Buzz keeps surfacing in the media, on the left and right, that Donald Trump is gearing up to fire just about every major name left in his administration, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which would then allow him to take a shot at taking down Special Counsel Robert Mueller. This is of course coming in the midst of Trump’s firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, suggesting that he is indeed itching to make changes. But what’s really going on here?
First came a report from Vanity Fair which said that according to sources close to Trump, he’s been telling the people around him that he wants to fire John Kelly, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and Jeff Sessions (link). Then conservative pundit Bill Kristol tweeted this, which he categorized as merely a rumor he’s hearing: “Trump preparing to fire Sessions, name Pruitt Acting AG (which he can be since he already holds a Senate confirmed position), and Pruitt fires Mueller.”
When you’re hearing the same buzz from credible sources on the left and right, it’s a good idea to take it seriously. But you also have to consider what it really means. These sources are simply saying that Trump is running around talking about how he wants to fire all these people. For the most part, Trump has proven himself not to be a man of action when it comes to risky moves. When he fired FBI Director James Comey and it backfired with the resulting appointment of Robert Mueller, Trump became even more hesitant about making moves that had any kind of risk associated with them.
Trump is viciously going after FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe right now, and he seems to be getting away with it. But the only reason he’s getting away with it is that McCabe has nothing to do with the Trump-Russia investigation. Trump is wasting his ammo destroying an irrelevant target, and in war, you sit back and let your opponent make that self-defeating mistake. Beyond that, Trump’s only other big ugly move of late has been to fire Tillerson. Yesterday’s collective shrug from both sides of the aisle was a reminder that Tillerson is irrelevant to the big picture as well.
In other words, even as Donald Trump runs his mouth behind the scenes about making the very risky move of bulldozing enough of his own administration to give him a clean shot at Robert Mueller, he’s instead settling for taking out his frustrations by ousting a few irrelevant players he doesn’t like. Taking down a good man like McCabe, or an empty suit like Tillerson, does not put Trump one inch closer to getting rid of anyone running the Trump-Russia investigation, and even Trump knows that. He’s playing it safe. For now, at least, his talk about taking down Mueller is just fantasy.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report