To get an accurate feel for how things are going in politics, it helps to understand that this is not simply a horror movie in which Donald Trump slices and dices America without facing any of his own consequences. Instead this more akin to a war. Both sides suffer losses daily, every gambit comes at a cost to it own side, and the side that’s “winning” is the one that’s the least close to defeat. In that sense, it becomes easier to understand how thoroughly Trump blew it this week with regard to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
By now nearly everyone is in agreement that Trump and Devin Nunes crafted the infamous “Nunes memo” in the hope of using it as an excuse to fire Rosenstein, which might then allow Trump to oust or neuter Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But a lot of observers, even on the anti-Trump side, have failed to understand that this gambit has failed.
The strategy was never to release the memo and then fire Rosenstein and magically get away with it. That’s not how any of this works. The strategy was to release the memo, hope that it would create a groundswell of public backlash against Rosenstein, and then use that as a basis for getting away with firing Rosenstein. It’s fair to say that the memo had roughly zero percent of the impact that Trump and his allies were hoping. Trump put down a lot of his remaining chips on the hope of this memo working, and instead it failed.
That’s not to say that Donald Trump won’t still try to fire Rod Rosenstein. He’s becoming increasingly erratic and desperate, so anything is possible. But because the memo failed, if Trump does try to fire Rosenstein, he won’t get away with it. He fired James Comey at a time when he should have known he couldn’t get away with it, and sure enough, it led to Mueller’s appointment, which made the investigation more potent, not less potent. Political capital is finite, even for a president. Trump just spent a lot of his on the memo stunt. It went so poorly, even his GOP allies are on the morning shows distancing themselves from the memo. This memo didn’t make it easier for Trump to fire Rosenstein; it made it harder for Trump to fire Rosenstein.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report