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Former U.S. Attorney Calls Political Affiliations Of Mueller Team "Unnecessary Distraction"

Two former federal prosecutors out of Connecticut addressed the constitutional questions that could play out in the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Former U.S. attorneys Deirdre Daly and Kevin O’Connor spoke to members of the law community and criminal justice students at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford on Monday.

The two mostly agreed and seemed to have fun with hypothetical scenarios -- both, for instance, said President Donald Trump would look bad if he is indicted, but pardons himself. Where they clashed was over the construction of Robert Mueller’s team of investigators.

Daly was tapped to be a district attorney by Barack Obama and she’s a registered Democrat. She acknowledged that there’s a Democratic majority on the Mueller team, but still sees a balance because of Mueller’s political affiliation as a lifelong Republican.

“There could be a perception, which is probably completely unfair, but there could a perception that they’re biased against the president and the president has talked about that a lot, talking about the team of Democrats -- the team of 13 that’s going after him -- to try and undermine the fact that they’re an independent team,” Daly said.

Credit Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio
Connecticut Public Radio
Daly (middle) and O'Connor (right) are the former federal prosecutors that participated in the Mueller investigation panel moderated by Nikos Valance (left), the director of USJ's Criminal and Restorative Justice program.

O’Connor, a Republican appointed by George W. Bush, doesn’t doubt that the prosecution will be objective and independent, but he said the Democratic advantage still provides unnecessary ammunition for the Trump defense.

“I think by picking a fair number of great prosecutors – and they’re great prosecutors – who had a demonstrated political engagement with the president’s opponent, they have created an unnecessary distraction that allows the president to call into question the prosecutors' motive,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor believes action in the investigation could pick up after the mid-term elections and that there could be a report produced by Mueller by 2019.

Daly pointed to a potential Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives by January that could lead to articles of impeachment being invoked, but said it’s unlikely that Senate Republicans would actually vote to remove Trump from office.

Frankie Graziano is the host of The Wheelhouse, focusing on how local and national politics impact the people of Connecticut.

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