We’re back to this again: Will Donald Trump fire special counsel Robert Mueller, who is quarterbacking the Russia probe. The Trump White House floated this idea, or there were fears of it, but they were shot down when virtually everyone praised Mueller and his capability of leading this investigation. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was one of those people. Then, the probe expanded into President Trump’s business dealings, which he said was his red line. He made that declaration in an interview with The New York Times’ Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman, and Michael S. Schmidt [emphasis mine]:
SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller——
TRUMP: And I couldn’t have been better than the stuff I had. Obviously, because I won.
SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?
HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?
TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t — I don’t — I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make — from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that. Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one. Other than I held the Miss Universe pageant there eight, nine years [crosstalk].
SCHMIDT: But if he was outside that lane, would that mean he’d have to go?
HABERMAN: Would you consider——
TRUMP: No, I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia. So I think if he wants to go, my finances are extremely good, my company is an unbelievably successful company. And actually, when I do my filings, peoples say, “Man.” People have no idea how successful this is. It’s a great company. But I don’t even think about the company anymore. I think about this. ’Cause one thing, when you do this, companies seem very trivial. O.K.? I really mean that. They seem very trivial. But I have no income from Russia. I don’t do business with Russia. The gentleman that you mentioned, with his son, two nice people. But basically, they brought the Miss Universe pageant to Russia to open up, you know, one of their jobs. Perhaps the convention center where it was held. It was a nice evening, and I left. I left, you know, I left Moscow. It wasn’t Moscow, it was outside of Moscow.
HABERMAN: Would you fire Mueller if he went outside of certain parameters of what his charge is? [crosstalk]
SCHMIDT: What would you do?
TRUMP: I can’t, I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen.
I know, Trump says at the end that this isn’t going to happen, but National Review’s Rich Lowry seems to be pretty confident that this will happen:
This kind of expansion of an investigation is what special counsels do, and there is nothing to indicate that Mueller is going to limit his work, in fact the opposite. Bloomberg is reporting that Mueller is already looking at Trump’s business transactions. Maybe that report is premature, but it’s probably where this is headed. All sorts of people will tell Trump not to fire Mueller. But we can be pretty certain that Trump didn’t sign up for a free-floating investigation into his businesses and that he believes — and must feel confirmed in the belief — that fortune favors the recklessly bold. If Trump doesn’t fire Mueller, it will only be because every other day he’s talked out of following his instincts.
Right now, the Trump legal team is reportedly finding ways to make Mr. Mueller’s job more difficult:
Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.
Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.
Trump’s legal team declined to comment on the issue. But one adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.
So, let’s say this happens. How does Mueller get the pin slip from the president? FactCheck.org says that only the deputy attorney general can fire Mueller and for cause, “but Trump could fire the DAG, or order the special-counsel regulations repealed and fire Mueller himself.” The outcry of course would be deafening and if the White House is trying to move on from Russia, this is a rather disastrous way to do it from a public relations standpoint. Let’s circle back to what Guy wrote in June about this political landmine:
Firing Mueller, even if you believe asking about his soft spot for Comey and his Democrat-heavy hires thus far are legitimate concerns (I think they're fair questions), would be astonishingly self-destructive. It would indicate that Trump is either so willing to follow his egotistical impulses as to look extremely guilty, or he is extremely guilty. Neither one is a positive for the White House, to put things mildly. And the last thing Trump needs now is more bad press.
Russia has reached new levels of intensity with the news media because of Donald Trump Jr.’s ill-advised meeting with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was reportedly from the Russian government and part of its efforts to help Donald Trump win the election. Yet, the email chain where this is detailed comes from publicist, Rob Goldstone, who arranged the meeting at the behest of his boss, Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, who sang at the Miss Universe pageant four years ago. These are the people who are at the center of this supposed nefarious international plot, an “Enrique Iglesias wannabe,” who can only score singing gigs at the mall his father owns. No wonder why some anti-Putin journalists are saying we should sober up on this angle. Yet, as CBS News’s John Dickerson mentioned, this may show that Trump Jr. was “collusion curious,” though it shows no actual evidence of collusion. The meeting was a bust, no information was shared, and any talk about the 2016 election never occurred.
From what we know, there is zero evidence of actual collusion. Democrats are saying there’s a lot of smoke, but it’s been over several months with no revelation of direct evidence. The amount of smoke could probably cook all the wild salmon in the world at this point. Regardless, there seems to be enough evidence that Russia at least tried to interfere in our election with social media trolls and disseminating fake news stories though state-funded outlets. That's not the same as hacking, though this should be investigated. As for Trump Jr., the meeting also needs to be looked into and he has agreed to testify before Congress on the subject later this month. I’m not sure what Trump is going to do—I gave up trying to guess his moves a long time ago. But if he wants this story to die, firing Mueller would be the worst things he could do. If there’s nothing to fear, there’s nothing to fear.