I want to clarify and expand on something I noted yesterday. The President stands accused, now with a mounting array of evidence, of conspiring with a hostile foreign power to win the Presidency. He has now made clear that he will not permit any investigation of those accusations.
That may sound on first blush like an extreme formulation. But I think it is incontrovertible. This is not some investigation that has dragged on for years and, either by a strong or a weak argument, is claimed to have crossed some basic lines of fairness or equity. It has actually only just begun. It is just getting started, only just out of the gate. It is led by a man who is at least within the American political class universally well-regarded for his probity and professionalism. He is also a man who is, to the extent these things are relevant, a Republican. The only basis for threatening to shut down such an investigation is the contention that no actual investigation can be permitted. I defy anyone to find a path out of that logic.
I posted this earlier this morning. The text I reference is from Mike Allen’s morning newsletter in Axios.
The mix of nonsense from the perps and numskull play by play by the announcers means this will get bad fast pic.twitter.com/4Zn76nXyHH
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) July 22, 2017
As is so often the case, the reporting is both a symptom of the broader crisis and also a genuine service. We learn critical new facts, by dint of reporting skills and access. But they are presented in the nonsensical play-by-play speak of the access class. Note the reference to “Bob Mueller signaling that he plans an expansive, exhaustive investigation aimed at Trump, his relatives, and current and former political lieutenants.” This is presented as an escalation when in fact it is simply a statement of the nature of the investigation itself.
Mueller is investigating Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded or conspired or assisted in that effort. That is the charge and that inevitably requires looking at everyone involved in the Trump campaign (candidate, family, political lieutenants) and their finances, since finances would be the seedbed and playing field on which collusive bargains and deals would take place. This is elementary. The reporting itself is playing into the Trump legal team’s claim that the investigation is already exceeding its mandate and scope.
Now, if three years from now, Robert Mueller indicts Trump and members of his family for defrauding American investors in a real estate deal on a golf course in California we may be in a different circumstance. This is simply how big investigations operate. The specific charge in this instance instructs Mueller to investigate the question at hand and pursue any crimes he finds along the way. So as a legal matter, there would be nothing wrong with that hypothetical. As a substantive or political matter, Trump supporters might have some argument that what began as a probe of the collusion question has become an open-ended scrutiny of every business transaction Trump has ever engaged in. But needless to say, none of this has happened. So unless and until it does, it’s all quite irrelevant. The President is saying himself and through his cronies that he will not allow any investigation.
The reference to building a ‘wartime cabinet’ captures every fiber of the grandiosity, nonsense and criminality of the Trump world. Pathological narcissism, slavering toadies and Godfather references – they’re all there. As I say in the tweet, Trump seems to envision himself as the Churchill of obstruction. But there’s no war. This is just organizing the White House around defying the rule of law as opposed to running the country. Play-by-playing that fact is no service.
This is a crisis. It will escalate dramatically when Trump fires Robert Mueller. Then the Congress will become the only failsafe in the way to extra-constitutional rule.