Just a few weeks ago, Donald Trump and his team were confidently projecting the notion that they might fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But now that Congress has made clear it won’t allow that to happen, Trump and his lawyers are trying a strange and overly conciliatory new approach toward Mueller. I can think of at least three different endgame strategies which Trump might be trying to invoke here.
1) What’s stunning is that Trump’s attorneys are now admitting to USA Today that Trump himself has “exchanged private messages” with Robert Mueller (link). So this could be an instance of Trump once again betting on his own ability to glad-hand an adversary into taking his side and going soft on him. Anyone familiar with Mueller’s career and reputation knows there’s zero chance of this succeeding. And Trump’s lawyers surely know it as well. But their actions have suggested they’re willing to go along with anything Trump wants, even if they know it’ll fail.
2) This could be a last ditch legal strategy on the part of Trump and his lawyers to paint Robert Mueller as being too close to themselves, after having spent months trying and failing to paint Mueller as too close to the opposition. It’s unclear who would buy into this notion, if anyone. Certainly the Republican Congress isn’t going to conclude “uh oh, Trump and Mueller are buddies now, so we’d better get rid of Mueller.” But Trump is in such a hole that he ran out of good strategies awhile ago.
3) There is also a possible scenario where Donald Trump has figured out that he can’t stop Robert Mueller from taking him down. Trump is notoriously oblivious to these things. But even he has to have figured out that because the Republican Congress won’t allow him to fire Mueller, there’s no way out of this for him. Perhaps he’s simply making his peace with the Mueller investigation so he can use his remaining limited time in office to cash out as efficiently as possible. It might help explain why he’s abandoned the White House for now in favor of his golf resort, where he’d be more free to plot his endgame on his way out of office.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report