A California congresswoman is saying publicly what members of both parties on Capitol Hill have been telling each other secretly for days. On Friday, Rep. Jackie Speier told reporters at PBS’s local northern California affiliate that lawmakers in Washington expect President Trump to fire special counsel Robert Mueller before Christmas.
“The rumor on the Hill when I left yesterday was that the president was going to make a significant speech at the end of next week. And on Dec. 22, when we are out of D.C., he was going to fire Robert Mueller,” Speier said on KQED News.
“We can read between the lines I think,” she continued. “I believe this president wants all of this shut down. He wants to shut down these investigations, and he wants to fire special counsel Mueller.”
Other lawmakers are concerned as well, though none have gone as far as Rep. Speier in their revelations. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, on which Speier also sits, has been making the rounds in the media in recent days expressing his concern that Republicans leading the committee are maneuvering to end their investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election soon after the new year.
Rep. Schiff outlined his concern in a tweet late Friday, writing, “Republicans have scheduled no witnesses after next Friday and none in 2018. We have dozens of outstanding witnesses on key aspects of our investigation that they refuse to contact and many document requests they continue to sit on.”
Pressed on Friday about the whispers on Capitol Hill, White House Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said only that, “There is no intention or plan to make any changes in regards to the special counsel.”
President Trump and his allies in the right wing media have been locked in a desperate public defense against two potentially impeachable offenses that Mueller appears to be investigating.
First is the charge that he and members of his campaign colluded with Russian intelligence to steal the 2016 presidential election. The second is that, since becoming president, he and his associates have been engaged in a cover-up to block, stall, and otherwise influence the multiple investigations into their culpability during the campaign, with his unceremonious termination of FBI Director Jim Comey as Exhibit A.
There’s another term for this: obstruction of justice.
To the first point, Team Trump insists that the entire Trump-Russia narrative is a “hoax” and a “ruse,” to use the president’s own words, one invented by Democrats bitter about Hillary Clinton’s defeat, and hyped by a mainstream media that’s out to destroy Trump.
To the obstruction of justice charge, their defense is more nuanced. The President has explicit statutory authority to fire any FBI director he chooses, they maintain, regardless of who he was investigating. He, therefore, cannot be charged with obstructing justice for simply exercising his explicit presidential authority, they insist.
Famed lawyer and author Alan Dershowitz wrote a book making this very case, and FOX News, not at all coincidentally, has made a point to invite him to appear on every news show he’s willing to do to repeat this very thin legal thesis. Most experts, however, disagree, and they’re quick to remind us of President Nixon’s disproven theory that “if the President does it, it’s not illegal.” Nixon, if you remember, was going to be impeached for obstruction of justice before he resigned.
Not content with just playing defense, the president, his cabal of conspirators in congress, and his minions at FOX News and the conservative media have gone on offense in recent weeks as well. They’ve pounced on reports that FBI agents participating in the investigation were fired by Mueller for exchanging text messages critical of Trump during the campaign. They’ve used their termination to call for the investigations to be shut down and Mueller fired. FOX host Jaeanine Pirro even called for Mueller and his investigators to be arrested. Never mind that Mueller did the right thing by removing those agents from his team.
This overt campaign to discredit Mueller, a Republican originally appointed to run the FBI by President George W. Bush, is quite out of character for the normally pro-law enforcement GOP. Blue Lives Matter, remember? In fact, when Robert Mueller was first appointed special counsel, Republicans rejoiced.
Former Speaker of the House and early Trump supporter Newt Gingrich greeted Mueller’s appointment as special counsel with a resounding seal of approval, tweeting, “Robert Mueller is a superb choice to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity. Media should now calm down.”
But now that he’s secured two indictments and two further guilty pleas, and his investigation is now focusing on Trump’s inner circle, including his son, Don, Jr., suddenly Gingrich and others have changed their tune. “Mueller is corrupt. The senior FBI is corrupt. The system is corrupt,” Gingrich told Fox News in early December. Oh, what a difference facts uncovered by a “superb” special counsel can make.
This ramp-up if attacks on both the investigation and Robert Mueller himself begs the obvious question: Why demand that the one man who can exonerate President Trump and clear him of both collusion and obstruction of justice be fired? If he neither obstructed justice nor colluded with Russia, and there’s no “there” there as the right wing media has insisted from the beginning of this entire enterprise, then wouldn’t it be better for the president and his minions in the Trumoposphere if they just stayed quiet and let Robert Mueller and his investigators do their job, thoroughly and without erecting legal obstacles, thereby making his ultimate vindication more credible?
If, that is, they really believe he did nothing wrong. Clearly, they don’t.