The “look over there!” strategy is becoming less effective with Americans.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian influence in U.S. elections is reaching a fever pitch, and the American public is ready for its answers. Voters are owed a complete accounting of any Russian interference that occurred around the 2016 election, as well as information about the ancillary cover-up. Mueller’s investigation is the way to achieve that. However, as the investigation gets closer to the Trump White House, the obvious coordinated attack from the president’s allies has escalated in an effort to distract and confuse.
Following the first domino – Michael Flynn’s indictment – Trump quickly lashed out at the investigation and the FBI, saying its reputation was “in tatters,” and his allies took their cue. In a coordinated move, the president’s lawyers, the right-wing media and the administration’s other surrogates took to the airwaves and op-ed pages.
They attempted to tarnish Mueller’s team because one of its FBI agents sent political texts, even though Mueller removed the agent from his team immediately after learning about the messages, showing that he runs a very tight ship. They have called for a “second special counsel” to oversee this special counsel, despite claiming that too much money is being spent on special investigations. They accused the Mueller team of improperly obtaining emails from Trump’s transition team, despite the fact that there is no legal basis for government email accounts to be private. The list goes on.
We’re becoming less tempted to “look over there,” because we can clearly see that Mueller is making progress, and we want the final answers. The American public is smart enough to recognize the distraction attempt for what it is: a manufactured storyline to create impropriety where there is none and to disrupt our rule of law.
Because of that, Americans are pushing back. More than 170,000 people in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., are ready to protest Mueller’s firing or other interference with his investigation. It’s a bright line for the country.
One trend of these pervasive attacks is that their perpetrators don’t focus on Mueller himself – as a long-time Republican, a George W. Bush appointee to run the FBI, a sterling prosecutor, and an investigator of unimpeachable record, he is much harder to undermine. So instead, the attacks are focused on everything around him, to try to undermine the credibility and any eventual findings of the investigation.
Voters aren’t going to let that happen, which is why they are banding together, and in the event of a Mueller firing or other actions designed to undermine the investigation, they will take to the streets. Sign-ups have surged in recent days at www.TrumpisNotAbovetheLaw.org to ward against a holiday week firing reminiscent of President Richard Nixon’s firing of the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate break-in.
The comparison to Watergate’s Saturday Night Massacre would be justified if Trump decides to undermine or impede any part of the investigation during the holiday break. Fortunately, it’s not that easy for Trump to fire Mueller. He would have to move through others at the U.S. Department of Justice DOJ (including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whom Trump mocked after this week’s testimony in the U.S. House Judiciary committee). That said, Trump has been known to be liberal in saying “you’re fired,” so we can’t take anything for granted.
To ensure the investigation’s safety and completion, members of Congress must do everything they can now. They can speak out, as 170 members of the House did last week in a letter to Rosenstein, and support two bipartisan proposals to protect the special counsel. Both bills would make it easier for the special counsel to challenge his removal.
Americans stand ready and focused. The smear attack is not working; if anything, it is firing up the staunch defense of Mueller. We are all staring in the right direction.