The most immediate effect is that it takes the air out of Republican efforts to quash the Russia probe. Trump’s performance in Helsinki, coupled with the details of the indictment, makes it almost impossible to cast the investigation as a waste of time. After the summit, senior GOP leaders came out strongly in favor of allowing Mueller to finish the job, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who told reporters that “Russia is trying to undermine democracy itself” and said the probe should continue. Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, the Senate’s No. 3 Republican, said Trump’s performance “makes it even more important” for the Russia probe to continue.
It also lowers the heat on Rosenstein. In the past few months, Trump supporters in Congress have attacked Rosenstein for withholding information they say shows anti-Trump bias in the FBI. Some have pushed for ways to force Rosenstein to end the probe or get rid of him outright. With Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused from the Russia investigation, Rosenstein, the No. 2 Justice Department official, oversees Mueller’s work, including approving his budget and charging decisions. That’s made him a regular target of Trump’s ire and means any attempt to shut down or rein in the Mueller probe has to go through him. While the special counsel has quietly gone about his work, Rosenstein, as the public face of the investigation, takes the heat.