Russia investigation: Can Trump shut it down?
OK, “this is not a drill,” said Christian Farias in NYMag.com. When federal agents last week raided the offices and home of President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, the president and White House floated new threats that special counsel Robert Mueller may be fired. “We’ll see what happens,” Trump said, while his spokesperson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said Mueller has “gone too far” and that Trump “certainly believes he has the power” to fire Mueller himself. Because of the terms of the former FBI director’s appointment, it’s more likely Trump would have to sack Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia probe, then get another Justice Department official in the line of succession to either fire Mueller or significantly curtail his investigation. Two Trump associates told The Wall Street Journal last week that Rosenstein’s ouster was “a matter of when, not if.”
Republicans have urgently warned Trump not to fire Mueller, said Rick Wilson in WashingtonPost.com. But while GOP lawmakers could easily pass bipartisan legislation to protect the special counsel, they’re too “spineless” to upset Trump’s supporters. Most of those supporters will stick by Trump no matter what—even if he does pull a “Saturday Night Massacre,” as Richard Nixon did during Watergate, said Margaret Sullivan in The Washington Post. That’s because Trump has a shield Nixon didn’t have: Fox News. Night after night, the conservative cable channel bombards its audience with Trump propaganda, portraying Mueller’s investigation as a partisan “witch hunt” led by “deep state” forces. It’s working: One recent poll found that 3 in 4 Republicans now believe the Justice Department and FBI are “actively working to undermine Trump.”
Even so, “it’s too late for a Saturday Night Massacre,” said Frank Bowman in Slate.com. Mueller cleverly outsourced the Cohen investigation to career prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York, so it is largely insulated from Trump’s meddling; Cohen’s extensive records of his “fixer” work on Trump’s behalf may be a gold mine of incriminating evidence about the president’s financial and tax affairs, business dealings with Russia, payoffs to women, and other possible crimes. Meanwhile, Mueller’s team has already compiled mountains of evidence and witness statements that no Trump stooge can bury for long. Going “on a firing spree” might make Trump feel better for a few days—but it won’t save him from the truth.