Media Needs To Take Mueller Firing And 2018 Russian Interference Far More Seriously
While we all wait with baited breath to find out just who exactly Robert Mueller has indicted, I don’t think the media is as focused on how close we are to a real inflection point and constitutional crisis. And that does not bode well for when our constitutional restraints are stretched to the max by President Trump.
It is important to understand that the Republican propaganda machines are almost monolithic. By that I mean that it may contain multiple elements but those elements are always working in concert. Often, the nexus of these elements is described as the right wing propaganda machine pushing a story that gets echoed by Republicans in Congress which then forces the mainstream media to cover the story. And it is true that is sometimes how the process works. But sometimes, it is clearly a more organized and pre-planned process.
It is no coincidence that Republicans in Congress began investigations into the faux scandals of Uranium One, Hillary’s emails yet again, and now the Clinton/DNC funding of the Russian dossier almost concurrently with what was coming from the right wing propaganda machine of Fox News, Drudge, and others. Nor was it a coincidence that the White House joined right in. This was a highly coordinated effort that was apparently prepared in advance.
You can see how effective this strategy is when Susan Collins goes on Face the Nation today and says that John Podesta and Debbie Wasserman Schultz should come back and testify again before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Said Collins, “ They absolutely need to be recalled. It’s difficult to imagine that a campaign chairman, that the head of the DNC would not know of an expenditure of this magnitude and significance. But perhaps there’s something more going on here. But certainly it’s worth additional questioning of those two witnesses.” This is supposedly one of the Senators who is standing up to Trump but at the same time is willing to participate in the cover-up his crimes. Another example was Amy Walter from the Cook Political Report on Meet the Press who responded to a question about whether Trump could turn the Russian investigation into a Clinton scandal by saying, “It already is. It’s already so muddled and so clouded and everybody’s already taken their side.” Actually no, Amy, it isn’t. And it is your responsibility to explain to the country why it isn’t.
In the more traditional path of the right wing propaganda machine, Fox News and others for months have been calling for Mueller to either be fired or to recuse himself for a variety of reasons including simply having too many Democrats working for him or being tangentially involved in the Uranium One story. Other now say that Mueller’s probe is inherently flawed because it relied on the Russian dossier to begin with, which is of course patently false. In addition, there have been calls for Mueller’s funding to be cut by Congress when it comes up for review next month. All these calls have gotten significantly louder of the past week as it obviously became clear Mueller was close to an indictment, with former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka demanding that Trump fire Mueller and the Wall Street Journal editorial board demanding Mueller’s resignation.
The possibility of that action came up only once today on either Meet the Press or Face the Nation and it was improbably raised by the former head of the American Conservative Union but current anti-Trumper, Al Cardenas, who said, “there are even those who are murmuring does he have the gumption to fire the special counsel. That would be a monumental event.” That prompted no further discussion as the segment ended.
In the right wing media environment, the possibility of Trump firing Mueller is a very real thing. In the mainstream media, the question barely registers at all. And that will make things very difficult for the mainstream media if, in fact, Trump does fire Mueller. It was interesting to note just how little interest the apparently forced retirement of Dana Boente as the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia provoked in the mainstream media. But that jurisdiction covers the Russia investigation and it is one of the jurisdictions where Trump is apparently personally interviewing the replacement for Boente.
As Susan Hennessy at Lawfare tweets today, “Reporters should really get GOP members of Congress on the record now about what they’d do if Trump fires Mueller.” Let them hide behind not addressing a hypothetical but at least reporters could still press for an answer. When or if it actually happens, I can guarantee that Republicans in Congress will do what they’ve done for the last two years, simply disappear and put out some press release saying they are “troubled” but the need right now is to focus on tax cuts or whatever. Which is why it is critical to press for a real answer now.
Look, right now there are senior members of the GOP leadership in the Senate who are actively participating in the cover-up for Trump. Devin Nunes is still a committee chairman, as is Trey Gowdy. So is the supposedly respected Chuck Grassley in the Senate (though I’ve never understood why). The leadership itself is therefore corrupted and it might be important to find out if any Republicans will actually draw a line in the sand and say that firing Mueller would be unacceptable. If not, those members need to be asked why not.
In addition, the GOP-led Congress is also complicit in the continued Russian attempts to interfere in our election. There has been no legislative action to restrict any of the actions that the Russians took in 2016 for 2018. Jeff Sessions testified the other week that he knew of no legislative recommendations to deal with anticipated interference in 2018. Any actions that have been taken are voluntary efforts by the tech companies to avoid any kind of oversight. And if you follow Wall Street at all, you know how ineffective “voluntary efforts” are if there is money to be made.
Moreover, the fact that Russia has not paid a price for their interference and that the US is doing nothing to stop them from doing it again is just a green light for Putin. If you thing the interference in 2016 was bad, just wait until he gets going in 2018. And it is important to note that the main beneficiary of Russian interference was not just Donald Trump. It was also a significant number of down-ballot Republicans who also benefited.
For the media, the time has come to put Republicans on the spot about what they will do if Trump fires Mueller, about why they are doing nothing to prevent more hacking in 2018, to ask why they seem to be protecting the President and why some are seemingly engaged in potential obstruction of justice, and perhaps bluntly be asked if they believe Russian interference will help them in the 2018 election. If they don’t ask those questions now, it may be too late to ask them later.