Mueller probe nears the Oval Office
The Russia investigation appeared to be zeroing in this week on a possible obstruction case against President Trump, as reports indicated that special counsel Robert Mueller is seeking to interview the president in the coming weeks about his decisions to oust former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former FBI Director James Comey. Mueller’s investigators questioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions for several hours last week—the first time one of Trump’s Cabinet members has been interviewed in the probe—and questioned Comey last year about memos he wrote detailing private conversations he’d had with Trump that unnerved him. Trump said this week he would be willing to speak to Mueller under oath; his lawyers are reportedly negotiating the terms of the interview.
Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress ratcheted up their attacks on Mueller’s investigation, calling for the release of a secret memo that allegedly shows grave misdeeds by the FBI. The four-page classified document, written by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and House Intelligence Committee staff, reportedly claims the FBI obtained a secret warrant to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page based on information from the so-called Steele dossier, which was paid for by the Democratic National Committee. Nunes, a stalwart Trump ally, has circulated the memo among Republican lawmakers but has refused to share it with the FBI. Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, dismissed the memo as “profoundly misleading” and “rife with factual inaccuracies.”
What the columnists said
Nunes and company are desperately offering up vague conspiracy theories in an attempt to paint the FBI and Mueller as “anti-Trump partisans,” said Albert Hunt in Bloomberg.com. “It’s feeble stuff.” Besides their frenzied #ReleasetheMemo campaign, Republicans have been ranting about five months’ worth of missing text messages from an FBI agent on Mueller’s team caught bad-mouthing Trump. The agent was promptly fired from the investigation, but that hardly matters to the president’s apologists. They are in overdrive to discredit Mueller’s investigation just as it appears to be reaching its climax.
It’s become impossible to deny that there may be “widespread and systematic corruption, obstruction, leaking, and collusion” inside the FBI, said Mollie Hemingway in TheFederalist.com. There have been “startling” revelations in recent weeks that federal agents “improperly used spy powers” to set the Russia investigation into motion, conveniently lost potentially incriminating texts, and weaponized federal agencies to pursue their political enemies. “If the results of the Mueller investigation are to be taken seriously, these questions have to be addressed.”
I’m sticking with my “wait-and-see approach,” said Jonah Goldberg in NationalReview.com. The Left seems convinced that Trump “is indeed a foreign agent,” and the Right is muttering darkly about a vast Deep State plot to overthrow him. Let’s all calm down and wait for Mueller to make his case. No one’s overreacting, said Josh Marshall in TalkingPointsMemo.com. We learned this week that current FBI Director Christopher Wray threatened to resign because Trump and Sessions were putting so much pressure on him to purge the bureau of Comey loyalists. Our laws are not equipped to withstand these kinds of assaults on our political norms. “Where this will lead is not at all clear.”