If the investigation arose from partisan opposition research, what specific crime is he looking into?
The Steele dossier is 35 pages of opposition research on Donald Trump, described by former FBI Director James Comey as “salacious and unverified.” It was paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, and compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent who had a luminous dislike for Mr. Trump and was also an informant for the FBI.
.. the FBI’s only objection to the House memo at the time of its release was that it was incomplete, not that it disclosed sources and methods.
.. How does possible misconduct by senior FBI officials, which is certainly bad enough, intersect with the Mueller investigation? As follows: The Justice Department regulation that authorizes the appointment of special counsels requires a determination that a “criminal investigation” is warranted, and that there is a conflict or other good reason that prevents ordinary Justice Department staff from conducting it.
.. The letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointing Mr. Mueller says he is to “conduct the investigation confirmed by then-Director James Comey before the House Intelligence Committee on March 20, 2017,” which covers “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” and any matters that may arise “directly” from that investigation.
.. “links” or “coordination”—or “collusion,” a word that does not appear in the letter of appointment but has been used as a synonym for coordination—does not define or constitute a crime.
.. By contrast, the Watergate, Iran-Contra and Whitewater investigations, whatever you think of how they were conducted, identified specific crimes. The public knew what was being investigated.
.. none of the charges Mr. Mueller has brought thus far involved “coordination” or “collusion” with the Russians.
.. the public should get access to a carefully redacted copy of the FISA application and renewals, so we can see whether officials behaved unlawfully by misleading a court; and Mr. Mueller’s mandate should be defined in a way that conforms with the legal standard of his office
Trump wanted Comey to repeat that fact publicly. When Comey didn’t, Trump took it as a sign that Comey was disloyal, an unforgivable sin. So he fired him, believing, insanely, that the move would be popular.
.. Donald Trump is characterologically at war with the norms and practices of good government. Comey emerged as a superb institutionalist, a man who believes we are a nation of laws. Trump emerged as a tribalist and a clannist, who simply cannot understand the way modern government works.
Trump is also plagued with a self-destructive form of selfishness. He is consumed by a hunger for affirmation, but, demented by his own obsessions, he can’t think more than one step ahead.
.. the Trump administration will probably not be brought down by outside forces. It will be incapacitated from within, by the bile, rage and back-stabbing that are already at record levels in the White House staff, by the dueling betrayals of the intimates Trump abuses so wretchedly.
.. Before the Whitewater investigators got to Clinton they took down Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, Webb Hubbell, Susan and Jim McDougal, and many others.
.. “No one in a position of authority at the White House tells you what is happening. No one knows. Your closest colleague could be under investigation and you would not know. You could be under investigation and not know. It can be impossible to stay focused on your job.”
.. Betty Currie, Bill Clinton’s personal secretary, finally refused to mention the names of young White House employees to the investigators because every time she mentioned a name, the kid would get a subpoena, which meant thousands of dollars of ruinous legal fees.
.. Trump is a rage-prone obsessive who will be consumed by this.
.. The good news is the civic institutions are weathering the storm.