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Chait writes: "If there was any single event that would cause the Republican elite to openly revolt against the ongoing Trumpification of their party, it would be the nomination of Roy Moore for U.S. Senate in Alabama."

Robert Mueller. (photo: James Berglie/TNS)
Robert Mueller. (photo: James Berglie/TNS)

The Mueller Investigation Is in Mortal Danger

By Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine

12 December 17


f there was any single event that would cause the Republican elite to openly revolt against the ongoing Trumpification of their party, it would be the nomination of Roy Moore for U.S. Senate in Alabama. Even prior to the allegations of child molestation, Moore had discovered innovative new realms of extremism that had never occurred to even his most ideologically fervent colleagues. He proposed banning Muslims from serving in elected office, called for the criminalization of homosexuality, and defied court rulings and declared his own biblical jurisprudence the sole valid legal authority.

And if that revolt was going to begin anywhere, it would likely be in Utah. The state’s Mormon culture recoiled from Donald Trump’s libidinous boasting, erratic behavior, and displays of extravagant consumption. Between the 2012 and 2016 elections, Utah’s Republican presidential margin underwent an astonishing 28 percent collapse.

Orrin Hatch, who has represented Utah in the Senate since 1977, greeted Moore’s candidacy in this year’s election with skepticism. (“I have trouble with” Moore’s comments on gays and Muslims, he said in October.) Once evidence surfaced of Moore’s alleged predation of teenage girls, Hatch pulled the rip cord. “If the deeply disturbing allegations in the Washington Post are true, Senator Hatch believes that Judge Moore should step aside immediately,” his spokesman declared.

But even in Utah, there were forces at work to make Hatch reconsider. He was facing a potential primary challenge from a Trumpian candidate who had met with party insurrectionist Steve Bannon and Citizens United president David Bossie. In November, Hatch lavished praise on the president, calling him “one of the best I’ve served under.” Trump rewarded Hatch by endorsing him. Hatch then defended Trump’s endorsement of Moore, arguing that he “needs every Republican he can get so he can put his agenda through.”

Hatch’s response to Moore has followed that of his entire party, and the backtracking has usefully laid bare its power dynamics. As recently as a few weeks ago, Republicans were debating whether to shun Moore or, should he win, vote to expel him from the Senate. They have settled on a course of action that had initially been off the map altogether: endorsing their lecherous ayatollah and providing financial support from the Republican National Committee.

What mattered most was that Donald Trump has contempt for any standards of conduct. (Indeed, he reportedly has taken offense at the accusations against Moore, which remind him of his own treatment.) And no Republican who wishes to stay in office can afford to offend the president, who commands overwhelming support among the party base.

This was the dynamic last year, when a tape revealed Trump casually confessing to sexual assault, and it was briefly impossible to imagine that he could continue the campaign. Reince Priebus urged him to quit; Mike Pence reportedly offered his services to the RNC as a substitute. Then the incomprehensible became inevitable. The same thing happened in May when a Republican House candidate, Greg Gianforte, assaulted a reporter and then lied about it. Would Republicans denounce him? Expel him? It turned out they would do nothing. By the time Moore came along, the party’s moral sensibilities had been worn to a nub.

The next step in the sequence is almost insultingly obvious. Trump is preparing to shut down Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian intervention in the 2016 election.

The administration and its allied media organs, especially those owned by Rupert Murdoch, have spent months floating a series of rationales, of varying degrees of implausibility, for why a deeply respected Republican law-enforcement veteran is disqualified to lead the inquiry: He is friends with James Comey, who is biased because Trump fired him; Comey is biased because he pursued leads turned up in Christopher Steele’s investigation, which was financed by Democrats; Mueller has failed to investigate Hillary Clinton’s marginal-to-nonexistent role in a uranium sale.

