If you’re looking for somebody else to comment on where the Mueller investigation has gone and whether or not it’s exceeded the original stated goals, I suppose we could ask someone who has spent some time with a special prosecutor himself. Enter one of the people you would least expect to be throwing the President a lifeline. That would be longtime Clinton confidant Mark Penn. His epic battle with Ken Starr back in the nineties has been the subject of more books and documentaries than I could count and he showed up on Fox News this week to weigh in. His conclusions were less than flattering to Mueller, questioning his honesty at times and concluding that the entire investigation is too tainted at this point to keep on digging.
Here’s the applicable segment of the interview (less than four minutes) and a portion of the transcript from Fox.
Former longtime Clinton confidant Mark Penn said the federal probe into Russian meddling during the 2016 election is “irretrievably tainted.”
“I spent a year fighting Ken Starr,” Penn said of the special prosecutor who investigated President Clinton. “This [Trump] investigation had no foundation.”
He said it is based on what he called the “fruits of the poisonous tree.”
“This whole thing was corrupt,” Penn said. “I don’t think we should waste another year here [on this].”
As you see in the interview, it doesn’t take much prompting to wind up Penn and send him off to the races. He tags all manner of people involved in the investigation without even being specifically asked about them. He goes after the “FBI lovebirds” and their bias against Trump and the GOP. He also notes how Comey is profiting off his book tour by saying, “I met with the Clintons more than 400 times. I never wrote a book… a tell-all like this.”
I’ve never been a fan of the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree doctrine, but Penn drags that into it as well. By running so far afield of the original Russia, Russia, Russia question, Penn concludes that much of the meager material they’ve managed to dig up would be inadmissible since it fell outside the scope of what Mueller was asked to investigate.
Personally, I still think that if the government runs across definite evidence of a crime they should be able to pursue it even if it landed in their laps by accident. But in this case, we’re not seeing a situation along the lines of a cop pulling over somebody with a broken brake light and finding a bunch of explosives in the car. Mueller has been going out on his own and talking to the attorneys for strippers and Playboy models. What precisely do they have to do with Russia again?
Then, when you add in all the material about Clapper and the dossier which has been dropping this month, well… the entire thing takes on a definitely swampy feel. The problem is that none of this changes the political realities we’re dealing with. Ending the probe before Mueller says he’s finished creates the image of a coverup whether there was anything to actually cover up or not. Firing him has even worse optics. But if Mueller is determined to drag this out through the midterm elections and beyond with nothing productive to show for his efforts, this becomes a case of the absolute worst of Washington on display.