Newt Gingrich, Conservative Pundits Turn On Special Counsel Mueller

President Barack Obama and FBI Director James Comey xxx at an installation ceremony at FBI Headquarters in Washington, Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. Comey, a former Bush administration official who defiantly refused to go along with White House demands on warrantless wiretapping nearly a decade ago, took over last month for Robert Mueller, who stepped down after 12 years as agency director. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Charles Dharapak/AP

As the special counsel in charge of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election assembled key staff, several prominent Trump supporters questioned his impartiality, and whether the appointment was necessary at all.

Bloomberg first reported on June 1, citing two unnamed people, that Department of Justice fraud chief and former FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissman would join special counsel Robert Mueller’s so-called “murderer’s row” of prosecutors. And the National Law Journal reported Friday, citing unnamed people familiar with the arrangement, that Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben — who in 2016 argued his 100th case in front of the Supreme Court — would assist Mueller on a part-time basis.

Perhaps the biggest flip-flop among high-profile Trump supporters came from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who changed justifications multiple times for his new opposition to Mueller.

When Mueller was first announced as the special counsel, Gingrich strongly praised him:

However, speaking to radio host John Catsimatidis Sunday, as quoted by The Hill, Gingrich said Mueller’s position had been compromised by fired FBI Director James Comey’s admission that he had authorized a friend to pass details of his meetings with Trump to the press in order to justify a special counsel.

“I think Congress should now intervene and they should abolish the independent counsel, because Comey makes so clear that it’s the poison fruit of a deliberate manipulation by the FBI director leaking to the New York Times, deliberately set up this particular situation,” Gingrich said. “It’s very sick.”

The next day, he said evidence that Mueller wouldn’t be fair could be found in his new hires’ political donations.

Conservative provocateur Ann Coulter jumped on board Sunday, writing that Comey’s acknowledgement that he told Trump he wasn’t personally under investigation was grounds for dismissing Mueller altogether.

Weeks ago, Coulter celebrated Mueller’s appointment as a chance to target Democrats in Hillary Clinton’s circle involved in the investigation of her use of a private email server.

Radio host and LifeZette Editor-in-Chief Laura Ingraham posted a column from the Washington Examiner’s Byron York to her 1.5 million Twitter followers early Monday. York asked five unnamed Washington lawyers if they thought Comey’s reported friendship with Mueller presented a conflict. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, acting in his capacity as the then-lead of the Russia investigation at the Justice Department, chose Mueller to lead the investigation.

The Hill noted Monday that four members of Mueller’s investigative team, each seasoned criminal prosecutors with extensive experience at the Justice Deparment or Washington, D.C. law firms, had donated to Democrats, including Hillary Clinton.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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