We on The Times’ editorial board asked a question seven months ago that seemed almost inconceivable. “Only a few days before the 45th anniversary of the Watergate break-in,” the board wrote, “could President Trump really be contemplating a reenactment of one of the most notorious episodes of that scandal: President Richard M. Nixon’s firing of Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor who was investigating the cover-up of that “third-rate burglary,” a power play that also cost the president his attorney general and deputy attorney general?”
The board went on to say that Trump would be “nuts” to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Yet according to the New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, that’s just what the president was trying to do at the time. The deeply sourced pair reported that Trump ordered Mueller’s firing last June, only to drop the demand when he read The Times’ editorial. No, actually, Schmidt and Haberman reported that Trump reversed course after top White House lawyer Don McGahn threatened to resign over it.
Maybe McGahn read our words of advice. They’re available free online, after all.
OK, probably not.
At the time of our editorial last year, there was only one person — a friend of Trump’s named Christopher Ruddy — saying the president was thinking about firing Mueller. “We don't want to give this glorified rumor more weight than it's worth,” we wrote with, ahem, just a little too much skepticism. But we went on with an argument that’s worth repeating: “Suffice to say that Trump would be nuts to think that these flimsy objections would provide him with cover if he made the disastrous decision to dismiss Mueller and abort the investigation.”
Not surprisingly, Trump has labeled the Schmidt-Haberman report “fake news,” even as more outlets have confirmed it. Among them: Fox’s Sean Hannity!
And equally unsurprisingly, Democrats and Trump critics pounced on it as yet more proof that the president has obstructed justice. For example, there’s this comment from Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) in an email to supporters Friday:
“Where there's smoke, there's usually fire -- and where there is an effort to obstruct an investigation there is usually some bad stuff waiting to be discovered.”
And this tweet from Marc E. Elias, a lawyer who works to support Democratic Party candidates:
That’s all speculation, though. Even if Trump thought about dumping Mueller (or the man who hired him, Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein), he did not. His latest, most relevant comment on the subject is his statement earlier this week that he would “love” to be interviewed by Mueller under oath.
Some observers believe that if Mueller is ready to interview Trump, the special counsel must be close to wrapping up that aspect of his fast-moving investigation. Funny, but that’s a development Trump’s supporters are as eager to see as his critics.