On this past “farewell Friday” — a phrase that I believe was coined by NBC News chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson to describe President Donald J. Trump’s revolving door policy toward staff — special prosecutor Robert Mueller took his leave of the Russia probe, submitting his report.
There were will be no further indictments in the investigation, which according to The New York Times, involved more than 80 lines of inquiry, seven convictions/guilty pleas and 27 additional indictments, including those of 26 Russians. But that doesn’t mean that Mueller found Trump unimpeachable. There is a Department of Justice tradition that a sitting president can’t be indicted. Two sitting presidents — Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton — have been impeached by the House of Representatives and acquitted by the Senate. President Richard M. Nixon resigned before he could be impeached.
The legal focus on Trump and in particular his business dealings now shifts to the land of no presidential pardons — the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan. Having served jury duty there, I can say that it is as tough and intimidating a place as Trump thinks he is as a person, situated in a city that knew him first and has no illusions about him. Let’s face it: This is where we always intuited the drama would end. Once the city and state rejected Trump at the polls — and then rejected his policies, particularly regarding immigration — it was game on. Trump won’t lift a finger to aid the place that birthed him. But give New York credit: It has decided in true New York fashion to take it on the chin and go all in. So Godspeed, SDNY.
While Mueller passes the legal baton to New York, the political battle heats up with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanding Mueller’s full report and Attorney General William P. Barr preparing the Cliff Notes version. Already some Republicans are declaring victory, with House Republican Whip Steve Scalise calling for an investigation into the bad agents who spurred the Mueller investigation. What’s he talking about? This was a Republican investigation instigated by the Trump Administration and led by a Republican prosecutor. We wouldn’t be here at all if Trump hadn’t fired then FBI director James Comey because he wouldn’t play ball on Russkiegate and said as much to “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt. But then Trump didn’t count on then Attorney General Jeff Sessions refusing to play lapdog and instead recusing himself from any investigation.
All Trump had to do was sit tight and keep quiet but his ego wouldn’t let him. While we still don’t know what’s in the report, my guess is that if there was “no there there,” Barr would’ve briefed Congress yesterday. But even if Mueller finds that Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey, I don’t believe he will be impeached and, if impeached, he certainly won’t be convicted by the Republican Senate.
Trump will remain president and could well be reelected without a strong, united Democratic challenge behind a charismatic moderate like Beto O’Rourke as I wrote in a previous post.
Yet what about Trump Inc.? Wouldn’t it be the ultimate irony if Trump won the presidential battle only to lose the business empire war?