Should President Trump kill or impede the Mueller investigation?
The calls to do so have been growing louder after the revelation of new text messages between FBI top agent Peter Strzok and his FBI paramour, Lisa Page. As I wrote two days ago, Strzok’s anti-Trump texts aren’t particularly troublesome — government agencies have opinions on politicians — but one text regarding an “insurance policy” in case of a Trump win certainly is. Here’s the text message:
I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in [deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe’s] office that there's no way he gets elected -- but I'm afraid we can't take that risk. It's like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you're 40…
That sounds like a setup. And Strzok was both involved in the Hillary Clinton email investigation and initiation of the Trump-Russia probe — plus he was part of Mueller’s investigative team until the text messages were unearthed.
Now we’re hearing rumors that the Trump administration might fire McCabe:
And, of course, President Trump signaled this morning that he might pardon former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, which would effectively end any cooperation between Flynn and the FBI.
So, should Trump move here?
No, he most certainly should not.
Why should he? He’s winning. Right now, a majority of the American public believes that Mueller has a conflict of interest thanks to his relationship with former FBI director James Comey. That’s thanks to a bevy of stories about members of the Mueller team with serious connections to high-ranking Democrats and serious bias against Trump. Furthermore, every charged leveled so far has nothing to do with election collusion, including Flynn’s guilty plea. In other words, this investigation’s legitimacy may already be fatally wounded.
In 1998, the Ken Starr investigation was fatally wounded publicly before it reached a conclusion. By February 1998, 62% of Americans thought Bill Clinton was hiding something, but 42% of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of Starr, as opposed to 25% who had a positive opinion. Fully 58% of Americans thought Starr should stop his investigation. That’s even though Starr did his due diligence and demonstrated that the president had perjured himself, a fact Clinton admitted by August 1998. A discredited investigation does little or no damage to a sitting president, no matter the outcome.
Trump should remember that. Clinton didn’t just survive impeachment. It drove his popularity skyward. Trump doesn’t have to stop Mueller. Mueller has done a bang-up job stopping himself.