The White House legal team has signaled a change in its approach to the ongoing probe into alleged collusion between President Donald Trump’s election campaign team and Russian officials. According to a New York Times report, Trump’s lawyers are softening their attitude toward cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller. The more open approach is apparently aimed at pressuring the former FBI Director into announcing that the president himself is not under investigation.
James Comey, who led the FBI when Trump took office, refused to take the spotlight off the president by refusing to state publicly that he was not under investigation. That choice led – at least in part – to his dismissal. After he was fired, Comey confirmed that he had told the president, in private meetings, that he was not the subject of any investigation.
According to several White House officials, the goal is to provide Mueller with the documents and testimony he would need to expedite his team’s probe into possible collusion. There appears to be no end in sight to the special counsel investigation, despite the fact that nothing more than flimsy, circumstantial evidence of collusion has been, thus far, produced.
Ty Cobb, the lawyer charged with coordinating the White House’s response to the investigation, said, “The White House believes the special counsel shares its interest in concluding this matter with all deliberate speed for the benefit of the country.”
Pressure on Robert Mueller
Should Mueller continue to prolong the affair after White House lawyers provide him with all the requested documents and testimony, he may well find himself hoisted on his own petard. With full cooperation from the White House, a large team of top attorneys and two congressional inquiries also probing the collusion issue, Mueller will be expected to disclose some conclusions sooner, rather than later, or run the risk of being perceived as a man searching for a crime where none exists.
From the moment he was appointed to probe collusion allegations, Mueller has operated under a cloud of suspicion, from some circles, regarding his true motives.
Robert Mueller served as director of the FBI under former President Barack Obama. He is a long-time friend and colleague of Comey’s and, earlier in his career, was mentored by Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder. Mueller has assembled a team of 17 highly-experienced lawyers to work with him on the investigation. Several of them are known to have donated to Hillary Clinton and other Democrats, further supporting the perception that a conflict of interest exists.
Adding to the pressure on the special counsel, Judicial Watch has filed a suit against the Department of Justice for refusing to disclose details about Mueller’s activities and operating budget. The conservative foundation, which fights for accountability in law and government, is taking action under the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) and argues that the Mueller investigation should be shut down.
During a recent, and somewhat contentious, interview on Fox News, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton expressed several concerns about the special counsel investigation. Fitton’s primary issue is one of accountability:
“There are real concerns about the way the office [of special counsel] is operating…and, plus, you have this appointment of a special counsel who has no day-to-day supervision from a constitutional officer, so there’s no accountability.”
The Intelligence Committees of both the House and the Senate have been investigating possible Russian interference with the 2016 General Election and, by extension, the allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. The FBI had already begun looking into the issue while the presidential election battle was underway, although the president’s campaign team was never informed of the potential problem.
Additionally, the Senate Judiciary Committee is probing the Department of Justice and FBI handling of the matter, as well as other aspects of the affair.
Media coverage of the collusion conspiracy theory – which is still all it is – has become less frantic as public interest wanes, and the lack of any incriminating evidence continues to make a mockery of the entire exercise.
Once the various investigations are wrapped up – and especially if those investigations fail to uncover any wrongdoing – there may well be a fresh investigation to open: into how much public money was spent and the roles that Robert Mueller, James Comey and several Department of Justice officials played in the entire fiasco. There will also be questions to answer about the role of members of Congress in dragging out this fabricated scandal.
Fighting the dysfunction in Washington D.C. must, at some point, become a major focus of both the media and the voting public. Should the Russia investigations end with no result and then not be answered for by the very people who conducted them, it would be a dark time, indeed, in the history of the republic.