Spoiler Alert: It Isn’t.
I’ve heard this complaint some, particularly since the revelation that Mueller has convened a grand jury. Generally the suggestion is that if he had anything, the investigation would be done by now. Any such rhetroic should place this investigation in the historical context of other Special Prosecutor investigations of Presidents. Like Ken Starr’s against Clinton and the investigation of Richard Nixon.
Mueller was appointed May 17th. So he has been at this for all of 2 1/2 months. In that time he has culled an incredible staff of experts on these issues, crossed Trump’s “red line” against investigating his business finances, and convened the grand jury which has begun issuing subpoenas.
Ken Starr’s investigation of Bill Clinton, started in 1994 and did not end till 1998. It started to investigate the Whitewater scandal. In a couple of years it produced the convictions of former Clinton business partners Susan and Jim McDougal. Ken Starr in 1997 indicated he would end the investigation but continued it when the Monica Lewinsky matter entered into the investigation in early 1997. He submitted his report to Congress over a year later in September 1998.
The Lewinsky related investigation led to articles of impeachment being forwarded by the House to the Senate which voted to acquit the President. On one charge the vote 50–50, short of the 2/3s vote required for conviction.
Even then it did not end. Another Special Prosecutor, Robert Ray, was appointed who pursued these questions for yet another three years from 1999 to 2002. By the time this ended it dogged Clinton’s Presidency for the full eight years of his two terms. Let that sink in when you hear whining about how long the Trump investigation is taking.
Bottom line, the Starr investigation dragged on for four years. Even so, it had enough substance to it to lead to the impeachment of a President and tie vote in the Senate trial. As a final note, Jim McDougal died in prison. Susan McDougal was pardoned by Clinton as he left office.
Nixon’s is also a complex story, but the first Special Prosecutor, Archibald Cox, was appointed May 19, 1973. Cox survived for substantially longer than Mueller has even been on the job. He was fired in the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre” on October 20, 1973. So he was on the job five months (twice as long as Mueller so far) and left the job with his work obviously uncompleted.
Leon Jaworski was appointed the new special prosecutor less than two weeks later on November 1, 1973. 6 1/2 months later on April 16, 1974 Jaworski subpoenaed the White House tapes. Nixon challenged the subpoena but on July 24, 1974 the challenge was defeated when the Supreme Court unanimously decided United States v. Nixon against him. About two weeks later Nixon resigned.
The total investigation of Nixon, under both Special Prosecutors, was roughly 15 months. Even then the investigation was not yet completed, having only had the crucial tapes for a couple of weeks. Yet, impeachment proceedings had already begun with the House Judiciary Committee voting to forward recommended Articles of Impeachment in the last few days of July 1974. Jaworski’s investigation was deemed moot by the resignation and dissolved on its own after that.
With that said, the investigation of Trump is complex. It involves numerous business dealings, arrangements, structures and finances that Trump has tried to conceal from the American people. In Nixon-esque fashion Trump has also engaged in efforts to interfere with the investigation, smear the investigators, and even intimidate Mueller with his “red line” comment that in context were combined with suggestions he could fire Mueller.
Mueller’s work actually appears to be moving fairly fast. Any suggestion it is “taking so long” lacks historical perspective. I think he should get at least a year before we are talking about it taking “so long.”