Appointment of special counsel to lead Russian investigation a good move

Jamaicans who are among the most keen followers of American politics are likely to welcome yesterday’s announcement of the appointment of a special counsel to lead the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 United States presidential elections.

In normal times, any matter concerning Russia would unite Americans, let alone claims by the US intelligence community that Russia tried to influence the elections by hacking into the e-mail accounts of some candidates. However, the claims have been shrouded in partisan politics, with the Donald Trump campaign saying Democrats were using it as an excuse for losing an election they should have won.

The issue of Russian interference has claimed several casualties, including the dismissal of former National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey.

In a real sense, the United States has not emerged from political campaign mode, even after Mr Trump won and was inaugurated as president in January this year. His first 100 days have been marked by one political controversy after another, during which the new president could not concentrate on the issues which electorates usually want, such as economic improvement, especially in job creation.

The dismissal of the FBI director; claims that he was asked by the president to drop the investigation of Mr Flynn; apparent threats by Mr Trump to reveal tapes of conversations with Mr Comey, if he leaked confidential matters to the media; reports that classified information from a US ally was shared with the Russians and that the president had asked Mr Comey to jail journalists who had published leaked classified documents, have made the situation untenable.

While the drip-drip of information continued, the image of America, which the world looks to for leadership, was being severely damaged. The enemies of western democracy, including terrorists, could be the only winners in this scenario. America means too much to all of us for that to continue indefinitely.

The appointment by Deputy Attorney General Rod J Rosenstein of a special counsel in Mr Robert Mueller, a former director of the FBI with seemingly unquestioned credentials, should take the investigation out of the politically partisan arena and give the country a chance to settle down. It should also prove the innocence or guilt of Trump campaign associates in respect of the claims of collusion with Russian operatives.

The choice of Mr Mueller was immediately welcomed as an astute move because of his very solid reputation as a man of integrity. It is noteworthy that he served for 12 years as FBI director under President George W Bush and President Barack Obama.

In the heat of political battle, sometimes the combatants find it difficult to yield. Yet, a special or independent investigator is just what America needs to allow itself room to breathe. Hopefully, Mr Mueller will get the fullest co-operation in his investigations and the chips fall where they may.

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