Imagine a baseball player who swings, misses, strikes out, and then begins trying to run around the bases in a home run trot anyway. Even if he does make it all the way around to home plate because everyone is too busy scoffing at him to bother stopping him, it still doesn’t count as a run scored. The strikeout doesn’t magically become a home run simply because the batter swung really hard and thought he was going to hit a home run. This brings us to the saga of Donald Trump and Rod Rosenstein.
Trump was betting that the Devin Nunes memo would create public outrage about the behavior of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which would in turn give Trump the political cover to get away with firing Rosenstein, thus taking out a key player in the Trump-Russia investigation. But by all accounts that memo failed. It didn’t change a single mind when it comes to Rosenstein. The memo put Trump zero percent of the way toward being able to fire Rosenstein.
Yet many out there, including many fatalists within the Resistance, are certain that Trump is going to somehow use the memo to fire Rosenstein, even though the memo completely failed in its goal of giving him the cover to fire Rosenstein, and that Trump is somehow going to magically get away with that firing, even though he has absolutely no cover for pulling it off. Nothing works that way.
I’m not saying that Trump won’t fire Rosenstein. Trump is so erratic and so desperate, he might try to fire Barney the Dinosaur for all we know. But I am saying that Trump can’t get away with firing Rosenstein. There’s a difference. Trump didn’t get away with firing FBI Director James Comey, because it directly let to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Trump made the mistake of firing Comey at a time when he had no political cover for getting away with it, and thus he didn’t get away with it.
It’s the same situation with Rod Rosenstein. Donald Trump simply does not have the political cover to fire him and get away with it. Because of that, if he does fire him, there will be blowback which will make things even worse for Trump. Even Trump, despite being a delusional lunatic, seems to understand this. He knows he’s stuck with Mueller because he fired Comey when he couldn’t get away with it, and it’s probably why he hasn’t fired anyone else since.
Tonight’s departure of Rachel Brand, the No. 3 in the Department of Justice behind Rosenstein, still doesn’t necessarily change anything. If Brand is as trustworthy as the Resistance thinks she is, then she wouldn’t have left unless she knew that the person taking her place will do the right thing if it ever comes down to it. In the meantime, Donald Trump still can’t get away with firing Rod Rosenstein. We need to remain vigilant about his next moves. But we also need to stop handing Trump power that he doesn’t have, by continually floating doomsday scenarios that even he knows he can’t get away with pulling off.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report