Following the forced resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, mainstream journalists are hysterically reporting that President Donald Trump is seeking to kill the special counsel’s investigation of his administration. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who is poised to soon lead the Democratic House majority, called the personnel change a “blatant attempt” by the president to “undermine and end Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller’s investigation.”
However, Trump dismissed rumors on Wednesday that Sessions’ ouster was some ploy to prematurely end Mueller’s 18-month search for evidence of collusion between his presidential campaign and the Russian government. Although he called the special counsel “a disgrace” and complained that the investigation “should have never been started because there was no crime,” Trump insisted that he has no plans to stop the probe.
“I could fire everybody right now, but I don’t want to stop it because politically I don’t like stopping it,” Trump said during a combative press conference at the White House one day after the midterm elections.
Mr. Trump has strongly and consistently denied that any collusion took place between his campaign and the Kremlin, calling the politically-charged inquiry “the greatest political witch hunt in history.”
The president’s critics frequently point to the number of indictments resulting from the special counsel’s prosecution so far, without providing any context for those cases. While Mueller’s team of high-powered Democratic attorneys have secured several convictions in recent months, none of these have tied members of the Trump campaign to Russia or uncovered attempts to inappropriately influence the 2016 presidential race.
“I stay away from it, but you know what I do? I let it just go on,” Trump said of the investigation. “They’re wasting a lot of money, but I let it go on because I don’t want to do that. It’s a disgrace, frankly, and it’s an embarrassment to our country.”
A Department of Justice (DOJ) expense report from March 2018 — less than a year after Mueller was appointed — shows that the investigation cost taxpayers close to $17 million during that period. With prosecutions increasing in the case throughout the latter half of the year, those costs have likely risen, as well.
Besides costing money, the ongoing investigation has been a source of political pressure for the president. Trump’s opponents in the Democratic Party have used it hang the potential for impeachment proceedings over his head.
Many experts believe that the White House delayed several DOJ personnel changes until after the midterms because of the political fallout from appearing to influence the special counsel’s probe.
The special counsel was appointed after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on May 10, 2017. Despite bipartisan demands to fire Comey for incompetence, some observers have argued that the president’s decision to replace him amounted to obstruction of justice.
However, as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein explained in his memorandum recommending Comey’s ouster, “the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of [his] mistakes and pledges never to repeat them.”
Now that the midterm elections are over, analysts are watching closely to see what move the special counsel will make next. The president’s legal team has received written questions from Mueller’s team and is said to be formulating a response.