The Mueller probe has become too big

Trump should be defeated in the ballot box, not the witness box.

Luke Gittos
Columnist

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Topics Politics USA

‘Mueller is coming.’ So said a widely circulated meme, depicting US special counsel Robert Mueller’s head on the body of Sean Bean leaning on a sword. The meme referenced Game of Thrones and the show’s tagline: ‘Winter is Coming.’

The Mueller probe is purportedly an investigation into interference by Russian agents in the 2016 presidential election. But it has a very broad remit. For many Democrats, it has become the golden ticket to ending Donald Trump’s presidency – particularly after the Midterms, which failed to deliver the ‘Blue Wave’ they expected.

But now there are fears Trump could derail the Mueller investigation. The day after the Midterms, Trump fired his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. In March last year, Sessions recused himself from the inquiry after his undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador were revealed. Trump was furious with Sessions for failing to use his position to shield him from the probe but waited until last week to force his resignation.

Trump has now appointed Matthew Whitaker in his place. Whitaker is widely seen as a Trump ally. In a meeting with The Donald, Whitaker reportedly ‘nodded approvingly’ when Trump said that Mueller’s remit had become too wide.

Whitaker’s appointment bypassed the normal rules of succession, which say that the most senior Senate-confirmed officer at the Justice Department should take over when an attorney general leaves. It has led to ‘Save Mueller’ protests taking place across the US. One Democratic representative called the appointment the president’s most ‘direct challenge yet’ to the rule of law. Democrats are now threatening to pass emergency legislation to prevent Whitaker from interfering with the investigation.

These events are worrying for two reasons. First, a president should not be able to interfere with an investigation into their own misconduct. No one should be above the law. Trump should not be able to bypass proper scrutiny through nepotism. Some say the appointment was unconstitutional as it circumvented the Senate. If it is shown to be unconstitutional, it should not stand.

But it is also concerning that the Mueller investigation has become a stand-in for political opposition to Trump. In the aftermath of the Midterms, Democrats are still waiting for the bombshell revelation that could derail Trump’s presidency. They have celebrated taking control of the House of Representatives by repeatedly pointing out that they now had the power to subpoena documents and witnesses to support the Mueller investigation and to launch new probes into the president’s affairs.

Of course, Mueller should be able to investigate robustly. But an investigation is a poor substitute for political opposition. Trump’s critics are relying too much on the law. Besides, there is little evidence that the probe is of much interest to the general public. The more Democrats obsess over the internal machinations of the Mueller probe, the less time they will have to formulate a political project to win over Trump voters in 2020. ‘Mueller is coming’ – but so is a presidential election. Ultimately, Trump has to be defeated in the ballot box, not the witness box.

Luke Gittos is a spiked columnist and author of Why Rape Culture is a Dangerous Myth: From Steubenville to Ched Evans. (Buy this book from Amazon(UK).

Picture by: Getty.