There’s significant evidence that Trump plans to force a constitutional crisis. Here’s how America can survive such an eventuality.
Editor’s Note: “This article was originally posted on March 20, 2018. The article has been updated in light of recent events such as the growing uncertainty regarding the future of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
As Vox reported today: “On Monday morning, multiple outlets reported that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had resigned or was considering resigning. However, Rosenstein is now set to meet with Trump at the White House on Thursday, where the fate of his job will likely be determined. The current uncertainty throws the future of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation into question.
Last December, Attorney and University of New Hampshire professor Seth Abramson weighed in on the rumors regarding the possibility that Trump might fire Mueller declaring that “This is an actual emergency.”
Inch-by-inch, indictment-by-indictment Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is closing in on Trump, members of his family and inner circle, and business associates.
The Los Angeles Times reported on May 17, 2018 that: “It’s been one year since Robert S. Mueller III was appointed as special counsel to probe Russian interference in the presidential election. His work has spawned a web of investigations digging deeper into President Trump’s inner circle.”
Vox reported on the progress of Mueller’s investigation the following week:
- Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and a key Trump campaign surrogate, pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal investigators in December.
- Rick Gates, a top aide on the Trump campaign and a longtime business partner of Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty to false statements and one count of conspiracy.
- George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser on the campaign, pleaded guilty to false statements.
- Alexander van der Zwaan, a London-based Dutch attorney, pleaded guilty to making false statements about his contacts with Gates and an unnamed Ukrainian.
- 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies have been indicted on conspiracy charges, and some on identity theft charges, related to Russian social media and hacking efforts.
- Richard Pinedo, a California resident, has pleaded guilty to an identity theft chargerelated to the Russian indictments.
- Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chair, is facing two separate indictments — one in DC about conspiracy, money laundering, false statements, and failure to disclose foreign assets; and one in Virginia about tax, financial, and bank fraud charges.
More disturbing, CNBC recently reported on Trump’s view of the investigation:
The special counsel’s chief detractor has been the president himself. Trump, in heated public remarks and on social media, has repeatedly decried the probe as a “witch hunt.” His animus has stoked fears that Trump plans to fire Mueller, prompting some Democratic lawmakers to create legislation that would protect the special counsel from such an attack. Mueller was appointed after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey who had been leading the investigation into Russian meddling.
While the White House has been circumspect about whether Trump plans to fire the special counsel, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in recent months that “the president is clear that he feels it’s gone too far” and that he believes he has the power to fire Mueller. Vice President Mike Pence recently said of the special counsel: “It’s time to wrap it up.”
Indeed, Trump took to his twitter account on May 17 to mark the one-year anniversary of the investigation, tweeting: “Congratulations America, we are now into the second year of the greatest Witch Hunt in American History…and there is still No Collusion and No Obstruction. The only Collusion was that done by Democrats who were unable to win an Election despite the spending of far more money!”
Congratulations America, we are now into the second year of the greatest Witch Hunt in American History…and there is still No Collusion and No Obstruction. The only Collusion was that done by Democrats who were unable to win an Election despite the spending of far more money!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 17, 2018
And he did so again, several times over the course of the first weekend in June 2018.
He started the weekend tweeting: “A.P. has just reported that the Russian Hoax Investigation has now cost our government over $17 million, and going up fast. No Collusion, except by the Democrats!”
Continuing his tantrum he next quoted Fox & Friends talking head, Dan Bongino, tweeting on Saturday: “John Brennan, no single figure in American history has done more to discredit the intelligence community than this liar. Not only is he a liar, he’s a liar about being a liar. $17 million spent, it’s a scam Investigation. Americans are being worked. We now know there was Russian collusion, with Russians and the Democrats. The Mueller team is stacked with anti-Trumpers, who actually represented Clinton people (& gave $’s to Crooked H). ~Dan Bongino“
He rounded out the day, tweeting: “There was No Collusion with Russia (except by the Democrats). When will this very expensive Witch Hunt Hoax ever end? So bad for our Country. Is the Special Counsel/Justice Department leaking my lawyers letters to the Fake News Media? Should be looking at Dems corruption instead?“
He was back at it again on Sunday whimpering about Hillary Clinton, the FBI, the Department of Justice, and Paul Manafort [no need to bore you with the details…].
Abramson’s Instructions for a Constitutional Crisis
His analysis is more important – and concerning – now than ever in the wake of recent events and Trump’s blatant attacks on the Russia investigation.
Abramson’s post was 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 post was captioned by an image that reads: “Instructions for a Constitutional Crisis” and details exactly how this scenario might play out.
His observations are detailed below. [The numbering is Abramson’s.]
- 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*.
He also provided a link the first cited KQED article as a source as well as a link to an additional thread detailing everything we know so far about collusion:
If you have even ONE follower who says there was no Trump-Russia collusion, please share this with them.
It's all there—BLACK AND WHITE—and it's just 10% of what Mueller has. pic.twitter.com/tzbt6PiQqQ
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) December 15, 2017
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.