If President Trump fires Special Counsel Robert Mueller — which I believe he has already decided to do once there’s no other way of avoiding pending criminal charges — then 2018 is shaping up to be a year of national crisis like no living American has ever experienced.
No matter what else happens, no matter who is on the ballot in your district, if Trump fires Mueller he will turn the mid-term elections next November into a national referendum on his own impeachment.
The numbers from Quinnipiac this past week highlight the risks for the President. Forty-eight percent of Americans believe Trump personally colluded with the Russians in 2016. Fifty-two percent believe members of Trump’s campaign did. And more to the point, 57 percent believe that Trump himself has since sought to “derail or obstruct the investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 election.”
In their half-baked attempts to discredit Mueller over the past week, Republicans are preaching solely to the 38 percent of Americans who do not believe that Trump is actively obstructing justice. And since 38 percent of the national electorate won’t be enough to guarantee Republicans continuing control of both the House and the Senate, the GOP will have no choice but to double down on voter suppression in the states. At the very least.
Trump is not a truly rational actor, but even a cornered rat understands that if your only remaining choice is between leaping into darkness or surrendering to capture, you take the leap. The rational argument for firing Mueller before the end of the year is that Americans are lazy citizens who are easily manipulated, and that 11 months will be sufficient for the outrage to fade. Trust the conservative media bubble. Trust the gerrymander. Trust your wealthy donors.
That’s a risky proposition for any president, and it’s drawing to an inside straight for a man with approval ratings in the low 30s. But at the moment, Trump’s not thinking like a politician. He’s thinking like a fugitive.
As bad as things look for Trump, the risk/reward scenario for Republicans is far worse. If the party endorses Trump’s pending act of cynical lawlessness, they’ll be wagering 163 years of often proud heritage on the neck of the man who is fated to be remembered as the worst president in our nation’s history. That’s their choice, and once they make it, there will be no turning back.
To be absolutely blunt: If conservatives fail to reign-in Trump’s plan to fire the man investigating him, then the 2018 elections will mark either the end of the GOP as a viable national party, or the end of 229 years of American constitutional democracy.
And that answer will be up to us.