This Sunday’s early morning twitter rant leaves little doubt about the matter.
As Jon Chait argues, Trump’s decision to fire Mueller is so overdetermined that it has always been almost inevitable:
The legal merits of the case for firing McCabe are not fully known to the public. It is possible McCabe stepped out of line when briefing reporters on a story that made the Clinton campaign look bad. The publicly known factual contours of the episode make this seem highly unlikely. Almost certainly, Sessions fired McCabe because Trump hated McCabe and wanted to punish him and to discredit one of Comey’s corroborating witnesses. Trump’s end zone dance will help McCabe make that case, which he can press in a wrongful termination lawsuit, and which will also open up for discovery more of Trump’s interactions with Sessions.
Trump is exposing himself to legal danger for the fleeting satisfaction of a tweet. Can there be any doubt he would take the risk of firing a Mueller?
It is notable as well that Trump has successfully lined up most of his party apparatus behind him for any confrontation. The House Republicans closed their Russia “investigation,” which was obviously intended all along to provide a pretext for declaring Trump innocent. Conservative media has been hammering the message for months that Trump has done nothing wrong, and that all the criminal misbehavior exists on the side of the investigators.
All this effort has been expended either in support, or in studiously ignoring the existence, of Trump’s deep-rooted contempt for the rule of law. Whether or not McCabe filled out all the necessary memos when talking to a reporter, how fully the FBI disclosed its source material for its FISA warrant to surveil Carter Page, or any other legal claims upon which Trump’s defenders have rested their case, are beside the point. Trump believes law enforcement should operate for his benefit, punishing his enemies and protecting his friends. He admires strongmen. His contempt for democratic norms is characterological. The notion that his own government would investigate him is as unfathomable to Trump as his being called to the carpet by a Trump Organization secretary. Trump is going to go after Mueller at some point because there is no other way for Trump’s febrile mind to make sense of the world.
The question is, what happens then? It seems practically certain that the GOP establishment will fully back the coming turn to outright authoritarianism, though I predict Paul Ryan will furrow his brow in an especially telegenic fashion.
So what will everyone else do?