If you’re not a regular consumer of pro-Trump media outlets, it could be easy to underestimate or overlook the recent onslaught of attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller. There are a couple reasons for that. One is that this discourse exists almost entirely within that media ecosystem (which is distinct from, though overlapping with, the broader world of conservative media). The other is that critics have been calling for Mueller’s dismissal and an end to his probe since it was announced. Nonetheless, the intensity of the recent spree is notable, as is the gradual shift from ostensibly politically neutral critiques to openly partisan ones.
“Mueller is corrupt. The senior FBI is corrupt. The system is corrupt,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Fox News. The channel’s legal analyst Gregg Jarrett said Mueller was employing the FBI “just like the old KGB,” which Sean Hannity piously told viewers was “not hyperbole.” Using chilling language, Fox host Jeanine Pirro said, “There is a cleansing needed at the FBI and Department of Justice. It needs to be cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired but need to be taken out in handcuffs.”
Pirro is, not for the first time, moving way too fast. What all of these denunciations lack is any concrete instance of wrongdoing by a member of Mueller’s team, much less Mueller himself. They have seized on the case of FBI agent Peter Strzok, who apparently wrote some text messages critical of Trump to a girlfriend, but who, as I wrote last week, was immediately reassigned from Mueller’s team when Mueller learned of the texts, and about whom there is as yet no proof of wrongdoing. But the path from Mueller’s appointment to the current critiques bears close examination.