Some conservatives are beginning to agitate against special counsel Robert Mueller after a bombshell revelation on Thursday that James A. Comey, the former FBI director, leaked to The New York Times with the goal of getting a special prosecutor appointed.
After Comey was fired on May 9, he leaked memos he compiled to a Columbia University law professor, who in turned leaked them to The Times.
Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee that his goal, as a newly minted civilian, was to get a special prosecutor appointed by the Department of Justice. That stunning admission is now seen as having tainted the eventual decision, by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Russian interference in the U.S. election of 2016, as well as President Donald Trump’s interactions with Comey.
Conservative writers, as well as Trump's own attorney, are wondering if the revelation perhaps means Rosenstein should have to begin anew, with a new special prosecutor. Just as he can with the FBI director, the president can fire a special prosecutor within the Department of Justice.
William Jacobsen, the editor of Legal Insurrection, wrote on Sunday that Mueller's close friendship with Comey should disqualify him. Jacobsen pointed to glowing portraits of the friendship, as reported by Washingtonian magazine and the Boston Globe.
"Comey manipulated the system into getting his friend appointed special counsel, and now that friend will be investigating matters in which Comey is a key witness."
"This relationship, at least as reported, appears to be much more than the routine interactions you might expect two law enforcement officers to have had in the regular course of business," wrote Jacobsen. "Something doesn't seem right here. Comey manipulated the system into getting his friend appointed special counsel, and now that friend will be investigating matters in which Comey is a key witness. More than that, Comey's own actions in leaking government property raise legal issues as to whether Comey himself violated the law."
Kurt Schlichter, a Townhall columnist, tweeted on Sunday that he agreed with such sentiments.
"Why again should we give Comey's friend Mueller's 'results' one bit of credibility? The fix is in," Schlichter wrote.
And James Woolsey, a former CIA director under President Bill Clinton, told CNN he was troubled with Comey's deliberate leak of private conversations to the newspaper.
Mueller served as FBI director under most of President George W. Bush's tenure and some of President Obama's. He worked with Comey when Comey was Bush's deputy attorney general.
Trump supporters and conservatives seem slowly to be realizing that Comey may have begun building a campaign against Trump before the president even took office: Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he began typing memos out after he spoke with Trump one-on-one because he didn't trust Trump.
He began keeping those memos during the presidential transition, even as he knew the president was not under investigation. The only ostensible reason was to match his memos with the president's words later.
Conflicting testimony is one way prosecutors get people, even if they cannot indict on the matter investigated. That happened in 2003, when President George W. Bush authorized a special prosecutor to find who leaked the name of a CIA agent.
The special prosecutor found the person, but did not indict him. Instead, the special prosecutor indicted Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, for misleading a grand jury.
Libby never admitted guilt. Bush commuted Libby's sentence almost immediately.
The Trump legal team senses another off-mission task coming — one focusing on Trump's communications with Comey in the brief few months the two worked together in 2017.
Mueller's main focus is supposed to be looking into Russian hacking in the 2016 election. Washington now appears to want it to be anything but.