Vox / YouTube How Steve Bannon sees the world...
Vox / YouTube

It’s no secret that Donald Trump started pacing the floors, if not climbing the walls, Monday after the indictments of Manafort and Gates and the guilty plea of Papadopolous was made public. Aides Dina Powell and Gary Cohn are ostensibly leaving the room if the subject of Trump Russia comes up. Meanwhile, outside the West Wing, none other than Steve Bannon is attempting to buttress Trump’s presidency against what many are considering the first wave in the onslaught that is going to lead to Trump’s impeachment or him being forced to resign. Indications that impeachment may be a bi-partisan effort are looking more and more likely all the time. Gabriel Sherman, Vanity Fair:

“The establishment has proven time and time again they will fuck Trump over,” a Bannon ally told me. “Mueller shouldn’t be allowed to be a clean shot on goal,” a Bannon confidant told me. “He must be contested and checked. Right now he has unchecked power.”

Bannon’s sense of urgency is being fueled by his belief that Trump’s hold on power is slipping. The collapse of Obamacare repeal, and the dimming chances that tax reform will pass soon—many Trump allies are deeply pessimistic about its prospects—have created the political climate for establishment Republicans to turn on Trump. Two weeks ago, according to a source, Bannon did a spitball analysis of the Cabinet to see which members would remain loyal to Trump in the event the 25th Amendment were invoked, thereby triggering a vote to remove the president from office. Bannon recently told people he’s not sure if Trump would survive such a vote. “One thing Steve wants Trump to do is take this more seriously,” the Bannon confidant told me. “Stop joking around. Stop tweeting.”

Roger Stone believes defunding Mueller isn’t enough. Instead, Stone wants Trump to call for a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton’s role in approving the controversial Uranium One deal that’s been a locus of rightwing hysteria (the transaction involved a Russian state-owned energy firm acquiring a Canadian mining company that controlled 20 percent of the uranium in the United States). It’s a bit of a bank shot, but as Stone described it, a special prosecutor looking into Uranium One would also have to investigate the F.B.I.’s role in approving the deal, thereby making Mueller—who was in charge of the bureau at the time—a target. Stone’s choice for a special prosecutor: Rudy Giuliani law colleague Marc Mukasey or Fox News pundit Andrew Napolitano. “You would immediately have to inform Mueller, Comey, and [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein that they are under federal investigation,” Stone said. “Trump can’t afford to fire Mueller politically. But this pushes him aside.”

Bannon is trying to figure out how to do an end run around firing Robert Mueller, because Bannon knew that firing Comey was, as he put it, “the worst mistake in modern political history.” Bannon is not only plotting against Mueller, Roger Stone hatched an InfoWars worthy plot to eliminate Mueller and Comey and Rosenstein in one fell swoop. Roger Stone is admittedly a wingnut, as his recent unstable twitter meltdown conclusively proved. However, he has the backing of John Kelly and the two of them, believe it or not, are calling for a second special prosecutor to be appointed, to investigate Uranium One and the Steele Dossier. It is incredible that innuendo and Breitbart-fomented conspiracy theory has gotten this far but it has. The Republicans are on the ropes and they are clearly desperate to even suggest this. John Cassidy, New Yorker:

In Stone’s mind, a new Trump-appointed special prosecutor would investigate everybody connected to Uranium One, including Mueller, who was the director of the F.B.I.from 2001 to 2013. And that would make Mueller’s position untenable.“Mueller can’t be a special prosecutor when he himself is under investigation,” Stone told the Daily Caller, a conservative Web site. “Mueller is guilty of obstruction and cover up in Uranium One.”

Now, Stone is a dedicated troublemaker and controversialist. Over the weekend, Twitter suspended him after he attacked some media figures in a series of expletive-laden tweets. But while it is perhaps tempting to dismiss his proposal as half-baked fantasizing, he isn’t the only person in Trump’s orbit calling for an independent probe of the Uranium One deal. Indeed, the idea now has Kelly’s support. When Ingraham asked him if he supported the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate both Uranium One and the infamous opposition-research dossier that a former British spy,Christopher Steele, produced about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, Kelly replied, “I guess so  . . .  I think, probably, as a layman looking at this type of thing, we need to find someone who is very, very objective, who can get to the bottom of these accusations.”

If we take Kelly’s words seriously (and there doesn’t seem to be any reason not to), Trump may be about to adopt a dual strategy. Officially, he would continue to coöperate with Mueller’s investigation, avoiding any overtly critical comments about it. At the same time, though, he would look to create a huge distraction in the form of a new probe targeting Democrats—one that could even raise questions about Mueller’s continued role. This wacky scheme would represent a Hail Mary pass rather than a fully thought-out strategy, but desperate times call for desperate measures. In his comments to the Daily Caller, Stone said that his plan represents Trump’s “only chance for survival.”

Now the burning question is whether the Justice Department and Congress will actually go along with this bizarrely transparent ploy, or whether they’re going to stand up to Donald Trump. If Bannon is right and the establishment Republicans wish to oppose Trump, they’ll quash this mad scheme. If Bannon is wrong, then what we will see, however transitorily, is a facade based on the special counsel statute and a puppet government within a government at the Justice Department. Since Sessions is recused, Rod Rosenstein is in charge. Will he dance to John Kelly’s tune? How serious, for that matter, is John Kelly? Was he just making appropriate noises? We’re going to find out in the very near future.

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