EDITORIAL: The Trump-Russia probe

Democrats quickly applauded the Wednesday appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel in charge of investigating the nefarious Trump-Russia connection. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi hailed Mr. Mueller, a former FBI director, as “a respected public servant of the highest integrity.” Nevada’s newly elected U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto echoed the sentiment, describing Mr. Mueller as “a career public servant who has shown integrity and commitment to upholding the law, without political agenda.”

In less contentious times, such effusive praise might make it more uncomfortable for Democrats to later tar Mr. Mueller. But raging inconsistencies don’t seem to carry much stigma in today’s hyperpartisan political warfare. Outcomes now trump principle. If Mr. Mueller fails to deliver enough body bags to satisfy the braying progressive hounds, expect the left and their stenographers in the press to trash the special prosecutor. Just ask James Comey.

For his part, Donald Trump did what Donald Trump does. He initially greeted the news of Mr. Mueller’s appointment with a sensible statement insisting that, “A thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly.” Not surprisingly, though, he couldn’t contain himself a day later. “The entire thing has been a witch hunt,” he said, adding, “I think we have a very divided country because of that and many other things.”

The president may indeed have a point, but expressing it makes him appear petulant and defensive. It’s clear that Mr. Trump has been subjected to an unprecedented media assault. In addition, his elevation to the Oval Office has generated an irrational hysteria in some quarters that borders on derangement. But Mr. Trump’s unconventional approach to governing and his unfiltered vanity have also handicapped his agenda and given succor to those intent on undermining his presidency. Many of the daily infernos emanating from the White House have been set internally.

As Bloomberg’s Stephen L. Carter points out in an essay elsewhere on these pages, special prosecutors have a tendency to go their own way. While Mr. Mueller will ostensibly report to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, the reality is that he will have virtually unlimited power to run his investigation. That can lead to abuse and injustices. Remember Scooter Libby?

At this point, though, Mr. Trump should get off Twitter, show some restraint and make clear to everyone in his administration that they need to cooperate with the special prosecutor. The appointment of Mr. Mueller has placated many of Mr. Trump’s critics, which could help make things easier for the president to now focus on his policy goals.

Meantime, Mr. Mueller should conduct his probe as quickly, efficiently and transparently as possible and should resist pressure to reach conclusions based on political considerations. And when he has finished, the American people deserve a full accounting.

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