rod rosenstein
Credit: Internet Education Foundation/Flickr

For months the entire political establishment has been on pins and needles wondering if Trump would do the unthinkable and initiate a Constitutional crisis by trying to fire special counsel Mueller, or his boss Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. So far the president’s handlers have convinced him that such a move would be near suicidal. But as the walls start to close in, indications are that Trump is closer than ever to pulling the trigger, with unpredictable results.

But the problem for Trump is that such a move may already come too late. With the joint cooperation of both federal and state investigators in pursuing the president’s long-time consigliere Michael Cohen, even successfully muzzling Mueller may well have little effect. Not only would the probe continue at the federal level regardless of a change in leadership, more importantly the state-level investigations would proceed at full pace as well. Cristian Farias explains:

To wit: The multiple FBI raids on Michael Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room this week — overseen by prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York, which covers Manhattan — resulted from a referral from Mueller to that office. Bharara, who used to run the place before Trump showed him the door, acknowledged in his weekly talk show-cum-podcast that the existence of a wholly independent investigation out of a different office puts the Mueller probe, indirectly, on stronger footing. “I don’t see a way, legitimately or even pragmatically, that you can shut down a separate SDNY investigation once it is started. And boy, it is started,” Bharara said, using the acronym for his former office…

Whatever federal prosecutors in New York have on Cohen, the president, or both, is significant enough to keep them on edge. And because the Southern District of New York is renowned for not taking orders from Washington all that easily, this is not something Trump can do much about.

The same would be true of the larger investigation, which has a criminal component now playing out in the courts, as well as a counterintelligence one that remains, in great part, a closely guarded secret. NBC News’ Pete Williams, who has covered federal law enforcement for the better part of the last 25 years, ran through several of the hypotheticals surrounding a Mueller firing and concluded that, in the end, Trump would pay a steep political price but the show would go on.

Despite the absolute confidence in some corners, it’s impossible to know if all of this will spell doom for Trump or not. If Democrats don’t retake Congress in November, it’s hard to see Republicans impeaching Trump regardless of what he is found guilty of due to the unwavering loyalty of the majority of the Republican base.

But one thing is certain: there’s not a whole lot Trump can do about it at this point. It’s out of his hands.

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Follow David on Twitter @DavidOAtkins. David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.