The New York Times reported Thursday evening that President Donald Trump ordered the firing of Robert Mueller last June. Mueller is the Special Prosecutor assigned to investigate Russian interference in our 2016 election cycle. He is also the best hope we have of getting out of this mess in one piece.
In June, Chris Ruddy, a close Trump friend and Mar-a-Lago member, said after a visit to the White House that he’d overheard a discussion about the president considering firing Mueller.
Ultimately he decided not to go through with it, after White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit instead of carrying out the order.
That seems like a pretty thin line of defence against something of the same type actually happening in the future.
This news is very big. It means that Trump drove us up to the brink of a constitutional crisis and took a good long think about driving us right over the edge.
The pretext he’d planned to use was that Mueller had once been a member of his golf club who quit over an argument over fees.
The kind of ridiculous insanity displayed by that line of reasoning has been the hallmark of Trump’s time in office. It’s that kind of thinking that’s got him going around poking at the North Koreans. He does not seem to grasp the idea of consequences. To Trump, regard for the law or the social contract is something for poor people and losers. But while he will not be around much longer to suffer for these decisions, the rest of us will.
In America, we have always had the time to stop and take a look at what we want our futures to look like, and how we want our lives to go. We choose a path, and we stick to it as well as we are able.
If things keep on as they have been, that is going to go away forever. To millennials, who must soon adapt to the post-Trump America, this is of the utmost concern.
This is the way that democracy dies. People stop caring about it. They cease to understand why it is valuable. And by the time they wake up to the fact, it is often too late.
Plato observed that political regimes follow a predictable evolutionary course, from oligarchy to democracy to tyranny.
Oligarchies give way to democracies when the would-be elite classes become decadent and develop interests apart from those they rule.
Democracies give way to tyrannies when mob passion overwhelms political wisdom and a populist autocrat seizes the masses.
The one constant is that the tyrant never starts out looking like a tyrant. On the contrary, in a democracy, the tyrant most commonly arises in the guise of the people’s champion. To this man, every trust is given. He’s the one man who can make everything whole again.
We all know who this reminds us of.
With Trump, we have a glimpse of what this sort of evolution looks like: A vulgar right-wing populism has emerged out of a maelstrom of anti-establishment hysteria from both sides of the political spectrum. Trump has been trying to play the part of a strongman fascist, right here in America. He views Mueller as a threat and wants him gone.
He began to argue for Mueller’s firing just days after his appointment to investigate the president’s 2016 campaign for collusion, the source said.
The revelation comes right as Mueller’s investigation appears to have intensified. Members of his staff in December finished an initial round of interviews with all of Trump’s senior White House staff.
In an impromptu press conference on Wednesday, Trump said that he himself may speak to Mueller’s team in the next “two to three weeks.”
Clearly, this is a terribly ominous sign.
Lawyers involved with Mueller’s investigation know that too.
“It’s one more brick in the wall,” said a Washington lawyer representing another senior Trump aide in the Russia probe.
Vast numbers of Americans have already made preparations to protest if Trump’s firing of Mueller becomes reality, a reaction similar to the public response after Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre. On that infamous evening, Nixon ordered the firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox. It ultimately led to his impeachment, but not before doing much to complete the ideological cleaving of America.
A report by the National Constitution Center summed up how well the whole scheme worked out for Nixon.
“Within hours of executing this Saturday Night Massacre, a firestorm of public protest erupted that led to the appointment of a new special prosecutor, the subpoenaing of dozens of additional damning tapes, the drafting of impeachment resolutions … and the ultimate unravelling of the Nixon Presidency.”
After the Saturday Night Massacre, the percentage of Americans who believed that Nixon should resign jumped from 19% to 38%, and reached 57% within six months. These kinds of low numbers are also reminiscent of Trump; it would be interesting to see how many of us currently think Trump should resign.
There’s a very real chance that if Trump pulls this he will get away with it because people cannot possibly be more disgusted with him than they already are. His base would cheer him on.
We also can’t be lulled into believing that this Congress will have the same sort of stomach and decency as the one that prepared to oust Nixon. Democrats hold neither house. And these Republicans have acted without conscience at every vote. There is not a sound reason to trust them.
Going forward, we will need to keep the closest possible eye on this and sound the alarm every way we can. Trump will do this if he thinks it will save him.
And besides. Nothing screams out the necessity for a blood-feud like golfing fees.
Back then, Chris Ruddy said during an interview with Politico that “It(the firing of Mueller) could trigger something well beyond anything they ever imagined.”
It is to be hoped that those words are never put to the test.