The newest pseudo-scandal fixates on the role of Peter Strzok, an FBI official who helped tweak the language Comey employed in his statement condemning Clinton’s email carelessness and has also worked for Mueller. His alleged crime is a series of text messages criticizing Trump. Mueller removed Strzok from his team, but that is not enough for Trump’s supporters, who are seizing on Strzok’s role as a pretext to discredit and remove Mueller, too. The notion that a law-enforcement official should be disqualified for privately expressing partisan views is a novel one, and certainly did not trouble Republicans last year, when Rudy Giuliani was boasting on television about his network of friendly agents. Yet in the conservative media, Mueller and Comey have assumed fiendish personae of almost Clintonian proportions.

When Mueller was appointed, legal scholars debated whether Trump had the technical authority to fire him, but even the majority who believed he did assumed such a power existed only in theory. Republicans in Congress, everyone believed, would never sit still for such a blatant cover-up. Josh Blackman, a conservative lawyer, argued that Trump could remove the special counsel, but “make no mistake: Mueller’s firing would likely accelerate the end of the Trump administration.” Texas representative Mike McCaul declared in July, “If he fired Bob Mueller, I think you’d see a tremendous backlash, response from both Democrats but also House Republicans.” Such a rash move “could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency,” Senator Lindsey Graham proclaimed.

In August, members of both parties began drawing up legislation to prevent Trump from sacking Mueller. “The Mueller situation really gave rise to our thinking about how we can address the current situation,” explained Republican senator Thom Tillis, a sponsor of one of the bills. By early autumn, the momentum behind the effort had slowed; by Thanksgiving, Republican interest had melted away. “I don’t see any heightened kind of urgency, if you’re talking about some of the reports around Flynn and others,” Tillis said recently. “I don’t see any great risk.”

In fact, the risk has swelled. Trump has publicly declared any investigation into his finances would constitute a red line, and that he reserves the option to fire Mueller if he investigates them. Earlier this month, it was reported that Mueller has subpoenaed records at Deutsche Bank, an institution favored both by Trump and the Russian spy network.

John Dowd, a lawyer for Trump, recently floated the wildly expansive defense that a “president cannot obstruct justice, because he is the chief law-enforcement officer.” Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett called the investigation “illegitimate and corrupt” and declared that “the FBI has become America’s secret police.” Graham is now calling for a special counsel to investigate “Clinton email scandal, Uranium One, role of Fusion GPS, and FBI and DOJ bias during 2016 campaign” — i.e., every anti-Mueller conspiracy theory. And perhaps as ominously, Trump’s allies have been surfacing fallback defenses. Yes, “some conspiratorial quid pro quo between somebody in the Trump campaign and somebody representing Vladimir Putin” is “possible,” allowed Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins, but “we would be stupid not to understand that other countries have a stake in the outcome of our elections and, by omission or commission, try to advance their interests. This is reality.” The notion of a criminal conspiracy by a hostile nation to intervene in the election in return for pliant foreign policy has gone from unthinkable to blasé, an offense only to naïve bourgeois morality.

It is almost a maxim of the Trump era that the bounds of the unthinkable continuously shrink. The capitulation to Moore was a dry run for the coming assault on the rule of law. your social media marketing partner


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+11 # Interested 2017-12-12 14:54
He already has the "nomination". Do you mean "election " of Moore? And I hope you are wrong. But I really hope Moore looses for any number of reasons. We will soon see.
+19 # Adoregon 2017-12-12 14:57
"The capitulation to Moore was a dry run for the coming assault on the rule of law."

Perhaps it is time for an assault on the current rule of roaring douche bags.
-26 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-12-12 15:19
Yes, the Mueller investigation is in mortal danger, but not from Trump or anyone on the outside. Internally, the investigation is close to its demise:

1. The investigation was initiated to see if there was Russian interference in the election, and, if so, was Trump colluding. So far, no evidence for this has been discovered. Mueller knows a lot more than we do. He has access to NSA records. If DNC or Podesta files travelled across the web, the NSA knows and knows who sent them and who received them. The FBI know if Seth Rich was the leaker. Since Mueller has not released one scintilla of evidence toward his original charge, it is safe to conclude he is at a dead end. He was not empowered to look into anyone's financial dealings.

