Yesterday I documented some of the ways that Donald Trump and his enablers have threatened our democratic institutions in order to discredit and/or stop the Mueller investigation. According to Howard Fineman, the president is contemplating a whole new avenue.
Sources say that Trump has adopted a two-track strategy to deal with the Mueller investigation.
One is an un-Trumpian passivity and trust. He keeps telling some in his circle that Mueller — any day now — will tell him he is off the hook for any charge of collusion with the Russians or obstruction of justice.
But Trump — who trusts no one, or at least no one for long — has now decided that he must have an alternative strategy that does not involve having Justice Department officials fire Mueller.
“I think he’s been convinced that firing Mueller would not only create a firestorm, it would play right into Mueller’s hands,” said another friend, “because it would give Mueller the moral high ground.”
Instead, as is now becoming plain, the Trump strategy is to discredit the investigation and the FBI without officially removing the leadership. Trump is even talking to friends about the possibility of asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to consider prosecuting Mueller and his team.
Pretending that exoneration is just around the corner and doing everything possible to discredit the investigation are nothing new. But the president might be delusional enough to think that prosecuting Mueller and his team would create less of a firestorm than firing him.
I’m trying to imagine what the charges against Mueller would be. We already know the three reasons Trump came up with to fire him back in June.
First, he thought Mueller had a conflict of interest because of an argument over fees at one of Trump’s golf clubs, which resulted in Mueller resigning his membership. Second, because Mueller worked for a law firm that once represented Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law. And third, because Mueller was being interviewed to return as the FBI director the day before he was named special counsel in May 2017. He spearheaded the organization between 2001 and 2013.
Trump’s White House Counsel Don McGahn was right that those wouldn’t even stand up as an excuse to fire Mueller. They certainly wouldn’t pass muster in a court of law. But of course, none of that matters to Trump. USA Today reported that in the three decades prior to becoming president, Trump was involved in 4,095 lawsuits. He was the defendant in over 2,100 of those. So this is a man who relies on threats to prosecute and/or bring civil cases against those he sees as a threat. I’m sure that in his delusional world, that is an effective strategy. But I doubt very much that he has ever been tested by the likes of Robert Mueller and his team. They might be tempted to respond to a threat by saying, “Please proceed, Mr. President.”