The chronic national inflammation that is contemporary partisan politics manifests itself in many ways. One symptom of the malady is some Democrats’ jumped-to conclusion that President Trump colluded with Russia during last year’s elections. And another, more recent, one is some Republicans’ baseless attack on Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Mr. Mueller served as a captain during the Vietnam War, earning the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, and was George W. Bush’s appointee to head the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Earlier this year, he was appointed by President Trump’s Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to serve as special counsel to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and any Americans who may have participated in it.
The investigation currently overseen by Mr. Mueller has been hastily pronounced of late by some as corrupt, based on the fact that one of the special counsel’s top investigators, Peter Strzok, was revealed to have sent another F.B.I. agent text messages critical of Mr. Trump during last year’s presidential contest, when Mr. Strzok was part of the F.B.I. investigation at the time of the campaign. In his e-mails, Mr. Strzok, who described himself as a “conservative Dem,” demeaned Mr. Trump and wrote of his fear that, should the Republican candidate win the election, he would politicize the F.B.I. “I’m scared for our organization,” he wrote.
F.B.I. agents are permitted to have, and even to privately express, personal political opinions. And F.B.I. officials who worked directly with Mr. Strzok on last year’s presidential campaign investigation said they never detected any sign of bias in his investigative work. Still and all, objections to a strong critic of President Trump being part of the current special investigation, which has already snared several people with erstwhile White House connections and could conceivably come to touch the president himself, are reasonable.
Also reasonable, though, and entirely responsible, was Mr. Mueller’s swift and decisive response to the disclosure of the text messages: He immediately removed Mr. Strzok from the investigation.
That fact itself should shield the Special Counsel from criticism. The current investigation involves many people, and the most an overseer can be expected to do should credible evidence of some possible lack of objectivity on the part of a particular individual be presented is demonstrate alacrity. Mr. Mueller did precisely that, and should be commended, not condemned, as he has been by some.
Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein told the House Judiciary Committee last week that he has seen no reason to consider Mr. Mueller’s investigation tainted in any way. “I can assure you,” he said, “that the special counsel is conducting himself consistently with our understanding about the scope of his investigation.”
Asked by the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Jerry Nadler, if he has seen any cause to fire Mueller, Rosenstein responded, simply and without hesitation: “No.”
Then, asked if he was afraid of President Trump firing him, he replied just as clearly: “No I’m not.” Mr. Rosenstein also praised Mr. Mueller for his work in the special counsel office, saying that “based on his reputation, his service, his patriotism, and his experience with the department and with the F.B.I., I believe he was an ideal choice for this task.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who is running one of three congressional inquiries looking at aspects of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, also defended Mr. Mueller, saying he has “confidence in [him], as far as what he’s doing in the Trump-Russia investigation, and I don’t have any reason to believe otherwise.”
And speaking of having no reason to believe otherwise, that well describes President Trump’s repeated insistence that, no matter what communications some of those who for a time served his administration may have had with Russians, there was no collusion between him or his campaign with representatives of Russia. To date, no evidence of any such activity, let alone any illegal acts, has been put forth.
And so, both the assumption of such collusion by people who dislike the president and the assumption that Mr. Mueller’s investigation is biased are nothing more than disturbing examples of mindless partisanship. All the facts about the presidential campaign and election will come out in due time, and that time will not be far in the future. Absent any sound evidence thus far of either the president’s wrongdoing or the special counsel’s bias, reasonable and responsible citizens should not make assumptions, and instead await the presentation of actual facts.