The walls might be closing in on Trump and company, but the door to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation may soon slam shut as the White House and GOP operatives go on the offensive.
As Mueller gets closer and closer to the core of Trump’s inner circle, and to Trump himself, there is mounting evidence that the president is on the verge of derailing the investigation.
Even as cooperation agreements and plea bargains continue to mount, damage control has begun, and preemptive measures are being put into place. Meanwhile, the revelation that one of Mueller’s top investigators was fired, prompted calls from conservatives to shutter the investigation that have grown from soft whispers to a dull roar.
Emboldened by the firing of Mueller team investigator Peter Strzok, Trump surrogates are now openly questioning the integrity of the entire investigation. Strzok was sacked after it was discovered that he exchanged disparaging text messages about Trump with an FBI attorney. Strzok’s dismissal has become a rallying point for Trump supporters who say the investigation is biased, with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee even calling for an investigation of Mueller himself.
Another sign of a brewing confrontation with Mueller is Trump attorney John Dowd’s assertion that the president cannot obstruct justice because he is the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. This claim alone sets the stage for the argument that if Trump fires Mueller, it is within his authority, and would also absolve him of any obstruction allegations stemming from the ouster of former FBI director James Comey.
Trump himself has muddied the waters even more by tweeting that the FBI is compromised, and its reputation is “in tatters.”
In addition to the defensive moves by the Trump administration, it appears that a counter-offensive could be underway as well.
Evidence of this appears in the curious story of how confidential news sources allegedly fed false information to CNN concerning emails between Donald Trump, Jr. and WikiLeaks. CNN has recently had to issue retractions on other stories about Trump and Russian collusion and is often the main media target of his anger-fueled tweet storms.
The fact that the network acknowledged it was trusted, and vetted sources who provided the erroneous information, raises the question of whether the news was planted to intentionally mislead journalists.
It should also be noted that shortly after CNN broke the story, someone provided the Washington Post with a copy of the original email refuting CNN‘s claim. Trump attacked the incident during his rally in Pensacola, Florida, last week, pointing out how CNN has been forced to retract all of the “fake news” about him.
But the most compelling evidence that the Mueller probe is in danger is the recent “warming up” of establishment Republicans to Trump.
Previously, Trump was warned that any attempt to remove Mueller would result in dire consequences. That admonishment was announced by none other than Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was subsequently attacked by a barrage of Trump tweets.
However, this was before House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Trump-backed tax cut bill cleared its first hurdle. Suddenly some of the president’s staunchest in-party opposition literally melted away.
Outspoken critics like Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker have either toned down or fell silent on most of Trump’s new moves. Even ramrod-straight Mitch McConnell has softened on Trump to the point of ignoring his own disdain for senate candidate Roy S. Moore. Trump issued a full endorsement of Moore for his upcoming senate race, despite allegations of Moore’s past sexual conduct with young girls.
If this new strategy was successful enough to get the GOP to back Moore, Trump could likely rally enough support to convince Republicans that firing Mueller is the best course of action.
Trump maintains that neither he nor his team members engaged in any wrongdoing. Trump has also expressed disbelief that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election in his favor.