Congress should ensure the investigation of the Special Counsel is protected


Today, the Sunlight Foundation endorsed the Special Counsel Transparency Act to preserve evidence and recommendations that result from Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s investigation, should President Donald J. Trump fire him.

Additionally, we joined a coalition of good government and ethics watchdogs in a letter urging the U.S. House Judiciary Committee to support the bill.

“The Special Counsel Transparency Act would protect the Special Counsel’s investigation by triggering the disclosure of evidence to Congress in the event of the Mueller’s dismissal, which helps prevent a cover-up, protects any evidence of wrongdoing, and reasserts Congress’s relevance to the investigation, all at the same time,” said John Wonderlich, our executive director, in a statement to the public and press. “Congress should carefully consider and then pass this bill, and quickly.”

We don’t come to this decision lightly, but recent events have suggested that the special counsel’s office and its investigation could be imperiled by a president who has become isolated and unnerved in the wake of a corruption investigation of his personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

Robert S. Mueller III was appointed on May 17, 2017, one week after Sunlight called for a special counsel in the wake of President Trump abruptly firing James Comey while the president’s campaign was under active, ongoing investigation by the department.

In Order 3915-2017, acting United States Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein appointed a Special Counsel to ensure that “a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.”

In his order, Rosenstein authorized Mueller to conduct the investigation confirmed by then-FBI Director Comey in his testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 20, 2017, including:

1) “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” and 2) “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

Additionally, the order authorized Mueller “to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters” if the Special Counsel “believes it is necessary and appropriate.”

As of mid-April 2018, the Special Counsel’s office has either indicted or obtained guilty pleas from 19 people and three companies, including 4 former advisors to the Trump campaign — including the former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort — and 13 Russians. Five of the people have pled guilty, including Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign staffer.

Since it began, the Special Counsel’s investigation has expanded to include the financial ties of Trump and his associates’ financial ties to Russia, and whether Trump obstructed justice.

Congress should act to ensure that the evidence and recommendations that result are available to its Members and, ultimately, the public.