Yes, right, it’s just one guy and he’s exaggerating for effect. (I think.) But it’s a reminder as Mueller moves towards Trump’s inner circle that congressional Republicans have a major, major problem on their hands if the special counsel finds anything incriminating Trump himself. Not every Trump supporter would go as far as CNN’s panelist here but some would, and those people won’t tolerate any effort to remove Trump from office. Paul Ryan could conceivably find himself stuck between 20 percent of the electorate that adamantly refuses to punish Trump for something he’s been credibly accused of and 80 percent that adamantly insists upon it. That’s a recipe for an electoral wipeout when the 20 percent comes from your own party.
The odds of Mueller discovering anything linking Trump himself to collusion with Russia remain low, I think. The odds of linking him to some other type of wrongdoing seem not quite so low. “I’m told that Mueller’s team is rooting around inside Trump world more deeply than is publicly known,” wrote Mike Allen of Axios. WaPo, meanwhile, reports that “multiple people familiar with the probe say investigators are examining Trump’s conduct leading up to the firing of FBI Director James B. Comey and whether that conduct constitutes obstruction of justice.” Ryan could wake up next month or next year and find Trump’s been accused of obstruction or of some crime from his Manhattan real-estate days and suddenly he needs to decide whether it’s impeachment-worthy or not.
Or, most likely, he could wake up to find that Trump’s fired Mueller and half the country (actually more like two-thirds, I’d guess) is screaming that he’s triggered a constitutional crisis. Trump’s own lawyers are sufficiently worried about him trying to nuke Mueller that they’re blowing smoke up his posterior about the probe likely ending soon, per WaPo:
But the reassurances from [Trump attorney Ty] Cobb and others — which seem at least partially aimed at keeping the president calm and focused on governing — are viewed by others as naive…
In fact, legal experts and private defense lawyers monitoring the case believe that Mueller’s investigation — which officially began in May and resulted in its first charges against three former campaign aides last month — is still in its early stages.
They expect that the prosecutors have considerable investigative work still to do, and they predict more campaign officials, among others, will face charges. They expect the probe to extend deep into 2018 and possibly longer.
I wonder if Cobb sincerely believes the investigation is winding down or if that’s just something he’s telling Trump to give him a reason not to fire Mueller. That tactic won’t last forever. If the special counsel’s still chasing people come spring, especially if those people happen to have the surnames “Trump” or “Kushner,” POTUS is going to figure out that Cobb’s been BSing him. More from Vanity Fair:
One source told the Post that Mueller is executing a “a classic Gambino-style roll-up” that “will reach everyone in this administration.” It is telling that the first indictment Mueller secured was against the lower-level Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty this summer to lying to the F.B.I. The documents in his case were only unsealed in early October, months after it appears he turned state’s witness. In the weeks since issuing indictments against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy and longtime business associate Rick Gates, Mueller has proceeded at an aggressive clip, interviewing a growing pool of individuals previously counted among the president’s inner circle, including former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and erstwhile Press Secretary Sean Spicer. The former F.B.I. director plans to sit down with Trump’s communications director and close confidant Hope Hicks and White House general counsel Donald McGahn in the coming weeks, and on Monday, citing a source familiar with the matter, ABC News reported that Mueller recently issued a subpoena directing the Justice Department to produce a wide array of documents related to attorney general Jeff Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe, as well as Comey’s firing, for which he and Rosenstein both issued controversial recommendations.
Mueller’s working his way towards the Oval Office, step by step. If he’s still going by, say, March, I’d be shocked if Trump doesn’t flip over the table and can him. One interesting possibility: If Mueller concludes that Trump himself has committed no crime, he could announce that publicly as soon as possible citing the unusual political interest in the case. That would let Trump claim vindication and would probably eliminate any risk of Mueller being fired, even if he went on to indict Kushner or Trump Jr. He’d have already proved himself an honest broker in Trump’s eyes by exonerating him. What grounds would POTUS have to torpedo him then?
Of course, a public declaration that a politician won’t be charged would be an eerie rerun of Comey’s press conference about Hillary Clinton 16 months ago and would create the same risk that ultimately blew up in Comey’s face. If new evidence comes to light later, do you inform the public that the case has been reopened or do you keep quiet and let them vote in ignorance? Imagine a “Mueller letter” about possible evidence of Trump collusion being released 10 days before the midterms.
Incidentally, POTUS has now offered to pay the legal fees of deputies entangled in Russiagate. That’s the right thing to do for innocent aides who can’t afford hotshot lawyers on their own pay. And it’s a smart way to buy loyalty as Mueller starts leaning on people like Hope Hicks to see what they know.
Trump voter panelist: "If Jesus Christ gets down off the cross and told me Trump is with Russia, I would tell him, 'Hold on a second. I need to check with the President if it's true.'" pic.twitter.com/4f8bXkXzhY
— New Day (@NewDay) November 20, 2017