The new Republican defense of Trump is a campaign to discredit Robert Mueller

Republicans are trying to tear down the legitimacy of the special counsel — and the FBI

By Matthew Rozsa

Published December 7, 2017 8:05AM (EST)

 (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Many Republicans are setting out to discredit Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating alleged collusion between President Donald Trump and Russian government officials, before he may turn up anything that makes the president look bad.

"The question really is, if Mueller was doing such a great job on investigating the Russian collusion, why could he have not found the conflict of interest within their own agency?’" Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., asked after learning that Peter Strzok, the top FBI agent working with the special counsel, had been removed for sending text messages critical of Trump to a senior FBI lawyer, Lisa Page, with whom he had been having an affair.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also tried to discredit the Mueller probe based on the revelation of Strzok.

"Strzok’s behavior and involvement in these two politically-sensitive cases raises new concerns of inappropriate political influence in the work of the FBI," Grassley wrote in a letter to the Justice Department and FBI, demanding more information about the Strzok-Page communications.

Conservative media have also been trying to undermine the Mueller investigation's credibility. Fox News host Sean Hannity denounced Mueller on Tuesday as "a disgrace to the American justice system" and accused his team of being "corrupt, abusively biased and political."

Fox News Legal Analyst Gregg Jarrett accused the special counsel probe of being "illegitimate and corrupt" and claimed, "Mueller has been using the FBI as a political weapon. The FBI has become America's secret police." Fox News itself has been extensively covering the Strzok-Page texts, arguing that they have "revived Republican concerns about the objectivity of Mueller’s probe."

Not all conservative pundits are supporting the campaign to discredit Mueller, however. Hugh Hewitt, of all people, tweeted that the FBI agents can have "deeply held political opinions" without being unable to do their jobs. He also said that firing Mueller would be a "huge mistake."

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump Republican Party Robert Mueller