ICYMI: Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh Urges Republicans to Defend the Mueller Investigation and the Justice Department

By John Bellinger
Sunday, June 17, 2018, 12:12 PM

In case you missed it, or missed Benjamin Wittes’s subsequent tweet commending it, former attorney general Dick Thornburgh had an important op-ed in the Washington Post last week—headlined “We Republicans Must All Speak out to Protect the Mueller Investigation”—in which he defends Bob Mueller, his investigation and the Department of Justice from the intensifying attacks by the president and his counsel, Rudy Giuliani. Thornburgh speaks with great credibility: After serving as governor of Pennsylvania, he was attorney general under George H.W. Bush from 1988 to 1991, and Mueller served under him as assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Criminal Division.

Here are some excerpts from Thornburgh’s op-ed:

I know Bob Mueller as a colleague in law enforcement and as a friend, and I highly respect his judgment and moral compass. Mueller is the right person to investigate Russia’s apparent assault on our democracy. He possesses the skills and discipline necessary to perform his role, and his past leadership as head of the Justice Department’s criminal division and as director of the FBI leave no doubt as to his ability to evenhandedly conduct significant investigations.

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It is disconcerting to witness the unfair attacks on the Justice Department now occurring; they erode public confidence and corrode the integrity of a core principle of our country. Our country must not let hyperpartisanship diminish the rule of law. That is not who we are, and it isn’t what we should ever become.

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I urge all members of Congress to become more vocal in their defense of the rule of law. Elected officials must stress unambiguously their support of the role of the special counsel and guard his right to pursue this investigation in a fair and impartial manner. Through whatever means members of Congress deem appropriate, they must defend the rule of law and the integrity of the special counsel’s mission.

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We will be remembered by what we say and what we do in this challenging time in America’s history. We must all speak out and work to protect the special counsel’s investigation from interference. As Republicans, we owe that much to our party. As citizens, we all owe even more to our country.

Kudos to Thornburgh for defending both Mueller and the Department of Justice. He is exactly right. Having served with then-FBI Director Mueller for eight years in the Bush administration (and especially in the dark days after the 9/11 attacks), I can attest firsthand to his integrity, impartiality and commitment to the rule of law. Before joining the Bush administration, I also served in the Criminal Division of the Justice Department, where I handled, among other things, investigations of foreign government interference in our democratic processes. It is sad and dangerous to see the president use his personal grievances with the attorney general and deputy attorney general to attack and attempt to discredit the department as an institution.

We must hope that Republican members of Congress will answer Thornburgh’s call to defend the special counsel investigation and the Department of Justice. They can do this without criticizing the president directly by simply defending our institutions and the rule of law.

Dick Thornburgh has shown us what leadership looks like. Others should follow his example. As Thornburgh notes, “We will be remembered by what we say and what we do in this challenging time in America’s history.”