The Mueller investigation has overstayed its welcome and needs to draw to a close. What began as a counterintelligence inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election has meandered into avenues well beyond its scope, created a hostile and pernicious social environment, and neglected major red flags along partisan lines.

These dalliances away from the mandate behind the investigation have driven its approval rating down and raised sincere doubts about its legitimacy. If Democrats and the FBI wish to save face, this neo-McCarthyism masquerading as an attempt to preserve democracy in America must end.

The investigation began in May of 2017 under the broad mandate to explore “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” with collateral authorization to investigate “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” This mandate was meant to ensure that Special Investigator Robert Mueller had adequate latitude to investigate claims that the Russian government interfered with swaying the 2016 election.

Special prosecutors have, historically, returned indictments and findings unrelated to their initial mandate — just look at the Whitewater investigation under Ken Starr and Scooter Libby, and Valerie Plame in the Iraq WMD scandal. All of this is said to illustrate a simple point: Special Investigators, by and large, are employed to find anything, not to find one specific thing.

That’s to say nothing of the investigation’s deviation, within the investigation, as a counterintelligence investigation. It’s important to differentiate a counterintelligence investigation from a criminal investigation. The original mandate for the investigation was a counterintelligence operation, which is a broad investigatory endeavor that requires confidentiality and classification, and notice is given to the subjects of investigation.

Criminal investigations are focused on bringing charges and building evidence for prosecution. They are largely public, with only the suspect unaware of any warrants or raids. The Mueller investigation has consistently failed to maintain confidentiality and classification, violating a major differentiating aspect of a counterintelligence investigation. This general disregard for the security and identity of those under investigation raises further alarms as to the purpose and legitimacy of the investigation.

Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign official charged in Russia investigation, Washington, USA, 30 October 2017. (Photo: TASOS KATOPODIS/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

When weighed against the findings of the investigation, the broad scope and the leaky nature of the investigation inspires little confidence. To date, the investigation has turned up numerous instances of Democrats’ abuses and collusion with foreign entities, indictments for 13 Russian trolls for trolling, and indictments of Paul Manafort (for conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy against the United States, being an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements and other charges), Michael Flynn and George Papadopolous for lying to the FBI.

In total, the investigation has handed down 16 indictments, 13 for trolling, one for something unrelated to the Trump campaign, and two for lying to the FBI — nothing regarding substantive election interference or Trump campaign collusion.

The social ramifications of the investigation raise further questions about its value to American civility. CNN harassed an elderly woman for attending a rally put on by the Russian trolls and labeled it news. However, those trolls’ most successful event was actually an anti-Trump rally — no one has yet harassed Michael Moore or 10,000 other attendees for taking part in the gathering “Trump Is Not My President. March Against Trump.”

The information obtained regarding the FISA warrant against Carter Page unleashed a Pandora’s box of civil liberties concerns. The Page-Strzok texts uncovered by the Mueller probe highlighted coordination between the FBI and Department of Justice and anti-Trump sentiment that further undermined American faith in these institutions.

While the investigation continues and, seemingly, fails to show a substantive impact on the 2016 election, these wounds and contradictions will only fester. The pursuit of a “gotcha” against the Trump administration is wearing thin on the American public. A majority of Americans believe that Russians attempted to interfere in the election. Around half of all registered voters expressed belief that individuals in the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government, but less than half think Trump personally committed wrongful actions. Strong partisan divisions appeared on most questions, and this rift will only grow wider as the investigation broadens.

The investigation was destined to fail from the start. The failure to define interference meant that the investigation’s premise was questionable at the onset. Realistically, the Trump campaign was one characterized by its chaos and lack of organization — hardly an outfit capable of nefarious collusion with foreign agents. Sincerely, an attempt to find the Trump campaign sophisticated enough to give Russia a foothold in US elections is to afford credit where there is no merit for it. The indictments returned by the investigation itself indicate a dearth of actionable information relating to the 2016 election itself.

The investigation’s lack of credibility and results after all this time is indicative of an investigation that exists simply for itself. The expansion of the scope of the investigation reinforces this point. It is further undermined by failing to look into any of the collateral issues uncovered by or concurrent with the investigation — why isn’t Adam Schiff under investigation for his phone call with Russian agents; why isn’t Tony Podesta indicted for his coordination with Ukrainian and Russian contacts; why aren’t FBI officials under investigation for FISA abuse; why isn’t Christopher Steele under investigation? These questions remain unanswered and cut to the heart of why the investigation needs to end.

Senators examine a visual aide during the Senate Select Intelligence Committee's hearing on 'the social media influence in the 2016 U.S. elections and what steps they are taking to mitigate foreign interference in the 2018 election cycle and beyond' on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, USA, 01 November 2017. (Photo: SHAWN THEW/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

This is neo-McCarthyism. Where Democrats face policy challenges or pushback from the public, Russia is the reason. While, projects like Hamilton68 were created purporting to fight deep state conspiracy theories, ironically, they push the Russian influence narrative as a subversive and wide-reaching conspiracy. It’s clear that Russian hysteria is at a fever pitch in desperation to connect Clinton’s loss to some nefarious outside influence, rather than her own tactical mistakes.

Furthermore, the previous administration was warned in 2014 about potential Russian interference in the elections, but no action was taken.

It is time for the investigation to come to an end. While Russia was actively trolling the election, it did so from multiple angles and sought a strategy of general chaos. The results of the investigation itself are woefully underwhelming when measured against the charges of enough election interference to place Trump in the White House. There is, and potentially never was, reason to pursue an investigation into the 2016 election.

Occam’s Razor must apply — the 2016 election swung for Trump not because of some nefarious collusion with Russia, but simply because Clinton was a poor campaigner and candidate. At this point, there is no justification to continue funneling resources and time into attempting to console partisans over that notion.

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