Robert Mueller, Special Counsel

Having a hard time understanding who is investigating whom in Washington, D.C., and why? Begin by sorting out the role of Special Counsel Robert Mueller in this week’s CLP Current Event.

Brought to teachers by Susie Marcus, CLP consultant, with CLP staff.


News Sources

Sessions Interviewed By Special Counsel Robert Mueller As Part Of Russia Inquiry, By Carrie Johnson & Ryan Lucas, NPR, January 23, 2018
CLP: Breaking News!

Your Guide to Mueller’s Russia Investigation, by Laurence Arnold, Bloomberg Politics, updated Dec. 1, 2017
CLP: START HERE to get the lay of the land

Robert Mueller Investigation Must Separate Fact From Fiction (ANALYSIS), by David Von Drehle, Time, June 22, 2017
“…Mueller must be careful and measured and honest and open. If he finds offenses, he must lay them out clearly, with every t crossed. If he finds none, he must issue equally clear and compelling exonerations. America is hungry for fair dealers: Mueller can do his part by proving himself to be one…”
CLP: Time mag sets the stage for what we have seen unfold since June. Clear discussion of the reason for the Special Counsel and the challenges. For a current follow-up, see In Defense of Robert Mueller (EDITORIAL), Bloomberg, Jan. 8, 2018. 

What’s Next for the Russia Investigations? No End In Sight for Congress, Mueller Probes, by Erin Kelly and Kevin Johnson, USA Today, Dec. 27, 2017
“The (Senate Intelligence) committee has interviewed more than 100 people since its investigation began in January… (it) has been able to substantiate the findings of the U.S. intelligence community, which issued a report in January concluding that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign designed to undermine public confidence in the 2016 U.S. election, hurt Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump… Facebook disclosed in September that an internal investigation had uncovered $100,000 in ads traced to a Russian ‘troll farm’ that carried ‘divisive social and political messages’ …”
CLP: refers to bipartisan efforts in Congress; a bit like tracking a whodunit.

A Trump Interview With Robert Mueller Would Follow Presidential Tradition, by Brian Naylor, National Public Broadcasting, Jan. 9, 2018
“If President Trump answers questions from Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller, as reports indicate he may, Trump would follow the precedent set by many previous occupants of his office…”
CLP: handy review of Clinton, Bush, Reagan, and Ford’s testimony with special counsel or grand juries.

Trump Sidesteps Question on Mueller Interview, by Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Nicholas Fandos, New York Times, Jan. 10, 2018
“President Trump declined on Wednesday to commit to being interviewed by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating whether his campaign colluded with Russia to sway the 2016 election, backing off his statement last year that he would be willing to talk to Mr. Mueller under oath…”
CLP: discusses (1) President’s potential interview with Special Counsel, (2) Sen. Feinstein’s release of transcript, and (3) Democratic Report of Russian interference.

Cyber Veteran Joins Special Counsel Mueller’s Team, by Pierre Thomas, ABC News, Jan. 10, 2018
“A longtime federal prosecutor who specializes in cyber crimes and fraud has joined Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and alleged collusion…”
CLP: Suggests that cyber crime is a serious concern

Bannon Will Do Interview with Special Counsel, Avoiding Grand Jury for Now, by Kara Scannell and Maegan Bazquez, CNN, Jan. 17, 2018
“…Bannon, the former White House chief strategist for President Donald Trump, is expected to talk openly to Mueller’s team. Bannon’s attorney told the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that Bannon would answer questions when he goes to the special counsel because executive privilege would not apply…”
CLP: the President’s inner circle is under the looking glass.


