Trump’s attempt to fire Mueller confirms his lack of character.
Until recently, exhortations for President Trump’s impeachment were not easily defensible.
Some aggrieved voters hastily demanded that he be removed from office in the immediate aftermath of the election for no other reason than their utter bafflement and rage that he had actually won.
Others asserted that his blatant hostility towards the press (the constant cries of “fake news,” the intentional efforts to distract and impede coverage that is critical of him) should be grounds for Trump’s removal, and still more pointed to the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, declaring that the existence of an impermissible conflict of interest mandated his resignation or impeachment.
These rationales — some of which are compelling and others decidedly less so — provided fuel for the fire, but none of them represented a truly damning reason for Trump to be impeached.
But this past week’s revelation that Trump ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller last June might well be the smoking gun that all of his critics have been sought to find for so long.
As Neal Katyal (a veteran Supreme Court litigator, former Acting United States Solicitor General, and the author of the very regulations that govern Mr. Mueller’s investigation) wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post, only one other President has attempted to remove a special prosecutor, and things did not work out too well for Richard Nixon.
Katyal declared without hesitation on MSNBC last week that “we are very possibly seeing the end of the Trump presidency” based on the new reports that Trump tried to fire Mueller, and that the only reason he did not go through with it was because the top White House lawyer Donald McGahn threatened to resign.
None of this should obfuscate the plain legal reality of the situation, however. As Katyal importantly reminded his audience both on MSNBC and in his op-ed, Trump has the power to fire Mueller if he wishes. Yet to do so, argues Katyal, would spell a calamity for both Trump personally and his presidency more generally.
Equally important is the non-legal side of the situation. While it is true that Trump may fire Mueller, it is also true that Trump lied about whether he had contemplated firing Mueller, telling the media through his lawyers that Mueller’s dismissal was never on the table.
All of this together points to the conclusion that many arrived at well before last week’s revelations, which is that Trump is virtually bereft of character and therefore wholly unsuited for his current position.
President Trump overtly defies the rule of law, whether it is through his attacks on “so-called judges” or his assault on one of the cornerstones of a healthy democracy, a free press.
Although Republicans in Congress have, until now, displayed a remarkable nonchalance with respect to allegations of serious malfeasance both by the President and those close to him, they might eventually be forced to remove Trump from office if revelations like the ones we saw last week continue to pile up.
It is not clear as of now whether Trump will actually be impeached or not, but if he ultimately is, historians will likely point to his attempt to fire Robert Mueller as the first shoe that dropped.