I’ve been in a bunker made out of awards-season coverage and the Australian Open for the past two weeks, so I really haven’t been watching the news that much. There was a lull in both tennis and red carpet stuff last night, so I checked in on Chris Hayes. There was the comforting ol’ “Breaking News” banner. The breaking news? Donald Trump ordered the firing of Robert Mueller back in June 2017, only White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit if Trump went through with it:
Everyone can stop wondering when President Trump will try to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, because it appears that already happened last summer. Four sources tell the New York Times that Trump ordered Muller’s firing in June, amid reports that the special counsel was looking into whether he attempted to obstruct justice. However, Trump backed down after White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit.
When McGahn received Trump’s order, he reportedly refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss Mueller. The special counsel can only be removed for cause, and McGahn didn’t find the case Trump laid out very convincing. Per the Times: “First, [Trump] claimed that a dispute years ago over fees at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., had prompted Mr. Mueller, the F.B.I. director at the time, to resign his membership. The president also said Mr. Mueller could not be impartial because he had most recently worked for the law firm that previously represented the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Finally, the president said, Mr. Mueller had been interviewed to return as the F.B.I. director the day before he was appointed special counsel in May.”
Justice Department ethics officials cleared Mueller to lead the probe into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign after his former employer said he did not personally work with anyone connected to the case. The Washington Post reports that there was no dispute over golf club dues, Mueller merely resigned from the club in 2011, then “sent a letter requesting a dues refund in accordance with normal club practice and never heard back.”
Legality aside, McGahn reportedly argued that firing Mueller would be catastrophic for Trump’s presidency, as it would spark more questions about obstruction of justice. A source told the Post that McGahn didn’t deliver the resignation threat directly to Trump, but he was serious. McGahn told White House officials that Trump would not follow through on ordering Muller’s firing on his own, and the president backed off.
I’ve been thinking a lot in the past year about the strength and fragility of our government and institutions. We all know it will take decades to undo what Trump has done, but what if that’s not even an option at some point? We want to believe that if Trump fires Mueller, all hell really will break loose and suddenly that will be the last straw. When looking back at all of the horrible f–king bulls–t Trump has already “gotten away with,” why do we think that sacking Mueller will suddenly be the breaking point? Won’t the GOP majority just shrug and go back to formulating another tax cut for billionaires? And then what?
Also: a lot of people are wondering why this news is coming out right now. Like, is someone trying to send a message to Trump by leaking it, or are Deplorables sending out a test balloon, a treason canary in the impeachment coal mine?