President Trump’s criticism of Special Counsel Robert Mueller signals a renewed effort to challenge his investigators’ credibility over their track record of pro-Democratic political donations. There is no shortage of examples to fuel the president’s case. Of the 15 attorneys on staff for Mueller, at least seven have donated thousands of dollars to Hillary Clinton; not one gave a penny to the Trump campaign.
“This is just a witch hunt – it’s all a hoax,” White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway told “Fox & Friends” last week after Trump criticized Mueller in a New York Times interview. “People should know what folks’ motivations are – these weren’t minor donations, these were significant donations by members of that team.”
Does Team Trump have a point? Yes. Again, not a single member of his 15 attorneys has any track record of supporting Mr. Trump or other Republicans with their donations. On the other hand, consider what we know about just a few of the attorneys assembled by Mueller in his “unbiased investigation.”
A former partner at WilmerHale, Quarles donated $2,700 to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and over $7,000 to President Obama for his two races for the White House. His donations to Trump: nothing.
Having served in the Office of Legal Counsel and as an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Rhee donated $5,400 to Clinton and $4,800 to Obama. Her donations to Trump: nothing.
A general counsel at the FBI and assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Weissmann gave $2,300 to Obama and $2,000 to the Democratic National Committee. His donations to Trump: nothing.
An attorney on detail from the Southern District of New York, Mr. Goldstein gave $3,300 to Obama. His donations to Trump: nothing.
Elizabeth Prelogar, Brandon Van Grack, and Rush Atkinson all donated to the Clinton campaign. Their combined donations to Trump: nothing.
So Mr. Mueller has assembled a team of 15 “unbiased” attorneys to investigate Team Trump. At least half have donated money to Clinton, Obama, and other Democratic causes. Not one of the 15 has given a dime to Trump or Republican causes.
But this could backfire. While Republicans are demanding fairness and calling Mueller’s team into question, perhaps this is going to work in their favor. If the Special Counsel exonerates President Trump, no one can say they were stacked in his favor. What could look better for the president than for a team of Clinton supporters to report back that he had done nothing wrong?
So while many conservatives are blasting Mueller for his “unfairness,” perhaps he’s the smart one. He knows that a right-leaning investigative team would have any pro-Trump report called into question. But when (or if?) his team comes back in a few months and says Trump did nothing wrong, no one can call into question the integrity of the committee.
So will this heavily pro-Clinton investigative team work against Trump – or for him?
We’ll know soon.