Liberals try to play quite a game with special counsel Robert Mueller. When he indicts Russians, analysts like Mark Shields on PBS start making jokes about how Trump's summit with Putin will be a "campaign reunion" with Trump's "favorite absentee voter." But when anyone suggests Mueller's probe is partisan -- or leads to partisan smack-talk -- they suggest it's nonsense, that "there's not a partisan corpuscle in Bob Mueller's system."
On Friday's NewsHour week-in-politics segment, PBS anchor Judy Woodruff asked how significant the latest indictments of 12 Russian military officers is:
MARK SHIELDS: It’s quite significant, Judy, and traces it right back to the Russian government. I know we’re talking about 12 intelligence agents from — on Russian espionage associated with the military, with GRU, their official agency. And I think it’s — any talk about a witch-hunt or anything of the sort, it turns out that Monday in Helsinki will be a campaign reunion of sorts for Donald Trump and his favorite absentee voter.
For contrast, Reihan Salam of National Review agreed the news was significant, but the process is flawed: "The problem now is that we are not treating this as a national emergency. We’re treating this as a partisan investigation. And I think that’s been a problem from the start. We really need an independent commission to understand our vulnerabilities."
Shields rejected that proposal:
SHIELDS: The partisan angle on this is solely on the part of the administration and Republicans in Congress. There is not a partisan corpuscle in Bob Mueller’s system. There really isn’t. This is a man who has been a Republican, appointed by a Republican president, whose appointment was widely lauded from Republicans, including Newt Gingrich, across the board.
Any lack of credibility or erosion of confidence is solely as a part of the concentrated effort from the administration.
Shields also tried to argue "Nobody knows what Bob Mueller is doing. He has been full of fastidiousness and secrecy." How do we really know that when the sources are anonymous? And the indictments tell us what he's doing.
Salam offered "a great deal of respect" to Mueller, but "there aren’t necessarily prosecutable crimes at work. What we’re dealing with is a larger systemic failure. And when that is the case, when you’re seeing this solely through the lens of who can and cannot be prosecuted, you might actually wind up missing some of those vulnerabilities."
Salam also offered a rare network-TV take on Trump's actual policy with Russia:
SALAM: One thing that we shouldn’t forget is that, for the last 18 months, the United States government and the Trump administration has actually put in place sanctions against Russian oligarchs, has actually hardened NATO’s eastern flank, has taken many steps that are, in fact, very tough on the Russians, when you look at the substance of his agenda.
So we can’t lose sight of the fact that, when it comes to actual policies, the Trump administration has actually been very tough on Russia.