Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosentein took an important step to stabilize the spiraling series of crises that have enveloped the Trump Administration Wednesday when he named former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate potential collusion between Trump’s team and Russia. Both Republicans and Democrats praised the selection of Mueller, who is widely respected on both sides of the aisle and within law enforcement.

Three things to know:

  • Naming a special counsel may help to tame some of the chaos.
  • Mueller’s unimpeachable credentials and reputation for non-partisanship and independence will give weight to the investigation’s findings. If Trump is exonerated, this can only help him.
  • Mueller is a high-risk/high-reward scenario for Trump. If Mueller discovers fire amidst all the smoke around Trump and Russia, the bipartisan respect Mueller enjoys will make his conclusions hard to discredit.

While President Trump resisted naming a special prosecutor in the past, he may have a lot to gain from a credible investigation led by Mueller. If Trump hasn’t done anything seriously wrong, it will allow him to put suspicions about Russia behind him. With the investigation proceeding independently, Trump will also get some political breathing room to pursue his policy agenda as Mueller’s investigation proceeds independently.

The move has been greeted with rare bipartisan praise. Trump confidant Roger Stone called it a “master stroke” that would allow Trump to “once and for all clear the air.” Senate Majority Leader and frequent Trump critic Chuck Schumer hails it too. “Former Director Mueller is exactly the right kind of individual for this job. I now have significantly greater confidence that the investigation will follow the facts wherever they lead,” Schumer said in a statement.

The White House reaction was measured and devoid of the usual Trumpian hyperbole. In a statement, President Trump said, “as I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know—there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly.”

It Was the Only Way

In truth this was the only way. Trump’s decision to sack FBI Director James Comey and revelations that he pressured the former FBI Director to curtail the investigation into his former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, did irreparable damage to the credibility of any Russia investigation led by any new FBI director nominated by Trump. As we wrote earlier this week:

“If Trump is innocent, and he very well may be, his decision to fire Comey had made clearing his name that much harder. Now, any outcome favorable to the President will be tainted by suspicion that Trump’s new FBI director whitewashed the investigation.”

Mueller’s unimpeachable credentials and reputation for non-partisanship and independence will give weight to the investigation’s findings. If Trump is exonerated, this can only help him.

Naming a special prosecutor will also relieve some of the immense pressure on the nomination for Comey’s replacement as FBI Director. With responsibility
for the Russia investigation now with Mueller, Trump may be spared the full brunt of what was sure to be a politically charged confirmation process.

High-risk/High-reward

But, if Mueller discovers fire amidst all the smoke around Trump and Russia, the bipartisan respect Mueller enjoys will make his conclusions hard to discredit. Mueller is a high-risk/high-reward scenario for Trump. Still, that beats the all-risk/little reward proposition of an investigation led by a Trump appointee whose findings would be in doubt.

Mueller offers Trump’s his best hope of putting Russian behind him and getting back to the business of moving his agenda forward.

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