Who investigates the investigators?
Bloomberg reports that special counsel Robert Mueller expanded his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to include “examining a broad range of transactions involving [Donald] Trump’s businesses as well as his associates.” The transactions not only involve “associates” but, in some cases, date back a decade. The deals include Russians buying apartments in Trump-owned buildings and the sale of pricey Florida real estate to a rich Russian in 2008.
Why not also subpoena disgruntled former USFL players angry at the Donald’s role in the league’s demise to testify?
Mueller’s initial purpose, examining allegations of the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election, now yields to a wider probe into the president’s business practices dating back a decade.
In a glass-half-empty interpretation, a special counsel unbound by external constraints who takes too much stock in the word “special” and not enough counsel certainly means more headaches for the president. The glass-half-full take interprets the broadening investigation as a tacit admission that Mueller found no evidence of collusion.
One with a plate overflowing with herring does not embark on a fishing expedition.
Joseph diGenova, the special counsel, tasked with looking into Bush 1 Administration figures improperly pulling Bill Clinton’s passport file during the 1992 campaign, says he hopes the Bloomberg report isn’t true and isn’t sure what to make of it if it is true.
“I do not know what Mueller’s doing,” di Genova tells The American Spectator. “I cannot tell from his public actions what he is doing and why he is doing it. I will say that the optics of hiring almost entirely Democrats who gave money to Hillary Clinton is naïve and does a disservice to the mission.… I think his well-known professional and personal relationship with James Comey presents another problem as far as optics.”
When mission creep besets an investigation, the mission tends to get creepy. Rifling through old real-estate deals and tabulating the nationalities of Trump Tower tenants might discredit the president. A more likely outcome involves it discrediting those discrediting him. How, precisely, does any of this relate to a computer hack of the Democratic National Committee?
Like all conspiracy theories, tying a Russian buying a condo from you to the Kremlin buying the White House for you requires a really good flow chart to explain. Eyes glaze over for all but the shiny eyed.
DiGenova faults the amorphous mandate presented to the special counsel and the president for granting an ill-advised interview with NBC’s Lester Holt that helped catalyze the inquiry. But ultimately the power to focus the investigation lies with Mueller. Particularly after hiring so many of the opposition, Muller needs to show that he runs something more professional than a standing opposition research committee.
“The mission creep is the responsibility of the individual independent counsel,” di Genova tells The American Spectator. “If someone asks you to expand the investigation, you can say no, and in all likelihood, you should.”
Should the investigation switch emphasis from campaign collusion with a foreign power to real-estate deals with individual Russians, fair-minded people immune from partisanship likely don’t fall for the Jedi Mind Trick. After all, these were not the deeds they were looking for.
Speculation arises as to whether a catchall investigation might lead to Mueller’s undoing. DiGenova thinks not, at least in the way others imagine it.
“I think he does understand he can fire the special counsel,” the former independent counsel says of Trump. “I don’t expect him to do that. I think it’s more likely that he pardons everybody.”