Two weeks ago, Donald Trump took direct aim at Special Counsel Robert Mueller, going after his investigation by name and using the same kind of attacks previously used to weaken the positions of James Comey and Andrew McCabe.
Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added…does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2018
That willingness to directly paint the special counsel’s operation as a partisan effort threw open the door for Trump’s allies to attack Mueller from every front, and now they’re pouring in, attempting to create a view of Robert Mueller as a Clinton-loving bumbler with Mafia ties, who is neither fair nor a good investigator.
Within hours, the Drudge Report featured a story blaming Mueller, the special counsel leading the Justice Department’s Russia probe, for the FBI’s clumsy investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks when Mueller ran the bureau. The independent pro-Trump journalist Sara Carter posted a story charging that Mueller, as a federal prosecutor in Boston in the mid-1980s, had covered up the FBI’s dealings with the Mafia informant Whitey Bulger. Carter was soon discussing her findings in prime time with Fox News host Sean Hannity.
It’s not as if this is the first time that Republicans have set out to destroy Robert Mueller’s investigation. Republican legislators have gone to the point of pushing for a second special counsel on several occasions—just so that Mueller might then be called as witness, providing an excuse to end his investigation.
But Trump’s fresh signal to the alt-right could be the starting gun for an all-out push to rewrite the history of Robert Mueller.
The timing of multiple attacks on Mueller over multiple issues looks to many like more than a coincidence.
“It looks like the beginnings of a campaign,” a source familiar with Trump’s legal strategy said. “It looks like they are trying to seed the ground. Ultimately, if the president determines he wants to fire Mueller, he’s going to want to make sure there’s ample public record that he can fall back on.”
The difference between previous attacks on the whole investigation and the current round, is that these attacks—like earlier attacks on Comey or McCabe—are coming after not the whole investigation, but Mueller personally. The point is not so much to demean the investigation. Three out of four Republicans already believe that the investigation is just a means to bring down Trump. The point is to turn Mueller into yet another in the line of Obama, Clinton, Yates, Comey and McCabe—figures that the right has turned into not just enemies, but members of a “deep state” conspiracy.
The attacks on Mueller may be starting to pay off. The special counsel’s unfavorable rating among Republicans hit a peak of 43 percent in a Morning Consult/POLITICO poll conducted in the days surrounding the president’s anti-Mueller tweets.