Trump is aggressively moving against Robert Mueller and his investigation. Seth Abramson explains how America can survive a constitutional crisis of this magnitude.
Trump appears to have become emboldened by his recent visit with Russian President Vladimir Putin; and, if the events since then are any indication, is taking the country closer to a constitutional crisis on a near daily basis as Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues handing down indictments.
Last December, there were concerns that Trump would attempt to shut down the Russia investigation by firing Mueller or going after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. While that did not happen, it appears increasingly likely that Trump will makes such a move at any moment.
Indeed, NPR reported on Monday that:
Trump tried to cast fresh doubt Monday on the federal investigation into Russian election interference in the 2016 presidential election, calling it a “fraud and a hoax designed to target Trump” and demanding an immediate end to the “Witch Hunt.”
The New York Times reported on Monday that Trump was weighing in on the possibility of “stripping security clearances from officials who criticize him.”
And as Newsweek reported:
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders appeared on Fox & Friends to call the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller “a hoax and waste of time.”
Sanders’s comments Monday came after days of criticism against the White House for Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin, and last week’s announcement by the Justice Department of indictments against 12 Russian agents for interfering with the 2016 presidential election last week. The indictments, stemming from Mueller’s investigation, accuse the Russians of hacking the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of Hillary Clinton.
Former criminal investigator and attorney and current University of New Hampshire professor, Seth Abramson, weighed in on the rumors that Trump was going to fire Mueller last December in a Twitter thread declaring that “This is an actual emergency.” His post explained what this would mean for America and he also detailed exactly how America could deal with a constitutional crisis of this magnitude.
His thread becomes increasingly relevant as the chances appear to be increasing of Trump firing Mueller, Rosenstein or taking some other action to shut down the Russia investigation.
Abramson’s post is captioned by an image that reads: “Instructions for a Constitutional Crisis” and details exactly how this scenario might play out.
(THREAD) There's now a rumor in Congress that Trump plans to fire Special Counsel Mueller on December 22. If this happens, it will trigger a constitutional crisis. This thread explains what's happening and what to do—please read and share it widely.
This is an actual emergency. pic.twitter.com/3UMG39V4q3
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) December 16, 2017
Abramson’s numbered observations are detailed below:
- Trump cannot legally fire Bob Mueller. First, because that authority resides exclusively with Acting Attorney General Rosenstein; second, because even as head of the Executive Branch, Trump cannot exert his power for a criminal purpose. Firing Bob Mueller would be Obstruction.
- Mueller has seen all the evidence against Trump and his associates; the public has seen only a fraction of it. I can say—as a former criminal attorney and investigator researching this case since 2016—no exculpatory evidence has been found. All evidence points toward guilt.
- Further confirmation of this is that we don’t hear from the media or Congressional Republicans any evidence—even claims—that Trump and his associates are innocent. We hear nothing but scurrilous attacks against the investigators. This is what people who know they’re caught do.
- For these reasons—and because Trump can’t legally fire Mueller—you should assume the Special Counsel will refuse to be fired directly by Trump if Trump attempts to do this. Instead, he will issue a statement saying that authority to end his investigation lies with Rosenstein.
- Rosenstein just made clear, via Congressional testimony, that he won’t fire Mueller without cause, and presently sees no cause to do so. What this means is that Trump would have to fire Rosenstein in order to rid himself of Mueller. But Trump may elect more dangerous options.
- Trump knows firing Rosenstein and ordering Rachel Brand (next up at DOJ) to fire Mueller is a fool’s errand: first, because Brand would likely refuse, as Mueller has done nothing to warrant being fired; second, because she’s read history books—she knows this is Nixonian graft.
- While Trump could eventually find someone at DOJ to fire Mueller—he can just keep firing attorneys until he gets a stooge to do his bidding as the late Robert Bork did for Nixon—he could also seek recourse in an executive order he issued that arguably lets him name his own AG.
- Or, he could select the most dangerous option—one Nixon himself executed once Cox was gone. That would be declaring himself able to fire Mueller and then sending federal law enforcement officers to remove Bob Mueller and his agents from their office and lock down the premises.
- If Trump chooses Option A—firing everyone until he finds a stooge—it’ll take many days and many firings and be a fiasco; Option B (using his own executive order) is substantially easier; whereas Option C could lead to some harrowing televised scenes of forcible federal action.
- Mueller is a good man; his whole his biography confirms it. He could acquiesce to being fired to avoid a fracture in the rule of law; he could seek a court injunction to prevent his firing; he could contact Congressional allies and pray a bill is passed to prevent his firing.
- Here’s what we know: Trump doesn’t have the power to fire Mueller, and Rosenstein won’t do it. Trump arguably has the power to install an AG who will fire Mueller and Congress arguably has the power to pass a bill to stop it. Mueller will try to protect America’s rule of law.
