In a stunning development, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has appointed a Special Counsel to take over the Trump-Russia investigation, in line with what Democrats (and recently even some Republicans) had been demanding. In an even more stunning development, Rosenstein has chosen widely respected former FBI Director Robert Mueller as the Special Counsel. There’s not an ounce of hyperbole in saying that this is the best news possible for those who oppose Trump, and the worst new possible if you are Trump.
First, this means that Rod Rosenstein has officially chosen a side. He took heavy criticism for his role in Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, and according to various reports, he was so upset about how Trump handled it, he had threatened to resign. But instead of quitting his job, Rosenstein decided to hand off the investigation to someone whom Trump can’t directly control.
Second, Robert Mueller is a respected retired U.S. intelligence community leader who has worked under Presidents of both parties but who saw his biggest promotion under a Republican President, George W. Bush. This means it will be difficult for any Republicans in Congress to cast doubt on Mueller’s fairness if the investigation has a negative outcome for Donald Trump. Mueller is also an old colleague of James Comey, whom Trump just fired. This serves to twist the knife as that firing continues to backfire against Trump.
Third, “Special Counsel” is merely the legal term for what the rest of us would commonly refer to as “Special Prosecutor.” In other words, Mueller is the Special Prosecutor that the anti-Trump Resistance has been demanding. For those who had been demanding an “Independent Counsel,” it’s important to understand that there’s no such thing and hasn’t been for decades, since the relevant statute expired. So getting a Special Counsel is the best possible scenario under the law. Although Rosenstein could theoretically fire Mueller, he won’t – and Trump himself cannot fire Mueller.
Fourth, Rod Rosenstein’s decision to hand this off to a Special Counsel is a telling one. Yes, he was under political and public pressure to do so. But consider this: he’s seen the Trump-Russia case from the inside. If the evidence pointed to Donald Trump not being guilty of anything serious, he could have opted to see the investigation to its conclusion on his own, and then point to the exonerating evidence to explain why Trump was let off the hook. Instead, Rosenstein is handing this off to someone who will have broader powers. This strongly suggests that Rosenstein knows Trump is guilty.
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Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report