Published by The Lawfare Institute
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The news is out that Rod Rosenstein has appointed Bob Mueller as a special counsel to investigate the Russia affair. It is an excellent choice, a credit to both Rod and Bob.
I have known Mueller for a long time–he ran the Criminal Division when I joined the Justice Department in 1992 as a brand new lawyer, and years later when I ran the National Security Division at DOJ, I spent many mornings with him when he was FBI Director reviewing the overnight threat intelligence at the FBI’s SIOC. Mueller is experienced, knowledgeable, capable. He is utterly incorruptible. He cannot be intimidated. At this stage in his career, he has nothing to prove, no reputation to burnish, no axe to grind. He is ramrod straight in his integrity, and the DOJ press release notes that he has resigned from his law firm, Wilmer Hale, which represents Jared Kushner and perhaps others in or close to the Trump family, “to avoid any conflicts of interest.”
The scope of the investigation seems appropriate. The core scope as defined in Rosenstein’s order is to “conduct the investigation confirmed by then-FBI Director James B. Comey in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 20, 2017.” Here is how Comey described the scope of the investigation at that hearing:
I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.
The appointment order also expressly authorizes Mueller to investigate “(i) any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and (ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and (iii) any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).” Section 600.4(a) refers to “federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, the Special Counsel’s investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses.”
Bob Mueller is a public servant of the highest order. The last few days have been tumultuous, but his appointment makes me feel better about our country.