News & Politics

Is a Showdown Coming Between Trump and Mueller?

Rober Mueller (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Why is this man smiling?

CNN is reporting that Donald Trump’s personal lawyers will meet with special counsel Robert Mueller next week in order to “gain a clearer understanding of the next steps in Mueller’s probe, according to sources familiar with the matter.”

What happens if the president doesn’t like where Mueller’s probe is heading?

Herein lies the possibility of a real “high noon showdown” between Trump and Mueller, with the president insisting that the special counsel limit his probe to matters pertaining to Russian interference in the election and Mueller demanding a broader scope for his investigation.

To date, Mueller’s probe has uncovered zero evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. But he has apparently caught Michael Flynn in a lie about his lobbying activities and may have former Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon on money laundering crimes he committed before he even knew the president.

For the rest, he has meetings between Russians and Jared Kushner that don’t prove anything and a lot of media speculation. So the president has a legitimate case to make that Mueller is on a fishing expedition — a partisan witch hunt using taxpayer dollars to do the bidding of Democrats in Congress to find evidence to impeach the president.

The recent revelations about Mueller’s top investigator expressing partisan sentiments against Trump don’t help Mueller’s case one bit. In fact, Mueller may seek to rescue his investigation by baiting Trump into firing him.

That’s one rumor on the Hill this week:

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said Friday that “rumors” on Capitol Hill suggest President Trump could fire special counsel Robert Mueller before Christmas, after Congress leaves Washington for the winter recess.

“The rumor on the Hill when I left yesterday was that the president was going to make a significant speech at the end of next week. And on Dec. 22, when we are out of D.C., he was going to fire Robert Mueller,” Speier told California’s KQED News.

Speier, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said that Trump was trying to shut down the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, pointing to the lack of interviews scheduled for the new year.

How much time does the intel committee need to investigate? The Democrats want to drag out the probe, hoping to damage the president politically. While evidence of Russian interference in the election is substantial, it’s an open question whether we’ll ever know for sure no matter how many witnesses the committee hears from.

That rumor about Trump firing Mueller before Christmas is easily dismissed, but the conflict between the two isn’t. Mueller has gone far afield from his original mandate to investigate collusion. He is investigating Trump’s business activities long before he even decided to run for president in 2016.

Will Trump insist Mueller investigate matters only pertaining to collusion with Russia by his campaign?

While the lawyers have met with Mueller’s team before and might again, the sources believe the upcoming meeting has greater significance because it comes after the completion of interviews of White House personnel requested by the special counsel and after all requested documents have been turned over. Mueller could still request more documents and additional interviews. No request to interview the President or the vice president has been made, sources tell CNN.

But Trump’s team, led by John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, is hoping for signs that Mueller’s investigation is nearing its end, or at least the part having to do with the President. Their goal is to help Trump begin to emerge from the cloud of the ongoing investigation, several of the sources explained. The sources acknowledge that Mueller is under no obligation to provide any information and concede they may walk away with no greater clarity.

“There’s no ‘there’ there,” one White House official says, a sentiment Trump’s legal team hopes Mueller will echo. At a minimum, the lawyers hope to get a sense of what avenues Mueller is still working to investigate.

Reached Friday, Sekulow said, “We do not and will not discuss our periodic communications with the special counsel.”

The last thing Trump needs is for Mueller to embark on a fishing expedition with no end in sight to the investigation.

But Mueller and his team were severely damaged by the Strzok revelations and his credibility with the American people is being questioned like never before. Mueller may overplay his hand and dare Trump to fire him.

He may get his wish sooner than he can imagine.