Explaining Trump’s Response to Mueller Probe
Josh Marshall has followed the Russia story on Talking Points Memo as closely as any media figure. He has remained consistently skeptical that Donald Trump himself will be charged with any criminal collaboration with Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He has also been consistent in predicting Obstruction of Justice and money laundering charges will be made against Trump.
Marshall notes that while those charges would be serious enough, they don’t seem to warrant the extreme escalation in the attacks by Trump, his Congressional enablers and right-wing media on Mueller and the FBI since Michael Flynn’s plea deal was announced.
Something doesn’t seem to fit. The White House has driven a widening war with the FBI, the Justice Department, various parts of the Intelligence Community and brought numerous members of Congress into this effort. This is not to mention the use of conservative media. Trump has also conducted what Mueller now seems to think may constitute an on-going pattern of obstruction down to this day. You may have seen the videos I posted this morning. The attack is so ferocious and so over the top, it’s really hard to imagine what could be so bad as to drive this level of response. They seem to be expecting something worse than I am expecting.
So what does this mean?
One possibility is that it’s really much, much worse than many of us think. Or perhaps a multi-count obstruction indictment against the President and his top associates is bad enough that they will do literally anything to attack the investigation, as they seem to be. In theory, it’s pretty bad. In practice, I’m not so sure. There’s a very decent chance Robert Mueller will decide he cannot or should not indict a sitting President but rather make a report to Congress whose purview it is to judge potential criminal conduct by a President. It is virtually impossible to remove a President from office without a catastrophic loss of support in his own party. I see no evidence of that any time soon or ever.
Another explanation is that Trump just has no respect for the rule of law and believes he is personally in charge of federal law enforcement and fully entitled to use that control to protect himself. So even more minor challenges to that power and control or legal invulnerability are so intolerable that they lead to this kind of response. In other words, insanely over the top reactions are just what Trump does. Why are we surprised?
There’s actually decent evidence for this latter interpretation in the decision to fire James Comey. Even if you assume that Trump has the worst sort of secrets to hide, the decision to fire Comey was still profoundly counter-productive and self-destructive decision. Even if the underlying offense is worse than the coverup this attempt at a cover up served zero purpose and accomplished nothing. Maybe Trump is just hyper-aggressive and self-destructive? Again, we know this. Maybe I’m wrong to think there’s any mystery?
At a minimum, the repeated claims from out of the White House that they expect the investigation to wrap up soon with no charges is clearly not true. And I don’t mean public statements. I mean reports from unnamed officials who are supposedly sharing their actual take on the situation. Clearly that’s not true. But it goes beyond that. The pushback and attacks suggest they are preparing for something catastrophic.
I don’t have a good answer to this question. I only know there’s a disconnect. It’s something I’m thinking about a lot.
What do you think?