Via the Free Beacon, he’ll make a fine Attorney General in the Elizabeth Warren administration!
He’s right that John Dowd’s bizarre email to the Daily Beast yesterday reeked of panic about Mueller’s investigation. If Trump’s confident that there was no collusion, says Gowdy, then he should want to protect Mueller in anticipation of his forthcoming vindication. But that’s too cute by half, isn’t it? “Russiagate” has many strands; collusion is one and uncovering Russian operations to interfere in the 2016 election is another, as Gowdy himself notes. Another strand, which he doesn’t note, is obstruction of justice by the president. Another, the great unknown, is citizen Trump’s financial dealings with Russia. Trump may be innocent of collusion but guilty of something else. Howling about a “witch hunt” over the former may just be his way of delegitimizing a probe which he has reason to believe will incriminate him on the latter.
In fact, per the NYT, POTUS’s lambasting of the investigation on Twitter yesterday happens to coincide with Mueller’s office sending him pre-interview questions they’d like him to answer. The subject matter of those questions would tell Trump a lot about what Mueller already knows. Maybe the special counsel’s stumbled onto something unrelated to collusion but damning anyway.
The president’s tweets, posted on a Saturday in which he remained inside the White House with no public schedule, came as Mr. Mueller is said to have sent questions to Mr. Trump’s legal team as part of negotiations over an interview with the president. Mr. Mueller is seeking the interview, according to two people close to the White House, in order to ask follow-up questions, but put forward the list as a start.
Mr. Dowd’s remarks about Mr. Mueller’s investigation represented an extraordinary shift in public strategy for the Trump legal team. Since taking over the case last summer, Mr. Trump’s lawyers have urged a strategy of restraint, in which the president avoids discussing Mr. Mueller or criticizing him, and the lawyers had done nothing publicly until now that could agitate the special counsel’s team.
Something has changed in Trump’s and Dowd’s posture towards Russiagate. Why? Until yesterday, Dowd had followed the Trey Gowdy playbook: Play it cool, insist that the president has nothing to hide, declare that he’s happy to assist Mueller in any way in the interest of speeding this along to his inevitable exoneration. Now suddenly Dowd’s hinting that it’s time for Rosenstein to drop the axe and Trump is referring to Mueller by name in his criticism — another thing that hadn’t happened until this week. What’s shifted to make POTUS and his legal team turn conspicuously more adversarial towards the investigation? Is it … this? Or is it this? Neither one may bear on collusion, do note. It’s possible that Mueller found something of interest in the Trump Organization’s relationship with Russian businessmen that’s unrelated to Russian activities during the campaign.
Every Republican who turned up on the Sunday shows this morning was either dismissive of, or openly hostile to, the idea that Trump would try to fire Mueller. And I don’t just mean anti-Trumpers like Jeff Flake. Trump buddy Chris Christie and Trump ally Lindsey Graham both steered him away from it, although whether they would do anything about it if Trump ignored them and pulled the trapdoor on Mueller is a separate question. It’s often said that the GOP establishment is terrified of Trump but that’s not true. They’re terrified of Trump’s voters, their own ostensible base, and Trump’s voters will back him to the hilt in any standoff with Mueller.
Marco Rubio’s reaction may have been the most revealing:
Sen. @MarcoRubio on the Mueller investigation: “I remain confident that the Special Counsel is going to conduct a probe that is fair and thorough and is going to arrive at the truth and is not going to go down rabbit holes that are not places that we need to be going.” #MTP
— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) March 18, 2018
As David Frum says, that’s not Rubio supporting Mueller, that’s Rubio laying the groundwork for why he *shouldn’t* support Mueller if/when Trump finally fires him for investigating his finances. He went down a rabbit hole. Whaddaya gonna do? “Trump has always seen what he can get away with, and when there are no lasting consequences, he presses on further,” observes Maggie Haberman. “Right now, he’s testing what Hill Rs will let him get away with re Mueller. And so far there’s silence from leadership.” Will the warnings from people like Graham and Gowdy be enough?
In lieu of an exit question, here’s another interesting bit from the Gowdy interview. Your own House Intelligence Committee found that there was no collusion, notes Chris Wallace, but there were key witnesses like Mike Flynn and George Papadopoulos whom you didn’t interview. Should we trust your conclusion? To which Gowdy says, to the extent that there’s a conflict between our findings and Mueller’s findings you should trust … Mueller. Executive-branch investigations are always more searching and politically neutral than congressional food fights. He’s placing Mueller’s credibility above that of his own committee.