One of the major potential weaknesses of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is that voters could consider it a political hack job. This is especially a problem since several (former) members of his team are partisan Democrats who aggressively criticized President Trump when he was still a candidate for president.
Clearly, voters — especially Republicans and independents — are paying attention. According to a new CBS News poll, 81 percent of Republican voters believe that the investigation into Trump associates and Russia is “politically motivated.” Forty-eight percent of independents feel the same way. Only 17 percent of Republican voters and 42 percent of independents believe the investigation to be “justified.”
This will be a serious problem for Mueller going forward. If he implicates anyone else — especially higher-up Trump officials — the general belief will be that he’s doing so purely for political reasons.
This feeling is undoubtedly exacerbated by the news that one of his most prominent deputies, Jeannie Rhee, was the personal attorney of Barack Obama man Ben Rhodes and also represented the Clinton Foundation. As PJ Media’s Debra Heine reported: “Two other members of the team have been revealed as highly questionable hires in recent days as well — Peter Strzok, an anti-Trumper who helped exonerate Hillary Clinton, and Andrew Weissmann, an unscrupulous prosecutor who told outgoing acting Attorney General Sally Yates in an email that he was ‘proud’ of her for defying President Trump’s travel ban.”
Interestingly enough, a large majority of voters (67 percent) believe that Trump advisors did have improper dealings with Russia. That includes 92 percent of Democrats, of course, but also 63 percent of independents and a near majority of Republicans (43 percent).
However, if Mueller isn’t careful, that general belief — that Trump advisors did have improper dealings with Russia — will be overshadowed by the partisan nature of his investigation. Or at least by the perception that it’s a partisan attack by Democrats on Republicans. And Republican voters, as well as independents (and therefore a majority of voters… it’s almost at 50 percent now), will agree.
There’s only one way for Mueller to save this investigation: bring some Republicans on board and let them investigate the matter with him. If he doesn’t, he’ll lose the PR battle and his investigation will soon be castigated for being unfair, highly partisan, and nothing more or less than a political assassination.