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To all outward appearances, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is now closing in on Donald Trump. Mueller’s team has already rolled out a series of indictments and secured several guilty pleas, including a couple from former members of Trump’s inner circle. As if that doesn’t look bad enough, multiple reports have confirmed that investigators are looking into the Trump Organization’s finances. If the president wants to save himself, he may only have one option left: firing Mueller. But could he ever survive such a move?
On one hand, dismissing the man who’s investigating him would be a bold move, reminiscent of the “Saturday Night Massacre” in 1973 that led to the downfall of Richard Nixon. If Trump were to remove the very prosecutor who’s looking into his possible obstruction of justice, it could easily be perceived as only further obstruction of justice, which would only inch him closer to impeachment.
On the other hand, even threatening impeachment would require a Republican-controlled Congress to turn against its own standard bearer. Is this something Conservatives are willing to do?
According to the the New York Times, they’re at least saying the right things publicly. Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona told the paper that firing Mueller is “a massive red line that can’t be crossed.” His colleague, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, added that such a firing “would be the beginning of the end of his presidency.” Both men are Republicans.
And yet, there’s a vast difference between words and actions. So far, we’ve heard a lot of words from these GOP senators but little action. A brief look at what they’ve previously let slide is already pretty damning.
We watched the GOP look on as Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, after admitting on national TV that the Russia investigation was on his mind. In addition, his son fielded an offer of Russian collusion via email, responding with, “I love it.” On top of that, Trump blatantly lied about his administration’s wrongdoings in a recent tweetstorm. “There was no crime,” wrote a man whose national security advisor has already pleaded guilty to multiple crimes. If Congress is willing to overlook all of this, isn’t it naive to think one more firing is a bridge too far?
The Trump administration has repeatedly said that they won’t fire the special counsel. Multiple members of Congress have reaffirmed that he shouldn’t. And yet, it’s getting increasingly difficult to believe either of them. A constitutional crisis might not be as far off as we think.