Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee grilled him, tried to throw him off balance and plowed and re-plowed the same ground over and over, but in the end they only demonstrated their own desperation and partisanship while giving Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein the opportunity to display his calm professionalism.
The Post reports:
“Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein defended special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in the face of critical questioning Wednesday from the House Judiciary Committee about whether bias might have infected Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
“Rosenstein said that he had not seen good cause to fire Mueller, and that although some members of the special counsel team had political views, that did not necessarily taint their work. He disputed that the probe is a ‘witch hunt,’ as President Trump has alleged.
”‘We recognize we have employees with political opinions. It’s our responsibility to make sure those opinions do not influence their actions,’ Rosenstein said. ’I believe that Director Mueller understands that and he is running his office appropriately.‴
What is evident is the degree to which Trump and his supporters are banking on discrediting the FBI and the special counsel, rather than rely on their findings to clear the president of any wrongdoing.
That’s not likely to succeed.
The Lawfare blog, using Google Surveys, found that “the average confidence rating for the FBI in this poll measured in at 3.34. That compares favorably to any other institution we poll on, save the military, which had an average confidence score of 3.78.” That means that “the FBI’s rating was notably higher than the next highest institution, the intelligence community more broadly, which had an average confidence measure of 3.04. Forty-seven percent of respondents give the FBI higher confidence ratings, either 4 or 5. And fully 74 percent repose at least some confidence in the Bureau — that is, give it at least a rating of 3. By contrast, only 26 percent give the FBI lower confidence ratings, that is a rating of only 1 or 2.”
By contrast, Trump’s approval rating is in the cellar, as he is considered by many voters to be dishonest and to have colluded with Russia. Trump may have Sean Hannity in his corner, but even in Alabama, Trump cultists are not a sufficient electoral base, especially when the intensity is on the other side of the political spectrum. Trump is banking that Republicans, already bruised by defeats in Virginia, would stick by him in an election year in a credibility contest against Mueller and the FBI.
It is one thing to ask snippy questions of a captive witness, but it is quite another to accept an attack on the legitimacy of the special counsel, and more generally, the rule of law.
Should Trump decide to fire Mueller or to issue mass pardons to family members and even himself, he risks his presidency. Republicans, with one eye on the polls and another on Trump’s aberrant, unhinged and delusional conduct, may very well choose to jump ship — or enough of them will jump to provide a majority in Congress willing to call for resignation and/or impeachment.
Moreover, the voters — in places much less conservative than Alabama — will have a direct voice in the matter. While impeachment is a verboten topic for Democrats, who prefer to talk about economics and health care, a Trump-style “Saturday Night Massacre” firing of Mueller (and likely Rosenstein) or mass pardons will bring us to a constitutional crisis. The voters will eventually need to decide if they want to remain Trump cultists in defiance of fact, reason and our democratic tradition, or if they want to fight to preserve the rule of law.