So the real lesson from the history of presidential scandals is that it is tough for a special prosecutor alone to bring down an administration. That feat is more readily accomplished in the court of public opinion, where an opposition-led Congress can rain hellfire and brimstone upon a troubled presidency (assuming the public can be convinced to tune in). Richard Nixon knew this well. “Put yourself in the position of the other side,” he told his chief of staff, Alexander Haig, in 1973. “They control the Congress, they control the committees.”
If Trump wants to avoid a similar fate, he will need to focus less on “fake news” and premature campaign rallies and more on the difficult work of governing, giving his party a set of accomplishments on which to campaign next year. For now, what should really worry Trump is not Mueller. It’s the midterms. With a Democratic generic ballot lead of somewhere between seven and 14 points and no Republican legislative accomplishments to speak of, the fate of House Republicans in November 2018 looks bleak. In this context, the president’s recent flirtation with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi looks like self-immolation.