2. "The newest pseudo-scandal fixates on the role of Peter Strzok, an FBI official who helped tweak the language Comey employed in his statement condemning Clinton’s email carelessness and has also worked for Mueller." This is no pseudo-scandal. It is why Mueller will not issue any more indictments. He cannot go to court with the Strozk problem. A corrupt investigation team will have to open its books in court. Strozk is a Clinton operative.

Chait is just a cheerleader for the "Get Trump" team. He knows it is the 4th quarter and his team is trailing by three touchdowns. But still he's paid to jump up high, spread hie legs, and shout "go team, to team." So that is what he's doing here. There's a lot of this right now.
+11 # sbessho 2017-12-12 21:41
"Since Mueller has not released one scintilla of evidence toward his original charge, it is safe to conclude he is at a dead end. He was not empowered to look into anyone's financial dealings."

What investigation worth its salt releases the evidence it is compiling before it is finished building a case? The idea that no release of evidence equals no case must be based on the model of public trials like the OJ case.

The special counsel is empowered to look into any crimes it comes across in the course of investigating the Russian interference. That is in writing in the order creating the office of the special counsel.
-8 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-12-13 09:52
sbe -- I'm not sure if you saw the interview with Mike Morrell (former assistant Dir of the CIA under Bush and Obama) in Politico. He says the Russiagate story is fake news because if it were true at least something of real substance would have leaked out of the Mueller investigation or the congressional committees.

Yes, you are right. Mueller will keep his findings very tightly sealed, but there will be leaks and discovery by investigative journalists.

The simply fact that Mueller or the congressional committees has not interviewed or even contacted at all Julian Assange, Craig Murray, or any of the VIPS on the DNC/Podesta email part is a really good lead toward the conclusion that they are not interested in who got the DNC/Podesta emails and passed them to WikiLeaks.
+9 # sbessho 2017-12-13 19:25
Leaks occur for many reasons, and one is that the people involved do not believe in the integrity of the task they are involved in. If the only marker of "real news" is leaks, then there may be no real news at all.

I would rather think that the lack of leaks indicates discipline and dedication to duty and to preserving what's left of democracy against a corrupt and incompetent administration.
+1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-12-14 07:23
sbe -- I guess the point I am trying to make is that there are, indeed, plenty of leaks. Very many news stories say "sources close to the Russia investigation" or something close to that. But none of the leaks have any substantive content. They are all about a random email of Trump Jr or something.

You may be right that Mueller is running his investigation with more discipline than usual, but I have a hard time seeing what Mueller is doing is about preserving what left of democracy. True Trump is corrupt and incompetent, but democracy permits that. What democracy does not permit is the intelligence agencies running a coup d'etat against a corrupt and incompetent administration.
-1 # sbessho 2017-12-15 12:06
If the intelligence conspiracy argument wasn't exactly what Trump says and believes, it might hold a bit more water.
+8 # lfeuille 2017-12-12 21:53
You've been spending too much time on alt-right sights. This is propaganda. Mueller still has lots to investigate. And one exposed Clinton supporter doesn't change that.
-3 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-12-13 10:01
Ife -- what you say is sort of true. But we are at a pretty amazing information divide right now and Russiagate is the dividing line. On the establishment democrat/CIA/FB I/Major Media side you find one story. On the alt-right wing/anti-estab lishment/pro-Tr ump side you find a totally different story.

Good critical readers need to look at both sides. I actually don't look at any alt-right sites. I've never been to Breitbart or Alex Jones. But often these sites are linked to stories in left-wing sites, so I see them there.

There's no gain in approaching news like a good Roman Catholic -- the one true faith and claims all others are false. There's no media that speaks ex cathedra.

