President Donald Trump’s talking points about special counsel Robert Mueller are starting to match those that have been made by lawyers representing a Russian social media “trolling farm.”
In an interview with the Daily Caller released this week, Trump spoke candidly about Matthew Whitaker, a man whom the president picked to temporarily become acting Attorney General — and to run the Department of Justice.
Some have suggested that Whitaker lacks the authority to run the department, seeing as he was not confirmed by the Senate in a role within the DOJ prior to taking the reins of the department, per reporting from the Atlantic.
Trump defended his pick, and used it to attack Mueller in an unprompted response to one of the questions in the Daily Caller interview.
“[Whitaker] is just somebody that’s very respected,” Trump said.
He added that he didn’t really know the temporary head of the DOJ, but that he knew him well enough — since he was the chief of staff for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Then, Trump went into his thoughts on Mueller.
“And, you know, look, as far as I’m concerned this is an investigation that should have never been brought. It should have never been had,” he said, referring to the Russia inquiry.
The investigation is “something that should have never been brought,” Trump said. “It’s an illegal investigation. And you know, it’s very interesting because when you talk about not Senate confirmed, well, Mueller’s not Senate confirmed. He’s heading this whole big thing, he’s not Senate confirmed.”
Why hire Whitaker? “Look, as far as I’m concerned this is an investigation that should have never been brought…Mueller’s not Senate confirmed.”
Oh look he hired Whitaker for the same reason he fired Comey: this Russia thing. https://t.co/xG598DxczF
— Virginia Heffernan (@page88) November 15, 2018
Trump’s depiction of Mueller’s investigation as being “illegal” is similar in scope, however, to what a group of Russians — previously indicted by Mueller — have said about the leader of the special counsel.
In an appeal to those indictments, lawyers for Concord Management and Consulting — the Russian “troll farm” that Mueller charged with trying to interfere with U.S. elections in 2016 — tried a different approach: they argued that Mueller himself was improperly appointed, according to reporting from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and that the investigation was illegal based on as much.
District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich dismissed those claims, ruling in that month that Mueller’s appointment as special counsel was proper and constitutional.
That’s a pretty big deal. Judge Friedrich, after all, is a Trump-appointed judge from 2017.
It also means that Trump is wrong: the investigation being led by Mueller isn’t illegal or out of line. The judge Trump appointed himself even thinks that it’s a proper investigation.
It seems as though the only people who don’t trust Mueller to carry out the Russia investigation in a proper and ethical way are those who have strong opinions favoring either Trump or Russia itself. For everyone else, this investigation needs to be seen all the way through.
Trump, however, is content to use the talking points of the lawyers representing indicted Russian criminals to back up his ideas. That he does so speaks volumes about his character, and possibly about his innocence.