If you’ve watched at least a few of those good old Hollywood western movies, you’ll recall that when a lynch mob gathered, they were angry. Well, we’ve got a group with a “rope” in Washington, DC. But, they aren’t mad; they’re scared. That’s because they see Special Prosecutor (SP) Bob Mueller slowly closing in on Trump, his presidency, and conservatives’ dream of turning the USA into an oligarchy controlled by their handful of mega-rich donors like the Kochs, Princes, Mercers and Coors. In this context, damaging the SP can be achieved either by: (1) shutting down his investigation; or (2) discrediting it so that in the end, its results will be rejected by the public as untrustworthy.
Basically, it comes down to going back through recent history and building a case that Mueller and his team are corrupt and too biased to render any sort of valid judgment on 45 and his presidency.
The history: 2016
You have to go back to 2016 and the FBI’s investigation of HRC’s use of her private server and the e-mails that came to and exited from that device. Republicans, especially those in Congress, were convinced that the then-Secretary of State had broken the law. An investigation did ensue, evidence was collected and analyzed for illegality. A report of the results was drafted by then FBI Director James Comey with the tentative conclusion that while HRC had behaved badly, she had not behaved illegally. Comey submitted the document to his team for comment, amendments and ultimately agreement or disagreement with his conclusion?
Enter a team member named Peter Strzok. As part of the aforementioned team vetting process, he pointed out to Comey that the conclusion that HRC was innocent was not consistent with a description of her behavior as involving “gross negligence” which does involve a violation of the law. Either that wording had to be removed or the Director had to change his “not guilty” decision to guilty. Comey, satisfied that HRC was innocent, dropped the critical language and replaced it with “careless” and other pejorative descriptors of Clinton’s behavior. The report, thus amended was then unanimously approved by Comey’s team.
The FBI Director delivered his report to the House Government Oversight Committee on September 28, 2016. His declaration of HRC’s innocence sent shock waves through Congressional Republicans and conservatives in general, so thoroughly had they convinced themselves that she was guilty. This was not something they were going to let go of, though they had no recourse but to accept Comey’s judgment.
As Mueller’s investigation began to pick up steam with two guilty pleas and two indictments, Trump’s defenders in and out of Congress started to piece together bits of history that would eventually be woven into a narrative aimed at achieving either of the two goals cited above.
Referring back to 2016, and still chafing over HRC’s exoneration by Comey, conservatives reasoned that since that decision was tainted, then Comey was corrupt. And since he and Mueller was both close friends and associates, then the latter must be corrupt as well. To help that leap in logic along, conservatives resurrected Peter Strzok who was introduced earlier and had been functioning as part of Mueller’s team.
Agent Strzok had to be corrupt and biased because, after all, he was the guy who pointed to the need for the word change in Comey’s report. Any doubt among 45’s defenders that Strzok was compromised left them when it was discovered that he and a female associate had been exchanging text messages in which they were highly critical of Trump. Their language was incendiary and reflected a clear bias. Learning of these totally inappropriate back-and-forths, Mueller promptly canned Strzok last summer. Not good enough for Trumpists who were now saying that Mueller’s investigation either had to be shut down, or subject to a probe by a new special prosecutor.
Where are we now?
Earlier today, The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), convened to interrogate Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as to where he stood on ending the Mueller investigation or, alternatively, putting it under a microscope.
Chairman Goodlatte began by essentially confronting Rosenstein with the aforementioned narrative aimed at compromising Mueller one way or another. It came close to being a “guilty until proven” innocent opening statement (1). Rosenstein, unruffled and deliberate made it clear that the work of any SP cannot be terminated based on dark suspicions and conjecture. In the same vein, he asserted that SPs get appointed when there is sufficient evidence to make that justified. At that juncture, Representative Gerald Nadler (D-NY) asked the Deputy AG if anything like that presently existed. He received an unequivocal “no” in reply.
As matters now stand, here is what 45’s supporters must prove: (1) That Mueller knew of Styrzok’s bias but put him on the team anyway; (2) Strzok brought his bias to bear in his work as a SP team member with the result that (3) the guilty pleas and indictments secured by Mueller were obtained by corrupted means with the result that four innocent people none the less found themselves in legal jeopardy.
What to expect
The odds are very much against conservatives being able to marshal the sort of evidence needed to meet any one of the three criteria cited immediately above. As they try, expect them to pound mercilessly on their narrative which is now reverberating throughout the conservative media echo chamber. If nothing else, this could eventually provide “cover” for House Republicans to vote down any forthcoming bills of impeachment, and/or Trump’s firing of Mueller.
The crisis we are already in is likely to get worse. In the event that it does, we will be witness to how Congressional Republicans behave: Will it be party over country or the other way around?
1. Pounding away on a treadmill this AM, your blogger got to witness this hearing.