On Thursday evening, news emerged that Donald Trump tried to fire Robert Mueller back in June.
President Trump ordered the firing last June of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, according to four people told of the matter, but ultimately backed down after the White House counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive.
As of Friday morning, Trump was hurrying to deny the report.
“Fake news. Fake news. Typical New York Times. Fake stories,” Trump told reporters.
There’s a very good reason he should deny it. Not because it isn’t true—the original article had multiple sources and considerable detail—but because Trump’s attempting to dismiss the Special Prosecutor just one month after he fired the FBI director would have been a definitive incidence of obstruction. Beyond that, it would have represented a flagrant, autocratic abuse of power so great that Trump would not have been even one step short of declaring his immunity from any prosecution.
But there’s reason why Trump has to keep up his denials that goes beyond his action then. Since that time, others in the Trump White House have become involved in covering up these events.
Kellyanne Conway: “The president has not even discussed that. The president is not discussing firing Bob Muller.”
John Dowd: “That’s never been on the table, never.”
Trump’s attempt to fire Mueller was such an obvious overstep, that even those members of his team that have been with him from the beginning wouldn’t go there. But the attempts to cover up the event not only bolster the case of obstruction—they make it a conspiracy.
The revelation that Trump tried to fire Mueller back in June does resolve one mystery. Over and over, through the fall and winter, there have been stories about how Trump’s lead attorney had reassured him that the investigation was going to end soon. Very soon. With a favorable decision. The idea that Robert Mueller was going to suddenly throw up a white flag always seemed like a fantasy. So why was Trump’s legal team sending these signals? Were they hopeless optimists? Legal lightweights?
Now it’s clear there was another reason.
… by telling Trump that it will all be over soon, his lawyers keep his desire to fire Mueller at bay. Why fire someone and make yourself look guilty when that same person is about to declare you innocent, goes the thinking. Just a few more days/weeks/months and this will all be over so no need to do anything rash, the lawyers tell Trump — and, in so doing, buy themselves more time to let Mueller do his job.
The case for obstruction already seems rock solid. Even if Trump had not tried to pressure James Comey into dropping his investigation into Michael Flynn, even if Trump had not fired Comey when he refused to go along, there would still be the letter that Trump personally authored on Air Force One that described the Trump Tower meeting as being about “adoption.” That incident, all on its own, was such a blatant, direct attempt to misdirect the public and investigators that it warrants … it’s own warrant.
Beyond this, there’s clearly more to the firing of Michael Flynn than has been revealed to the public. Flynn’s dismissal always seemed to be a face-saving move, an attempt to dump him while he was at the focus of the Russia investigation, with the excuse that Flynn didn’t inform Mike Pence about his actions nothing more than cover. But the way that information about Flynn’s firing has been at the center of Mueller’s discussions with multiple White House staffers—including Jefferson Sessions—certainly suggests that there was something far different going on behind the scenes.
The attempt to fire Robert Mueller doesn’t just compound all this, it multiplies it many-fold. It sets Trump’s guilt in cement.
The case against Trump has grown stronger in recent months, and it now appears likely that Mueller will conclude that Trump obstructed justice.
Every step that Trump has taken has made that obstruction more obvious—and more easily prosecuted. It’s understandable that Trump’s legal team might feed him mental candy in attempts to keep him calm. However, the continued efforts of his White House staff to cover up for the obstruction attempts Trump has already made, stands a chance of introducing them to section 1510 of a little law called RICO.