The widening gap between reality and Trump’s expectations increases the odds he will try to stop the Russia probe. For many reasons, he’d likely fail.
White House attorney Ty Cobb has reportedly built up President Trump’s expectation that special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation would be winding down by Christmas. But now that Mueller has secured the guilty pleas of former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, and is pursuing charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, it’s beginning to look a lot like Mueller’s investigation is ramping up.
The widening gap between Trump’s expectations and reality increases the odds that he will eventually attempt to stop the investigation.
Here’s the rub: As we explain in a new report from the Presidential Investigation Education Project, a joint effort of the American Constitution Society and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, removing Mueller would not be easy. The risks to the president of doing so are prohibitive, and if he went ahead and tried, Mueller’s firing could likely be challenged successfully in court.
It is also likely that the investigation (or aspects of it) would survive Mueller’s termination.
The Justice Department regulations that govern Mueller’s appointment are clear: Only the attorney general can fire the special counsel. Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the investigation of matters relating to the Trump campaign, the authority to appoint, monitor and (if appropriate) dismiss Mueller is wielded by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The regulations also state that the special counsel can only be removed for “misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause, including violation of departmental policies.” We believe that Rosenstein, who decided a special counsel was needed and appointed Mueller, would not fire Mueller absent very good cause.
And let us be very clear: There is…