world vide news / Flickr Mueller Is Gaining Steam Should Trump...
world vide news / Flickr

Until this week, Donald Trump’s comments on the Trump–Russia investigation showed constraint on a single point. Trump has blamed the Obama administration for starting an investigation without evidence.

“Why did the Obama Administration start an investigation into the Trump Campaign (with zero proof of wrongdoing) long before the Election in November? Wanted to discredit so Crooked H would win. Unprecedented. Bigger than Watergate! Plus, Obama did NOTHING about Russian meddling.”

And he’s attacked both the FBI and Department of Justice as being instruments of the Democratic Party.

“The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank & File are great people!”

But he stopped short of directly attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller, insisting that he was fully cooperating with the investigation. That time is over.

That’s just part of the barrage Trump launched this weekend, signaling that — having cleared Sally Yates, James Comey, and Andrew McCabe — Trump has a new target.

The absolute lie that Republican Robert Mueller’s team — which has over 40 members — is composed entirely of Democrats may seem ridiculous. But so was Trump’s contention that Republican James Comey and the heavily Republican leadership of the FBI was all in for Hillary.

Trump’s series of attacks on Saturday evening and Sunday morning took time to attack McCabe.

And deliver a fresh swing at Comey based on statements made, where else, but on Fox and Friends.

And then tied them in to Mueller.

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A section of the book How Democracies Die addresses what Trump is doing directly. In increasing their power, autocrats look for something that an opponent has done wrong — even if what that person has done was beneficial to the autocrat — and then use it to define that person as a crook and a liar. Repetition of “crooked Hillary” or “leaking Comey” or “lying McCabe” is meant to not just demean an opponent, but make anything they say in response easy to dismiss. If all your opposition is fixed in the mind of the public, or even part of the public, as criminal liars, then they’re crippled in their ability to impact the autocrat.

And if the autocrat can’t find any point on which to directly attack an opponent, they can always attack them for associating with criminal liars. For example, why would Robert Mueller staff his investigation with “big crooked Hillary supporters” and “hardened Democrats?” That the accusations are untrue doesn’t matter. All of Trump’s accusations are untrue.

But the direct attack on Robert Mueller’s investigation shows that Trump has cleared away one target and is ready to move on to the big prize. Equipped with the Republican memo drafted by Devin Nunes and blessed by Paul Ryan, Trump has the assurance that he can take any actions without reprisals on the part of Congress.

At this point, he appears to be looking at two outcomes, he can fire Mueller and face whatever results from that action, or he can wait for Mueller to submit his report and then face the results. If Mueller submits his report, Trump can likely count on Jefferson Sessions to sit on it as hard as possible, and he can count on Paul Ryan to ignore anything that leaks through. But there’s always the chance that a massive list of serious charges might actually encourage a few Republicans to pull their heads from the orange ass.

At the very least, Trump wants to position himself to fire Mueller. Just in case. And he’s not being very subtle about lining up the crosshairs.

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