Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Will Trump Pull A Saturday Night Massacre of His Own?
It was on Saturday, October 20, 1973, that then President Richard Nixon, rather than comply with a subpoena by Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox to turn over the Watergate tapes, ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire him. Richardson refused and promptly resigned. Nixon then directed Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. Like Richardson, Ruckelshaus refused the order and also resigned. Nixon finally turned to Solicitor General Robert Bork, who carried out his order. And that became known as the Saturday Night Massacre.
Forty-four years later, we could be looking at a repeat performance. In fact, if I were a betting man, I'd say the odds are looking good that Donald Trump will try something very much akin to what Nixon did in '73. It must be painfully obvious to this White House that, far from wrapping up his investigation, Robert Mueller is just beginning to ramp it up. The way the far Right is howling at the moon means even they know that things aren't looking good and they're freaking out. With the help of some very gullible Republicans in Congress, they're doing everything possible to undermine the integrity of the FBI and Mueller's team.
The fear is that Trump, who has the impulse control of a toddler, might take advantage of Congress being in recess during the Holidays and order Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosensten to fire Mueller. Rosenstein has already stated under oath that he has found no cause for dismissing Mueller, so the likelihood is that he would either have to resign or be fired. Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions has already recused himself from the Russian investigation, the task of firing Mueller would fall to Rachel Brand, the Associate Attorney General. If she decides she doesn't want to go down in history as the next Robert Bork, we could be looking at a low-level Justice Department employee firing a sitting prosecutor.
We are at a precarious moment as a Republic. Trump has already shown contempt for the rule of law; the idea that he could do something so brazen not only isn't far fetched, given what we know of him, it's highly probable. I pray I'm wrong; I pray that his legal team will be able to prevail upon him to not act rashly.
If they can't stop Trump, though, the nation will enter the worst Constitutional crisis of its history with the entire legislative branch out of town. And even when they return, the prospects that anything will happen don't look all that promising. Unlike in '73, this Republican Party has shown no ability to stand up to this president. Where Nixon was thwarted by his own party, Trump might well succeed with the blessing of his.
To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, this is how democracy ends; not with a bang but a whimper.