Do you remember where you were on Fitzmas Eve? On Fitzmas Day?
I do. I was sitting behind a dealer’s table at World Horror Con in San Francisco. It was particularly memorable because of the excitement in the air. The two women who ran one of the tables across from me were talking about it throughout the day, imagining what they were going to get. They were certain they were going to receive a Karl Rove indictment from Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Probably about two dozen lesser functionaries in the Bush administration were going to be gifts… they were certainly knowledgeable about their enemies, because they could rattle off the names of people who had been interviewed once, then forgotten.
Their biggest hope, though, the one that had them most excited, was the possibility of getting Dick Cheney. They were prepared to be happy with Karl Rove. They believed George W. Bush was a dolt barely capable of reading “My Pet Goat” without help, and that all of the real decisions were being made by Rove and Cheney.
Their disappointment when Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s indictment came down was palpable. One of the pair was in tears, and the other was attempting to offer comfort despite her own obvious distress.
I admit, I was uncharitably pleased by their reactions, after a day and a half of hearing their predictions. I explained as much to the woman I went to dinner with that night, the woman who would eventually become my wife. I explained to her that I’d actually have been fine with Karl Rove being jettisoned… I thought that his advice had keeping Bush from pursing an agenda in favor of being re-elected, while pushing a pro-growth agenda could have resulted in a landslide re-election… but that there didn’t seem to be any real evidence for an indictment.
In the end, Libby was convicted of perjury. It achieved one thing the Democrats hadn’t expected: it drove a deep wedge between Cheney and Bush. Counter to Cheney’s request, Bush provided only a commutation of Libby’s sentence and refused to take the political damage that would have come from a full pardon. For the most part, though, the Plame investigation took almost two years between the assignment of special prosecutor (December 30, 2003) and any indictments (October 28, 2005). Fitzmas was the day that the the targets of the indictments were made public.
Overnight, Patrick Fitzgerald went from being the hero of all Democrats to being a partisan shill that nobody had ever trusted. As the prosecution of Libby ramped up, some backed off of their venom and speculated hopefully that this was all merely the first stage, that he was going to try to “flip” Libby to get to the higher-ups in the Republican Party. Meanwhile, the Republicans castigated him for scapegoating Libby to appease the liberals.
By comparison, Mueller’s investigation has taken less time (he was made special counsel on May 17, 2017) and resulted in far more indictments. It took more than another year to bring Libby to trial; Manafort is already on trial. The efforts to draw comparisons and paint Mueller as having a weaker position or taking longer than predecessors flies in the face of available fact.
One comparison is apt, however: Fitzmas.
Even if Manafort is convicted, there are many who are far less concerned about the man than about his potential to inflict damage on the President and the President’s underlings. They have become convinced that Manafort’s trial is going to inevitably lead to, if not the impeachment and removal of Trump, at least the prosecution of malefactors like Roger Stone, Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner.
Any decisions by Mueller will depend not on what crimes have been committed, but rather what crimes he believes he can adequately prove were committed. All the speculation in the world will not change those facts which he has at his disposal. Speculation is fun, and it’s an excellent mental challenge, but people cannot allow themselves to blur the lines between what is speculation and what is certainty. When they do so, and any level of their “certainty” does not bear out, they become disillusioned and sometimes stop bothering to fight.