Fire Mueller? A stupid idea
Reenacting a version of Nixon’s ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ would be foolhardy, even for Trump.
Only a few days before the 45th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, could President Trump really be contemplating a reenactment of one of that scandal’s most notorious episodes: President Nixon’s firing of Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor who was investigating the cover-up of that “third-rate burglary,” a power play that also cost the president his attorney general and deputy attorney general?
According to conservative media executive Christopher Ruddy, a close friend of the president’s, Trump is considering firing Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in charge of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Meanwhile, a chorus of Trump supporters, from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to commentator Ann Coulter, is assailing Mueller’s independence. Gingrich, who only a few weeks ago called Mueller a “superb choice” with an “impeccable” reputation, tweeted on Monday: “Republicans are delusional if they think the special counsel is going to be fair.”
The criticism of Mueller takes several forms. Gingrich pointed to Federal Election Commission reports that showed that some members of Mueller’s staff had contributed to Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton, in the past. Coulter suggested that because former FBI Director James B. Comey had testified that Trump hadn’t been personally under investigation while he still led the bureau, the purpose of Mueller’s commission “is now over.” (That ignores the fact that other Trump campaign figures might be under investigation.)
We don’t want to give this glorified rumor more weight than it’s worth. Suffice to say that Trump would be nuts to think that these flimsy objections would provide him with cover if he made the disastrous decision to dismiss Mueller and abort the investigation. What’s more, in order to accomplish that wrecking operation, the president would probably have to fire Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who entrusted the Russia investigation to Mueller after Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions rightly recused himself. Rosenstein has already said publicly that he sees no justification for firing Mueller, and that he wouldn’t carry out an order from Trump to do so without “good cause.”
That was a warning to Trump not to attempt his own version of Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” — but it wasn’t the only one. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), couching the same advice in friendlier terms, said: “The best thing to do is to let Robert Mueller do his job,” adding that “the best vindication for the president is to let this investigation go on independently and thoroughly.”
For his own good, Trump should take this advice.