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  38. S. Fields says:

    @gVOR08:

    No. It began when Trump descended that escalator to announce his candidacy for POTUS.

    I remember a not too distant time when Howard Dean fell out of the running his party’s nomination due in part to an over exuberant scream. That Trump’s candidacy survived that his inflammatory announcement was a sign right there that the country was entering a dark time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  39. Todd says:

    @Pch101: I understand the political considerations, and as a non-conservative, I certainly want to see as little of their agenda as possible implemented. But as an American, there’s almost no question that the longer Donald Trump wears the commander in chief hat, the more chance there is for something truly disastrous to occur as a result. While I don’t agree at all with Pence’s ideology, his past indicates that he would at least be competent enough to handle the responsibilities and duties of a President. It’s a low bar, but that’s where we’re at.

    p.s. If the President then helped elect gets impeached or otherwise leaves office early, and the Republicans are still able to implement significant part of their agenda with a new President, that will be a monumental political failure on the part of Democrats/Liberals. In other words, a President Pence should be nothing more than a placeholder until the next election.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  40. Steve V says:

    @Todd: I think the CBO score of the AHCA is due out some time next week. That could throw a wrench into their agenda too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  41. Mikey says:

    @Pch101: To quote myself on Pence from another thread:

    Here’s the big difference to me: Pence is at least mentally competent. He’s not going to blab TS/SCI material to prove his dick is as big as Putin’s, he’s not going to tweet endless streams of semi-literate glorp during his morning constitutionals on the golden throne, he’s not going to blunder us into some pointless war or goad the Norks into nuking Honolulu.

    In D-and-D terms, Trump is chaotic evil and Pence is lawful evil. And the latter is predictable, which makes it easier to counter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  42. Pch101 says:

    @Mikey:

    In terms of policy, Trump really isn’t much different than other Republicans but for his position on trade.

    His rhetoric is more vulgar, but his message isn’t that much different, either.

    Don’t be fooled. Trump should not be the end game. Destroying the Republican party should be the objective. The whole thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  43. James Joyner says:

    @DrDaveT: My defense of Comey was straightforward: The meeting between the AG and former president Clinton put him in an impossible position and he took the reasonable step of explaining, that while Mrs. Clinton violated the norms of the classification system at the risk of spilling secrets, she had not cleared the threshold for criminal prosecution. Having promised Congress that he would inform them immediately should the status of the case change, he did so when, well, the status of the case changed. His letter to them was leaked by them.

    Walsh, on the other hand, was simply grandstanding. There was no reason to release his findings when he did. The investigation had been ongoing for years–not months, as in the Clinton case–and the indictments were promptly thrown out for coming well after the statute of limitations. Further, unlike Clinton, Bush was not the actual subject of the investigation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

  44. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    Having promised Congress that he would inform them immediately should the status of the case change, he did so when, well, the status of the case changed.

    No matter how many times you say this, it still isn’t true.

    The status of the case had NOT changed. He had new information that indicated that it was possible that the status might change, but he sent his letter before he knew whether the new data were even relevant to Hillary Clinton at all. But rather than wait the few days necessary to find out whether the status of the case had changed, he jumped at the opportunity to immediately issue an extremely misleading statement that made it sound like it was known that the new data not only were related to Hillary, but were incriminating. When he found that the new data were a nothing burger, the damage had already been done.

    All of this has been publicly analyzed. At a certain point, your persistence in mischaracterizing the chain of events has to be deemed deliberate obfuscation, because you’re certainly smart enough to understand the difference.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

  45. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Mikey:

    With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special councel appointed!

    So this is where Glen Beck got his line this morning–good to know!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  46. just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Laura Koerber:

    …continued the party’s drift into unprincipled authoritarianism.

    While I see and agree with your point, I have to say that the GOP are the worst authoritarians in the history of authoritarianism. They don’t do anything and can’t handle the authority part of the philosophy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  47. just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Jen: Well, they can make deals with the investigation if they know anything worth dealing. Or they can bail now and beat the rush.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  48. just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Todd: I would agree with your “good of my tribe” argument if both “tribes” were equally functional and responsible. It is only because the Republican “tribe” is so mind bogglingly inept that I have the confidence that we can weather this. Trump needs to be in office for long enough for the portion of the 63 million supporters who can and will vote responsibly to be willing to vote current Republicans out of Congress. And also long enough so that “our tribe” will not be inclined to say “Trump’s gone; glad that’s over” and then not bother to vote in the mid-term.

