Is Trump en­ter­ing a kill box?

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE -


the brav­ery he showed in step­ping out front as the first sen­a­tor to en­dorse Don­ald Trump, Jeff Ses­sions de­serves bet­ter from his boss than the Twit­ter-trash­ing he has lately re­ceived.

The at­tor­ney gen­eral has not only been loyal to Trump and his agenda, he has the re­spect and af­fec­tion of ex-col­leagues in Congress and, more broadly, of pop­ulists and con­ser­va­tives na­tion­ally.

Trump’s tweets about Ses­sions are only de­mor­al­iz­ing his base.

Yet the pres­i­dent is not wrong to be ex­as­per­ated and en­raged.

A year­long FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian hack­ing has failed to pro­duce a sin­gle in­dict­ment. Yet the pres­i­dent watches im­po­tently as a spe­cial coun­sel pulls to­gether a lethal force, in­side his own ad­min­is­tra­tion, whose un­de­clared am­bi­tion is to bring him down.

Trump’s be­hav­ior sug­gests that he sees the Mueller threat as po­ten­tially mor­tal.

How did we get to this peril point when there is no ev­i­dence that Trump or any se­nior aide col­luded in the hack­ing? As for the June 2016 meet­ing with the Rus­sians, called by Don­ald Trump Jr. when told by a friend that Moscow had dirt on Hil­lary Clin­ton, even that was no crime.

Fool­ish, yes; crim­i­nal, no. So, again, how did we get to where talk of im­peach­ment and pres­i­den­tial par­dons fills the air?

First, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ses­sions, as a cam­paign ad­viser and sur­ro­gate for Trump who had met with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador, had to re­cuse him­self from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein then as­sumed over­sight au­thor­ity. Trump then fired FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey and boasted to Rus­sia’s for­eign min­is­ter about hav­ing got­ten the ”crazy nut job” off his case. His Oval Of­fice com­ments leaked. Comey then leaked notes of his meet­ing with Trump. Rosen­stein then washed his hands of the mess by nam­ing a spe­cial coun­sel.

And he chose a bull­dog, ex-FBI Di­rec­tor Robert Mueller.

Hence, where are we? De­spite zero ev­i­dence of Trump or his aides col­lud­ing in the hack­ing, a coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence in­ves­ti­ga­tion is evolv­ing into a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Mueller is now hir­ing vet­eran in­ves­ti­ga­tors and prose­cu­tors spe­cial­iz­ing in white-col­lar crime.

This is not a witch hunt. It is an Easter egg hunt on the White House lawn, where the most col­or­ful eggs are likely to be the tax re­turns and the fi­nan­cial records of Trump, who built a real es­tate em­pire in a town where win­ners brag about how they gut­ted the losers.

Ev­ery en­emy of Trump is go­ing to be drop­ping the dime on him to Mueller. More­over, there is no his­tory of spe­cial coun­sels be­ing ap­pointed and ap­plauded by the press, who went home with­out tak­ing scalps.

Trump un­der­stands this. Re­ports of his frus­tra­tion and rage sug­gest that he knows he has been ma­neu­vered, partly by his own mis­takes, into a kill box from which there may be no blood­less exit.

What Trump needs is a leader at Jus­tice who will con­fine the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion to the Rus­sian hack­ing, and keep Mueller’s men from roam­ing un­til they hit pros­e­cu­to­rial pay dirt.

Con­sider now Trump’s nar­row­ing op­tions.

He can fire Jeff Ses­sions. But that will en­rage Trump’s base to whom the sen­a­tor is a loyal sol­dier. And any­one Trump nom­i­nates as AG would not be con­firmed un­less he or she pledged not to in­ter­fere with Mueller.

He could di­rect Rosen­stein to fire Mueller. But Rosen­stein would as­sume the El­liot Richard­son role in the Satur­day Night Mas­sacre, when that AG re­fused to fire Spe­cial Pros­e­cu­tor Archibald Cox, re­signed, and was can­on­ized as a mar­tyr by the Never-Nixon me­dia.

Even if Trump finds a Jus­tice Depart­ment loy­al­ist to play the role of So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral Robert Bork, who car­ried out Nixon’s or­ders and fired Cox, this would only mean Mueller’s de­par­ture. Mueller’s staff of prose­cu­tors and in­ves­ti­ga­tors would still be there, beaver­ing away.

When Archibald Cox was fired, Nixon or­dered his en­tire of­fice shut down. Yet, within days of the firestorm, it was up and run­ning again with a new spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor. And im­peach­ment res­o­lu­tions were blos­som­ing in the House.

An­other Trump op­tion would be to leave Mueller alone and hope for a be­nign out­come. But from re­ports of his rage at the re­cusal of Ses­sions and un­will­ing­ness of Rosen­stein to re­strict Mueller to the Rus­sian hack­ing scan­dal, Trump seems to sense that an un­re­stricted in­ves­ti­ga­tion rep­re­sents a mor­tal threat to his pres­i­dency.

And all the talk of im­peach­ment and par­dons sug­gests that this city can also see what lies over the next hill. Af­ter all, we have been here be­fore.

From his his­tory, Mueller is not a man to be in­tim­i­dated by charges of bias. These will only steel his re­solve to pur­sue with his sub­poena power ev­ery doc­u­ment he wants, in­clud­ing tax re­turns, un­til he has sat­is­fied him­self.

The pres­i­dent is un­likely to view this process with in­dul­gence, and pa­tience does not ap­pear to rank high among his virtues.

We are headed for a col­li­sion be­tween Pres­i­dent Trump and Di­rec­tor Mueller. Cre­

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.