The Wall Street Journal's editorial board warned in an op-ed published Monday night that special counsel Robert Mueller "is too conflicted to investigate the FBI and should step down in favor of someone more credible," after reports surfaced Saturday indicating that one of Mueller's former staffers had sent anti-Trump text messages to his girlfriend.
Several outlets reported Saturday that FBI investigator Peter Strzok was ousted during the summer from Mueller's investigation into Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election when Mueller discovered that Strzok had ridiculed Trump in texts with Lisa Page, also a former member of the team. The WSJ editorial board said it also was troubled by the Justice Department's actions to withhold information and documents from the House Intelligence Committee "that would have exposed those texts."
"Donald Trump is his own worst enemy, as his many ill-advised tweets on the weekend about Michael Flynn, the FBI and Robert Mueller's Russia probe demonstrate," the board wrote. "But that doesn't mean that Mr. Mueller and the Federal Bureau of Investigation deserve a pass about their motives and methods, as new information raises troubling questions."
The WSJ noted that the Justice Department "refused to answer questions about Mr. Strzok's dismissal and refused to make him available for an interview" during congressional investigative proceedings. But when the stories about Strzok began pouring out over the weekend, the Justice Department agreed to authorize Strzok's testimony to the House committee.
To make matters even worse, Strzok served as the number-two official in the investigation into 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state. Strzok also was present during the FBI's interview with Clinton just prior to former FBI Director James Comey's public exoneration of her.
"There is no justification for withholding all of this from Congress, which is also investigating Russian influence and has constitutional oversight authority," the WSJ board wrote.
"All of this reinforces our doubts about Mr. Mueller's ability to conduct a fair and credible probe of the FBI's considerable part in the Russia-Trump drama," the board added. "The reluctance to cooperate with a congressional inquiry compounds doubts related to this clear conflict of interest."
The WSJ also lashed out at Mueller's "media protectorate," which "argues that anyone critical of the special counsel is trying to cover for Mr. Trump."
This isn't the first time that the WSJ editorial board has criticized Mueller and questioned whether or not the special counsel has been compromised. The board made waves on October 25, when it wrote an op-ed entitled "Democrats, Russians and the FBI."
At the time, the board was responding to the revelations that Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) jointly paid for the salacious and discredited Trump-Russia dossier that may or may not have influenced the FBI's initial investigation into the Trump campaign and the Russian election interference.
"All of this also raises questions about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation," the WSJ board had written. "It is no slur against Mr. Mueller's integrity to say that he lacks the critical distance to conduct a credible probe of the bureau he ran for a dozen years. He could best serve the country by resigning to prevent further political turmoil over that conflict of interest."
And with this weekend's revelations, the WSJ editorial board once again renewed its concern about Mueller's impartiality and credibility to lead the Trump-Russia probe.
"The latest news supports our view that Mr. Mueller is too conflicted to investigate the FBI and should step down in favor of someone more credible," the board concluded.