A Dangerous Republican Assault on Mueller Is Building

Did you feel the tectonic shift that has happened recently? If not, Rachel Maddow documented it last night:

Over the last several days, into today and tonight, a pretty good portion of the American right has decided to declare that the new conservative crusade in America will be that former FBI director, special counsel Robert Mueller should be fired.

This has actually been building for a while now, ever since the president and his supporters started their coordinated attack on the FBI. The shift Maddow sees is that it has gone beyond Trump’s Twitter feed and Fox News to places like the editorial pages of USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. It also crept in quite powerfully at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.

E.J. Dionne explains:

The apotheosis of Republican congressional collusion with Trump’s efforts to hang on at all costs came at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee. One Republican after another attacked Mueller and the Federal Bureau of Investigation as if the latter should be placed on a new compendium of subversive organizations.

While Maddow questioned what sparked this shift, it seems obvious that Mueller’s indictments against Trump campaign officials combined with the fact that he has reached a plea agreement with Michael Flynn is at its root. He’s getting too close for Republican comfort and the long knives have come out. Apparently Trump’s lawyers are so concerned that they are now floating the idea of an investigation of the special counsel.

President Trump’s legal team believes Attorney General Jeff Session’s Justice Department and the FBI — more than special counsel Robert Mueller himself — are to blame for what they see as a witch hunt.

The result: They want an additional special counsel named to investigate the investigators.

We know that Robert Mueller is conducting a thorough and fact-based investigation on Russian interference in the 2016 election as well as whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with them. We don’t yet know exactly what his findings on the latter will be. But this reaction from the president, congressional Republicans and conservative media tells us that there are an awful lot of people worried about what he will find. That concern is being evidenced by their desire to attack the investigators and try to shut this whole thing down.

Dionne is right to suggest that the Republicans are taking this country closer to the precipice of lawlessness. We have to keep in mind that this is not the same GOP that urged their president to resign when the facts of the Watergate crimes became apparent. Now, we also have an entire right wing media edifice that is devoted to muddying the facts as they emerge.

Given what we’re seeing already, I don’t see a way to avoid going over that precipice on the horizon. Mueller’s investigation is not likely to clear the Trump campaign of wrongdoing, and the case for obstruction of justice is already fairly obvious. I also don’t see any figures on the right that could emerge to talk down the president, congressional Republicans or conservative media from being willing to blow up the entire justice system as this investigation comes to a close.

We are certainly heading into turbulent waters in the coming year. The exact contours of how all of this will unfold are unclear and could be influenced by unknown events as well as next year’s midterm elections. But make no mistake about it, this country’s democratic institutions are about to be tested in ways that we haven’t seen since the Civil War. A party that backs an alleged pedophile in order to retain their Senate majority is probably willing to do just about anything to protect their president.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.