As the Russia investigation hit its first anniversary this week, President Trump was raging away — tweeting, “Congratulations America, we are now into the second year of the greatest Witch Hunt in American History … still No Collusion and No Obstruction.” Now, it seems to me that Salem, Massachusetts, still holds the title for “greatest” when it comes to witch hunts because, you know, they were actually hunting witches. But let’s put that (and his oddball use of capital letters) aside to address the general claims that this sleuthing has A) gone on too long and B) produced no evidence of wrongdoing.
As special investigations go, Robert Mueller’s is just a baby. Or maybe a teenager. Numerous other probes have lasted much, much longer: Clinton/Whitewater, Iran/Contra, Valerie Plame/NSA … even the Bruce Babbitt investigation, for crying out loud. An online analysis found the average length of such endeavors is just over 900 days. Based on that formula, Team Trump ought not to expect a wrap-up until early November 2019 — one year before the next presidential election. Imagine how thrilled that timing would make them.
But what about this question of results? In one year, this probe has produced 75 criminal charges for 22 people and/or companies, five guilty pleas have been recorded, and one person has been sentenced. I’m not a judge, but that sounds substantial.
I’ll grant that the president has reason to be frustrated. After all, he is correct when he says we have yet to see any proof of collusion between his campaign and the Russians. He’s also right to say no evidence we know of has legally established a case for obstruction of justice. And certainly no one has pinned anything directly to him on those fronts, despite some questionable accounting when it comes to porn stars he has known.
So sure, if I were Donald Trump, I might be angry too. I too might send my minions out to howl about the length, breadth and intent of the investigation.
But again, it’s still early. And as much as the president may despise the fact that this has gone on for a year, as long as it is producing results, there will likely be no end in sight.