Guest column: Rule of law relies on competence

Appointing a special counsel promotes checks and balances, truth and national security, writes David Adler.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s admirable decision to appoint a special counsel to probe all matters relevant to the allegations of Trump-Russian ties represents an important step in promoting the doctrine of checks and balances, the rule of law and America’s national security interests.

What President Donald Trump angrily denounced as “the greatest witch hunt in the history of American history” was, in fact, a necessary appointment, given the increasing evidence of links between Russian officials and members of both Trump’s 2016 campaign and his administration.

All Americans, regardless of party affiliation and partisan allegiances, should want to know the truth about the allegations and issues that have dominated Trump’s presidency in its first four months.

The appointment of former FBI Director, Robert Mueller, who served under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, promises a thorough investigation into questions about possible collusion between the Trump Team and the Russians that have rocked the nation’s confidence in the integrity of the past presidential election.

Questions of great importance to our constitutional republic and national security are at stake in this investigation. Did President Trump ask former FBI Director James Comey to halt the bureau’s investigation into the activities of former National Security Adviser, General Mike Flynn? Did Trump fire Comey to impede the investigation? If so, the president may be found to have committed obstruction of justice, an impeachable offense.

Why did the Trump Transition Team, led by Vice-President Mike Pence, recommend the appointment of Flynn to serve as National Security Adviser when, on January 4, 2017, three weeks before the inauguration, it knew that he was under FBI investigation for being on the payroll of the Turkish government? Why did it take President Trump so long to fire Flynn after he had been informed by acting Attorney General Sally Yates that Flynn could be “compromised,” that is, blackmailed by the Russians?

The Mueller investigations should not deter the House and Senate intelligence committees from continuing their own probes. While Mueller will enjoy full independence to conduct his examination into Russian ties, his focus as an investigator and career prosecutor will be on potential criminal charges.

The congressional committees may wind up in the same spot, but their inquiries will also reflect concerns about, not only the legality and constitutionality of Trumps’ actions, but their relative wisdom. For example, was it really wise, and in America’s national security interests, for President Trump to share with Russians the highly classified information –-received from Israel—that the Israelis had succeeded in planting a spy within ISIS leadership circles who had provided critical intelligence? Will Israel be willing to share with the U.S. critical intelligence when it has no assurance that President Trump’s loose lips won’t, once again, reveal to Moscow highly secretive information that may be relayed to Syria, Israel’s enemy?

There is no certainty when it comes to the ultimate directions and conclusions of investigations—whether conducted by the FBI, Congress or a special counsel—but the deeply serious concerns surrounding the Trump Administration and links to Russia demand the most effective, penetrating investigations that American resources can provide.

The Constitution and the rule of law are not systems that are self-implementing. They depend on the integrity and competence of good men and women at the helm. In a republic, facts assume crucial importance, for they inform public dialogue, public opinion and public policy. The discernment of the facts surrounding allegations of Trump ties to Russia deserves to be the highest priority of all investigators at the helm.


Adler is president of the Alturas Institute, which promotes the Constitution and civic education. He has lectured nationally and internationally on the Constitution and the Presidency.