Sunday’s New York Times featured the latest attack by reporter Nicholas Fandos on the GOP for daring to criticize special counsel Robert Mueller and his increasingly partisan-looking investigation fo Donald Trump: “Attacks on Mueller and F.B.I. Open a Rift in the Party of Law and Order.” The text box: “Worry that a drive by Trump loyalists could stain the G.O.P.”
Fandos has proven himself a frantic spinner for the Democrats and Mueller while disdaining Republicans in Congress, and again does yeoman’s work trying to position the party of the Clintons and Obama as the new “law and order” party.
A growing campaign by President Trump’s most ardent supporters to discredit the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and the law enforcement agencies assisting his investigation is opening new fissures in the Republican Party, with some lawmakers questioning the damage being done to federal law enforcement and to a political party that has long championed law and order.
A small but vocal group of conservative lawmakers, much of the conservative media and, at times, the president himself have launched a series of attacks to paint not only Mr. Mueller but institutions once considered sacrosanct to Republicans like the F.B.I. and Justice Department as dangerously biased against Mr. Trump. One of them, Representative Francis Rooney of Florida, called on Tuesday for top F.B.I. and Justice Department officials to be “purged.”
Now some Republican lawmakers are speaking out, worried that Trump loyalists, hoping for short-term gain, could wind up staining the party, dampening morale at the F.B.I. and Justice Department, and potentially recasting Democrats as the true friends of law enforcement for years to come.
It is not uncommon for members of the president’s own party to defend their leader against investigations. When President Bill Clinton was investigated and impeached in the 1990s, Mr. Clinton’s associates and many left-leaning Democrats on Capitol Hill waged war on Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel.
But Republican moderates in both the House and Senate with little loyalty to Mr. Trump and a Republican cadre of former law enforcement officials fear that their colleagues have reacted to specific and credible concerns about the F.B.I. with indiscriminate attacks.
Fandos repeated similar language on his Twitter feed: “It is not uncommon for members of the president’s party to defend their leader from investigations. But GOP moderates and a cadre of former law enforcement fear their colleagues have reacted to specific and credible concerns w/indiscriminate attacks.”
But the Times clearly doesn’t think any criticism by Republicans toward the FBI has been “specific and credible,” given the paper's history of dismissive coverage of criticism of Mueller as actively demoralizing to the poor, put-upon Federal Bureau of Investigation, the liberal paper’s new favorite domestic surveillance organization.
A photo caption on the horror story of Republicans doing the same thing the left has been doing for half a century: “Conservatives have attacked not only Robert S. Mueller III, above, but also the F.B.I. and the Justice Department....”
To some Republicans, the attacks have gone too far, and are not representative of rank-and-file Republicans in Congress.
Other Republicans have been less sanguine when it comes to the attack on law enforcement, and Mr. Mueller in particular.
“Law enforcement”? Is the GOP going after cops or something? No, they’re making specific and credible claims against Mueller’s objectivity, while the Times and other Democratic media allies try to change the channel.
“Those are political cheap shots that sound good on Fox News but in the real world are completely unfair to a guy who has given his life to serving this country,” Representative Thomas J. Rooney, a former member of the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, said of the accusations of bias against Mr. Mueller’s team. “It’s good politically. It’s good talking points.”
The attacks have sent chills through at least some at the F.B.I., an agency that prides itself on rigorous adherence to the law and tends to attract right-leaning career employees. Katherine W. Schweit, a former senior F.B.I. official who retired earlier this year, called the criticism “baseless” and said it put the agency’s mission at risk.
Democrats, for their part, have tried to ratchet up their defense of Mr. Mueller and federal law enforcement -- positions typically claimed by Republicans. More than 170 House Democrats penned a letter of support last week, and on the Senate floor, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, urged his colleagues to set clear “red lines” that Mr. Trump must not cross.
Whether the role reversal could become something more permanent remains to be seen, but [Rep. Peter] King said Republicans should be concerned.