Editorials

Grand jury in Russia probe doesn’t equal guilt — but stay tuned

Miami Herald Editorial Board

President Trump has hinted that he wants to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia.
President Trump has hinted that he wants to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia. AP

Don’t read too much into the revelation that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury, with subpeona power, in his investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to hand President Trump a victory over Hillary Clinton last year.

It’s not a sign of guilt. It doesn’t mean there’ll be criminal indictments, much less impeachment, the still-far-fetched fantasy of President Trump’s resistors.

But it does mean that Mueller is serious about his task, very serious. And if the president is equally as serious when he says that he has nothing to hide, that his campaign — and son Donald Trump Jr. — did nothing wrong, then he will take a hands-off, mouth-shut approach to this development.

And his multiple attorneys, and even the White House adult, chief of staff John Kelly, should advise he back off any attempt to fire Mueller. That would definitely be a sign of, if not guilt, then willful acts that put America’s very democracy in peril.

Those same lawyers, however, and presidential aides, have been digging into the backgrounds of investigators hired by Mueller, looking for any shred of evidence that could discredit the probe or bolster the case to fire the special counsel.

This is no surprise. The president has made frighteningly clear his cavalier attitude toward the law: Then-FBI director James Comey would not back off of the investigation into Michael Flynn’s Russian ties — and is fired; Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any role in the Russia probes, and Trump excoriated him for doing so, believing that Sessions should have his back — even if it means obstructing justice.

Trump protests far too much, employing “look over there!” tactics to keep Americans distracted. Mueller, however, is not having any of it. He is carrying out a deliberative process that he must see through to the end.

And a bipartisan group of Senate lawmakers agrees. Thursday, according to the Associated Press, Sens. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, and Chris Coons, D-Delaware, introduced a bill to prevent Trump from firing Mueller and would allow any special counsel for the Department of Justice to challenge his or her removal in court.

Another bill, by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, prevents any special counsel from being fired unless the decision was first reviewed by a panel of three U.S. judges.

Both are worthy of debate. As for the president, he should just keep his lips zipped. (Yeah, right.) The more he mouths off, the more it looks like he’s got something to hide.

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