Former FBI Director James Comey may have assured President Trump (three times) that he wasn’t the subject of an FBI investigation but apparently he is now after firing Comey, according to a report in the Washington Post. The real question is how long before Trump and those in his echo chamber call the Post report “fake news.”
The Post cited five unnamed sources in its report that said Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking into whether Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey for not backing off the investigation of fired NSA Michael Flynn and pressuring other top intelligence agency heads to back up the president.
The latest bombshell is likely to follow a familiar pattern. Reputable news outlets like the Post cite anonymous sources in a report that puts the president in a bad light. Despite the factual nature of the report, administration officials and the president himself label it “fake news.” Trump supporters then refuse to believe it.
Further, Trump and Republicans in Congress will try to spin the story as being about illegal “leaks,” not the information that has come to light about the Mueller probe. They seem to want it both ways—they’ll call the reports “fake news” but then complain about leaks. If the information isn’t true, there’s no illegality. It’s not illegal to leak false information.
We’ve seen this time and time again. Trump has routinely made untrue claims (inaugural crowd size, massive voter fraud, record Electoral College victory, climate change “hoax,” Russian election influence “witch hunt,” that he’s done more legislatively than previous presidents, border wall “coming along wonderfully,” etc.). When the media supplies fact after fact showing his claims to be lies, Trumpers write it off as a media conspiracy against the president. Facts don’t matter to hard-core Trump supporters.
Trump once famously said he could stand in the middle of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, shoot someone and not lose a vote. That continues to be largely true today. No matter how much he lies, no matter what he does to potentially obstruct justice, that 30 percent or so of Americans will still be supporting him.
So, what if the Mueller is able to report Trump obstructed justice? Assuming Trump doesn’t fire him before he gets there (and that is not a very safe assumption), it’s widely held that a sitting president can’t be criminally indicted. The remedy is impeachment.
However, if it gets there, Mueller better have a very convincing case. Republicans control the House where articles of impeachment are voted out. They also control the Senate where an impeachment trial would be held.
Practically speaking, the only way Republicans would move toward impeachment is if their own seats would be in jeopardy by not doing do. For members of Congress from states that Trump carried, there would be a need for a “smoking gun.” That may or may not come.