Running Scared

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

The morning after the elections that gave Democrats the biggest gains in the House since Watergate Trump declared at a press conference that the result was ‘a very close to complete victory’ for him, and subsequently did everything he could to distract the attention from his formidable success.  The presser was open, meaning that more reporters than just those belonging to the White House press corps could attend, and the president was ready to pick a fight with every one of them.  For that purpose he selected CNN reporter Jim Acosta, who is famous for getting into arguments with Sarah Sanders, and told him to shut up after a couple of questions.  Subsequently a female Press Office intern failed to take the mike away from Acosta, who was later accused of having been physically abusive towards the young woman and had his credentials revoked.  Although video images immediately showed Acosta’s restraint when he was touched by the intern, the White House later posted a doctored video, produced by InfoWars, that suggested the opposite.  After the incident and now in full WWE mood Trump accused PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, a woman of color, of asking him a ‘racist’ question, when she wanted to know if his embrace of nationalism might embolden white nationalists.

Following his brutal press conference the president distracted the attention even more by firing Jeff Sessions and relieving Rod Rosenstein of his supervision of the Mueller probe, trying to ensure that the Democratic victory in the elections would not even make the front pages.  At that point is was clear that the president was frightened of what Mueller might have in store for him and his oldest children, and that he would somehow try to end the investigation before the Democrats take control of the House.  Under normal circumstances Rosenstein would have become acting Attorney General until a permanent replacement of Sessions had been appointed and confirmed, but in a surprise move Trump appointed Sessions’s Chief of Staff Matthew Whitaker in that position.  The appointment is probably illegal, because Whitaker, an extreme Trump loyalist, has not been confirmed by the senate, and since the acting AG has already publicly stated that there was no collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign in the 2016 elections he is not only unfit to supervise the Mueller probe – and should recuse himself by Department of Justice standards – but also can be expected to obstruct it in any way possible.

Since Mueller is investigating collusion and obstruction of justice, and Whitaker’s appointment qualifies as the latter, a scenario might unfold in which the Special Counsel has to investigate his new boss, and as much as Trump may hope to thwart the probe in the future, he cannot undo what Mueller already has done.  Come January House Democrats can subpoena all of the Special Counsel’s records, and they have already threatened to have a nationally televised hearing with Mueller in case Trump fires him.  By that time Whitaker, confirmed or not, can also be subpoenaed and asked questions about promises he may have made to the president about ending the probe.

Next to his stated opinion about Russian interference, in a CNN Op-Ed from last year Whitaker wrote that Mueller was coming ‘dangerously close to crossing a red line’ if he was looking into Trump’s finances.  In the same vein Trump started the morning after the elections with a conversation with Nancy Pelosi, and announced that they could engage in a ‘beautiful collaboration’ unless the House would investigate him, in which case he would assume a ‘warlike stance.’  Pelosi probably did not shiver when she heard that threat, and the chance that Trump would not be investigated by the House is nil.

The big question is now: what is Mueller going to do?  There are strong rumors that he started writing his final report, and there is an abundance of speculation that sealed indictments, for instance for Don Trump Jr. and Roger Stone, are already in place.  Meanwhile, the prospects for Republicans in the 2020 elections are terrible.  Trump’s electorate of angry white men will shrink and die off, while the Democratic electorate grows.   We might see not Trump but Mike Pence running for president, and losing.


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