Dis­as­ter would fol­low fir­ing

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump won the White House by de­fy­ing con­ven­tional wis­dom and fol­low­ing his in­stincts. His suc­cess and sup­port make it un­likely he’ll change his ap­proach or be­hav­ior. But his­tory shows the folly of Trump’s overt at­tempts to bully spe­cial prose­cu­tor Robert Mueller, the ex-FBI di­rec­tor ap­pointed to over­see a probe into Rus­sia’s at­tempts to in­ter­fere in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

The terms of Mueller’s ap­point­ment spec­ify that he can look at other mat­ters that “may arise di­rectly from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.” Bloomberg re­ported Mueller’s team is al­ready ex­am­in­ing a range of trans­ac­tions in­volv­ing Trump busi­nesses and as­so­ciates, in­clud­ing a Florida real es­tate deal in which a Rus­sian oli­garch paid $95 mil­lion for a man­sion Trump bought for $41 mil­lion and ef­forts by Trump son-in­law Jared Kush­ner to “se­cure fi­nanc­ing for some of his fam­ily’s real-es­tate prop­er­ties.” Mueller doesn’t seem to be back­ing away be­cause of Trump’s pres­sure.

It re­mains to be seen whether Trump will or­der Mueller to be fired. If that hap­pened, it would have par­al­lels with events in­volv­ing an­other pres­i­dent who faced im­peach­ment: Richard Nixon. In 1973, spe­cial prose­cu­tor Archibald Cox re­fused Nixon’s or­der to stop try­ing to ob­tain tapes of Oval Of­fice meet­ings or other pres­i­den­tial doc­u­ments re­lated to the Water­gate scan­dal. When Nixon wanted Cox gone, both At­tor­ney Gen­eral El­liot Richard­son and Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam D. Ruck­elshaus re­signed af­ter de­clin­ing to fire him, but So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral Robert Bork com­plied with Nixon’s or­der.

What be­came known as the “Satur­day Night Mas­sacre” quickly eroded Nixon’s sup­port among elected Repub­li­cans. Sen. Barry M. Gold­wa­ter of Ari­zona, the GOP’s 1964 pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, said Nixon’s cred­i­bil­ity “has reached an all-time low from which he may not be able to re­cover.” Nixon didn’t re­cover. Less than a year later, he re­signed rather than be forced out of of­fice.

If Trump fires Mueller, he will also have reached an all-time low from which he may not be able to re­cover. That should make him re­flect. Will it?

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