FOX seems to have gotten its hands on 10,000 Strzok text messages. WikiLeaks got 70,000 DNC/Podesta emails. No one is disputing that these communications are authentic. They have not been doctored in any way. The Strzok texts will never appear in the NYT/Wapo type of media. They will only be in the FOX kind of media. It is up to us to look at them and make our conclusions. I can guarantee that Manafort's lawyers are looking right now and preparing their motions for the court. How do you think Mueller will escape this compromise of his team?
+1 # ljslotnick 2017-12-13 22:12
RR: You continue to make every attempt possible to delegitimize this investigation. Are you also claiming that Mueller should respect the "line in the sand" that Trump has drawn about his personal finances? It should come as little surprise to anyone that what Mueller is going to find is that Trump has been in deep with Russian oligarchs for decades. And these oligarchs are beholden to Putin. It's plain as day. The specialists that Mueller recruited for his team are there for one dig into Trumps illicit transactions... bring them into the sunlight...and connect the dots.
"Collusion" with the Russians regarding the campaign and election will become something akin to icing on the cake after Mueller's investigation publishes its findings regarding how deeply Putin and the oligarchs have their hooks into Trump and his family. This "Make America Great Again" slogan will start having all the credibility of a late-night infomercial.
And do yourself a favor and refrain from using the term "fake news." Doesn't work with this crowd. Nonstarter.
+2 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-12-14 11:32
ljs -- you are correct. I do not think Mueller's investigation is legitimate in any way. I believe it is part of a plot to overturn the results of the 2016 election. The candidate desired by the FBI, CIA, NSA, and the major media lost and they are trying to make damn sure that Trump fails and is booted out of office.

You may be right that there are some improper financial relationships between Trump and Russian investors or banks. But there's just so little about this. And there is no hint that Putin is getting anything out of Trump. The opposite is the case. Netanhahoo is Trump's real puppet master. Now I think he should be impeached for the back channel relations Netanyahoo has been able to set up into the Trump administration.

We'll see how the Russia-Trump affair turns out. It looks to me like Mueller's investigation is on thin ice. He lied about firing Stzrok. He said Stzrok was transferred because the affair he was having with another FBI worker. Mueller is hiding the Stzrok texts. He's refusing to turn them over to congress. There's talk about a contempt citation against Mueller. If so, he could be held in prison until he coughs up the texts. Mueller knows the texts will deep-six his investigation.

Anyway, we will see.
-1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-12-13 10:07
Jefferson Morley has a much more detailed article on how the Trump team is underminding and threatening Mueller right now on Alternet. He's followed the strategies of the alt-right press and claims that it amounts to a well coordinated and step-by-step assault on Mueller. A lot of what he says in interesting and probably right. The alt-right does want to knock Mueller out of the game. Why shouldn't they? There is nothing sacred about Mueller. The final test should be for us which news organizations finally discover the truth.

Morley's article is a pretty good road map to the tactics of the alt-right media.
+2 # Henry 2017-12-14 08:31
Quoting Rodion Raskolnikov:
1. The investigation was initiated to see if there was Russian interference in the election, and, if so, was Trump colluding. So far, no evidence for this has been discovered. Mueller knows a lot more than we do.

You could've stopped right there.
+14 # Jaax88 2017-12-12 15:28
trump and now Moore, in Christian terms, are leading America to hell. There is nothing moral about lying to gain advantage over others or get benefits for yourself you would not otherwise deserve or obtain. This apiece with what we have seen from big business, over and over again for the last century, whee the stakes in term or wealth and/or power are great. The GOP seems to have an affinity for the corrupting wealth it can get from the rich and big business. The GOP and other corrupt politicians have climbed bed with the corrupt funders so why wouldn't corrupt politicians think and act like the corrupting financial angels?
+17 # Saberoff 2017-12-12 15:36
And the circus goes on, as the country burns.
+1 # CDMR 2017-12-12 20:08
Yes, you have it just right. What a tragedy.
-31 # Secret Squirrel 2017-12-12 16:36
GOOD! The investigation never had any legitimacy. The Russian hacking hoax is indefensible. CBS, CNN and MSNBC have been caught FABRICATING claims of Russian interference. Why on earth does RSN still run crap like this?

