The very day after Americans sent the crystal-clear message that they want Democratic oversight of his presidency, Donald Trump decided the smart move was to take aggressive action that will, in fact, require House Democrats to use those oversight powers. For that reason and others, Trump made both a political and a tactical mistake Wednesday in firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and installing Robert Mueller’s arch-nemesis to oversee the Russia probe.
First of all, nothing holds more peril than making the move everyone expected when you have pretty close to no idea what cards are being held by your adversary, special counsel Robert Mueller in this case. As a former federal prosecutor and colleague of Mueller told MSNBC Wednesday, contingency planning runs in Mueller’s veins.
“He has contingency plans for everything,” Glenn Kirschner said of Mueller. “I can assure you Mueller and his team have been preparing for a moment like this,” he added, saying that Trump’s move would only accelerate their timeline.
And from a purely political standpoint, Trump just made his own corruption impossible for Democrats to ignore as they prepare to assume their oversight role in January. Right on cue, the incoming chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued a statement about Sessions’ firing.
”Congress must now investigate the real reason for this termination, confirm that Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is recused from all aspects of the Special Counsel’s probe, and ensure that the Department of Justice safeguards the integrity of the Mueller investigation,” Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings wrote.
None of this is to suggest the nation isn’t in a perilous situation. It is. But it’s one in which Trump is daring, indeed demanding, his rival players to take the very action they have been preparing to take for many months. Mueller will have to fill this space until January. And hopefully, some career attorneys at the Justice Department will make noise over the next few days about the crisis moment we are in (former DOJ spokesperson Matt Miller called it a “national emergency”).
But look for more Mueller indictments to come down soon. And as former Rep. David Jolly noted on MSNBC, expect that Democrats will at the very least “have some type of Mueller report in their hands” come January. (Additionally, getting rid of Mueller certainly doesn’t end the Southern District of New York inquiry.)
Democrats have a lot of experienced lawmakers ready to perform these oversight duties, and that’s exactly what voters elected them to do. Not a moment too soon.