One ought not expect quality reporting, or even simple honesty, from the Washington Post on any matter of partisan interest, and certainly not if it involves President Trump. But the Post outdoes itself in this story by Philip Rucker (with help from Sari Horwitz and Matt Zapotosky) about whether President Trump will fire Robert Mueller.
The Post’s conclusion? He might, though it seems unlikely and would be big mistake.
But shouldn’t any story about the prospect of Mueller being fired identify the argument being made in favor of firing him — namely, a possible conflict of interest due to Mueller’s close relationship with James Comey, who would be the key witness in any case of “obstruction of justice”? I don’t expect Rucker to find merit in the argument or even treat it seriously — that would be asking too much. But certainly the Post should inform its readers of the way Trump would likely justify the firing, if it occurred.
Rucker declines to do so. There is no mention of the conflict of interest issue.
In addition, Rucker is dishonest when he tries to create the impression that Trump fired Sally Yates due to her involvement in the Russia investigation or matters related thereto. He writes:
Donald Trump. . .[has] dispatched two key officials connected to the probe of Russia’s election meddling during his first five months in office. . . .
Trump last month fired FBI Director James B. Comey, who had been overseeing the Russia probe before the appointment of a special counsel. Earlier in his term, Trump fired acting attorney General Sally Q. Yates after she warned the administration that national security adviser Michael Flynn had misled the White House about his contacts with Russian officials.
Rucker knows very well that Yates was fired for refusing to enforce President Trump’s first executive order banning travel to the U.S. Her discharge had nothing to do with her involvement, if any, in the “Russia probe.”
Rucker also quotes liberal historian Douglas Brinkley as follows:
If Trump fired Mueller, it would be an act of uber hubris never seen before in American history. It would pale, compared to what Nixon did with the firing of Archibald Cox. . . .
Brinkley’s first sentence seems extravagant. What about Aaron Burr’s conspiracy to create by force a new country in North America? What about FDR’s attempt to pack the Supreme Court?
In any event, Brinkley’s second sentence contradicts his first. If Trump firing Mueller “would pale” in comparison to Nixon firing Cox, doesn’t this mean that the “uber hubris” of a Mueller firing would fall well short of that associated with Nixon’s act?
Brinkley probably meant that the firing of Cox would pale in comparison to the firing of Mueller. But if so, why? Nixon fired Cox over a dispute as to how the Watergate investigation should proceed. There was no claim of conflict of interest. There was no rationale at all, as far as I recall, except that Nixon didn’t like what Cox was doing.
If Trump were to fire Mueller based on a claim of conflict of interest, that would display less hubris than Nixon did because there would be a rationale with some basis in the law.
But, of course, Rucker has concealed from his readers the existence of a conflict of interest claim.
The Post’s slogan these days is: “Democracy dies in darkness.” Yet, the Post is more than willing to keep its readers in the dark when it comes to key elements of the stories it reports.