In the day and a half since the FBI raided the office and residence of Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen, there has been nothing to indicate that Trump is actually planning to try to fire Robert Mueller in retaliation. However, reporters asking Trump questions have put those words in his mouth often enough over the past 36 hours that it’s become a dominant headline despite not being a legitimate story, and now the Republicans in Congress are panicking – but not in the direction you might think.
Key Republicans in the Senate are now pushing hard on legislation that would make it even more difficult for Trump to fire Mueller than it already would be. It’s unclear if Mitch McConnell will allow the Senate to vote on it, and it’s even less clear if the bill would get anywhere in Paul Ryan’s House. Even if it did pass, it’s doubtful Trump would sign it, and it probably wouldn’t have the votes to override a veto – but none of that matters.
It’s already basically illegal for Trump to have Mueller fired as it is. He would have to start firing a series of people at the Department of Justice until someone eventually inherited jurisdiction over Mueller. Those firings would be an illegal act of obstruction of justice on Trump’s part. Whoever at the DOJ ended up firing Mueller would also be committing felony obstruction. So if Trump went that route, he wouldn’t be paying any heed to the law at that point anyway. No law passed by Congress would stop him. But the point here is that the Republicans in the Senate are sending a clear warning to Trump: don’t even think about it.
In fact, according to the Associated Press, the “protect Mueller” effort is being led by two GOP Senators, Thom Tillis and Lindsey Graham, who are part-time allies of Donald Trump. Whatever you think of Graham and Tillis, they’ve been at this long enough to understand how politics works in the real world. They clearly fear that if Trump does try to fire Mueller, it’ll create the kind of unstable crisis and public backlash that would either force them to step in and finish Trump off entirely, or hurt them even worse in the November elections.
In that sense, Graham and Tillis seem to be sending this warning shot to Trump because they don’t want the mess to land in their lap, and they really don’t want to have to finish Trump off before the midterms. These GOP Senators want Robert Mueller to remain on the job, so Mueller can eventually be the one to finish Trump off. That way the Republican base doesn’t blame the party for taking Trump down, and mainstream America doesn’t take to the streets demanding that the party take Trump down.
Even if you think the Republican Party is merely acting in its own selfish self-interest, which is nearly always the case these days, this is a major development. The party is making clear to Donald Trump that he’s not allowed to fire Robert Mueller. Trump has already shown us that he’s prone to loud whining and irrelevant action, followed by a total lack of relevant action. Now the GOP is telling him to remain in that lane. We’ll see what he does in response. Click here to support Palmer Report.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report