Robert Mueller’s glow is fading.
The special counsel who earned bipartisan praise last month as an unimpeachable investigator who would give President Donald Trump a fair shake in the Russia probe is now taking heat from Trump surrogates intent on trying to undercut his integrity.
The wave of freelance attacks, which gathered steam over the weekend following Comey’s dramatic testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, echoes tactics used by Democrats in the 1990s to undercut special prosecutor Kenneth Starr’s investigation into the Clinton White House.“I think the idea of having an enemy when you’re the object of a special prosecutor is a very important one,” said Dick Morris, who helped pioneer the anti-Starr strategy as a Clinton adviser but is now a Trump fan.
“Clinton only survived a special prosecutor because he made Ken Starr the enemy,” Morris added.
- Sidney Powell .. wrote an op-ed questioning one of Mueller’s staffers on the conservative site Newsmax, which is run by Trump friend Chris Ruddy.
- Writing in the Washington Examiner, columnist Byron York suggested Mueller may not be the right person for the job because he’s been friends with Comey for 15 years.
- Ann Coulter complained in a post that Attorney General Jeff Sessions “never should’ve recused himself” .. “Now that we know TRUMP IS NOT UNDER INVESTIGATION, Sessions should take it back & fire Mueller.”
- Newt Gingrich, who in a Sunday interview on Fox News echoed the president’s complaints that the Mueller probe is a “witch hunt,”
- It was a big reversal for the former House speaker, who wrote in a Twitter post on May 17, the day the Justice Department announced the special counsel appointment: “Robert Mueller is a superb choice. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity. Media should now calm down.”
- The shift from targeting Comey to targeting Mueller became apparent over the weekend, when one of the president’s personal attorneys, Jay Sekulow, in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” declined to rule out the possibility the president might fire the special counsel.
- During the Clinton era, Democrats called Starr a “federally paid sex policeman” who ran an unethical probe and had a conflict of interest.
.. said Trump surrogates don’t need to level attacks against Mueller, even if such an approach has often been favored in the past by the president’s New York-based personal attorney.
“Kasowitz loves this junkyard dog thing,” the attorney said. “My experience is that’s, more often than not, not a winning strategy.”
.. questioning Mueller over the staffers he’s appointed who donated to Democratic candidates “might be effective” for the Trump defense team. “It’s not an unreasonable narrative to start saying the team that has been put together is tainted,” he said.
But, he added, such a strategy could risk a backlash. “If you’re trying to affect the narrative, I think going after and attacking people of that stature who are not partisan people is really a mistake,” he said.
.. Mueller had interviewed with Trump to succeed Comey as FBI director.
.. For now, Morris said “Comey represents a better enemy than Mueller.” But he also suggested that Mueller will become a ripe target as the investigation unfolds, allowing Trump’s defenders to paint the investigation as an either-or proposition.