You can see where this is headed, the once bright and shiny democracy going down the drain before the holidays are out. The Russians, the special counsel Robert Mueller and his agents, desperate men flipped and singing to save their souls – all may soon be gone, by President Donald Trump’s design.
If there’s any outrage left in the tank, use it now, because Trump has signaled exactly what he’s going to do. First, he had to set some brush fires, impugning the legitimacy of the rule of law – an old dictator’s trick. Trump is no Hitler, but when the German Reichstag burned in 1933, it was all the Nazis needed to gut civil liberties.
So, before Trump can fire the prosecutor who is hot on the corruption trail of those in the president’s inner circle, he needs a pretext. He could just work his way down the line at the Justice Department, until he found a quisling willing to remove the special counsel. But before he gets to that, he has to delegitimize the whole investigation.
Thus, he’s now attacking the FBI, saying the agency is in “Tatters” and its standing “the worst in History.” Bashing cops – wasn’t that what those Black Lives Matter people did to disrespect Blue Lives?
Thank God we have Sarah Huckabee Sanders as a moral clarion in a crisis. “When you’re attacking FBI agents because you’re under criminal investigation, you’re losing,” she tweeted. Sorry – that was Sarah Huckabee Sanders of a year ago, before she was paid to defend the liar in chief.
Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, has been busy clearing out more brush, making the preposterous claim that the president cannot obstruct justice because he’s the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. If Trump shot somebody on Fifth Avenue – his own suggested redline – he could, as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, tell the cops to quash the investigation.
See, when the president does it, it’s not a crime. This defense was floated during the two impeachment episodes of the 20th century. The third time will not be a charm. But Trump’s team already has gone from there is no collusion or obstruction to, so what? If it happened, it’s no biggie.
They don’t appear to be the least bit troubled by a stunning report from a whistleblower. As Trump was pledging to put America first during his inaugural address, his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was texting a former business associate serving foreign clients. With Trump in, the sanctions against Russia would be “ripped up,” clearing the way for big money to be made on the inside, according to the report made public Wednesday.
Ignoring that story, Trump’s media wing is doing its job. Sean Hannity, at state-run television, went on a vein-popping rant Tuesday against law enforcement, complete with conspiracy charts. He called the federal authorities “a team of so-called investigators.” As for their boss, he said that “Mueller is frankly a disgrace to the American justice system and has put the country on the brink of becoming a banana republic.” He’s certainly learned the art of projection from his master.
The Wall Street Journal, channeling its owner and Trump whisperer Rupert Murdoch, has been making much of the same case, albeit without the spittle.
Don’t forget, this is the same Robert Mueller who won wide bipartisan praise when he was appointed special counsel: a career prosecutor, the longest-serving director of the FBI since J. Edgar Hoover, awarded the Bronze Star for his service as a Marine in Vietnam. Republicans love him. Or they did until he started closing in on Trump’s closest associates.
Mueller should be fired, the Russian enablers now claim, because one of his agents said some bad things about Trump. This agent, Peter Strzok, was reassigned over the summer, as soon as his comments came to light. Wow, a G-man has opinions. The cops I know, a couple of long-standing friends, have more opinions than I.
The facts are what matters. And the facts are pointing in a very bad direction for the gang that can’t collude straight. Trump has got to be sweating it; he was said to be “seething” when two of his campaign aides were indicted and third pleaded guilty in October. He looked punch-drunk at recent public events.
Now that he’s a felon from a guilty plea last week, Flynn is cooperating with Mueller. He knows plenty. Trump could pardon him and try to bring him back into the fold. The outrage would be minimal among the Banana Republicans. Sure, they got their tax-relief-for-the-rich bill passed, so they may no longer need Trump after he signs it. But now they’re dreaming of more – cutting Medicare and health care for children, so they have a reason to keep him around.
If Trump fires Mueller, he can start the new year clean. His base will stick with him. Though voters believe, by a nearly 2-1 margin, that Russians interfered with the U.S. election, Republicans do not. Party before country – in the face of a dangerous turn toward authoritarianism, that’s all that matters.