In all likelihood, Robert Mueller, Esq.

This favorite turn-of-phrase from the Roman satirist Juvenal is echoed by perhaps every moral tradition in the world, and highlights the exact dilemma in which we find ourselves today. Across time and culture, we have all agreed that the mere possession of authority is in no way a guarantee of its proper use. The flock ought to watch the shepherd, because the shepherd could be a wolf in disguise.

This is especially true in our current moment, when the quickening pace of the Mueller investigation and Trump’s basic inability to “shut up” draw attention to a growing trend of misconduct on the one hand, and the lack of any oversight on the other.

First, consider the growing trend of political misconduct. Should you search some combination of “Trump,” “divestment,” “conflict of interest,” and the like, results taper off after this past spring. Trump has still not divested from his business interests; he does not balk at using public office for private gain. The Trump Organization webpage mentions in passing that “Mr. Trump…turned over the management of [the business] to his eldest sons,” and goes on to give the honor-spangled resumes of both. The official line is that Trump Sr. is President, Trump Jr. the mogul, and never the twain shall meet. But the past tendency of the Trump boys to use public resources like disaffected employees use the company credit card hardly bodes well for the future.

Now, consider the lack of oversight. This has been one of Trump’s tricks all along: to make so much noise that we don’t hear the termites behind the wall. And who is there to stop him? The federal government is still heinously understaffed, thanks in large part to the President’s feckless micromanagement. If there has been no principled resistance from within the government, it is because there is no government to form a resistance. Could Congress check the President’s abuses? Not likely. It’s choked more and more by every new action Trump attempts to railroad through.

The result? Intentionally or not, Trump is left with very few eyes on him, free to do as he pleaseswill.

This is where Robert Mueller comes in. In a recent interview, Steve Bannon cited Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey as the worst mistake in recent political memory. Had Comey not been fired, Bannon continues, there would be no Mueller investigation. Exactly right. There would still be a Comey investigation.

Whether you agree or disagree with what Mueller is doing, his investigation is a moment of hope in a very bleak present. Despite the many ethical shortcomings of the administration, despite the gladiatorial melee on the Hill, he and his team are making sure that the sanctity of American institutions is preservedprotected. Ensuring that our democracy is not violated is a cause we can all get behind. Many Republicans were opposed to Comey’s investigation, but it had no other purpose than establishing to what extent our institutions were compromised. 

Why is protecting our democracy is so abhorrent? My grandfather, a veteran of Korea, a member of the unions when unions meant hard work and a fair shake, would have been irate to think that such a massive threat was not being investigated. We used to care about our country more than our party. We should do so once again.

And now the rumor is that Mueller may be “going for the kill:” He may indict Trump for obstruction of justice. That violation is’s (arguably) impeachable. Unfortunately, And this is just the problem: we haven’t focused on Mueller’s investigation as the one viable source of oversight left in government; we haven’t praised its generation of marginal bipartisanship in Congress. Democrats have rejoiced at its promise of an impeachment, while Republicans have decried it as a witch-hunt. We’ve made a chance at finding common ground into another partisan circus.

We can understand the investigation as a reminder of what progress and proper process look like. We can be thankful that a small and determined cohort will not let those in power work under cover of darkness. Republicans who believe in Trump’ innocence should accept this investigation: shouldn’t it lead to the President’s exoneration? Democrats can still hold out hope for an explanation of what happened and a rebuke to Trump on the public record. We can all be celebrate that some in government still fight to preserve transparency and the rule of law.

At the end of the day, this is a small victory. But unless we have law and order, unless we have accountable government, we can’t hope to have very much else. I’ve often taken solace in a quote, here abridged, from Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons. Famed English jurist Saint Sir Thomas More defends petty order despite the slaughter of the Reformation.

“And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, and if you cut them down, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?”

Any liberal society is combative by nature. Good government is the process of going into the ring and fighting hard and by the rules. In crisis and in calm, someone always looks for a way to cheat. But thanks to Americans like Robert Mueller, we still have a referee.

Tim Kowalczyk is a Trinity junior. His column, "the academy matters," runs on alternate Thursdays.