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  49. Todd says:

    @just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: If Trump were only doing things that were politically outrageous, then I could possibly be on board with the argument. But Trump himself is actually a national security risk. I would very much prefer that a competent Republican such as Pence or Ryan sit in that chair; even if they are “too conservative” for my liking, and even if they would be somewhat more able to effectively sell their agenda.

    Furthermore, if both Democrats/Liberals, and sensible/responsible Republicans haven’t already admitted the error of their ways by now, 3 1/2 more years of Trump probably isn’t going to help a whole lot.

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  50. Todd says:

    … basically I just think it’s irresponsible to hope that Trump stays in office simply because it seems politically advantageous for the Democrats. If stopping Mike Pence from implementing his religious conservative agenda isn’t enough motivation for Democrats to turn out in 2018 and 2020, then the party really is broken almost beyond repair themselves.

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  51. DrDaveT says:

    @Todd:

    I would very much prefer that a competent Republican such as Pence or Ryan sit in that chair; even if they are “too conservative” for my liking, and even if they would be somewhat more able to effectively sell their agenda.

    This is actually a very difficult problem in decision analysis. You’re faced with two primary options, A and B. Under option A, there is a small (and imprecisely estimated) probability of a catastrophic event. Under option B, there is a high probability of a very bad event. Which should you prefer?

    Psychologists and economists have found that people’s choices in these cases are highly unstable, and can be radically influenced by how the problem is cast, whether it’s framed in terms of saving more people or harming more people, etc.

    For me personally, I know that a President Ryan would do significant harm to (on the order of) 100 million people with his proposed transfers of wealth and health from the poor to the rich, and that this harm would continue for at least a decade before there would be any chance of putting things back to something like the status quo. My expected total harm from Trump’s idiocy is not obviously higher, and the chance of escaping with only a little harm is much much higher. For that reason, I feel that Trump is the lesser risk overall, until the Dems can regain enough seats in Congress to put a brake on Ryan.

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  52. Todd says:

    @DrDaveT: Actually, I would flip your options. Under a President Trump there is a great probability (almost approaching certainty) that he will do lasting damage to the United States, at the very least to our reputation and standing in the world, the longer he is in office. If Trump leaves office early, but especially if he’s impeached (or otherwise implicated in criminal conduct), it’s highly unlikely that his successor will be able to accomplish much of anything … unless and until he is able to be reelected on his own in 2020.

    By equating what Ryan or Pence believe, with what they might realistically be able to do if they occupied the oval office, we are playing the same delusional game we put on during every election campaign.

    From a purely political perspective, I think Ryan would be more dangerous for Democrats …. not because he’d more likely to get anything done now, but because should he choose to run in 2020, he’d be a much better candidate than Pence.

    All that conjecture aside, I think it would be hard to argue against the idea that Donald Trump remaining President of the United States is unequivocally bad for the country for as long as he is able to remain in office. Best case scenario is that he wakes up one morning (soon), decides the job really is too hard/no fun, and just resigns.

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  53. DrDaveT says:

    @Todd:

    Under a President Trump there is a great probability (almost approaching certainty) that he will do lasting damage to the United States, at the very least to our reputation and standing in the world, the longer he is in office.

    A. The reputation damage is already done; we can’t look much stupider than we already do.
    B. I care a lot more about actual harm to actual people than I do about “our standing in the world”.

    If Trump leaves office early, but especially if he’s impeached (or otherwise implicated in criminal conduct)

    If I were a unicorn, I’d use my magic horn to make him go away. That’s about as likely as either impeachment or resignation, under the current Congress.

    By equating what Ryan or Pence believe, with what they might realistically be able to do if they occupied the oval office […]

    Are you seriously suggesting that the current Congress would not rubber-stamp whatever Ryan puts forward under a hypothetical Pence administration? Seriously?

    Of course Trump is bad for the country, in many ways. But so far he is massively ineffectually bad, and shows no signs of becoming effective at achieving anything at all. Most of his appointment slots are still not only vacant, they’ve been utterly ignored. The instant you replace him with Pence, or any other actual politician, all of that changes.

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  54. Todd says:

    @DrDaveT: A

    re you seriously suggesting that the current Congress would not rubber-stamp whatever Ryan puts forward under a hypothetical Pence administration? Seriously?

    What I’m seriously suggesting is that a post Trump Republican congress, let alone a Pence administration will almost certainly lack the political capital to pass much of anything …. also because a majority of the American public has caught on to the fact that their ideas (such as the AHCA) are bad to begin with.

    If/when Trump goes, the fissures in the Republican party will split wide, wide open.

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