On Sunday, former Hillary Clinton pollster and chairman of the Harris Poll Mark Penn called for a speedy end to the Russia investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, for the good of all Americans.
“This process must now be stopped, preferably long before a vote in the Senate,” Penn wrote. “Rather than a fair, limited and impartial investigation, the Mueller investigation became a partisan, open-ended inquisition that, by its precedent, is a threat to all those who ever want to participate in a national campaign or an administration again.”
The pollster argued that “stopping Mueller” is “about all presidents and all parties.” The investigation sets a dangerous precedent that chills political involvement, he argued. “It’s about cleaning out and reforming the deep state so that our intelligence operations are never used against opposing campaigns without the firmest of evidence.”
“It’s about letting people work for campaigns and administrations without needing legal defense funds. It’s about relying on our elections to decide our differences,” Penn argued.
The pollster, who worked for President Bill Clinton, compared Mueller’s investigation to the three-year investigation into President Clinton under independent counsel Ken Starr. Starr’s investigation began with the Whitewater scandal and allegations surrounding the apparent suicide death of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster, but culminated in the report that the president had lied under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
“Unfortunately, just like the Doomsday Machine in ‘Dr. Strangelove’ that was supposed to save the world but instead destroys it, the Mueller investigation comes with no ‘off’ switch: You can’t fire Mueller. He needs to be defeated, like Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Clinton,” Penn argued.
The pollster also compared the Mueller investigation to the Red Scare. “The last time America became obsessed with Russian influence in America was the McCarthy hearings in the 1950s,” he wrote. “Those ended only when Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.) attacked an associate of the U.S. Army counsel, Joseph Welch, and Welch famously responded: ‘Sir, have you no decency?’ In this case, virtually every associate and family member of the president has been subject to smears conveniently leaked to the press.”
Penn argued that “there is little doubt that the highest echelons of the FBI and the Justice Department broke their own rules to end the Hillary Clinton ‘matter,’ but we can expect the inspector general to document what was done or, more pointedly, not done.” He mentioned the meeting between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Clinton in Phoenix, Ariz.
The pollster noted “the lack of hard, verified evidence for starting the Trump probe,” and yet the investigation continues to push tenuous evidence.
But it is backfiring. They started by telling the story of Alexander Downer, an Australian diplomat, as having remembered a bar conversation with George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. But how did the FBI know they should talk to him? That’s left out of their narrative. Downer’s signature appears on a $25 million contribution to the Clinton Foundation. You don’t need much imagination to figure that he was close with Clinton Foundation operatives who relayed information to the State Department, which then called the FBI to complete the loop. This wasn’t intelligence. It was likely opposition research from the start.
“Time and time again, investigators came up empty,” Penn argued. “But rather than close the probe, the deep state just expanded it. All they had were a few isolated contacts with Russians and absolutely nothing related to Trump himself, yet they pressed forward. Egged on by [former British spy and author of the Trump-Russia dossier Christopher] Steele, they simply believed Trump and his team must be dirty. They just needed to dig deep enough.”
The pollster argued that “the less investigators found, the more determined and expansive they became. This president and his team now are on a better road to put appropriate limits on all this.”
This op-ed caused quite a stir. The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald remarked, “It’s kind of amazing how Mark Penn went from being the Clinton’s key political strategist for two decades to funneling all the talking points about their alleged corruption & that of the Mueller probe. He must really have been angered by his 2008 firing.”
It's kind of amazing how Mark Penn went from being the Clinton's key political strategist for two decades to funneling all the talking points about their alleged corruption & that of the Mueller probe. He must really have been angered by his 2008 firing https://t.co/w2sqjNCeFF
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) May 21, 2018
Communications strategist Liz Mair suggested Penn’s experience with Ken Starr helped explain his disapproval of the Mueller investigation, and that he may have secretly liked Trump all along. “Of course the real deal here is more likely a) Penn hates Special Counsels from Clinton experience and b) Penn was always a closet Trumper,” Mair tweeted.
Of course the real deal here is more likely a) Penn hates Special Counsels from Clinton experience and b) Penn was always a closet Trumper https://t.co/TrG3Dj8bIy
— Liz Mair (@LizMair) May 21, 2018
Some Twitter users argued that the Mueller investigation is comparatively young and has uncovered a fair amount of Russian intervention into the U.S. 2016 election.
Republicans that scream about Stopping Robert Mueller should do some fact-finding on how long federal justice department investigations take. Sorry it doesn’t fit in with your mid-term campaign schedule. This modern Republican Party are total zealots. We must vote them all out pic.twitter.com/ys1KhyAVk1
— ♻️🇺🇸 Christopher Zullo (@ChrisJZullo) May 21, 2018
Penn may have jumped the gun on calling for Mueller’s investigation to end. The upcoming inspector general report should shed more light on the entire situation.
According to a poll earlier this month, most Americans think Mueller’s investigation is “politically motivated,” rather than “justified.” As the 2018 elections come into full swing, Americans seem less intent on re-litigating the 2016 election and more focused on what each party would mean for the future.