Responding to Bob Corker’s point that even if they wanted to Republican legislators wouldn’t act to constrain Trump because the party’s base wouldn’t stand for it, Greg Sargent concludes:
At bottom, the GOP position is basically to beg Trump not to bring the issue to a head, without taking any action to prevent it — and without signaling what Republicans will do in response if he does. Making this worse, University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck points out that if Congress does not act in advance, reinstating Mueller might actually prove legally harder than it would be to protect the investigation now. As Brian Beutler puts it: “Republicans pleading with Trump not to fire Mueller are more properly understood to be asking him not to put them in the position of having to capitulate.”
Corker has basically conceded that Republicans believe it would alienate the GOP base to signal that removing Mueller would meet with specific consequences. But if this is the case, and Trump does try to shut down or hamstring the probe, that would only further rally Republican voters behind him. Why would it be any easier to inflict consequences at that point? If, as Corker says, what matters most in this calculus is what GOP voters think of lawmakers’ tribal loyalty to Trump, it would only get harder. And really, why would Trump take any other lesson from what he’s seeing right now?
There’s also a political issue: I’m sure Ryan and McConnell would prefer that Trump wait until after the midterms to fire Mueller, because another Saturday Night Massacre would only intensify the tsunami likely to arrive in November. But 1)they’re not going to do anything to actually protect Mueller ex ante because this would mean a direct confrontation with Trump they don’t want, and 2)they sure as hell aren’t going to do anything ex post, with the political damage already having been done and all of the same considerations that have caused them not to do anything to protect the investigation still in place.