In 2018, we again find ourselves charting new territory. The argument that Comey’s firing might not be a catastrophe for democracy was that we now had Robert Mueller in the role of special counsel. The argument that Sessions’ firing might not be a catastrophe for democracy is that Mueller’s investigation may yet overcome any obstacles and reach its natural conclusion.
Maybe, maybe not. But whatever the outcome of Mueller’s investigation, America is establishing new precedents. One precedent is that President Trump fired the FBI director—and Congress did nothing. Another is that Trump admitted the FBI’s investigation of his campaign motivated the firing—and Congress did nothing. A third precedent is that Trump fired the attorney general after having railed against him publicly for refusing to intervene in the investigation—and Congress has done nothing. A fourth precedent is that Trump circumvented the Justice Department’s order of succession so he could replace the attorney general with an individual who has directed partisan attacks at the special counsel, has described publicly how a new attorney general could undermine the investigation, has had a personal and political relationship with an individual involved in the investigation, and has been associated with a company that is the focus of a separate FBI investigation.
We’ll see what a new Congress does about that when it is sworn in this January, but options may be limited unless the Senate’s leadership has a change of heart.