With slow but notable progress under way in Congress among Democrats and some Republicans to pass legislation protecting Robert Mueller’s Russiagate inquiry—I’ll have more on that below—it’s curious, to say the least, that a progressive Democrat who’s likely going to be a candidate for the US Senate in Rhode Island is signaling that, if elected in November, he’d be reluctant to step in on Mueller’s behalf.
Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find that the would-be candidate, Lincoln Chafee, a quixotic former Republican US senator who was then elected Rhode Island governor as an independent before becoming a Democrat, has ties to Paul Manafort’s pro-Russia friends in Ukraine.
Chafee, who says he’s probably going to mount a primary challenge to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, told reporters that he would not support bipartisan legislation aimed at protecting Mueller, the Russiagate special counsel, from the threat of dismissal by President Trump. Not only that, but Chafee added that he doesn’t believe the investigation will find anything. Sounding like a more grammatical version of one of Trump’s tweets, Chafee said last Friday, according to the Associated Press : “Unless there’s some evidence, it’s time to wrap this thing up. It’s not going anywhere. We’re wasting money.”
The AP notes that Chafee has been singing his skeptical tune since last summer, when he called the Russiagate inquiry part of a “mainstream media attack” on Trump. In an interview last week with The Providence Journal, Chafee went further, saying that he doesn’t believe the US intelligence-community conclusion that Russia was behind the theft of e-mails from the Democratic National Committee in 2016.
“I do have a healthy skepticism of the intelligence finding,” Chafee told The Nation in an interview. His tendency to take the skeptical view derives from the false 2003 claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, he said. But he reaffirmed that Mueller’s investigation is wasting taxpayers’ money, and that so far the special counsel has made little or no progress and has nothing to show for his yearlong inquiry. “Yes, it’s time to wrap it up,” he said. The constant drumbeat of the Russia inquiry is, for Democrats, a distraction from the need to rethink the party’s priorities, said the former Rhode Island governor.
Aren’t the indictments of a series of former senior Trump aides and associates, along with 13 Russians, a sign that Mueller is making progress? “Indictments,” said Chafee, “aren’t convictions.” Of course, several of those indicted have already pleaded guilty, and they’re cooperating with Mueller.