The President Might Have One Move That Might Give Him Some Temporary Measure Of Satisfaction And Might Not Lead To Howls Of Derision From Republicans In Congress (Even Though It Should)
Whomever leaked details of the raids on Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, made sure to make it abundantly clear it was Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who “personally signed off” on those raids (even though the information came from Mueller’s team and the searches were executed by the F.B.I. under the auspices of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York).
Many Senators, including Republicans, have drawn a line on Mueller, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. They haven’t been quite as vociferous about Rosenstein.
While we generally avoid this kind of speculation because it plays into Trump’s tendency to turn everything into a reality show cliffhanger, we wonder if instead of going for Mueller, Trump might go for his boss. Rosenstein is running the Russia investigation and now its offshoots after Sessions recused himself, which Trump hates, so Trump hates Rosenstein and what he represents. Rosenstein’s high point probably came when he wrote a lengthy memo justifying firing then-FBI Director James Comey on non-Russia related grounds, which Trump then almost immediately contradicted in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt.
Or maybe we’re totally off on this and Trump just goes for broke and fires ’em all. The New York Times late last night reporting that Trump was itching to fire Mueller again last December, which is now the 2nd time we know of he came close.
If Trump Fires Mueller, What Would Congress Do?
We ran a version of this piece almost exactly a month ago. We thought it’s worth revisiting today. Especially since we’ve seen a lot of people in the past couple of talking about it more and more like it’s a valid option in front of the President, which to us is more shocking than anything else that’s happened in the interim.
Trump’s Impulsive and Impetuous. Congress Should Not Be.
Nobody knows if Trump is going to fire Mueller besides Trump. And even if Trump himself says he isn’t, would we believe him? So the only thing we should really expect to get a handle on is how Congress would react. And even that’s far from clear.
Here’s how the President processed Mueller’s actions about a month ago (that was after his team sent questions for Trump over to the White House as part of negotiations for a face-to-face interview, and Mueller subpoenaed documents from the Trump Organization for the first time):
At the time we suggested those Tweets might also be a chance to assess potential reaction to different arguments and theories for firing the Special Counsel.
So while Trump’s anger and bile toward the Special Counsel seems to have progressed, as Mueller’s investigation and its offshoots hit closer and closer to home, Congress seems pretty much where it was. Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley saying talking about firing Mueller would be “suicide” for Trump. On the other hand, Kentucky Republican Rand Paul called the raids on Cohen “a great overstep”.
Some of the overall quiet response from Congress we understand: why take a position that will put you in the doghouse with the President over something that may never come to pass?
Still everything’s a little too tepid. The statement House Speaker Paul Ryan put out a month ago would likely still stand today: “Mr. Mueller and his team should be able to do their job“. Senator Lindsey Graham repeated what he’s said before: “that would be the beginning to the end of his Presidency“, but his influence is limited and a lot of what he says does not come to pass. Senator John McCain Tweeted:
But there’s no love lost between him and Trump.
Representative Trey Gowdy, who we’ve called the “unlikely voice of reason” several times recently, was perhaps the strongest, saying if Trump is indeed innocent he should “act like it” and leave Mueller alone. Gowdy also said repeated Tweets by Trump claiming that the House Intelligence Committee, which he sits on, basically exonerated the President are not accurate, because a lot of the witnesses who appeared before the Committee did not cooperate, so they may have been left with a limited picture: “You don’t know what you don’t know“, he said. Gowdy, however, is a lame duck, saying he won’t run again this fall, meaning his level of involvement will depend on the timing of how this all (potentially) goes down.
Oklahoma Senator Jim Lankford even lent some credence to Trump’s questioning the Mueller team’s political affiliation, saying “it’s odd”. This is something Trump keeps hammering even more, even today, even though the latest raids on his personal attorney Michael Cohen were led by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, whom Trump personally interviewed, not Mueller’s team.
(We’re not sure what a “hardened” Democrat is. The two people at the top of the investigation Special Counsel Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are both Republicans. Among the investigators themselves, many are registered Democrats, and have donated to Democratic candidates in the past including Obama and Clinton. Only one donated to Republican candidates. Others do not align themselves with any party and did not donate.)
What more can Congress do right now? The “easiest” thing is to make it very clear to Trump that if he fires Mueller, they’ll just go ahead and hire him back themselves. Short of that, they could pass legislation making it more difficult for Trump to fire the Special Counsel. It’s already written (by Republicans) and ready to go, and it’s pretty simple: if Trump fires Mueller, the firing could be appealed to a federal court. However, it’s something they’d have to pass quickly, haven’t had an appetite for yet even though it’s been out there, and Congress isn’t known for speed.
One final thought, per Nate Silver:
This String Of Tweets From The New Yorker’s Adam Davidson Is The Most Illuminating Information We Found In The Last 24-Hours On Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen’s Role And Relationship With Trump