Mueller probe scares the GOP — rightly so

Official Washington is now in a state of high tension as special counsel Robert Mueller has begun prosecuting his case by bringing his first two indictments and announcing his first plea bargain, which will almost certainly be followed by more indictments and plea bargains.

Here are six scary facts that alarm President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness, ballots and battling opioids: Why the Universal Postal Union benefits the US Sanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth MORE and Republicans in Congress:

First, Mueller is focusing on collusion between Trump associates and Russia. Collusion is far from proven, but credible evidence of collusion is coming into view. 

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We know that operatives for Russia sought and achieved a meeting with Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. for the stated purpose, made clear in the email seeking the meeting, of joining forces in the dissemination of dirt against Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump heads to California Hillary Clinton: Voter suppression has led to 'crisis in democracy' in the US MORE as part of the Russian government’s support of Trump.  

 

We are also told by former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, in his plea bargain agreement, that he was offered dirt against Clinton by the Russian side and was told by so far unnamed Trump associates to pursue this Russian-supplied dirt. 

Trump and his GOP supporters in Congress have good reason to be scared as more facts emerge about these two potential examples of collusion, more indictments appear destined to be approved by the grand jury and more plea bargains appear destined to be announced by the special counsel.

Second, when Trump associates were asked by the media for reaction to disclosure of the New York meeting, the president was personally involved in drafting the response that was apparently untrue.

Third, every day brings more evidence of successful attempts by Russian operatives to penetrate Trump’s inner circle and more evidence of a massive Russian project to inject lies into America’s political discourse via social media to further its nefarious purposes.

While nothing incriminating has yet been proven, it is chilling to read allegations that Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign, apparently reached out to WikiLeaks to better coordinate the public release of illegally obtained Russian-generated dirt against Clinton.

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Fourth, it should be scary for Republicans to read stories suggesting that certain congressional Republicans may be working to impede congressional investigations of the Russia scandal or cut the budget of the special counsel, which would be interpreted by voters as an attack against the search for truth on a matter fundamental to American security.

Fifth, with the president’s popularity falling to new lows with midterm elections approaching, the news from Monday through 2018 will almost certainly bring new indictments, plea bargains, revelations of Russian attacks against America and a succession of high-intensity criminal trials.

Sixth, congressional Republicans may face the ultimate political nightmare if President Trump fires Mueller or issues preemptive pardons to associates suspected of crimes. These actions would generate an intense and unprecedented firestorm from angry American voters.

If Trump fires Mueller or issues pardons and the predictable firestorm spreads across the nation, Republicans in Congress will face the political Armageddon of having to impeach the president, which will bitterly divide GOP voters, or oppose impeachment, which will align the GOP with a highly unpopular president.

The smart move for Trump would be to unequivocally and unconditionally promise that he will not fire Mueller or issue pardons for anyone under investigation or convicted of crimes.

The smart move for Republicans in Congress would be to demand that he make this unequivocal promise and take legislative action now to prevent these potential disasters for America and the GOP.

The president and Republicans in Congress are scared with good reason. They have limited time to do the right things or they will rue the day they did not.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.