Donald Trump is working himself up into the kind of tantrum that generally ends with him firing someone. The someone is special counsel Robert Mueller, who he targeted by name in tweets over the weekend. And congressional Republicans are sitting back, saying “Oh, he won’t do it, so why bother stopping him from it? If he does it, then maybe we’ll respond.”
“I don’t see the necessity of picking that fight,” said No. 2 Senate Republican John Cornyn of Texas. Cornyn said leaders have sent a back-channel message to the White House that Trump must not fire Mueller. But he seemed resigned to Trump’s deepening attacks on the special counsel: “I can’t control that. That’s his decision. I don’t think it’s helpful.”
You can’t control what Trump tweets, but you know what you can control? His ability to unilaterally fire Mueller. You could pass a bill that would make Mueller’s firing subject to review by a three-judge panel to be sure he’s not fired for illegitimate reasons like Trump wanting to cover his own ass.
GOP leaders “probably feel like they don’t need to say it,” added South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has been among the Republicans who have pushed back the hardest against Trump’s attacks. “You spend your capital on issues where you think you get the best return. And I don’t think anybody in our conference thinks Mueller is going to be fired. I don’t.”
With all due respect, Lindsey, how stupid would everyone in your conference have to be to think Trump wouldn’t fire Mueller? And how stupid do you have to be to think that’s what everybody in your conference thinks? (NB: the respect that’s due is virtually nil.)
“I don’t know if they know what to say. What do you say? ‘Stop it’?’ said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). “Trump is going to do what he’s going to do.”
And again, if what Trump is going to do is fire Mueller, then you as a member of Congress could push for a bill protecting Mueller from firing. This whole “oh, what can we do, we have no power here, all we can do is sit back and watch” stance is about as dishonest as Republicans get, and that’s saying something.
Shoot, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t even issue a pro forma statement saying he supports the special counsel’s independence and thinks the investigation should be allowed to continue, that’s how much Republicans are letting Trump know that there won’t be real repercussions if he fires Mueller. That’s the same McConnell who blocked former President Barack Obama from blowing the whistle on Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 election before it happened.
The more Trump rages against Mueller’s investigation, the more guilty he looks. And the more Republicans sit back and let him, the more it looks like they might have some real culpability here, too.