The mountain labored, and brought forth a mouse. It’s a skinny little thing, not likely to frighten the most delicate milady. Robert Mueller is surely hard at work in his laboratory trying to breed a larger and more impressive creature.
Like all special prosecutors, Mr. Mueller was expected to run a prosecution railroad and keep it disguised as something fair and disinterested, and however righteous and conscientious he may seem to be, he has to deliver a scalp with yellow hair.
What we got Monday were indictments of three swamp creatures for a cornucopia of tax evasion, money laundering, funneling money from shady clients into offshore bank accounts, spending more than $1 million on suits and shirts and male baubles at expensive men’s stores in New York and Beverly Hills (probably not Jos. A. Bank or Men’s Wearhouse), forgetting to register as a foreign agent and to tell the Internal Revenue Service about some of the money, and otherwise doing what Washington swamp creatures do. So far Mr. Mueller has proved only that nobody’s perfect, and some people are more imperfect than others.
Mr. Mueller has frightened a lot of the denizens of K Street in Washington, where lobbyists are as plentiful as the roaches in the kitchens of the restaurants where lobbyists gather to dine and drink on a client’s money. Tony Podesta, one of the big mules on K Street, resigned Monday from the lobbying firm he founded, to spend full time dealing with what life may be about to give him. Tony is the brother of John Podesta, who was chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, which we now learn must deal with questions about her connections to Russians and shady dealers in campaign dirt.
Mr. Mueller is counting on his many admirers in the media to distract attention from the disquieting fact that none of the indictments appear to have anything to do with the 2016 election campaign. Most of Mr. Manafort’s mischief with foreign clients, and the money transfers, were done in 2014, and the charges for mischief in 2016 didn’t have anything to do with the Trump campaign, but were related to false statements made to the Justice Department of the Obama administration.
The indictment of George Papadopoulos, an early campaign foreign-policy adviser to Donald Trump the candidate, was for lying to the FBI early last year about his dealings with “foreign nationals whom he understood to have close connections with senior Russian officials.” This may be Mr. Mueller’s smoking gun to show how the Russians attempted to supply the Trump campaign with the dirt on Hillary Clinton. But this was a very small-caliber gun and so far we’ve seen no smoke.
Perhaps, as some Washington wise men speculate, these interesting but hardly persuasive indictments were meant to scare the truth out of those in the Trump campaign who have a passing acquaintance with the facts. The congressional investigations running parallel to the Mueller inquiry have done nothing to disprove the taunts of President Trump that the Mueller inquiry is a dry hole.
Mr. Mueller’s unusual leaks about the indictments — revealing on Friday that indictments were coming on Monday — suggest that since he, too, had turned up no beef, he was trying to manufacture and sell the sizzle. Monday came and there was no sizzle.
There was the expected Twitter response from the president, chiding Mr. Mueller for encouraging great expectations over the weekend, and then the release of the indictments with no reference to the Trump campaign. “Sorry,” he tweeted minutes after the official announcement, “but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus!!!!!.” He followed that with another tweet, in all capital letters: “NO COLLUSION!”
This was followed by similar remarks, just two shades short of a gloat, by his press aide, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “We’ve been saying from day one there’s no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion, and nothing in the indictments changes that at all.”
That’s exactly what the president and his aide would be expected to say, but said it with emphasis that leaves no escape clause. As if to press the point, Mzz Sanders added that there “is no intention or plan to make any changes with regard to the special counsel.”
This was in answer to the press claque’s minor hysteria over The Wall Street Journal’s suggestion that Mr. Mueller, beset with conflicts of interest, particularly about the FBI’s shady role in the infamous Hillary dossier incident, should retire from the field and let someone else lead the inquiring mob that wants to know.
Mr. Mueller may hold the Trump-Russia blockbuster the media has been shouting from the housetops is coming, but if he does he best hurry. The mountain is still in labor, and another little mouse won’t do it.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.
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