“With the stroke of a pen, Rod Rosenstein redeemed his reputation,” writes Dana Milbank of the Washington Post.
What had Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein done to be welcomed home by the Post like the prodigal son?
Without consulting the White House, he sandbagged President Trump, naming a special counsel to take over the investigation of the Russia connection that could prove ruinous to this presidency.
Rod has reinvigorated a tired 10-month investigation that failed to find any collusion between Trump and Russian hacking of the DNC. Not a single indictment had come out of the FBI investigation.
Yet, now a new special counsel, Robert Mueller, former director of the FBI, will slow-walk his way through this same terrain again, searching for clues leading to potentially impeachable offenses. What seemed to be winding down for Trump is now only just beginning to gear up.
Also to be investigated is whether the president tried to curtail the FBI investigation with his phone calls and Oval Office meetings with FBI Director James Comey, before abruptly firing Comey last week.
Regarded as able and honest, Mueller will be under media pressure to come up with charges. Great and famous prosecutors are measured by whom they convict and how many scalps they take.
Moreover, a burgeoning special counsel’s office dredging up dirt on Trump and associates will find itself the beneficiary of an indulgent press.
Why did Rosenstein capitulate to a Democrat-media clamor for a special counsel that could prove disastrous for the president who elevated and honored him?
Surely in part, as Milbank writes, to salvage his damaged reputation.
After being approved 94-6 by a Senate that hailed him as a principled and independent U.S. attorney for both George Bush and Barack Obama, Rosenstein found himself being pilloried for preparing the document White House aides called crucial to Trump’s decision to fire Comey.
Rosenstein had gone over to the dark side. He had, it was said, on Trump’s orders, put the hit on Comey. Now, by siccing a special counsel on the president himself, Rosenstein is restored to the good graces of this city. Rosenstein just turned in his black hat for a white hat.
Democrats are hailing both his decision to name a special counsel and the man he chose. Yet it is difficult to exaggerate the damage he has done.
As did almost all of its predecessors, including those which led to the resignation of President Nixon and impeachment of Bill Clinton, Mueller’s investigation seems certain to drag on for years.
All that time, there will be a cloud over Trump’s presidency that will drain his political authority. Trump’s enemies will become less fearful and more vocal. Republican congressmen and senators in swing states and marginal districts, looking to 2018, will have less incentive to follow Trump’s lead, rather than their own instincts and interests. Party unity will fade away.
And without a united and energized Republican Party on the Hill, how do you get repeal and replacement of Obamacare, tax reform or a border wall? Trump’s agenda suddenly seems comatose. And was it a coincidence that the day Mueller was appointed, the markets tanked, with the Dow falling 372 points?
Markets had soared with Trump’s election on the expectation that his pro-business agenda would be enacted. If those expectations suddenly seem illusory, will the boom born of hope become a bust?
A White House staff, said to be in disarray, and a president reportedly enraged over endless press reports of his problems and falling polls, are not going to become one big happy family again with a growing office of prosecutors and FBI agents poking into issues in which they were involved.
Nor is the jurisdiction of the special counsel restricted to alleged Russia interference in the campaign. Allegations about Trump’s taxes, investments and associates, and those of his family, could be drawn into the maw of the special counsel’s office by political and business enemies enthusiastic about seeing him brought down.
More folks in Trump’s entourage will soon be lawyering up.
While it’s absurd today to talk of impeachment, that will not deter Democrats and the media from speculating, given what happened to Nixon and Clinton when special prosecutors were put on their trail.
Another consequence of the naming of a special counsel, given what such investigations have produced, will be that Vice President Pence will soon find himself with new friends and admirers, and will begin to attract more press as the man of the future in the GOP.
A rising profile for Pence is unlikely to strengthen his relationship with a besieged president.
In the United Kingdom, the odds are growing that Trump may not finish his term.
So how does he regain the enthusiasm and energy he exhibited in previous crises, with such talk in the air?
A debilitating and potentially dangerous time for President Trump has now begun, courtesy of his deputy attorney general.