The latest Republican snipe hunt involves an attempt to discredit Robert Mueller’s investigation, clearing the path for Trump to fire him and for congressional Republicans to not merely fail to oppose but to applaud the finding. The alleged “scandal” is that an FBI agent criticized Donald Trump in private correspondence. There some very obvious problems with this “scandal”:
- There is nothing wrong with FBI investigators having political views. Absent some actual misconduct, there is nothing wrong with having previously expressed views of a public official being investigated.
- The implicit assumption that only supporters of a public official are impartial enough to investigate them is transparently idiotic and unworkable. (And, of course, it’s even dumber than that: in practice, what Republicans are arguing is that only Republicans are impartial enough to investigate anybody.)
- The implication that the FBI is an institution opposed to the Republican Party would be dumb under any circumstances, let alone a year after a Republican FBI director, reacting to pressure from congressional Republicans and a powerful alt-right faction within the FBI, delivered the presidency to Donald Trump by released a highly prejudicial letter implying that Hillary Clinton was guilty of criminal misconduct, based on redundant and immaterial emails.
But wait…it gets even stupider!
The main problem with this pseudo-scandal is that nobody has ever previously expected FBI agents not to privately express political viewpoints. Indeed, to prosecute liberal bias at agencies that lean rightward and kept the Republican nominee’s very serious investigation private while publicizing the trivial investigation into the democratic nominee is perverse in the extreme.
There turns out to be another flaw in the “scandal.” The main agent in question also wrote text messages criticizing Democrats, reports Del Quentin Wilber. His messages included calling Chelsea Clinton “self-entitled,” and mocking Eric Holder. He wrote, “I’m worried about what happens if HRC is elected.” Of course, we don’t know the context of that any more than we know it for the other texts. If the administration had leaked these texts instead or in addition, the narrative would have been completely different.
The scandal is that the Department of Justice selectively leaked private texts from its agents in order to placate the White House’s desire to discredit the special counsel. And the news media let itself get suckered.
It’s dismaying that this shit — Republicans pushing “scandals” that even a cursory analysis would determine were wholly without merit — works just as well as it ever has. The fact that elite political editors and reporters have not merely failed to learn anything from their gross misconduct in 2016 but are convinced that they performed superbly and any criticism of their performance is out of bounds is a ticking bomb that may keep blowing up all over American democracy.