On Thursday, The Washington Post revealed that academic discussions have been ongoing at the White House regarding President Trump’s pardon power, and that preliminary planning has been taking place about how best to contain the out-of-control special counsel investigation by Robert Mueller. According to the Post:
Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.
Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.
Trump’s new attorneys — his old ones have now been fired, and the spokesperson for his legal effort regarding the Russian investigation quit yesterday — say that none of this is true. But it’s difficult to dispute that Trump himself is deeply worried about the investigation, after telling The New York Times that he’d consider firing Mueller if Mueller investigated too deep into his finances, that he would never have hired Attorney General Jeff Sessions if he’d known Sessions would recuse himself on the Russia investigation, and that he had little faith in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Trump’s worst enemy here is his big mouth — unless he truly has something to hide. The problem here isn’t the leaks alone to outlets like the Post: Trump could simply deny the reports. It’s his pathological need to sound off to the press that confirms stories his own administration denies. Repeatedly.
Even Trump’s most ardent defenders are urging him to back off of Sessions, at least. Both Ann Coulter and Tucker Carlson have told Trump that attacking Sessions is a mistake. And Republican senators, many of whom were willing to go along with Trump for the firing of FBI director James Comey, are wary of the consequences should Trump fire Mueller pre-emptively.
Politics is about appearances. Shockingly, it’s still plausible that Trump is innocent of everything Russia-related, despite his best attempts to make it seem otherwise. Mueller is obviously exceeding his mandate on Trump-Russia collusion; Comey deserved to be fired. But Trump has no choice now but to wait for the results of an investigation. Anything less will undoubtedly result in an increasing loss of public trust. Which means he should shut up.
Unless he really is guilty of some unspecified crime he’s trying to hide.
Which would be unthinkably awful for everyone involved.