This is the real story:
-5 # Secret Squirrel 2017-12-12 23:18
You wankers! What, in my post, justifies the negative rating? i an show that the Russian hack story is phony. I have evidence that conclusively debunks the credibility of intelligence "reports". Did any of you read Robert Parry's devastating critique, or are you all DNC true believers?
-4 # CDMR 2017-12-13 11:17
You dared to question St. Robert, the anointed savior of democrars who don't know how to save themselves.

Parry is similarly bannished to the intellectual leper colony.
+1 # engelbach 2017-12-13 15:40
Mueller's investigation is not over.

Meanwhile, Rex Tillerson has admitted to a Russian connection.

Perhaps he's lying.

Perhaps the mainstream media — who anyone with a brain knows to treat with skepticism — is fabricating a scandal.

Perhaps. Perhaps.

We don't know yet.

And suspicion is not allayed just because some lamebrains in the MSM have gone overboard.
+13 # elizabethblock 2017-12-12 16:40
Robert Jay Lifton's phrase, which I think describes these Vichy Republicans, is "malignant normality." He came to this idea in his study of Nazi doctors, many of whom, with a little psychological counselling and a lot of alcohol, were able to carry on and do the work they were assigned to do, i.e. selecting people to be killed.
-17 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-12-12 18:59
This is why the case of Peter Strzok has thrown a monkey wrench into Mueller's work. He really can't allow Strzok's work to become public because it will show collusion between the FBI and the Clinton campaign to defraud the FISA court in order to get a warrant to surveil the Trump campaign's communications. This will be the ultimate base for the Russiagate investigations. This is why people like Chait are so determined to shift the focus to a possible Trump firing of Mueller.

This is the congressional committee questioning of Christopher Wray, FBI dir., about Strzok and the FISA submission.
+1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-12-13 08:11
I read this morning that FOX news is claiming that it now has 10,000 texts to and from Peter Strzok. The article I saw quotes some of them. They are filled with Trump hate speech. "Fuck Trump" is all over.

I don't see how a full time FBI investigator has time to write 10,000 texts.

Strzok was crucial in the Clinton investigation and the Meuller investigation. I'm sure FOX will milk this one for all it is worth. The mainstream, pro-Hillary, anti-Trump media will ignore it. The trial by media is not important. What will a judge do if Mueller takes any of this to court? That's the problem for Mueller.

Looks like we are heading for a "FuckTrumpGate. " How many others on Mueller's team have texts like this. Are there texts to other investigations among the Strzok 10,000?
-1 # sbessho 2017-12-13 21:05
I believe the operative word here is "was." The biased agents have already been purged. The hyperventilatin g and pearl clutching by right-wing voices comes after the fact and in a political vacuum. It is irrelevant.
+1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-12-14 11:33
sbe -- No, Mueller lied about Stzrok and he is refusing to turn over the texts to congress. The texts say a lot.
+19 # wleming 2017-12-12 19:28
Orin Hatch? An unbridled defense of the Rich, of Corporations,of repressive l of it buttressed by his spineless opportunism, his mealy mouthed defense of Nixon- and of a host of policies designed to support the Lobbyists- and toxic corporate ideologues. This guy is a horror show- and a disgrace. Orin Hatch- is a model for sycophant life.
+3 # lfeuille 2017-12-12 21:55
Investigate each one in turn. There are all guilty of something.
-5 # Secret Squirrel 2017-12-12 21:18
Outstanding as usual! That explains he negative votes from the DNC faithful on this site.

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