Just because Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a federal grand jury, we must not conclude that his investigation has suddenly found evidence that President Donald Trump and his family are guilty of anything.
The move – which was expected, though Mueller’s office won’t confirm it – provides a different array of tools for the investigation; it does not signal guilt. After examining evidence and hearing subpeonaed testimony, the 23 grand jurors could recommend doing nothing. Having a grand jury make that decision would, or should, carry more weight than a panel of partisan politicians. Or, the grand jury could recommend charges, which should give those charges more credibility.
The move does, however, signal a new intensity and broader focus to the probe, according to The Hill.
Mueller’s team of investigators is made up of 16 top criminal, constitutional and financial lawyers. Most say it will take well into 2018 before they finish their work. The grand jury also confirms what we knew all along: Mueller is taking this investigation very, very seriously.
So should the president.
Instead, we get inflammatory, belligerent and intemperate words like those that fired up a crowd of West Virginians Thursday. Trump insisted his vanquished opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should be the one under investigation for selling uranium to Russians – though hers was one of nine federal agencies that approved the sale of a mining company, not processed ore. Or prosecuted for her email habits – a probe the FBI has already closed.
Meanwhile, Trump tries to distract by blaming transgender soldiers for unnecessary military expenditures even as the military spends 20 times more on pills to give soldiers erections than homone treatment for transgenders. He goes after immigrants, proposing to reduce the ability of those legally working in America to reunite their families. He continues to demonize a program that insures healthcare for 20 million Americans while insisting any stories critical of him are “fake news.”
Worse, he has tried to cast Mueller’s probe as an attempt to discredit his victory. He called the probe “demeaning to our Constitution,” adding he “hopes” Mueller’s investigation will be “truly honest” – as if to say it might not be.
Even those attempts to distract and cast doubt doesn’t mean Trump is guilty of anything – other than bad judgment.
Meanwhile, the president’s lawyers insist he has nothing to hide. Their words would be more credible if the president could take a more hands-off, mouth-shut approach going forward. He should tell his lawyers to stop trying to uncover imagined biases with which they can try to smear the investigators or grand jurors.
And he must set aside any fantasies of firing Mueller. Such an action would be a sign of guilt and likely spark a constitutional crisis.
To forestall such a dilemma, two bipartisan groups of senators are trying to block such a move before it can happen. Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Chris Coons, D-Dela., have introduced a bill to prevent Trump from firing Mueller and allow any special counsel to challenge his or her removal through the courts. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., have co-authored a bill to prevent any special counsel from being fired unless the decision is first reviewed by a panel of U.S. judges.
In the meantime, we have some advice for Democrats, too. Wait for Mueller’s work to be done and stop any talk about impeachment. It’s antagonistic, counterproductive and, at this point, wishful thinking that serves no one.