One of the weirdest things about the Mueller investigation is the selectiveness with which recusals and conflicts of interests are demanded among it’s players.
Take Jeff Sessions, for example. He had what turned out to be a fairly normal meeting with the Russian ambassador prior to the inauguration. That meeting had no provable connection with “Russian interference” or anything that ended up being part of the counter intel investigation that eventually morphed into the Robert Mueller investigation. Despite this, the cries for recusal were deafening and he quickly capitulated.
Whether he should have or whether it was proper for him to do so without giving the President a chance to pull his nomination (he first committed to recusal during his hearings before confirmation) is an argument for another day.
Regardless, what constitutes a conflict of interest has been somewhat of been a moving target throughout this entire ordeal. Since Sessions recused, we’ve run across several fairly obvious conflicts of interest which the media, Democrats, and neverTrump right apparently see no issue in. To even suggest them as problems is to draw ire from those who see it as sacrilege to question anything dealing with Robert Mueller’s probe.
One of those in question is Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. If you’ll recall, Rod Rosenstein wrote a memo recommending the firing of James Comey. That firing was later used as the justification for the special counsel appointed by none other than Rod Rosenstein.
Donald Trump helped that along by running his mouth about the “Trump/Russia thing” to Lester Holt. No one can deny that. Yet, that doesn’t really absolve Rod Rosenstein of his conflicts.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a big supporter of Robert Mueller and his probe by the way, had this to say.
“If you’re looking at obstruction of justice misconduct post-presidency, the Comey firing as being a form of obstruction of justice, then Rosenstein is a key witness in that and you can’t be a witness and oversee the investigation,” Graham told reporters on Tuesday.
Graham’s comments come after he sent Rosenstein a letter, dated from late last month, questioning his role overseeing the investigation into Russia’s election interference and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
Graham noted in the letter that it has been “widely reported” that Mueller’s probe also includes investigating if President TrumpÂ obstructed the Russia investigation by firing Comey.
“Do you consider yourself a potential witness in the Mueller investigation regarding the firing of Director Comey by President Trump?” Graham asked in the letter. If the answer is yes, Graham then asked if Rosenstein believes he should step back from the Mueller probe.
There are actually two factors at play here (the latter of which is consistently ignored but we’ll deal with that later).
The first is what Graham says in his comments. Rosenstein recommended the firing of Comey. Irregardless of Trump’s reasoning for it, Rosenstein is indisputably a witness to the events surrounding the firing, including being one of the people who prompted the firing (even if only partially providing the cause used). There’s noway you can legitimately conclude an obstruction investigation surrounding the firing of James Comey without questioning Rod Rosenstein.
Yet, he’s running the investigation?
Sessions had to recuse himself for a completely unrelated meeting with a Russian ambassador from anything that even has the word Russia in it but there’s no conflict here with Rosenstein? If that makes no sense to you, you aren’t alone.
“He’s a fine man, very ethical, good guy, but we’re going to play this thing straight,” Graham said. “Here’s the question for Rosenstein, if you’re going to be a fact witness as to why Comey was fired, how do you stay involved?”
Maybe that’s true? I’ll admit that it gets a little tiring seeing people praised as ethical when we really have no idea how ethical they are. The point made by Graham is still prudent though. Rosenstein is no doubt a fact witness. How can he remain in charge of an investigation he’s party to?
Let’s even throw the obstruction true believers a bone here. If you think Comey’s firing was obstruction of justice, did Rosenstein purposely help provide cover for the act with his letter of recommendation? Rosenstein could conceivably be a target of the investigation he’s running.
Moving past those questions, the second factor at play deals with more than just Rosenstein . That would be all the tangled prior relationships we see among those leading this investigation.
It’s an objective fact that Robert Mueller has a close relationship with James Comey. They not only worked together for years side by side, they were self-described friends. How can a special counsel truly be “independent” when the most important figure in the obstruction investigation is good friends and a longtime colleague of the special counsel himself?
As a thought experiment let’s put aside any dislike for Trump that may drive your certainty of the righteousness of Mueller’s investigation for a moment.
Now, try to imagine you are being investigated for a crime and the chief witness against you has a provable, close relationship with the lead prosecutor. Would you feel confident there would be no bias in your prosecution? Maybe I’m just crazy, but that would really bother me and make me question the fairness of the proceedings.
Rosenstein himself also had a long time relationship with James Comey. Does he feel any loyalty to Comey in his pursuit of this investigation? I don’t know, but the possibility is strong enough that it’s worth caring about.
I’ve posited this question for a while about Robert Mueller. Out of the thousands of qualified people they could of chosen to run an investigation that’s intertwined with the FBI and actions taken against James Comey, why chose someone who’s so closely tied to the FBI and James Comey? We really couldn’t find one person who’s got no connections to those entities to lead it?
There’s a reason there’s so much distrust over this and that 53% of Americans say Mueller’s probe is politically biased. In reality, Mueller could be a saint, but the appearances are bad enough that several of the key players here shouldn’t be involved for that reason alone.