Hold Your Applause, Warnings Over the Pitfalls of Special Counsel Investigation

While many welcome the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller to oversee the Russia probe as a “first step,” observers warn that it is not enough to guarantee an independent, impartial investigation nor to tackle the range of possible misdeeds by President Donald Trump and his team.

Mueller’s appointment, announced Wednesday by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, as special counsel to lead the investigation into possible ties between Russian election meddling and the 2016 Trump campaign was met with bipartisan applause. It comes as popular demand for an independent probe into an increasingly convoluted Russia investigation has reached nearly fever pitch.

Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn called it “a positive, necessary first step” and “proof that our democracy is resilient.” American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) executive director Anthony Romero declared it “a critically necessary step given the conflicts of interest present at the Trump administration’s highest levels.”

(For his part, Trump called “it the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”)

However, those groups—in addition to a number of Democratic lawmakers—say that the appointment must be coupled with an independent commission, similar to the 9/11 commission, “to augment the efforts of the special prosecutor and follow the evidence wherever it leads,” as Hobart put it.

But others are warning that the appointment of the special counsel without such a commission may actually hobble truth-seeking.

As the Atlantic‘s David Frum wrote earlier this week, “such an appointment could well turn into a shield for wrongdoing.”

He explained: