Close on the heels of Election Day, the most predictable thing ever finally transpired: Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned under pressure, ripping away a layer of insulation from the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
President Trump’s motive is glaringly transparent considering that he had complained that Sessions was useless to him if he recused himself from involvement with the Mueller investigation, as if the attorney general was his personal lawyer instead of the highest-ranking law-enforcement official in the land.
With Sessions out of the way, oversight of the Mueller investigation moves from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to Trump’s handpicked replacement, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. The new acting attorney general has notably argued that Mueller would be crossing a red line if he looked into Trump’s finances.
In an op-ed for CNN last year, Whitaker wrote, “It is time for Rosenstein, who is the acting attorney general for the purposes of this investigation, to order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation to the four corners of the order appointing him special counsel. If he doesn’t, then Mueller’s investigation will eventually start to look like a political fishing expedition.”
If Trump was worried that his presidency could be in jeopardy now that the Democrats have retaken control of Congress, his alarm appears to have been premature. With the favorable political winds of 2018 at their backs, Democrats appear to be more interested in finding a suitable nominee for 2020 than pursuing impeachment.
Whatever findings are potentially revealed when the Mueller investigation concludes, it’s certain that Trump’s followers — now more or less indistinguishable from the GOP establishment and rank-and-file — are so immersed in conspiracy theories that they won’t believe a word of it. Likewise, whether it’s damning or exculpatory, progressives and the Democratic base will receive the findings as confirmation of Trump’s disgraceful conduct (I readily include myself in the latter camp).
Whether the president can be indicted or not appears to be a matter of dispute, although Mueller could certainly keep indicting the president’s associates, including family members. A pardon for Don Jr. or Jared Kushner would certainly trigger outrage, but at this point would anyone honestly be shocked?
The question of impeachment is actually political and has very little to do with what Mueller uncovers. Everything the Democratic House does between now and November 2020 will be about jockeying for the presidential election. The Democrats in the House and the Republicans in the Senate will be playing the usual Washington games of mutual accusations of bad faith and denying each other political wins. Trump will instigate successive outrages while the Democrats will attempt to look as reasonable as possible. (Guess who wins that game?) Impeachment is already off the table.
“It depends on what happens in the Mueller investigation, but that is not unifying,” said Nancy Pelosi, the once and likely future Democratic House speaker, when asked about the possibility of impeachment. “And I get criticized in my own party for not being in support of that, but I’m not. If that happens, it would have to be bipartisan and the evidence would have to be conclusive.”
So, any takers on the Republican side?
“The whole issue of presidential harassment is interesting,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell chortled. “The Democrats in the House are going to have to decide how much presidential harassment they think is a good strategy. I’m not so sure it will work for them.”
There you have it.
Sounds like it’s time for the Resistance to emancipate itself from the Democratic Party.