Vice President Mike Pence, who already has an unfortunate rhetorical record when it comes to the Russian scandal, sat down with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell yesterday and went a little further with some thoughts about the investigation.
“In the interests of the country, I think it’s time to wrap it up.” Pence said in reference to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. The Indiana Republican went on to say that the Trump administration has “fully cooperated” with the investigation, adding, “I would very respectfully encourage the special counsel and his team to bring their work to completion.”
It was a weak pitch. Not only has the White House failed to fully cooperate – Donald Trump, for example, has so far refused to answer Mueller’s questions – but the suggestion that it’s time to “wrap up” the investigation appears to be based on nothing but some vague assertions about the calendar, as if a year-long probe into a scandal of this significance is somehow inappropriate.
Indeed, let’s note for context that the Republicans’ years-long investigation into Benghazi conspiracy theories was among the longest probes in American history, and when it comes to congressional scrutiny of specific individual events – Pearl Harbor, 9/11, the Kennedy Assassination, Watergate, etc. – the Benghazi investigation was the longest ever. Pence never seemed to mind.
But implicit in Pence’s appeal is the idea that the special counsel’s investigation isn’t amounting to much, so it might as well end. In a new NPR interview, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was more explicit on this point. Asked whether he believes the Russia investigation is a “witch hunt,” as the president routinely calls it, Kelly said:
“Something that has gone on this long without any real meat on the bone, it suggests to me that there is nothing there, relative to our president.”
Maybe Kelly isn’t paying close enough attention to current events.
When it comes to “real meat on the bone,” the Mueller probe has led to criminal charges against nearly two-dozen people. Five people have already made guilty pleas. One person is already in prison.
Meanwhile, the president himself is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation. The president’s former campaign chairman is facing multiple felony counts. The president’s former White House national security advisor has already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russia.
And I’m just scratching the surface here. We didn’t fully realize until this week that the president’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, used a shell company to enter into some highly controversial contracts with some giant corporations, and those business arrangements have also drawn the special counsel’s scrutiny.
All of which leads to an obvious follow-up question for the White House chief of staff: just how much “meat” is John Kelly looking for on this particular bone?