In their desperation to save Donald Trump from scandal, Republicans in the United States are looking for ways to undermine Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
NPR reports there are three ways they could do it:
- Replace the attorney general: Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the investigation, given his role in the Trump campaign and his own (previously undisclosed) meetings with Russian officials. His deputy, Rod Rosenstein, has told lawmakers he sees no reason to fire Mueller, let alone end his investigation. Replacing Sessions with a more Trump-friendly attorney general would circumvent that problem.
- Fire Justice Department officials who refuse to dismiss the special counsel until you find one who will: Taking a cue from Richard Nixon’s attempt to frustrate the investigation into the Watergate burglary, the president could fire Rosenstein, and if necessary his replacement, until the person supervising the Mueller probe agrees to stop it.
- Pressure the Justice Department to investigate the investigators: Republicans and their allies in the right-wing media are hard at work convincing the American public Mueller’s investigation is irredeemably compromised by alleged conflicts of interest. Another avenue, suggested by some lawmakers, would be to launch (yes, another) investigation into Hillary Clinton, Trump’s vanquished Democratic rival.
Each of the three options has its problems.
- Sessions has rebuffed all efforts to remove him.
- Mueller, a former FBI director, is widely respected in the Justice Department. Trump may need to fire a lot of people before he finds somebody to do his bidding. Even if he does, it may only lead to the appointment of another special counsel, just as happened to Nixon.
- To appoint a special counsel, the Justice Department needs evidence that a crime has been committed and a reason why its thousands of existing prosecutors cannot handle it. That’s a high bar Republicans are unlikely to clear with their phony scandals.
Don’t expect them to give up trying, though. They have tied themselves to a president who won the election with at least a little help from Moscow. Once this is proven, it would expose their own culpability.