Robert Mueller can’t save us

Quinta Jurecic writes: We don’t just hope that Mueller’s investigation will expose whatever wrongdoing took place. We want him to reestablish the order that has been lost. It’s a demand for justice in the sense described by the philosopher Immanuel Kant: We punish a crime not only to assert that the act was wrong but also to reaffirm the existence of the moral system disregarded by the criminal.

Trump’s disrespect for institutions is also a disrespect for the moral systems they represent. His repeated efforts to interfere with the independence of the Justice Department are a declaration that right and wrong, legal and illegal are whatever he says they are. This stance is an outgrowth of his flexible relationship with truth — his willingness to say anything and contradict himself moments later, with no expectation of consequence. Mueller is an avatar of our hope that justice and meaning will reassert themselves against Trumpian insincerity.

The trouble, of course, is that Mueller cannot and will not save us.

There’s no way of knowing how long his investigation will take and what it will turn up. It could be years before the probe is completed. It could be that Mueller’s team finds no evidence of criminal misconduct on the part of the president himself. And because the special counsel has no obligation to report his conclusions to the public — indeed, the special-counsel regulations do not give him the power to do so without the approval of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein — we may never know what he uncovers.

More profoundly, it is a mistake to conflate whatever legal wrongdoing the president and those around him may have engaged in with Trump’s even more profound failures of morality and leadership. The horror of much of his behavior is that it may be well within the law and presidential authority — and yet entirely unacceptable. [Continue reading…]

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