Here’s how Trump can end the whole Mueller investigation farce

By Robert Charles


Special Counsel Robert Mueller seems determined to press forward with some version of the Spanish Inquisition – an increasingly indefensible, apparently groundless, objectively debilitating inquiry into what was initially one question: Did the Trump campaign knowingly coordinate with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election?

Barring something that has remained hidden for more than 20 months, Americans know the facts: Mueller’s inquisition was triggered by several Obama-Clinton partisans, including anti-Trump appointees at the FBI and CIA.

The names of these partisans now trigger nausea: Fired FBI Director James Comey; former CIA Director John Brennan; former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe; disgraced FBI Agent Peter Strzok (whose firing was announced Monday); former FBI lawyer Lisa Page (who was carrying on an extramarital affair with Strzok); and several others.

Even the story line is now nauseating. Comey, despite holding clearances as head of the FBI, contradicted himself before Congress, leaked documents through a secret cutout, proudly triggered Mueller’s appointment, and then cashed in with a big-money book.

Brennan traded his role as intelligence briefer in President Clinton’s White House for political gain in President Obama’s. When he ran the CIA he fed partisan anti-Trump information to the FBI, possibly circumventing U.S. laws by procuring foreign involvement. By some reports, he may have even sought to legally block Trump’s inauguration.

This increasingly baseless, meandering, delegitimized inquisition is not only distracting, discouraging and a dangerous drag on democracy – exactly what Russia, China and Iran want – but it does no one any good.

Clapper, already famous for misleading Congress under oath, became another vocal anti-Trump detractor.

Then Andrew McCabe, No. 2 at the FBI under Comey, turned out to be a subterranean anti-Trump partisan, who was reproached by the Justice Department’s inspector general for breach of integrity.

And as for Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, despite FBI employment and centrality to an “investigation” clearing Hillary Clinton, both were prolific anti-Trump texting partners and made it clear that they did not want to see him become president.

The saga rivals a Shakespearean tragedy, and has frankly made average Americans disgusted. It now threatens to darken America’s midterm elections – exactly what the Russians have wanted, we know now.

So I have a recommendation for ending the tragedy before our country is consumed by this third-rate play, an ever-widening, seemingly unlimited inquiry into everything and anything that could possibly justify more authority, taxpayer dollars, distraction, time and the civil disruption. After all, that is what baseless inquisitions always do. This recommendation may save the nation from more mutual recrimination and civil unrest.

Clearly, Mueller wants to build a case for impeachment, despite every indication that there is no evidence to support the cause. He wants to compel an incriminating presidential deposition, trap President Trump into a contradiction to warrant obstruction of justice charges, and use that as a pretext to help partisan Democrats in Congress lead a fight to impeach the president.

It seems that Mueller wants to turn his team into heroes of the left – like Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame – by bringing down a Republican president. Who knows, maybe Mueller envisions an aging Robert Redford (who played Woodward in the film “All the President’s Men” in 1976) coming out of his recently-announced retirement to play him on the silver screen.

It’s time to bring this drama – or perhaps we should call it a farce – to a close. To end this inquiry, President Trump may need to step up, and not on Twitter. That’s because the Mueller probe is down to a game of chicken over whether to subpoena the president’s personal testimony – a risky course both for the president and for Mueller’s team.

If President Trump resists an open-ended deposition and Mueller seeks one by subpoena anyway, Mueller could lose at the Supreme Court. This would probably force the winding down of the special counsel’s unruly inquisition, and possibly tip public sentiment toward the president.

However, if Mueller gambles on the subpoena and wins, everything goes the other way. The president is forced to testify with fewer limitations, Mueller is re-empowered, public opinion tips against the president.

Notably, the average American loses in both eventualities. If Mueller wins, we can expect a grueling deposition, more tricks and traps – and a messy, drawn out and ultimately useless impeachment confrontation.

If President Trump wins at the Supreme Court, Mueller’s inquisition is dealt a blow, but with no incentive for closure or resolution, just stalemate. Mueller’s resentment could rise and the inquiry could go on even longer.

There is a third way. If it is to work, it needs to happen now, without delay. President Trump could offer a credible, workable compromise – perhaps some sworn answers to written questions and an interview on limited topics.

To wait until the subpoena is issued is a dead end. President Nixon tried that, and failed miserably. Yes, circumstances were different, but the gamble becomes a debilitating distraction – and ends any chance of compromise.

After U.S. District Judge John Sirica upheld the subpoena of tapes that President Nixon secretly recorded of his Oval Office conversations – and the Supreme Court sided with Sirica – Nixon tried to compromise. He offered transcripts, verified by a Democratic senator. That might have worked before the subpoena, but the offer came too late.

Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox had won on the tapes subpoena, so Nixon’s compromise was useless. Cox declined the compromise and Nixon fired him in the “Saturday Night Massacre.” The rest is history. Confronting impeachment, Nixon resigned and was also nearly indicted, until President Ford pardoned him.

What is the lesson from this page out of the history books?

For Mueller and President Trump: Do not put our nation through any more of this inquisition mess, even if Republicans continue to control Congress, even if the Supreme Court is likely to side with the president on personal testimony, even if both sides think they could win.

This increasingly baseless, meandering, delegitimized inquisition is not only distracting, discouraging and a dangerous drag on democracy – exactly what Russia, China and Iran want – but it does no one any good.

Let’s find a way to end it, consistent with rule of law. To get to that end state, President Trump may need to compromise and so will Mueller. That outcome would be best for America. This is not medieval Spain circa 1478, but modern America 2018. Is that too much to ask?


Robert Charles is a former assistant secretary of state for President George W. Bush, former naval intelligence officer and litigator. He served in the Reagan and Bush 41 White Houses.  

Leave a reply