The Democrats, along with a few Republicans, have been trying to pass a bill for some time which would make it more specifically illegal for Donald Trump to take action that would result in the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. This bill was never going to pass the GOP House, so it didn’t matter what happened to it in the Senate. Now that Democrats are about to control the House, the bill suddenly has a chance of getting through Congress. But here’s the thing.
Mitch McConnell is still trying to block this bill from getting through the Senate, and the ever-flaky Jeff Flake is – for now – standing up to him. But let’s say the bill to protect Mueller does get through the Senate, and through the House. Then what? It’ll land on Donald Trump’s desk, and he’ll either have to sign it or veto it. Therein lies the quandary.
If Trump vetoes it, he’ll make himself look very bad, but at that point he’d be in enough trouble that he’d probably no longer worry about mere appearances. There are probably not enough votes to override a veto. So the bill will have been for nothing. And if Trump does sign it, so what? If Trump reaches a point where he’s willing to commit felony obstruction of justice by having Mueller fired, is he going to care that he’s also breaking a law he just signed? For that matter, there’s the possibility that this bill simply landing on Trump’s desk could cause him to panic and try to fire Mueller, when he otherwise might not have tried.
I think the Democrats know this. I think they know this bill is never going to land on Donald Trump’s desk, because Mitch McConnell will never allow it to (and yes, McConnell can outlast Flake, who will be retired from the Senate in a few weeks). I suspect the bill to protect Robert Mueller has always been about keeping Trump’s crimes in the headlines, and making sure America doesn’t forget that a federal prosecutor (who can’t speak for himself) is indeed in the process of exposing Trump as a criminal and traitor.
In any case, the bill to protect Robert Mueller has had the secondary effect of giving the mainstream media – particularly cable news – an excuse to resume its earlier wall-to-wall headlines about how Trump is supposedly just a few minutes away from trying to fire Mueller. This inevitably leads to a whole lot of worry and panic on the part of Resistance members who watch cable news. The key is to keep in mind that this bill still has almost no chance of becoming law, and wouldn’t act as a magic wand even if it did.
The prospects for Robert Mueller’s continued employment are as complex as ever. One thing to keep in mind: of all the times over the past year and a half that cable news has insisted Mueller was imminently doomed, it’s never once turned out to have been based on anything; it’s the filler story they tend to trot out on comparatively slow news days. The current legal and political fight to force new Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker out of power is arguably far more relevant to Mueller’s fate than the bill aimed at protecting Mueller.
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