Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) explains why This new report on Trump’s state of mind should alarm you.
From the very outset of his presidency, Trump has been testing what he can get away with in terms of hamstringing or derailing the [Russia-Trump campaign] probe. He has done this repeatedly.
Right after the election Sally Yates brought bad news to the White House and was fired for it. Trump tried to stop Sessions from recusing himself. FBI director James Comey was fired after Trump’s failed attempt at controlling Comey. The Russia probe probably figured into Trump’s firing of deputy director Andrew McCabe. Trump used the Nunes memo to try to go after deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. Last June Trump tried to get the White House Counsel to fire Mueller.
Now Trump is at it again and there are no assurances that he will be restrained by his own advisors or Congress. Sargent cites a NY Times article which reports that Trump ‘decided to attack Mueller over the advice of his advisers because he “ultimately trusts only his own instincts,” with the result that Trump is “newly emboldened” to “ignore the cautions of those around him.” ’ The thing is that “Warnings of dire consequences from his critics have failed to materialize.”
This helps explain why Trump unleashed his fury on Mueller over the weekend. In a tweet storm that was full of lies — see Glenn Kessler’s takedown of the specifics — Trump claimed that law enforcement is riddled with corruption and that the Mueller probe itself is illegitimate. To make this latter claim, Trump floated the intertwined falsehoods that the Democratic-funded Steele dossier triggered the probe (a lie) and that there was no legit basis for its genesis (also a lie).
This has renewed pressure on Republicans to sound the alarm that they would view any effort to remove Mueller as intolerable. With a few exceptions, most of them did nothing of the kind. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s (R-Wis.) declaration that Mueller should be left alone was conspicuously tepid. Senate GOP leaders and many top Republicans on the committees investigating the Russia affair remained silent.
To be sure, Sen. Lindsey Graham has told Trump that any attempt to fire Mueller would fail “catastrophically”.
But Trump has apparently concluded that those issuing warnings of such dire consequences are wrong and that his instincts are right. (As Jonathan Chait notes, those instincts are all pulling Trump toward an effort to try to remove Mueller.) And Republicans are saying little to nothing to disabuse him of that notion.
Sargent says “Don’t take my word for it. The White House has now basically affirmed this to be the case.” Sargent cites two reports from the White House: WHITE HOUSE ISN’T HEARING ‘OUTCRY’ OVER MUELLER, and TRUMP ‘DOESN’T NEED’ THE ADULTS IN THE ROOM. Cohn quit. Tillerson resigned. Chief of Staff Kelly’s tenure seems on-again, off-again as does that of National Security advisor McMaster. And the Republicans in Congress seem loathe to resist Trump.
And all that is why we cannot count on the GOP to restrain Trump. There is no light at the end of this tunnel and if there were, it would be a constitutional crisis the resolution of which may not favor our democracy.