I wrote here about a Washington Post story by Philip Rucker regarding whether President Trump will fire Robert Mueller. I found the Rucker’s piece intellectually dishonest because he never identified the main argument being advanced by those who advocate firing Mueller — namely a possible conflict of interest due to Mueller’s close relationship with James Comey, who likely would be the key witness in any case of “obstruction of justice” and might even become a target of the investigation due to his leaking.
Post columnist David Ignatius makes essentially the same omission in a column arguing that “firing Mueller would be disastrous.” Ignatius mentions the possibility of a conflict of interest, but dismisses it “because the Justice Department’s ethics office has already decided that Mueller doesn’t have a conflict resulting from his law firm’s representation of Trump family members.”
Ignatius is indulging in ignorance of what is stake. The conflict argument isn’t based on work performed by Mueller’s law firm. It’s based on Mueller’s personal relationship with Comey.
The Washington Post editorial page, where darkness has not quite descended, acknowledges this. It thereby highlights, albeit inadvertently, the intellectual dishonesty of Rucker and Iganatius.
Though the special counsel has a sterling reputation and broad bipartisan support, one charge is that he is friends with former FBI director James B. Comey, whom Mr. Trump unceremoniously sacked, which could color his views on the president and his circle. Another apparent concern is that Mr. Mueller hired staff who donated money to Democrats in the past.
We do not dismiss the concerns. Given the stakes, it is incumbent on Mr. Mueller to live up to his reputation and run a spotless investigation. He may, for example, insulate as much as possible any obstruction-of-justice probe from anyone who could be open to any kind of partisan attack.
I don’t see how Mueller could so “insulate” the obstruction probe, given his own closeness with Comey and the partisanship of his key advisers. But at least the Post’s editors are willing to engage the issue.
Rucker and Ignatius, by contrast, want to keep Post readers in the dark. Unfortunately, their approach seems prevalent at the Post these days.