Independent inquiry is what the US needs
With the revelation of an apparent attempt by President Donald Trump to interfere with an investigation into Russian meddling in the US election, a circuit-breaker was needed to maintain confidence in America’s democratic institutions. That has come with the naming of a special counsel
The office of the president of the United States is the most powerful on Earth. Yet just four months after he moved in Donald Trump faces a crisis of confidence that is largely self-inflicted. He is feuding with his intelligence services and has sacked the FBI chief. The executive and legislative branches of government are beset with indiscipline and inexperience that have stalled his legislative agenda. Leaks and presidential tweets have conveyed the impression of a White House in endless chaos.
The latest revelation of an apparent attempt by Trump to interfere with an investigation into Russian meddling in the election campaign prompted some to question how long he could remain in office. A circuit-breaker was urgently needed to maintain confidence in America’s democratic institutions. That has come with the naming of a special counsel for the investigation into Russian interference.
The constitution that entrusts the president with so much power also imposes constraints. No president is above the law. The claim that Trump pressed FBI chief James Comey, whom he later fired, to wind up the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who lied about Russian contacts, finally prompted deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein to act. The White House denies that account of the conversation. But the appointment of former long-serving FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel has a transformed the inquiry into Russian meddling into one that raises the potential risk to the administration.
Mueller is also authorised to look into matters arising directly from the investigation, including attempts to impede it. That could focus attention on whether Trump’s contacts with Comey amounted to obstruction of justice.
Trump had no choice but to accept an independent investigation to uncover the truth about suspicions that linger over his campaign and reach into the White House. Rosenstein is right to say a special counsel is necessary for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome. Constitutional order must prevail, whatever the consequences for the president. We trust Trump’s confidence that Mueller will find nothing amiss is well founded.