What a difference a few weeks makes. Not long ago Donald Trump was on the offensive, releasing the Nunes memo and hoping it might give him a path for firing people and sabotaging the the Trump-Russia investigation. Cable news even had a lot of people convinced that Trump was about to fire Robert Mueller or Rod Rosenstein and magically get away with it. Now that talk has gone away entirely, because there’s been a sea change in the investigation.
There’s a reason Trump was acting in such panicked and desperate fashion a few weeks ago, betting his few remaining chips on desperation moves that were unlikely to save him. He knew things were about to kick into gear with the investigation, and that once they did, he would have virtually no chance of stopping them. Trump can’t fire anyone now, because the general public would (accurately) conclude that he’s doing it to try to protect his own campaign chairman who has just been hit with dozens of felony charges, or that he’s angry that an American grand jury just indicted the Russians for conspiring to rig the election in his favor.
Once again, the laws of politics have ruled the day. Trump wasn’t going to be able to get away with firing anyone unless the Nunes memo ended up strongly resonating with the general public. That didn’t happen at all, and so Trump predictably pulled his punches because he had to, and now Mueller is steamrolling everyone and everything in sight. Even Trump, in his delusional haze, understood that trying to fire Mueller or Rosenstein after the memo flopped would have been the end of him.
It’s not that Donald Trump won’t stop trying. In fact cable news is already trying to make you afraid that Trump will just pardon everyone and magically get away with it. But the laws of politics will once again rule the day. Trump doesn’t have enough remaining political muscle to pardon any of his own alleged co-conspirators and get away with it in the court of public opinion. Even if he tried, the courts would likely strike such pardons down. Trump’s not done yet, but there’s been a sea change in the Trump-Russia scandal. He took his best shot and missed badly, and now he’s drowning in it.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report