As if this wasn’t going to annoy Trumpers enough on the merits, apparently Evan McMullin is the guy spearheading it. Yeesh.
There are two different things going on here, actually. One is the letter, whose signatories you’ll find listed at the libertarian Niskanen Center. The other is news of meetings that have apparently been taking place every two weeks for most of the year among a group of anti-Trump right-wingers calling themselves … the Meeting of the Concerned. They’re trying to jump-start some sort of new right (alt-alt-right?) to steer the GOP away from Trump and/or to pick up the pieces when he and populism supposedly eventually implode.
“The Meeting of the Concerned.” Good lord. As a matter of pure pretentious virtue-signaling, that’s a thousand times worse than “Salon Conservatives Club.” And I’m not just saying that because I’m in Salon Conservatives Club. The text of the letter:
We are a group of citizens united by our deep concern over threats to the integrity of American democracy and the rule of law. With the indictments announced on Monday, the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference with the 2016 election is now entering a new and critical phase. At the same time, a growing chorus of Republican and conservative voices has started calling for Mueller’s resignation on trumped-up grounds, a move that may be calculated to help justify dismissal of the special counsel and pardons for his targets. In view of these events, we want to come forward and express our strong support for allowing the Mueller investigation to proceed without interference or obstruction. We would regard dismissal of the special counsel, or pardons issued preemptively to anyone targeted by his investigation, as a grave abuse of power that justifies initiation of impeachment proceedings.
We hereby call on House Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell to make clear, both publicly and privately, that they support the Mueller investigation and regard any interference with that investigation, including dismissal of the special counsel or preemptive pardons of investigation targets, as completely unacceptable. We further urge all Republican members of Congress to issue public statements on these issues as well. It is morally imperative that the Republican Party and the conservative movement stand as bulwarks of the rule of law, not enablers of its erosion and violation. Now is the time for choosing.
Among the signatories are Dan Drezner and Andrew Sullivan, neither one of whom identifies as right-wing or Republican (anymore) as far as I know. This is why I think the membership of the Meeting of the Concerned is slightly different. Speaking of which, from WaPo’s story:
Evan McMullin, the “Never Trump” presidential candidate, was in the room. So was Bill Kristol, co-founder of the Weekly Standard, who had drafted McMullin to run. The meeting grew to include conservative columnists like Mona Charen, Max Boot and John Ziegler, and former U.S. House members such as South Carolina’s Bob Inglis and Florida’s David Jolly…
The group has debated a statement of principles, which has grown to three pages, but is still unfinished…
“The infotainment side of the conservative media, they’ve been completely Trumpified for some time,” Charen said. “The Wall Street Journal was another story. That was surprising to me. I didn’t regard them as part of the Trump right. When they wrote an editorial suggesting that Mueller resign, I felt that needed a response.”
Nice to see some muscle-flexing being done by the three percent of the GOP that’s not utterly loyal to Trump. (Okay, okay, 15 percent.) I’m sure Ryan and McConnell will snap to attention. I agree that letting the investigation play out without political interference is a basic rule-of-law matter, although the idea of impeaching Trump for using his pardon power is tricky. On the one hand, if the president uses his constitutional authority to protect cronies who have been credibly accused of criminal wrongdoing, why can’t Congress use its own constitutional authority to make the judgment that he’s corrupt and to remove him? On the other hand, the pardon power is plenary. In theory it’s the voters themselves who are responsible for punishing any abuse of it by voting the president out when he runs again. What “high crime or misdemeanor” would Trump have committed by exercising a plenary power, even if he’s obviously using it to shield his buddies from prosecution? Why can’t voters reckon with that in 2020 instead of the House acting to remove him immediately?
Incidentally, it’s not just the, ah, Meeting of the Concerned that’s thinking about how to protect Mueller from Trump. Some lawmakers, including Lindsey Graham, have considered bills that would block Trump from terminating him, although no Republicans want to talk about that right now lest they get on the wrong side of Trumpers by doing so. And why should they, when it seems unlikely — for now — that Trump’s going to fire him? Mueller hasn’t laid a glove on anyone in Trump’s inner circle over Russia collusion (yet) and everyone around POTUS has told him that firing the special counsel would be a political disaster. Even Steve Bannon is reportedly against it although he wants Trump to try to rein in Mueller in other ways. Trump himself dialed up the New York Times this afternoon to assure them that he’s not angry at all about Mueller or anything else related to Russiagate. If he wants to short-circuit the probe, he’d be much smarter to use his pardon power, which would actually end the prosecutions, then to try to fire Mueller and invite his replacement to continue the investigation. Congress needing to protect Mueller is a highly unlikely hypothetical.
But you never know. All it might take to trigger a rash presidential move against the special counsel would be Trump finding out that Mueller’s probing his real-estate dealings, not just the Russia matter. I think Trump’s almost certainly innocent of collusion with Moscow, but could he be guilty of unrelated crimes given the sort of characters he would have dealt with regularly in Manhattan developments? Hmmmm.
Here’s a CNN analyst suggesting that, based on Trump’s comments today, it sounds like he thinks the feds should forget any trial and just take the NYC jihadi out back and shoot him. Pretty much true, no? Something for Salon Conservatives Club and “The Concerned” to fret about at their next Coalition of the Cucks meetings.