- One other thing is clear: Congressional Republicans lack the will—or, in the House, the interest—to stand up to Trump should he overturn the rule of law. That said, Democrats would only need a small number of Republican allies in the two houses of Congress to protect Mueller.
- Trump is guilty of everything people believe him guilty of; all the evidence establishes it. So we must predict his actions with that in mind. This is a man who conspired with the Russians to steal an election, and now holds the reins of power at the seat of power he stole.
- The rumors over the past few days are that Kushner may soon be indicted; certainly, Mueller asking Kushner to answer questions on what Flynn said to him at a time Mueller knew—but Kushner didn’t—Flynn was cooperating suggests Mueller has gotten Kushner to incriminate himself.
- The point is that Trump believes—rightly or not—this investigation is about to reach another of his right-hand men (two are already charged), this one a family member. And Trump knows he is guilty. And he’s not emotionally well. So it’s not clear what Trump is willing to do.
- The best-case scenario here: Trump keeps firing people at the DOJ—all of whom refuse to do his illegal bidding—until he runs out of political capital in Congress. The worst-case scenario: Trump uses federal agents to physically remove Mueller and his team from their offices.
- The second best-case scenario: this ends up in the courts—eventually SCOTUS—where we can assume (or at least pray) rule of law will prevail. The second worst-case scenario: Trump installs his own AG, who then fires Mueller, ending actual (but preserving apparent) rule of law.
- The middle-case scenarios are harder to see—but involve tepid Congressional action to move the probe forward with a new Trump-friendly Special Counsel, leading to a scam investigation; or, Congress ends the probe and creates its own political probe to (sort-of) “investigate.”
- Understand that *all* of these scenarios *except* the unfettered continuation of the Mueller probe are a significant blow against the rule of law in America, to the point that Trump becomes as much a monarch as a president—in actuality above the normal operation of our laws.
- Any American who thinks there’s even a 1% chance Trump conspired with our foes should want that 1% possibility 100% investigated. The only reason to want the Mueller probe ended entirely is because you want Donald Trump to reign over America as a king rather than a president.
- What all this means is that if Trump takes *any* action against Mueller, our rule of law is *gravely* threatened. Even if you think Mueller’s work needs careful oversight, there’s already a *Trump appointee*—Rosenstein—who’s doing that and certifies the probe has been honest.
- So all Americans, no matter their political stripe or what chance you think there is that Trump is guilty—1% or 90%—should do what Americans did during the Watergate Era if Trump fires Mueller: take to the streets and swarm Congress’ phone lines until rule of law is restored.
- If this happens, you can expect peaceful disruptions in American life for *some time*. Mass protests that block highways and buildings and shut down parts of cities; mass walkouts from jobs and schools; a media atmosphere in which only one story—this one—can be or is covered.
- The key here is that the protests must not and cannot stop until rule of law is restored: a Mueller investigation, overseen (as now) by Trump appointee Rosenstein, which has unfettered access to evidence and witnesses in an effort to find the truth—and justice—for Americans.
Abramson also posted the following post scripts:
- Other things to keep in mind: Mueller *could* speed up his indictments, and/or agents of his could (presumably without his approval) leak inculpatory evidence about Trump and his associates, in an effort to underscore the legitimacy of—and seek to protect—their investigation.
- Democrats (perhaps even with a few GOP allies) could go into a “lockdown scenario” in which they use every procedural measure at their disposal to shut down all operations of government—except emergency operations—until such time as Congress passes a bill protecting Mueller.
- American and international media could begin reporting, in real time, Americans’ dramatic and quickly changing reactions to Trump’s actions—which would be critical because firing Mueller would *almost certainly* drop Trump’s approval ratings into the mid- (or even low) 20s.
- Trump’s ability to appear in public for rallies or other public events may be severely curtailed due to the protests; reporters would be likely to shout questions at him during any public appearance. His presidency would be paralyzed—in Congress, in public, and in the media.
- Because firing Mueller would shake the foundations of American law and democracy to their core, we would expect *dramatic* market volatility for the entirety of the crisis. Likewise, we would expect a leaky White House and Congress to go from “leaky” to a veritable *deluge*.
For those unfamiliar with his work, Abramson has been publishing extensive tweets regarding the ongoing investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia; and, while he has his critics, Abramson – a former public defender – has an impressive resume. As his website notes:
Seth is regularly interviewed about politics and higher education by domestic and International media. Recent interviews include the BBC, CNN, NPR, PBS, ABC Radio, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Higher Education, New York Magazine, and The New England Review of Books. Seth’s essays have also been widely cited, including discussions on CNBC, PBS, FNC, BET, and NPR, as well as in Politico, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, The Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy, Slate, and Pitchfork.