A California congresswoman is saying publicly what members of both parties on Capitol Hill have been telling each other secretly for days. On Friday, Rep. Jackie Speier told reporters at PBS’s local northern California affiliate that lawmakers in Washington expect President Trump to fire special counsel Robert Mueller before Christmas.
“The rumor on the Hill when I left yesterday was that the president was going to make a significant speech at the end of next week. And on Dec. 22, when we are out of D.C., he was going to fire Robert Mueller,” Speier said on KQED News.
“We can read between the lines I think,” she continued. “I believe this president wants all of this shut down. He wants to shut down these investigations, and he wants to fire special counsel Mueller.”
Other lawmakers are concerned as well, though none have gone as far as Rep. Speier in their revelations. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, on which Speier also sits, has been making the rounds in the media in recent days expressing his concern that Republicans leading the committee are maneuvering to end their investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election soon after the new year.
Rep. Schiff outlined his concern in a tweet late Friday, writing, “Republicans have scheduled no witnesses after next Friday and none in 2018. We have dozens of outstanding witnesses on key aspects of our investigation that they refuse to contact and many document requests they continue to sit on.”
Pressed on Friday about the whispers on Capitol Hill, White House Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said only that, “There is no intention or plan to make any changes in regards to the special counsel.”
President Trump and his allies in the right wing media have been locked in a desperate public defense against two potentially impeachable offenses that Mueller appears to be investigating.
First is the charge that he and members of his campaign colluded with Russian intelligence to steal the 2016 presidential election. The second is that, since becoming president, he and his associates have been engaged in a cover-up to block, stall, and otherwise influence the multiple investigations into their culpability during the campaign, with his unceremonious termination of FBI Director Jim Comey as Exhibit A. Another term for this obstruction of justice.
To the first point, Team Trump insists that the entire “Trump-Russia” narrative is a “hoax” and a “ruse” in the president’s own words, invented by Democrats bitter about Hillary Clinton’s defeat, and hyped by a mainstream media that’s out to destroy Trump.
To the obstruction of justice charge, their defense is more nuanced. The President has explicit statutory authority to fire any FBI director he chooses, they maintain, regardless of who he was investigating. He, therefore, cannot be charged with obstructing justice for simply exercising his explicit presidential authority, they insist.
Not content with playing defense, the president, his cabal of conspirators in congress, and his minions at FOX News have also gone on offense in recent weeks. They’ve pounced on reports that FBI agents participating in the investigation were fired by Mueller exchanged text messages critical of Trump during the campaign. They’ve used this to call for the investigations to be shut down and Mueller fired. FOX host Jaeanine Pirro even called for Mueller and his investigators to be arrested.
When Robert Mueller was first appointed special counsel, Republicans rejoiced. Longtime Trump supporter Newt Gingrich tweeted soon after, “Robert Mueller is a superb choice to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity. Media should now calm down.”
This begs the question: Why fire the one man who can exonerate President Trump from both accusations? If he neither obstructed justice nor colluded with Russia, and there’s no “there” there as the right wing media has maintained from the beginning of this entire enterprise, then wouldn’t it be better for Trump and his minions in the Trumoposphere if they just stayed quiet and let Robert Mueller and his investigators do their job thoroughly and without obstacles, thereby making his ultimate vindication more credible?
If, that is, they really believe he did nothing wrong. Clearly, they must.