Questions to Consider

  • What is a special counsel?
  • Who appoints special counsels?
  • Is there a time limit to special counsel investigations? What are the advantages of a speedy inquiry? What are the dangers of a hurried inquiry?
  • Who is Robert Mueller?
  • What is being investigated? Did Russia attempt to influence the 2016 Presidential election? Was hacking involved?
  • What is the history of special counsel investigations?
  • What is collusion?
  • What branches of our government have investigative responsibilities?
  • What responsibility does a special counsel have to inform the public of the results of an investigation? Should the public be informed?
  • Should the President have to submit to an interview with Robert Mueller? Why or why not? What are the historical antecedents regarding interviews with a sitting President?
  • What vocabulary is needed to think about role of the special counsel? What is collusion? What is conspiracy? CLP: Pro-Trump source; good on vocabulary


Background and More

Ten Questions Bob Mueller Should Ask Trump, by Victoria Bassetti, Brennan Center for Justice – New York University School of Law, Jan. 11, 2018
“First there were reports that Trump would sit for an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Then Trump prevaricated and said in an interview was ‘unlikely.’ Interview or not, sooner or later the president is going to have to answer some questions…”

Here’s What the New Special Counsel Can — and Can’t — Do with His Investigation, by John W. Schoen, CNBC, May 18, 2017
“…Mueller and his staff can interview witnesses, subpoena documents and, if the evidence merits, work with the bureau to bring criminal charges…The job is the equivalent of a U.S. attorney, but is not subject to day-to-day supervision by the Justice Department. The special counsel has to be named from outside government and has broad leeway in staffing any investigation…”

Special Counsel Investigation (2017–present), Wikipedia
“Since May of 2017, former FBI Director Robert Mueller is leading an ongoing investigation as special counsel under supervision of the United States Department of Justice. Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections including exploring any links or coordination between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian government. Several members of the Trump campaign and administration have been convicted or indicted as a result of the investigation, including Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, Rick Gates, and Paul Manafort…”
CLP: sometimes Wikipedia does the job

Special Prosecutor, from Annenberg Classroom
“A lawyer from outside the government appointed by the attorney general or Congress to investigate a federal official for misconduct while in office … Watergatge … Whitewater…”
CLP: helpful background in three concise paragraphs


Lesson Plans

The Role of the Independent Counsel, from Constitutional Rights Foundation-USA
“The independent counsel law was designed to assure the American people that high-placed government officials do not abuse the power of their positions. Yet many people believe that the independent counsel has, at times, abused its own power…”
CLP: CRF is reliable, excellent resource. This is long on verbiage but includes discussion, role play committee strategy.

Video Clip: U.S.-Russia Relations, C-Span, Aug. 6, 2017
“Samuel Charap talked about U.S.-Russia relations amid the investigation…”

Video Clip: Russia’s Use of Social Media, C-Span, Nov. 4, 2017
“Reuters’ Dustin Volz discusses executives with Facebook, Twitter and Google testifying on Capitol Hill…”
CLP: C-Span requires a log in; it’s worth signing up.

Podcast: the Constitution and Mueller Investigation, National Constitution Center Staff, Dec. 14, 2017
“…Since Mueller’s appointment, the probe has raised a number of constitutional questions… National Constitution Center Jeffrey Rosen moderates a discussion about these issues iwht two leading experts…”
CLP: We love the National Constitution Center’s first-rate materials and resources.

CLP Current Event Special Prosecutor, May 16, 2017
CLP: When the appointment was made last spring, CLP was there. Check out this Current Event for more.


Constitutional and Legal Connections

Congressional Powers of Investigation, from American History from Revolution to Reconstruction and Beyond, University of Groningen (Netherlands)
“One of the most important nonlegislative functions of the Congress is the power to investigate. This power is usually delegated to committees — either the standing committees, special committees set up for a specific purpose, or joint committees composed of members of both houses…”
CLP: the Dutch have provided a solid 2-paragraph overview

What Is a Special Counsel and How Much Power Do They Have? By Ariane de Vogue, CNN, May 18, 2017
“…The code of federal regulations provides that the attorney general will appoint a special counsel when the attorney general “determines that criminal investigation is warranted and that an investigation by the Justice Department would present a conflict of interest ‘or other extraordinary circumstance’ and that ‘under the circumstances it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside special counsel…”
CLP: a legal approach to the authority and jurisdiction of special counsel.

Could Trump Remove Special Counsel Robert Mueller? Lessons from Watergate, by Josh Blackman, LawFare, May 23, 2017
CLP: Close review of statutory framework, what it takes to fire a Special Counsel, historical reference.

