Mueller’s appointment by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein potentially improves these members’ lives in multiple ways. Some are more immediate and/or direct than others, and most will rely at least a wee bit on Trump’s not going totally berserk and perpetuating the non-stop toxic chaos of the past several days. (This is no sure thing.) But when it comes to the uneasy, ever-shifting balance of power between Trump and Congress, special counsel Mueller places a fat thumb on the scales in lawmakers’ favor—for now, at least.
The most obvious benefit for Hill Republicans: Much of the pressure is off for them to pass judgment, both officially and unofficially, on their president’s behavior.
Most immediately, Democrats can no longer use demands for a special counsel as a way to put Republicans in an awkward spot.
“Democrats had the advantage that they weren’t responsible for anything,” said Representative Tom Cole. They could file discharge petitions calling for a special prosecutor or an independent commission, he said, and if Republican members didn’t sign on, the minority would “hammer” them. Meanwhile, Republicans who did voice openness to an independent investigation risked being tarred as disloyal by members of their own party (most definitely including Trump himself). “They enjoyed us twisting in the wind,” said Cole of Democrats. “It’s all moot now.”