Donald Trump went on a Twitter rant this weekend, firing off several fact-free observations about the Mueller probe into election meddling by Russia and raising speculation in Washington that he would fire the special counsel in the next few days.
Adding fuel to the fire, Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, called for an end to the investigation. Dowd told CNN in a statement, “I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier.”
Trump echoed those sentiments in a tweet:
The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2018
Republicans are extremely nervous about the prospect of a Mueller firing.
“I don’t see the President firing him,” Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“I think the White House has said 10 times, maybe more, that they’re not going to fire Robert Mueller. They want him to be able to finish the investigation.”
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said he would not “advocate” for Trump to fire Mueller, while Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina offered the sharpest rebuke.
“If he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency,” said Graham on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Several Senate and House Republicans have been adamant that Mueller should proceed with the investigation. In December, Mother Jones reported on the many GOP lawmakers who have addressed the implications of firing Mueller.
“He is the best hope for giving us a product that the largest number of Americans can accept as credible,” Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, the chairman of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told the publication.
However, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee on Monday closed their investigation of election meddling, claiming there was no evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
The firestorm that would erupt if Trump fired Mueller would not end the Trump presidency. He may be impeached if the Democrats gain control of the House in November. But, with 66 votes needed for conviction, there would have to be a massive defection of Republicans in the Senate for Trump to be thrown out of office.
For that to happen, some clear illegality by Trump would have to be proved. The president firing an executive department employee is not illegal, although it would be politically stupid. Since Trump has actually shown some political skills recently, I can’t imagine that he would invite the kind of media frenzy that would even send many Republicans scurrying for cover.
Trump may be simply throwing crap against the wall and seeing what sticks. Or, he may be baiting the media and his enemies into overreacting.
So Mueller’s probe will continue and almost certainly expand. The word is now that Mueller wants Trump’s business records. We await the day when the special counsel starts requesting Trump papers from second grade, searching for the elusive strawberries that will justify this meandering investigation.