Once upon a time, there was a day when politics in America were semi-normal. That day ended somewhere in the midst of the 2016 presidential election process. It ended when an obscure candidate, named Donald J. Trump decided to run for President, and decided to challenge the history of American politics.
Now, just 7-months into his presidency, President Trump is involved in a Grand Jury investigation — an investigation being headed up by Special Counsel Robert Swan Mueller III. Mueller, who was appointed the director of the FBI by Republican President George W. Bush, ended up becoming the longest serving FBI director since J. Edgar Hoover. More interesting is the fact that Mueller was a registered Republican when he was appointed to head up the FBI.
Mueller is also known as a man of integrity and a man who cares significantly about the United States of America. He served as an officer in the Marine Corps during Vietnam, and was awarded both the Purple Heart Medal and the Bronze Star Medal for heroism, in additional a laundry list of other awards.
Now, those on the right, including commentators at Fox News, Congressman Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), President Trump himself, and even WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are demanding or suggesting that Mueller should resign due to a conflict of interest. Others are encouraging President Trump to fire Mueller.
In reality, the Republicans are digging at straws, trying to find any way possible to make the investigation into Trump’s potential involvement in Russian election meddling disappear. Congressman Franks blames Mueller’s connections to fired FBI director James Comey as the reason why there is a conflict of interest with Mueller as the Special Counsel. He deems there to be a conflict due to the fact that Mueller and Comey both had a professional, friendly working relationship. Others have mentioned that Mueller had previously worked with a law firm called WilmerHale, which also employs attorneys who represent Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner. On top of this, the conspiracy theorists have tried to link Mueller to Hillary Clinton in some way, shape or form.
This ideology that Mueller has a conflict of interest as special counsel is completely bogus. The special counsel is a fancy term that is interchangeable with “special prosecutor”. Mueller, here, is acting as a prosecutor, appointed so that he does not have any conflicts of interest — meaning conflicts that may prevent him from fully targeting those involved in the investigation. A special counsel is appointed in order to avoid an instance where the prosecutor feels obligated not to charge a potential target with a crime, due to past relationships or dealings. This would be a conflict of interest. For example, if Mueller had previously been friends with Donald Trump or his family members, it could be seen as a conflict of interest to have him appointed to lead a prosecution against Trump.
Historically, the court systems try and avoid these conflicts of interest. A prosecutor is never deemed to have a conflict of interest because they were friends of the target’s opponents. For anyone who has witnessed a court case, you would know that the prosecutor is NOT the friend of the defendant. If he/she was, then this could be a conflict of interest. Being considered an enemy of the defendant would not be considered a conflict.
There is no indication that Mueller is an enemy of the Trump family, but if there was, it certainly would not be a conflict of interest. Mueller is the prosecutor, not the defense attorney and certainly not the judge or jury. Perhaps if a juror in a future case against President Trump were to be deemed “associates” with James Comey, that could be seen as a conflict of interest. If a judge down the line, ruling in a case against the Trump family, were shown to have been friends with James Comey, that could be a conflict of interest. However, the mere fact that there might be some evidence to suggest that Mueller had a friendly relationship with James Comey would only lead him to work harder on bringing justice to someone he may feel wronged James Comey. It certainly wouldn’t be considered a conflict of interest.
In the end, Mueller’s job is simple. He is appointed to investigate and present evidence to the House, the Senate, a judge and/or a jury. It is up to them to decide on innocence or guilt — not Mueller’s. When a murderer is brought to trial, he can’t claim that there is a conflict of interest because the prosecutor was friends with the defendants former college roommate. The same is true here. A conflict of interest would be a conflict which deters Mueller from fully prosecuting his targets, not something that provides an incentive to make him want to prosecute harder.