Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Opinion: The wildfire endangering American politics

Andrew Jackson, Donald Trump's second favorite president, has left us a colorful political legacy that includes the term "kitchen cabinet," applied initially to the group of informal advisers that Jackson often turned to for support.

Trump has his own version of Jackson's kitchen cabinet, in the form of Fox News hosts. From Fox & Friends in the morning to Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham at night, they are, you might say, Trump's TV cabinet, always there with a click of the button. By multiple accounts, Trump looks to them for emotional support, guidance and inspiration that he can't get elsewhere, locked as he is in the White House with chief of staff John Kelly as his adult supervision.

These days, the advice coming from Trump's TV cabinet is to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, on the grounds that he poses a threat to all that is decent and good in American life. Or in other words, a threat to Trump. Hannity calls Mueller's staff a "partisan, extremely biased, hyperpartisan attack team," while Lou Dobbs says Mueller and his team "should be the subjects of criminal investigations and held fully accountable for crimes against a sitting president and the voters who supported him."

Jeanine Pirro picked up that theme of criminality over the weekend.

“There is a cleansing needed in our FBI and Department of Justice — it needs to be cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired, but who need to be taken out in 'cuffs!” Pirro ranted to her Fox News audience, which no doubt lapped it up.

That is "cleanse" in the Stalin sense of cleanse, as in purge. As in not merely firing people based on their ideology, but arresting and dragging them off in handcuffs, because as Pirro puts it, "examples have to be made." This is totalitarian garbage, broadcast by a major news outlet. And as intended, it is spreading like a California wildfire, beyond the confines of Fox.

In a House Judiciary Committee last week, for example, Republican congressmen were also attacking FBI Director Chris Wray and his agency, and like their ideological leaders at Fox they were demanding that Wray purge the FBI of any and all suspected liberals.

"The depths of this anti-Trump bias on the Mueller team just goes on and on; it's absolutely shocking" said one Republican, Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio. Another congressmen even read off a list of FBI employees by name, demanding that Wray tell him whether they were liberals.

“We don’t do political scrubbing of our agents,” a fey Wray responded. At some point in this hysteria, though, we have to ask a simple question:

If the Mueller investigation is irredeemably biased, as Trump backers claim, how has that bias manifested itself? What actions have Mueller and his team taken that in any way demonstrate themselves so unfit that their probe must be ended, before it can produce the answers that we all supposedly seek?

The answer is of course none. So far, they’ve produced two guilty pleas for lying to the FBI, from men who were guilty of lying to the FBI. They have indicted two others -- Paul Manafort and Rick Gates -- on what appear to be ironclad charges of major felonies. They are carrying out their assignment from the Department of Justice to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” and unlike FBI probes of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign, they have leaked nothing to the media.

They have quietly gathered documents. They have questioned those who need to be questioned. They have been working their lists. To date, there is zero evidence of partisan intent or overzealous prosecution in carrying out that duty.

Every step of the way, every action and word, has been meticulous, professional and fact-based. It has been run in exactly the way that you would expect a Mueller investigation to be run. No flights of fancy. No showboating. Just hard work and facts.

When Mueller learned that one of his team had expressed private opinions that might compromise its credibility, that person was unceremoniously sacked, months ago, and not in response to outside pressure. Because no one outside even knew about it.

In fact, I strongly suspect that it is Mueller’s methodical, dogged professionalism that has helped to provoke the very hysteria that is now rising to condemn him. Because the Trump crowd finds it terrifying. It drives them mad to know Mueller is out there, still digging and not revealing what he might have found.

That reaction is pretty astounding to me, because Mueller's investigation should have the backing of every American. We all should want to know, in every available detail, how Russia interfered with our elections, so that we might prepare better next time. If Trump and his top people did nothing wrong, we very much need to know that as well.

But judging from the reaction of Trump's TV cabinet and his sycophants in Congress, they fear knowing a lot more than they fear ignorance.

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.