Special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation “could last at least another year,” The Washington Post reports. “Members of Mueller’s team have told others they expect to be working through much of 2018, at a minimum.” The news could antagonize President Trump, whose first year in office has been dogged by the Russiagate controversy. But while a prolonged probe carries downsides for Trump, the far greater risk may actually be to those who oppose him. Even as a Russiagate cloud hangs over the White House, a Russiagate blizzard has engulfed the media and whited out the political space from which the Republican agenda might be challenged. And that’s a bad omen when much of that storm is self-generated.
The current worry of liberals and other Trump foes is that the president will fire Mueller before the probe is complete. Mueller’s dismissal would cause a “constitutional crisis” (Max Boot, Joe Scarborough, Senators Dick Durbin and Ron Wyden), that would cross an “absolute red line” (Eric Holder). “Be prepared to take the streets,” prominent Resisters urge (Rob Reiner), in order to stop what would be “an attack on our Republic” (Walter Shaub). With over 100,000 petition signatories answering the call, a coalition of liberal groups declares that “the Resistance is mobilized.”
It is a critical time for a mobilized Resistance, just as Republicans have passed a tax bill that includes permanent corporate tax cuts and will leave as many as 13 million without health insurance. But is Mueller really at risk? It is true that Trump supporters in Congress and right-wing media outlets have issued calls to fire Mueller and investigate perceived anti-Trump bias in the Justice Department. But President Trump says that he has no plans to fire Mueller, and CNN reports that he has even been “boasting to friends and advisers that he expects Mueller to clear him of wrongdoing in the coming weeks.” The speculation kicked into high gear only after a Democratic lawmaker, Representative Jackie Speier of California, relayed what she described as a less-than-definitive “rumor on the Hill.” Even if Trump is bluffing, he lacks the authority to give Mueller the pink slip. The official who could, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, has expressed full confidence in Mueller and his probe, so Trump would have to fire Rosenstein and any other successor who wouldn’t comply.