• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Mueller To Be A Martyr

March 2018

It seems to me ever more likely that Special Counsel Robert Mueller—the man to whom the Democratic Party looks for deliverance from this nightmare called Trump—will be fired. I think if not immediately, then imminently his end will come. Far be it, though, for me to affix to this notion the title of foregone conclusion. It’s but a hunch, and nothing more—a fright and nothing less. It certainly isn’t my preternatural political sixth-sense kicking into high gear and seizing the rational remnants of my mind. Time, I’m embarrassed to say, has proven me dispossessed of what would be an extraordinarily useful clairvoyance with regard to matters politic.

It’s not yet been a year since Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein first brought into being this investigation, this addictive and century-defining cause célèbre. Ten months have come and passed and it feels as if, from one moment to the next, one indictment to the next, one person of interest to the next, Mueller’s scope has broadened by perceptible degrees. His latitude has widened, his longitude deepened, and in the process, his alacrity seems to have hastened them all into one. The investigation appears now, in its swiftness, broadness, and depth, to be compensating for the slow start that defined its inchoate days.

Since its conception in May of 2017, Mueller’s investigation has captured in its net four integral Trump affiliates and advisors. Among them, in order of no import, are Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, and Rick Gates. So too has it enmeshed, unbeknownst to many Americans, the online entrepreneur, Richard Pinedo, the Dutch attorney, Alex Van der Zwaan, and—joining these six men in what we might call felonious fraternity—an additional thirteen Russian nationals, and three Russian internet companies.

The investigation’s girth, much like a tick’s swollen belly or a man’s neglected waist, has spilled beyond the britches that once enclosed it. Now, Mueller and his team reach further than ever they did before and further than the president expected they legally could. The investigation is ravenous; it consumes all leads, all suspicions, and all avenues of inquiry. There isn’t a morsel that it won’t, with a curious fork, prod and poke and chew. There isn’t a stone that it’ll leave unturned, a tree unshaken, a well untapped and it’s no difficulty to see why. After all, in the turning of the first, fleeting critters are often found; in the shaking of the second, ripened fruit is bound to drop; and in the tapping of the third, secrets, thought once secure upon the ocean’s floor or the deepest trench, are to be excavated, recovered, and reaped.

No longer is Mueller’s investigation concerning itself solely with Russia’s meddling and possible collusion with Donald Trump’s campaign. Only those among us most gullible would’ve expected Mueller to confine himself to so narrow a scope. The precedent for special counsels, after all, is one built upon the concept of the temptingly gratuitous phrase “carte blanche”—one that provides them free and open reign. It’s what makes them so often damning and so inevitably incriminating. In 1998, attorney Ken Starr used his untrammeled access, his politically-sanctioned capability to dig first into President Clinton’s confidential Whitewater affair and then into his unexpectedly brazen extramarital affairs. Once Starr set his shovel aside, he had, in one hand, a semen-infested dress and, in the other, the president caught in a lie.

Stepping back from the farrago that infused the time, it’s clear that Starr overreached. It certainly wasn’t incumbent upon him, nor relevant to the original investigation, to look into Clinton’s history of lechery, even if it did reveal his prodigious capacity to philander, intimidate, and lie. It was merely dirt—unconnected but ignominious dirt—that he, an avowed Republican, could use against a political rival in office.

Fortunately for President Trump, most, if not all of his sexual escapades have been or are in the process of being exposed. Doubly fortunately for Mr. Trump, to be sexually loose (so long as all parties consent) is no longer a political sin—at least not in his case. This salacious and, apparently, predominant segment of his life will be largely immune to or unearning of Mueller’s scrutiny. That’s no consolation, though, for an administration and a president who can ill-afford to be put at ease.

Those issues with which Mueller is most concerned at this point are two: the first asks how and why President Trump went about firing James Comey and Michael Flynn in the way he did—both, after all, were prominent men in the Justice Department and the administration, and both, probably, were undeserving of their fates. The second asks in what way and to what degree the Trump Organization was entangled with Russian interests. It looks to find a link between Trump’s personal business and any benefits borne of its dealings abroad. The first line of inquiry was to be expected—the second, less so.

By deepening his probe into the circumstances and the motivations surrounding Comey’s and Flynn’s firings, it’s obvious that Mueller’s attention has turned from Russian collusion to, for lack of a better word, his own personal obstruction in government affairs. The case, tenuous though it may be, is being built upon the premise that President Trump interfered with James Comey’s work—so far as it pertained to him, Russia, and the 2016 campaign. By firing the former head of the FBI, and admitting on national television that his motivation to do so was the “Russia thing” (as spoken to Lester Holt in his own words), the charge of obstruction of justice at first seems plausible, but quickly loses steam. It is, after all, within the president’s right—entrenched in his unitary executive prerogative—to fire or demote whomsoever he may please. Comey fell within this purview. Thus, however bungled the way in which he went about it might’ve been, Trump’s firing of Comey wasn’t foul play.

To find such “foul play”, Mueller’s team is set to look elsewhere. They’re taking to the tenebrous nooks and scouring the dark crannies of the Trump Organization’s financial past. It’s in pursuing this course, in embarking upon this most sensitive and uncharted terrain of a sometimes-underhanded businessman’s past, that I expect Mueller’s ship to fall off a cliff. President Trump has made it known that any attempt to look through his or his family’s personal financial documents will not be tolerated. This, for all intents and purposes, is Trump’s line in the sand. Should it be crossed, assuming Trump is sufficiently adamant to stand by that which he says, I think it very likely that Rod Rosenstein and, then, by extension, Robert Mueller, will be fired.

Trump is feverishly defensive of his family—a fault we’d call a fault in no man but him. It’s to them he’s unfailingly devoted (except, of course, in the case of his three wives—Melania not excluded). Any encroachment of Mueller into his innermost circle and into his personal financial past will surely provoke the latter’s retaliation, and only one punishment will, in the eyes of President Trump, fit Mueller’s crime. This appears to me the only direction in which this story is headed, the tipping point to which it hastens, and the finale toward which this crescendo climbs. It will be revealed in Mueller’s findings (by way of leaks, if I had to guess) that something egregious happened in Trump’s business dealings, though perhaps from the far distant past. Trump, affronted, enraged, and hurt, will respond in kind. He’ll fire Rosenstein and implant in his place a man who’ll silence Mueller. Mueller, knowing he'd forsook all chances to preserve himself as soon as he opened his inquiry into the Trump Organization's finances, will soberly accept his fate. The new sycophantic solicitor, the attorney general now tethered on Trump’s leash, will put the kibosh on Mueller’s case. All of it will happen mere months before the midterm elections, when Democrats are expected—in overwhelming and definitive fashion—to overtake both houses of Congress. The impeachment proceedings, hence, will be all but underway. This, should my sixth-sense prove well-tuned, is hurtling toward us imminently, if not immediately.

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