Aaron Blake of the Washington Post has an article this morning titled “Trump’s handling of the Russia investigation has never looked more like a coverup.”
The Washington Post and the New York Times have reported this morning that President Trump didn’t just consider the most drastic conceivable response to the Russia investigation; he actively tried to do it — until someone stopped him. I am including much of Blake’s article in this post.
Trump’s attempts to manipulate law enforcement keep coming. All those stories back in June about how Trump might fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller? They weren’t just idle speculation, as the president and his team assured us, but rather the result of serious deliberations and an actual, eventual attempt to do the deed. The only thing that stopped him, according to The Post’s reporting, was White House counsel Don McGahn declining to carry out Trump’s orders and saying he would rather resign. And the president backed down. (The news was first reported by the New York Times.)
All signs since then are that Trump and the White House have made their peace with the idea that Mueller would conclude his investigation. They brought on a lawyer, Ty Cobb, who has known Mueller for decades, and their tone turned to one of mostly cooperation — albeit with law enforcement conspiracy theories increasingly sprinkled into the mix.
Still, it’s worth emphasizing that this is not something Trump decided against; instead, it’s a reality that he’s been forced into. And the only thing standing in the way of going nuclear and firing Mueller was the prospect of a staff defection that would make the already highly questionable decision — which even GOP senators warned against — look like even more of a PR nightmare. The reporting makes clear that Trump made this decision before it was rendered completely impractical by McGahn. Firing Mueller and then losing McGahn (and possibly Justice Department officials tasked with signing off on it) would have been viewed as pure desperation from a floundering White House.
And in that way, it follows the pattern of so many other attempts by Trump to manipulate law enforcement and those overseeing the Russia probe. He fired then-FBI Director James B. Comey, who was overseeing the investigation at the time, only to have it lead to the appointment of Mueller. He clearly wants to be rid of Attorney General Jeff Sessions — whose recusal from Russia-related matters paved the way for Mueller’s appointment — but firing Sessions would clearly be a disaster. He has tried to remove Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, only to be rebuffed by Comey’s replacement, Christopher A. Wray. There are a bunch more examples.
And in a really telling paragraph in its report Thursday night, the Times noted that Trump also considered firing someone else at the top of the Russia probe: Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, the man who appointed Mueller and whom Trump has suggested is a Democrat so that the No. 3 person in the Justice Department could take oversight of Mueller’s probe.
Another option that Mr. Trump considered in discussions with his advisers was dismissing the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, and elevating the department’s No. 3 official, Rachel Brand, to oversee Mr. Mueller. Mr. Rosenstein has overseen the investigation since March when Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself.
The combination of that and Mueller’s attempted firing, plus everything else, looks like an attempt to install more sympathetic law enforcement officials and possibly even cover up something nefarious. At the very least, it betrays a concern about what these people might find or accuse you of.
And you know what else makes all of this look rather underhanded? The fact that Trump denied even considering firing Mueller.
Unfortunately, Republicans have mostly fallen behind the president. They support him and do so with crazy conspiracy theories and distractions designed to help him maintain his base of 35% of the population. To me, this is dangerous and its made possible only because of Trump TV (AKA Fox News). Discrediting law enforcement is something the Republican Party would have never considered a decade ago. But their attacks on the FBI, the CIA, and other branches of government have been unprecedented. They have ruined their credibility and reputation.
There seems to be little doubt that the president is a criminal, and possibly guilty of treason. Obstruction of justice, money laundering, payoffs, and conspiring with the Russians to fix an election all seem highly probable at this point. Since no sitting president has ever been indicted and even presidents that have been impeached have stayed in office. It’s difficult to see how this will end. The Republicans have complete control of the federal government and an impeachment seems unlike for the present time.
You can only wonder how much damage the Russians will do to the 2018 elections – since there have been no attempts to stop them. And, the Republican Party is complicit in this attempt to take over the elections.