Republicans Push for End to Mueller Probe As Investigation Prepared to Enter Second Year
Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel to investigate connections between the Trump campaign and Russia is celebrating its first anniversary. For Republicans, the idea that the investigation is still perking after a year is simply another reason to attack Mueller. But the truth is that the Mueller investigation has barely gotten started.
On June 30, 1994, after just six months of investigating, special investigator Robert Fiske sent Congress a preliminary report. That report found that there was no evidence either Bill or Hillary Clinton had interfered in the Resolution Trust Corporation’s dealings with Whitewater, and agreed with police findings that Vincent Foster had committed suicide. Republicans reacted by insisting that someone else be put in charge of the investigation. In the end, it took three special investigator/independent counsels and 2,223 days between when the investigation was opened and when the final report was issued.
Iran-Contra had a similarly long history. The information on Reagan’s weapons-for-hostages deal didn’t leak until November 1986—which was when new NRA president Oliver North spent a week systematically destroying documents that detailed the actions of the Reagan White House. A special review board was formed under former Sen. John Tower that month, and independent counsel Lawrence Walsh was appointed a month later. The Tower Commission report came out in a matter of weeks, but it was 11 indictments and 2,420 days later before Walsh delivered his final report—almost four years after Reagan left office.
While Republicans fret that the Mueller investigation may still be going on during the midterm elections and point out that it has cost almost as much money as seemed to have poured into Michael Cohen’s nonexistent consulting firm, it’s Democrats who should be worried. Because if the Mueller investigation follows the history of previous investigations into White House misconduct, it’s unlikely that anything coming from the special counsel’s office will arrive soon enough to shorten Trump’s time in office.
And the one thing that could change both of those facts—the action that could shorten both the investigation and send moving vans to the White House—is exactly what Republicans are doing: attack the investigation and try and force a conclusion.
At a distance of decades, it’s difficult to get across just how bad Iran-Contra actually was. There was the selling weapons to terrorists, the illegal secret negotiations, and the insane position of sending U.S. diplomats out to press allies into imposing an arms embargo on Iran at the same time that the U.S. was delivering crates of those same weapons to Iran. There was every aspect of obstruction from shredding documents—including a signed presidential authorization—and obvious lies and distortions by everyone from Reagan on down. And there was a birthday cake and a Bible.
But Reagan served every day of his two terms, and went right ahead with passing tax bills that rewarded the rich and gathering acclaim for international events that had little or nothing to do with his actions.
Were Donald Trump, Devin Nunes, Mark Meadows, and the rest of the gruntle-free crew that is planning to go “to war” with the Mueller investigation willing to simply ignore it, it’s likely Mueller would continue moving along, indictments would keep coming down, and Trump could continue being Trump. Except for that part where Trump is unable to withstand even the smallest slight without lashing out in fits of rage.
Which may be part of why, as the Washington Post reports, Mueller is actually moving much faster than any similar investigation.
“This has moved at a lightning speed,” said Christopher Ruddy, a Trump friend and chief executive of Newsmax. “They’re not messing around. They’re going very quickly. The number of indictments, pleas and other moves is just amazing. I think it will come to a head quicker than other investigations.”
Trump’s aggressive stance toward the investigation, and Republicans’ increasing willingness to go along with those attacks, is a likely factor in the pace at which the investigation is moving. It’s clear that Mueller is still being careful and deliberate. The recent revelations around Michael Cohen show that Mueller knew about the shell company founded by Trump’s personal attorney months ago, and knew just who had been adding funds to what looks very much like an all-purpose slush fund for Trump.
If Republicans press too hard, they risk finding out what Mueller knows now … now.