As the Trump-Russia collusion investigation heats up, President Donald Trump and his political allies have launched a smear campaign against special counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump was furious after the Washington Post reported Wednesday that five U.S. Intelligence officials revealed that the president is the subject of an obstruction of justice investigation for allegedly trying to bury an FBI probe into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
Trump and his allies believe that the timing of that story is evidence that rogue law enforcement officials want to keep a shadow of suspicion over the Trump administration.
It is unclear whether the Post story was leaked by the special counsel, the FBI, former FBI director James Comey and his allies, or witnesses that have been contacted by those law enforcement agencies as part of the investigation.
“The Special Counsel’s Office has undertaken stringent controls to prohibit unauthorized disclosures that deal severely with any member who engages in this conduct,” Mueller spokesman Peter Carr said according to The Hill.
However, the Trump gang has launched a barrage of attacks against the special counsel and Mueller, the lead investigator, who otherwise enjoys the confidence of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Trump fired off a tweet on Wednesday saying that “conflicted people” are running the “single greatest witch hunt in American political history.”
Picking up the slack, Trump’s legal team, the Republican National Committee, conservative groups and the right-wing mediasphere have launched a tandem effort to smear the special counsel as a “corrupt political hack”.
Those GOP talking points have been picked up by the right-wing pundits, like Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity help and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who have both called for an end to the special counsel investigation.
Gingrich accused Mueller of stocking his team with Democratic political donors and took to Twitter to call him the “tip of the Deep State spear.” Mueller and Comey are “best friends,” Hannity said, and viewers should not believe the stories they leak to the news media.
Trump’s critics, however, are accusing the administration’s allies of muddying the waters in an effort to tarnish the special counsel’s investigation.
Legal experts are alarmed.
“This is the most coordinated misinformation campaign against an investigation that we’ve seen in a long time,” said Joyce White Vance, who worked as a U.S. attorney in the Obama administration.
“Not every piece of information that comes to light during an investigation is a leak,” Vance said in a series of tweets.
“Witnesses, even those subpoenaed to the grand jury, can talk about being summoned/subpoenaed and even the substance of their testimony,” she said before adding:
“This is one of the most common ways news of the existence of an investigation becomes public… Leaks are harmful and often illegal. But don’t confuse lawful disclosure with illegal leaking.”
Trump’s allies are undertaking a risky strategy by attacking Mueller one year into an FBI investigation, said Bill Jeffress, a prominent Washington criminal lawyer who was on the defense team for I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s leak case during the George W. Bush administration.
“There is no question these leaks give ammunition to critics to question the credibility and nonpartisan nature of the special counsel,” Jeffress said. “But I do wonder why they’ve adopted this strategy of attacking Mueller, who I know to be a straight shooter.”
If Trump did nothing wrong, why is he so afraid of the investigation? If they’re confident Muller is going to clear Trump in all of this, Why don’t they let him bring a speedy end to the investigation? Just saying.