Robert Mueller Obtains Warrant Targeting Facebook Accounts in Russia Collusion Investigation, by Sarah Taylor, The Blaze, Sept. 18, 2017
“Special counsel Robert Mueller obtained a warrant to search for records of about 500 ‘inauthentic’ Facebook accounts that may have been responsible for Russian ad buys on the social networking site during the 2016 presidential election…”

Mueller’s Definition of ‘Collusion’ Will Be Clear, by Noah Feldman, Bloomberg, Nov. 2, 2017
“One legal question looms larger than others over special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and its possible Russia connections: What laws, exactly, would be violated by collusion if it could be shown?…”
CLP: Collusion explained; caution urged.


Oregon & the Northwest

Sen. Ron Wyden On Russia Investigation, interview led by Scott Simon, NPR Weekend Edition, Jan. 13, 2018, 7:51 AM ET
“Sen. Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. NPR’s Scott Simon asks him about the latest on the committee’s investigation into Russian election interference…”
CLP: 4:22m audio or transcript

Oregon Perspective on What Trump/Russia Special Counsel Probe Means, by Lincoln Graves, KATU news, May 17, 2017
“… (Jim Moore, Pacific University political analyst) perspective is a warning to Democrats or other opponents of Trump … Former U.S. Attorney for Oregon Dwight Holton … (is) relieved to see a special counsel has been appointed, but he’s also mindful of what the investigation will look for…”
CLP: helpful insights from Oregonians on the scope of the investigation and the reach of Congress.

Special Counsel Draws Partisan Reactions from Oregon, Rob Manning, OPB, updated May 21, 2017
“…’When you have the president, in his own words, firing the FBI director to end an investigation into his campaign, I believe that is an attack on our democratic institutions,’ (Oregon Senator Ron) Wyden said… The Oregon GOP statement emphasized moving away from a “hyper-partisan, media-fueled frenzy” and focusing instead on critical policy efforts…”
CLP: Views from Oregon D’s and R’s


Oregon State Social Science Standards

8.8 Evaluate information from a variety of sources and perspectives.
8.14 Explain rights and responsibilities of citizens.
8.17 Examine the development activities of political parties and interest groups and their affect on events, issues, and ideas.
8.26 Examine a controversial event, issue, or problem from more than one perspective.
8.27 Examine the various characteristics, causes, and effects of an event, issue, or problem.
8.28 Investigate a response or solution to an issue or problem and support or oppose, using research.

HS.1 Evaluate continuity and change over the course of world and United States history.
HS.2 Analyze the complexity and investigate causes and effects of significant events in world, U.S., and Oregon history.
HS.9 Identify historical and current events, issues, and problems when national interests and global interest have been in conflict, and analyze the values and arguments on both sides of the conflict.
HS.27 Examine functions an process of United Sates government.
HS.30 Analyze the roles and activities of political parties, interest groups and mass media and how they affect the beliefs and behaviors of local, state, and national constituencies.
HS.33 Explain the role of government in various current events.
HS.34 Explain the responsibilities of citizens (e.g., vote, pay taxes).
HS.57 Define, research, and explain an event, issue, problem or phenomenon and its significance to society.
HS.58 Gather, analyze, use and document information from various sources, distinguishing facts, opinions, inferences, biases, stereotypes, and persuasive appeals.
HS.59 Demonstrate the skills and dispositions needed to be a critical consumer of information.
HS.60. Analyze an event, issue, problem, or phenomenon from varied or opposing perspectives or points of view.
HS.61 Analyze an event, issue, problem, or phenomenon, identifying characteristics, influences, causes, and both short- and long-term effects.
HS.63. Engage in informed and respectful deliberation and discussion of issues, events, and ideas.


We the People Lesson Connections

Middle School, Level 2

  • Unit 6, Lesson 29: What are the rights and responsibilities of citizenship?
  • Unit 6, Lesson 30: How might citizens participate in civic affairs?

High School, Level 3

  • Unit 4, Lesson 23: What is the role of the President in the American constitutional system?
  • Unit 6, Lesson 33: What does it mean to be a citizen?
  • Unit 6, Lesson 34: What is the importance of civic engagement to American constitutional democracy?
  • Unit 6, Lesson 37: What key challenges does the United States face in the future?