Respect for the Rule of Law: A Casualty of Partisanship?
Explosive outbursts and tweets from the Oval Office have led many in Congress to worry that President Trump may act to shut down or cripple Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into his campaign and administration. The threat that the President might kill or weaken that probe seems not only very real, but holds real danger for a fundamental American principle, respect for the rule of law.
Robert Mueller was appointed under the law to carry out an investigation. He has the authority under law to bring criminal charges, which he has done in several cases, including cases that ended in guilty pleas. Mueller the authority to prosecute anyone who interferes in his investigation through crimes, including perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses.
President Trump, after cooperating with the Special Counsel for a time, has recently openly attacked Mueller and the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, who appointed him. That, in itself, is deeply troubling. But for the President to fire either official, or otherwise attempt to shut down or rein in the investigation would be in effect to declare, “I am above the law.”
The President is a public servant, sworn to uphold the law. No one committed to our Constitution and to the rule of law, whether Republican or Democrat, could tolerate a president’s defiance of the law. So if President Trump were to take the dangerous step of shutting down or crippling this investigation, Congress would have to stand up for the rule of law.
Some Republicans lawmakers have recently warned the President not to cross that line. But too many have remained silent, among them our congressman, Jim Jordan.
If faced with a President placing himself above the law, would members of the President’s own party put country and the rule of law above party? I fear they might not, if Jim Jordan is any example. Jordan has not only stayed silent as the President has hinted at firing Rosenstein, his actions could have the effect of encouraging the President to defy the law. The Mueller investigation is incomplete, and the information he’s gathered remains under lock and key. But Jim Jordan isn’t waiting. He’s been waging war on the FBI and the Justice Department, and promoting conspiracy theories to make it appear that the Mueller investigation is illegitimate. That’s irresponsible and dangerous at a time that we should all be urging respect for the rule of law.
Members of Congress, especially Republican members, need to stand up and advise the President to let the investigation run its course, and warn him against firing key officials. Those who share my deep concern should strongly urge their elected representatives to send the President that message.