Having chased the phantom of Russian interference in the election and found nothing, special counsel Robert Mueller has morphed his inquiry into one probing obstruction of justice. And now, he has sought to mutate it again into an examination of the president's sexual encounters.
Mueller is following the script of former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, who, having failed to find wrongdoing in then-President Bill Clinton's real estate deals, examined his relationship with Monica Lewinsky instead.
At the moment, Mueller's investigation seems to boil down to two questions:
1. Why did President Donald Trump fire former FBI director James Comey?
2. Did the president extort or blackmail Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal into signing nondisclosure agreements, or did they do so voluntarily?
Neither of these questions can (likely ever) be answered definitively.
Why did Trump fire Comey? How can we ever know what was in the president's mind? Did he act because he decided it was the best way to end the investigation?
Or was it because he was angry that Comey told him — and the world — about the unverified Russia dossier without saying that it was paid for by Hillary Clinton's campaign?
Or was it unrelated to Russia and based on a feeling that he had overly politicized Comey's office with his on-again, off-again statements about Clinton's emails that displease both sides?
Or did he feel he needed an FBI more attuned to fighting terrorism or fighting crime? How can we ever know beyond a reasonable doubt. To seek to end a presidency based on the murky answers to this basic question is a political impossibility.
The second question has a clearer answer.
Of course the women signed the NDAs voluntarily in order to take the money they were offered. It might not be seemly to buy a person's silence by paying her money, but it's not illegal. Only if either woman was threatened, extorted or forced to sign the agreements would there be any criminal liability.
These women were in it for the money. That was how they each lived. To pretend that Trump or his lawyer, Michael Cohen, had to force them to take the cash is like imagining one would have to force a hungry lion to eat.
The fact that Stormy Daniels fell for Trump's pretense that he would bring her on his television show is a testament to her gullibility, not Trump's illegality.
Let's telescope months of wading in the mud and get to these essential questions.
Mueller has two choices. He can step up to the plate and prove that Trump meant to derail the Russian collusion investigation by firing Comey or that Trump blackmailed these women.
If he can't do that, Mueller should step down and stop wasting our time with this garbage.