Who is the most unfairly investigated U.S. politician of all time?
According to President Trump, he is.
In response to the news that a former FBI director, Robert S. Mueller III, has been appointed to investigate Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election, Trump made the declaration Thursday on Twitter:
“This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”
For another opinion, we decided to ask 10 historians and political scientists.
They disagreed with the president, starting with his characterization of the investigation as a witch hunt. Several thought there are enough signs that Russia interfered with the election to justify a thorough look.
Moreover, the academics said there are plenty of truly frivolous political investigations and ginned-up controversies.
First, though, a word about an actual witch hunt: the 1692 Salem witch trials, which focused on allegations of witchcraft — including the use of magic to torture villagers — and ended with the executions of 20 men and women.
An often-invoked modern parallel is the campaign by U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee to expose communists in the 1940s and 1950s.
Yet that effort for the most part did not target elected politicians.
Political witch hunts in the U.S. date back to the early days of the republic, the experts said.
“Jacksonians attacked [President] John Quincy Adams for buying a billiard table, saying that he was using the people’s money to purchase a gambling device,” Mark Cheathem, a professor of history at Cumberland University, wrote in an email.
As one of Adams’ critics charged in 1826: “When we find the fathers and matrons of our country engaged in persuading young men from practices which lead to destruction, we greatly fear that the too frequent answer will be, ‘Why, the President plays billiards!’”
Less than two decades later, “Whigs…