The next smear targeted the members of Mueller’s team. President Trump and his supporters loudly complained of political bias because some of Mueller’s lawyers have donated to Democrats. But Mueller is prohibited from asking his hires about their political contributions; applicable laws and regulations bar him from considering such matters in making employment decisions. Moreover, Mueller himself was a registered Republican the last time anyone checked and was appointed by another: Rosenstein.
When that assault didn’t stick, then came the allegation that the investigation had improperly obtained emails from Trump transition email accounts. The initial flurry of attention—including mention by the president himself—soon faded when the General Services Administration said the transition had been told its emails would not be protected, and experts nearly unanimously dismissed any impropriety. Indeed, the claims turned out to be so weak that President Trump’s transition legal team didn’t even press them in court, instead settling for a complaining letter to Congress. When faced with resounding pushback, the reply was to slink away—but not before filling the airwaves with days of unfounded insinuations.
That was when the president and his supporters upped the ante. For a time, there was a focus on sensational claims about the conduct of two DOJ employees as evidence of anti-Trump bias. One was Peter Strzok, an FBI specialist in Russia matters who sent negative texts about Trump to a colleague. The other is Bruce Ohr, a career attorney at DOJ who was never assigned to Mueller’s team and whose wife worked for Fusion GPS—the firm behind the dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele (more on that in a second).