Why you should care
Because we’ve entered a new phase in the Robert Mueller saga.
With apologies to Kanye West and Michelle Wolf, what mattered this week was the shift in President Donald Trump’s legal strategy. We have now entered the total war phase.
Sure, if you’ve listened to Trump or read his Twitter account for the past year, you would have assumed we were already there. But his legal team was still talking about playing ball with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. That is, until the leaks of Robert Mueller’s 49-part line of questioning and threat to subpoena the president if he doesn’t talk. Then good-cop attorney Ty Cobb announced his departure, and Emmet Flood — who has defended besieged West Wingers Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney — arrived, accompanied by blind quotes like “the gloves may be coming off.”
It is now the formal White House position that this all is a “witch hunt,” as the official statement announcing Flood’s hire said. It only makes sense that Trump’s legal and communications strategy now would be fully aligned with his mouth. Resistance, as so many advisers and aides can report, is futile. White House staff had about as much advance notice of attorney Rudy Giuliani’s media tour — he deepened Trump’s legal woes with a series of interviews about hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels that almost certainly violated campaign finance law — as they do about Trump’s early morning tweets. Given the improv nature of this presidency, Trump might still fire Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the special counsel’s investigation. But the more important campaign to discredit them has already passed the point of no return.
The rump group of far-right House Republicans drafted articles of impeachment against Rosenstein for withholding documents from them — documents the Department of Justice says could compromise Mueller’s investigation if leaked. Trump has complained that the investigators are just a bunch of Democrats out to get him, and polls say his supporters believe him.
We’re racing toward a legal showdown if Trump defies a Mueller subpoena and the case goes to the Supreme Court. But the dispute, at its heart, is a political test. How much does it really matter to the American public and Trump’s political base if he ran afoul of campaign finance disclosure regulations or obstructed justice for a crime he didn’t actually commit? The president is pushing those boundaries with each passing tweet.
He closed the week in Dallas, speaking to the National Rifle Association convention, where he touched on the Second Amendment, North Korea, the 2016 campaign, John Kerry’s 2015 bicycle crash and, of course, the “witch hunt.” Trump read approvingly from comments by a Virginia judge questioning Mueller’s authority to prosecute former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. “Let me tell you, folks,” Trump said, “we’re all fighting battles, but I love fighting these battles.” The crowd roared in reply.