Here’s who the Republicans are really trying to protect by sabotaging Robert Mueller (hint: not Donald Trump)

It all makes sense now. The Republicans in Congress have spent the past two weeks trying to sabotage the reputation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. If they wanted him gone, they’d just oust him. Instead they’re trying to bloody him. But why? Certainly not to protect Donald Trump, whom they couldn’t care less about, and would rather be rid of under the right circumstances. But now the GOP’s latest moves, combined with Trump’s latest countermove, point to the attacks on Mueller being aimed at protecting someone else entirely.

On Wednesday, after the GOP had recklessly and riskily tried to hurry up and ram through its tax scam bill before the holiday break, Trump announced he won’t sign it until after the holidays. The White House is floating some fuzzy math about Medicare, but it doesn’t add up. This is about something else: leverage. The GOP tried to hurry up the bill for a reason. It began blocking Trump’s nominees this week for the same reason.

Trump’s buddy Steve Bannon has been saying for weeks that he believes the Republicans will strategically oust Trump the minute he signs the tax bill. They’d rather have Mike Pence anyway. He’s damaged goods too, but he’s far more their speed. Trump is waiting to sign the bill until January for fear that the GOP might try to quietly oust him over the holidays, either by blackmailing him into resignation or by simply having Pence invoke the 25th Amendment. This brings us back to why the GOP is trying to bloody Robert Mueller’s nose.

Again, if the Republicans were trying to protect Donald Trump, they’d simply push Mueller out the back door. Instead it’s clear they want him to finish taking Trump down; they just want him to lose credibility along the way. That’s because once Trump is gone, they will in fact try to dump Mueller before he can also take down Mike Pence in the Russia scandal. The GOP is hoping the public will be satisfied with Trump’s demise, and leave Pence be. They’re probably wrong about that part. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that this is their strategy.