It’s too early to say how, exactly, Robert Mueller’s special-counsel investigation of Russiagate will end. Sometimes, amid the flow of revelations—that Mueller has impaneled at least two grand juries, that he’s issuing a stream of subpoenas, that’s he’s executed search warrants and a pre-dawn raid, that his team has met with the author of the controversial “Steele dossier”—it’s possible to get lost in the currents.
Yet Mueller is on a collision course with Donald Trump, and it’s one that could have nation-rocking constitutional, legal, and political consequences. Like Watergate four decades ago, Russiagate could bring down the president. Unlike Watergate, however, the Mueller inquest is taking place in a country far more bitterly divided than Richard Nixon’s America. There’s no way to predict how Trump’s hard-core supporters, from alienated, angry white men to members of the National Rifle Association to outright neo-Nazis and KKK types, might react if Trump is impeached. Yet Mueller—quiet, relentless, implacable—seems to be willing to let the chips fall where they may.
There are many paths the Mueller investigation might take as it gets closer to its end game. (It should be noted that if there’s any timetable for Mueller to complete his work, no one knows what it is, and Mueller himself is unlikely to listen to pro-Trump Republicans telling him to hurry up.) What’s certain, however, is that every time Trump alienates another member of Congress, as with his recent tweet-storm aimed at Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, he alienates the very people on Capitol Hill he’s going to need in his corner should Mueller deliver a scathing report. Indeed, it should worry Trump’s lawyers no end if it’s true that, as the Los Angeles Times reports, “Corker is saying what other Republicans will only whisper about President Trump,” and that Corker’s belief that at best Trump’s aides have to “contain him” in “an adult daycare center” is also believed privately by many other senators in the Republican caucus. As Gerald Seib put it in The Wall Street Journal, Trump is a “president without a party.”
So what’s likely to emerge from the special counsel’s work? “I don’t think that Mueller would recommend impeachment,” says Alan Morrison, a veteran constitutional lawyer and dean for public-interest and public-service law at the George Washington University Law School. “That’s not his job,” Morrison tells The Nation. “Impeachment is a different process, with a different set of standards.” While it depends on what he comes up with, Morrison says, Mueller will probably issue a report outlining his findings and let Congress sort out the results.