“Congress is the most important check on Mr. Trump’s rule. Sacking Mr. Mueller, after sacking Mr. Sessions, would spark a backlash. How seriously he is contemplating depends on how worried he is about what Mr. Mueller might find”.
The only reason to doubt Trump is contemplating sacking his attorney-general, Jeff Sessions, in order to protect himself and his associates from the counter-espionage investigation run by Robert Mueller, is that the President has been so astonishingly upfront about it. Mr. Trump’s history of rule-breaking suggests he is indeed weighing a measure that would pitch his scandal-plagued Presidency into its biggest crisis yet. He said he was angry with Mr. Sessions because he had recused himself from an FBI investigation into Russia’s efforts to fix the election. The indirect cost to Mr. Trump of Mr. Sessions’s recusal is that the FBI probe is now with an independent counsel, Mr. Mueller, a former FBI director with a reputation for probity and rigour. It seems unlikely that Mr. Sessions, had he not recused himself, would have launched the probe. Given that Mr. Mueller was hired two months ago, the President’s problem with Mr. Sessions is not that he let the probe happen so much as that, because of his recusal, he cannot end it. Unlike the more powerful independent counsel, scrapped in 1999 after plaguing the Presidency of Bill Clinton, a special counsel can be sacked, for due cause, by the attorney-general (or, in the current situation, by Mr. Rosenstein). The President can legitimately demand it, provided he identifies due cause. And there is little doubt the President wants to see the back of Mr. Mueller, who is investigating Mr. Trump’s financial affairs. Mr. Trump and his family are feeling the heat from three congressional inquiries. After a slow start, there are signs that all three congressional committees are starting to take their investigations seriously. They are unlikely to reach any conclusion before Mr. Mueller does. Yet, Congress is the most important check on Mr. Trump’s rule. Sacking Mr. Mueller, after sacking Mr. Sessions, would spark a backlash. How seriously he is contemplating depends on how worried he is about what Mr. Mueller might find.