After special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to the Russia Investigation on May 17, 2017, President Donald Trump attempted to fire him. However, the president backed off in response to White House lawyer Don McGahn’s threat to resign.
According to a report by the New York Times, President Trump demanded that Mueller should be fired after a few weeks. He was blocked by White House Counsel Don McGahn, according to Associated Press reporter Tom LoBianco. “Fake news, folks. Fake news,” Trump commented as he was about to enter the World Economic Forum.
Some scholars have raised the question as to whether or not Trump has attempted to obstruct justice. McDaniel Political Science professor Francis Grice feels that Trump was not aware of the legal implications. Grice states, “[Trump] doesn’t really know what is legal and illegal and doesn’t much care, meaning that he may have strayed into the territory of breaking the law on several occasions, but probably without the explicit intent of doing so each time.”
Grice continues, “It all depends upon the related question of whether or not the President of the United States can actually obstruct justice, given their position as the executive of the state and the various immunities that the Constitution provides that station. That ties into the broader conundrum of—if the President is immune from prosecution for breaking the law—then is the United States truly a state governed by the rule of law or is it actually rule by law.”
While there is no clear consensus among scholars as to whether or not President Trump had obstructed justice with intent, many experts are concerned about whether or not the United States is still governed by rule of law.
Rule of law is when the same laws apply to everyone regardless of rank and station, whereas rule by law is where the government creates and uses laws to govern but is not bound by them.
A similar crisis occurred during Nixon’s second term in the 1970s, in which he believed that the President had executive privilege and could not obstruct justice.
As the investigation continues to intensify, President Trump should no longer try to interfere with the investigation, especially since papers were revealed about Trump’s attempt to fire Mueller in June 2017.
McGahn threatening to resign echoes Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshause on Oct. 20, 1973. But if President Trump does proceed to fire Robert Mueller, this will lead to an even darker cloud of suspicion on his head. This would promote opposition from the Democratic Party and American public, who would likely see it as an obstruction of justice, and likely an impeachment process if Democrats gain control of the House and Senate.
Trump should also be watching the mid-term elections of 2018. If there are more Democrats in the House and Senate than Republicans, he will have a tough impeachment battle. The Senate would then have to give President Trump a fair trial, and convict him based on the evidence at hand.
Eventually, the investigation will spread to President Trump’s entire cabinet, including Vice-President Pence. Pence was a part of the transition team, and knew about the shady dealings involving Mike Flynn and Jeff Sessions’ communications with Russia, as the head of the team. If the bi-partisan commission thinks that Vice-President Pence is an important part of the investigation, then they should subpoena him to appear before the commission.
The two most important parts of this investigation that nobody is talking about are the potential tapes of the conversations between President Trump and Comey and President Trump’s tax returns. This is because the tapes, if they exist, could confirm whether or not Trump attempted to obstruct justice by using the FBI to end an investigation involving Mike Flynn. President Trump’s tax returns would also be essential because they could show whether or not he is compromised by foreign powers, such as Saudi Arabia or Russia.
But for now, we will have to wait and see where the wind blows.