And he’s not wrong, no matter how wrong those actions might be. ABC News features an exchange between Donald Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski and Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos on whether the president can fire special counsel Robert Mueller. The debate misses the most important point, though:
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) July 26, 2017
Stephanopoulos gets two points wrong here. First, Rod Rosenstein isn’t the “acting Attorney General,” and never was. Sally Yates and Dana Boente briefly served as acting AG until Sessions got confirmed. Rosenstein, who got confirmed after Sessions, has always been the deputy AG. Thanks to Sessions’ recusal, Robert Mueller reports to Rosenstein, but that doesn’t make Rosenstein an “acting” anything.
The second point Stephanopoulos gets wrong — at least arguably — is whether Trump can fire Mueller directly. The special counsel in this case did not get established in concert with Congress, as happened in Watergate, and in that arrangement the Attorney General had the only authority to terminate the independent prosecutor, as it was termed then. In this case, the Department of Justice established the special counsel office, and the president has the authority to order the DoJ to eliminate it. Trump has as much authority to do that as he does to fire Sessions and/or Rosenstein.
But that’s not the real question. The real question is why Trump doesn’t fire them himself rather than whine constantly about all three of them. Let’s not forget that Trump became a cultural icon in part for his public persona of a hyper-successful boss ready and willing to fire anyone but his own family members, a persona Trump leveraged into a successful run as a reality-TV star. Remember “You’re fired?” Good times, good times. Trump promised to “drain the swamp” in DC, but thus far he’s not even willing to drain his own administration. Why?
Maybe the White House realizes what a disaster it would be, especially regarding Mueller:
By a more than two-to-one margin, voters say it would be inappropriate for President Donald Trump to fire special counsel Robert Mueller over his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.
Nearly half of voters, 48 percent, say it would be wrong to remove Mueller, compared to only 22 percent who say it would be appropriate for the Trump administration to dismiss Mueller.
Even among Republicans, Trump only gets a plurality of 37/29 to consider firing Mueller an appropriate use of Trump’s power. Regardless of whether he could do it, it would be foolish and self-defeating to fire Mueller, especially if — as Trump insists — there’s nothing illegal to find in Mueller’s probe. If that’s the case, why not wait it out rather than continuing to press Sessions to quit in order to appoint a hatchet man to replace him? And without firing Mueller, what’s really the point of getting rid of Sessions? He’s the closest ally on policy that Trump has, and the Senate Republicans Trump has targeted politically would never let him get someone as hard-line again. Does Trump really think that Jeff Flake, Dean Heller, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski would give him a free pass on a replacement AG after the last few weeks?
Instead, Trump will sit and fume, but do nothing about it. Sessions seems to have figured that out already. Interestingly, as of the time this post was written, Trump hadn’t attacked Sessions on Twitter. Maybe even he’s starting to figure it out.