In the latest shocker from Washington involving Donald Trump’s apparent efforts to obstruct investigations into his 2016 campaign’s possible dealings with Russia, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, acting on behalf of his self-recused boss, Jeff Sessions, announced the appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to look into this very issue. As the Washington Post reports:
Under the order signed Wednesday by Rosenstein, Mueller is tasked with investigating “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump’’ as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation’’ and any other matters that fall under the scope of the Justice Department regulation covering special counsel appointments.
“If the special counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate, the special counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters,’’ the order states.
There is no question that Mueller is a credible figure to serve as special counsel, as the New York Times explains:
Mr. Mueller is viewed by members of both parties as one of the most credible law enforcement officials in the country. He served both Democratic and Republican presidents, from 2001 to 2013, and was asked by President Barack Obama to stay on beyond the normal 10-year term until Mr. Comey was appointed.
He’s also viewed as a Comey ally, which means he is very unlikely to throw his successor under any bus.
So why did the administration, which seemed as recently as this morning ready to stonewall any investigation and blame the whole brouhaha on a media and/or Democratic and/or “deep state” conspiracy, come to this juncture so quickly?
It could be that Rosenstein, for whatever reason, blindsided Sessions and Trump, as ABC’s Jonathan Karl suggests:
Or it could be that public opinion showed no support for stonewalling. A new CNN/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday showed 78 percent of respondents favoring an independent counsel or commission to investigate the Trump-Russia allegations.
Or it could even be that Team Trump has belatedly realized the smoke is worse than the fire, and that cover-up and obstruction of investigations are more perilous to the president than whatever he and his people actually did to start this whole saga.