At the risk of sounding rude, can we demand that talking heads and yelling yahoos shrieking about special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia-related investigation just shut their yaps for now?
The rushing to verdicts, the jumping to conclusions, the hyper-spin, and breathless breast-beating: All of it is too much, too soon, too uninformed, and too entirely irresponsible.
The truth, aside from the narrow facts included in the actual, discrete indictments filed against Paul Manafort and two others, is that we really don’t know where Mueller’s investigation is going. We don’t know whether the investigation itself is compromised, or whether it is virtually the Lord’s own work, or something in between. We don’t know whether it means curtains for President Trump or exonerates him, or neither. And we don’t know whether Mueller’s team is pursuing anything having to do with the Clintons or Uranium One.
We don’t know, and what we don’t know, we should just shut up about.
Yet all week long, Trumpies have been yelling that these narrow indictments show that Trump and his close advisers did nothing wrong or that the paucity of the charges show there was no good reason to appoint Mueller in the first place or — well, insert your own example of Sean Hannity-style Trump toadyism.
On the other side, all week long, the old establishment media and purveyors of conventional wisdom-cum-idiocy have been pronouncing the developments horrid for Trump, and asserting that Trump is morally guilty already just because he hired Manafort — or whatever other nonsense their fondest anti-Trump dreams can conjure up.
Hence these dueling headlines at RealClearPolitics: "Mueller is unraveling Russian meddling. Let him finish his job" versus "Mueller is running amok." Or: "Still no Trump-Russia ‘collusion,’ but Clinton looks guilty." And also, "Mueller’s thin gruel."
And on and on and on.
Almost all of this is speculation. Almost none is well-informed. Much of it shows near-complete obliviousness to how actual criminal investigations work.
(A few rare exceptions do pop up. At National Review, for example, Andrew McCarthy sticks to a careful legal analysis of the case actually presented – at least until the final, perhaps unnecessary paragraph.)
Almost every opinion offered has been utterly predictable based on the opinionators’ pre-existing partisan or ideological affiliations. There’s no discernible one-degree-removed disinterestedness, not even a pretense of objectivity, but just cultish talking points. “Mueller is a corrupt Democratic shill!” “Trump is morally culpable even for hiring Manafort, and he should be impeached!”
The next thing you know, either Trump or Mueller will be Beelzebub incarnate.
Even the usually careful editorial board of the Wall Street Journal weighed in, even before the Manafort indictment, with the ludicrously premature call for Mueller to resign in large part because “for years he worked closely with [later FBI Director James] Comey.” This is part and parcel of the sheer shibboleth that Mueller and Comey are somehow personally close in a way that would impugn the objectivity of Mueller’s investigation.
Give us a break. There are plenty of people in all walks of life who are professional colleagues but hardly friendly; and in the rarified air of top Justice Department officials, almost everybody qualified to actually do the job of special counsel would also be disqualified under the Wall Street Journal’s standards because of substantial professional dealings with somebody else related to the probe.
This is rubbish. It also happens to rely on a wrong assumption: I am reliably told that Mueller and Comey are not personally close at all.
Despite all the fulminations of the Trump cultists, the editors of National Review had it right in their first response to the Manafort indictment: “[T]here is nothing to suggest yet that Mueller is abusing his power.” On the other hand, it is equally absurd for the usually levelheaded, but uber-Beltwayed CNN analyst Chris Cillizza to vociferate that Monday’s indictments “amount to something close to a cataclysm for the Trump administration.”
Really? Indictee George Papadopoulos was about as low-level an “aide” to Trump as can be imagined. The indictments against Manafort and Richard Gates involve activities a full year before Trump ever hired them, having nothing to do with the Trump campaign. Nothing yet comes close to implicating Trump or his close associates.
To repeat, we just don’t know where all this is leading. But we know that until Trumpies started attacking him, Mueller was one of the most respected men, by bipartisan agreement, in the entire justice community.
How about just sitting back and letting Mueller do his job, rather than shouting ignorant declarations from any rooftop onto which some ill-informed pundit can climb?
Quin Hillyer (@QuinHillyer) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a former associate editorial page editor for the Washington Examiner.
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