It was painful to witness. One of our own - a deputy FBI director no less - was fired barely a day or two away from retirement and a certain pension. And now Andrew McCabe faces possible federal charges for lying to other federal agents, charges that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller knows all too well and is wielding with great effect in the Russian collusion case.
Still, I wonder about Mueller. McCabe, Peter Strzok and James Comey all are public servants who former FBI Director Mueller mentored, supervised or knew well. It has got to be hugely disappointing for Mueller to stand by and watch the people who he managed, who worked for and were loyal to him, and who he was fond of become a part of this train wreck. As a former supervisor, Mueller is accountable for those people he supervised — for the good and the bad. How does he feel about it? We don’t know. He remains mute.
We all know about Mueller’s stellar career in the military, in the Department of Justice and with the FBI. Mueller played a key role in enhancing the FBI’s image at a seminal moment in bureau history. And he should be and has been lauded for his courage and tireless service to the country. Everyone I know at the bureau and at the DOJ has had good things to say about Mueller. More importantly, the consensus among law enforcement and beyond is that Bob Mueller is a man of unquestionable integrity.
But that was then and this is now.
Mueller’s first mistake was in having Strzok as part of his “dream” team of lawyers and investigators. I thought Mueller would have been a better judge of character. It also begs the question why Strzok would be selected to work on both the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the Russian collusion case. It should have been one or the other - that’s common sense.
In fairness to Mueller, when he discovered that Strzok, one of his favorite investigators, was involved in conduct unbecoming an FBI agent, he acted immediately and removed him from his team. But Mueller kept that news quiet and away from the public for several months. That, in itself, seems out of character for Mueller.
While Peter Strzok still lurks in the basement of the Hoover Building, the optics could not be worse for Mueller and his impartial investigation. His team has worked diligently and for long hours to find “the goods” on an array of unsuspecting and discrete individuals. It would be a shame to have their good work impugned by those who would accuse Mueller of a conflict of interest — that he is perceived as too close to the same people who initiated the allegation of Russian collusion.
As it stands now, the credibility of the special’s counsel’s investigation is steadily eroding. The longer it goes on with Mueller, the man behind the curtain, the less effective the investigation and its results.
Mr. Mueller, show the American people what my colleagues in law enforcement already know — that you are a man of great wisdom and integrity. Do the honorable thing and recuse yourself from the Russian collusion investigation. The DOJ requires a special prosecutor without ties to Jim Comey, Andrew McCabe and Peter Strzok. The investigation will get done; don’t worry about that. Your team will see to it.
Mr. Mueller, are you listening? You restored public confidence in the bureau.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) called you a “great American.” You are still thought of highly. Step aside with dignity and let the investigation play itself out without any further controversy about you, the FBI and your team. The American people deserve no less.
* * *
Kenneth Strange served the FBI as a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Newark, New Jersey and as Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General in Los Angeles. He is presently the vice president of business development for an international investigative services company.