If Trump Fires Mueller, What Would Congress Do?
White House lawyer reiterates: Trump is not thinking about firing Mueller. But how does anybody really know that besides Trump? And even if Trump himself said he wasn’t, would we believe him?
So the only thing we should reasonably expect to get a handle on is how Congress would react. And even that’s far from clear.
The President’s attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller went into overdrive, after 3 significant developments late last week:
- Mueller’s team sent questions for Trump over to the White House as part of their negotiations for a face-to-face interview with President, that according to the New York Times.
- Mueller subpoenaed documents from the Trump Organization for the first time.
- And Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired once-acting F.B.I. Director Andrew McCabe (as Trump celebrated) on the basis of an unreleased internal investigation (which Trump had criticized) which claimed he “failed to be forthcoming”. (McCabe was just hours away from retiring anyway, and now might not get his pension. But honestly, this is the least of our worries right now. Yeah, it was cruel, but it’s not exactly like McCabe’s going to be on a bread line the rest of his life.)
Trump spent much of the weekend processing those things, out loud, on Twitter (we’re giving you a sampling of those Tweets throughout this column). Perhaps the President is trying to assess reaction too, as he “tests out” arguments and theories. And Trump is likely to have more to say when he visits New Hampshire today, where he’s also expected to unveil his plan to fight the opioid epidemic, including the death penalty for drug dealers, one of his biggest pet causes of late.
House Speaker Paul Ryan put out a typically lukewarm statement saying: “Mr. Mueller and his team should be able to do their job”. Senator Lindsey Graham repeated what he’s said before: “that would be the beginning to the end of his Presidency”, but his influence is limited and a lot of what he says does not come to pass. Senator John McCain Tweeted:
But there’s no love lost between him and Trump.
Representative Trey Gowdy, who we’ve called the “unlikely voice of reason” several times recently, was perhaps the strongest, saying if Trump is indeed innocent he should “act like it” and leave Mueller alone. Gowdy also said repeated Tweets by Trump claiming that the House Intelligence Committee, which he sits on, basically exonerated the President are not accurate, because a lot of the witnesses who appeared before the Committee did not cooperate, so members may have been left with a limited picture: “You don’t know what you don’t know”, he said.
Gowdy, however, is a lame duck, he won’t run again this fall, meaning his level of involvement will depend on the timing of how this all (potentially) goes down.
(We’re not sure what a “hardened” Democrat is. The two people at the top of the investigation Special Counsel Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are both Republicans. Among the investigators themselves, many are registered Democrats, and have donated to Democratic candidates in the past including Obama and Clinton. Only one donated to Republican candidates. Others do not align themselves with any party and did not donate.)
What more can Congress do right now? The “easiest” thing is to make it very clear to Trump that if he fires Mueller, they’ll just go ahead and hire him back themselves. Short of that, they could pass legislation making it more difficult for Trump to fire the Special Counsel. It’s already written (by Republicans) and ready to go, and it’s pretty simple: if Trump fires Mueller, the firing could be appealed to a federal judge. However, it’s something they’d have to pass quickly, haven’t had an appetite for yet even though it’s been out there, and Congress isn’t known for speed.
One final thought, per Nate Silver: