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New special counsel already facing some pushback from the right

Why is a prominent voice on Team Trump condemning special counsel Robert Hur as “a swamp monster” and “a government gangster”? For a few reasons, actually.


As Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a special counsel to examine President Joe Biden’s handling of Obama-era classified documents, one of the first questions on the minds of many Democrats was whether Robert Hur would be fair and impartial. Given the former U.S. attorney’s background, the apprehension was understandable.

Hur is, after all, a lawyer with a decidedly Republican background. It was Donald Trump who tapped him to serve as a U.S. attorney, for example, and Hur even made a controversial appearance at a White House press briefing in 2017. The former prosecutor also clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice William Rhenquist — one of the most conservative jurists of his generation — and the Federalist Society includes him among the group’s contributors.

Hur has even made campaign contributions to some Republican candidates over the course of the last 15 years.

Given details like these, one might expect Democrats to be a little nervous about Hur’s independence as he investigates a Democratic president. One might also expect GOP officials to be delighted to have a fellow Republican scrutinizing Biden.

It’s not quite working out that way.

As we discussed yesterday, part of the problem for GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill is that they don’t want a special counsel, who’ll work quietly and methodically, while keeping Congress largely in the dark. They much prefer to have far-right committee chairs and congressional investigators target the incumbent Democratic president.

But that’s just the start. Consider the comments Kash Patel, a key member of Trump’s inner circle, made about Hur during a conservative media appearance yesterday afternoon:

“This guy is a swamp monster of the tier-one level. He’s a government gangster. He’s now in charge of the continued crime-scene cover-up.”

And why, pray tell, should the right consider the newly appointed special counsel a “government gangster”? Evidently, there are a handful of areas of concern:

The Mueller investigation: As my colleague Lisa Rubin explained in a terrific Twitter thread, Hur was a top member of then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s team, playing a role in Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s Russia scandal.

Indeed, when the Senate considered Hur’s U.S. attorney nomination, it wasn’t Democrats who expressed skepticism; it was Republicans who delayed his confirmation because they were displeased to learn about his connection to the former special counsel’s investigation. Yesterday, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, among others, brought those concerns back to the fore.

Chris Wray: Hur worked as counsel to Christopher Wray, now the director of the FBI, when he was in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division. In theory, this shouldn’t be a problem for the right, since it was Trump who put Wray in charge of the FBI.

But in practice, Wray has become a villain in far-right circles, with some Republicans even raising the prospect of trying to impeach him.

Yesterday afternoon, Republican Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas published a tweet that read, “The Special Counsel that AG Merrick Garland just appointed is FBI Director Christopher Wray’s former assistant. They’re all in on it.”

GOP donations: The fact that Hur contributed financially to Republican candidates will set conservatives’ minds at ease, right? Maybe, but let’s not brush past the fact that the former prosecutor sent money to the late Sen. John McCain and former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan — both of whom have been deemed insufficiently radical by much of the GOP and its base.

This isn’t to say Republican officials are scrambling to explicitly condemn Hur or call for him to be replaced by someone more in line with the MAGA agenda. But it hasn’t yet been 24 hours since his special counsel appointment was announced, and with Patel’s “swamp monster” rhetoric in mind, no one should be surprised if the right’s dissatisfaction gets quite a bit louder.