Mueller mania and midterm madness

Mueller mania and midterm madness
© Getty Images

Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate MORE’s visit to Davos has become a virtual perp walk for the president, who is followed wherever he goes by reporters shouting questions about whether he intends to fire Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE, an action that could end in his removal from office or a mega-Democratic landslide in the midterm elections — or both.

Multiple reports that Trump attempted to fire Mueller last June, and only relented when White House counsel Donald McGahnDonald (Don) F. McGahnCongress hits rock bottom in losing to the president in subpoena ruling Rudy Giuliani's reputation will never recover from the impeachment hearings In private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book MORE threatened to resign in protest, have set off five alarm fires on both sides of the aisle, and at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Official Washington is today gripped by Mueller mania, bringing a frenzy of speculation about what actions the special counsel will take and what Trump will do in response, and by midterm madness, magnified by the fact that a constitutional crisis and a catastrophic midterm election for Republicans might both be triggered at any moment by Trump. 


Donald McGahn will now be compared to John Dean, the White House counsel whose role in the resignation of Richard Nixon is now the stuff of historical legend. If the stories that McGahn threatened to resign are true, he should be universally applauded for a rare profile in courage in Washington today. The implications of the story being leaked are ominous for the president and his GOP allies in Congress. 


Almost certainly the story was leaked by someone deep within Team Trump — one who believes that Trump is planning to imminently fire Mueller and who seeks to prevent this by creating the mini-firestorm that the leak has generated.

Yesterday I wrote that Republicans are panicking as signs point to imminent blockbuster actions from Mueller. I harshly criticized irrational and scurrilous attacks against the FBI from high-profile Republicans in the House and Senate, and warned that the probability is high that Trump will never agree to testify under oath and will instead take extreme actions such as firing Mueller or granting pardons to suspects or former Trump associates who have already been indicted.

The scandal will bring speculation that McGahn could possibly be a Deep Throat source from within Trump circles. It is very possible that Mueller has been receiving evidence from multiple Deep Throat sources, and from new plea bargain agreements that have been reached but are not yet publicly revealed. It is also conceivable that Mueller has already obtained additional indictments that remain sealed.

The issues of possible collusion between Team Trump and Team Russia, and potential money laundering matters that are apparently under investigation by Mueller, are currently unresolved for legal purposes. It is wrong and ludicrous for Trump to obsessively repeat that there was no collusion. It would be equally wrong to conclude that for legal purposes there was indictable collusion or money laundering. Maybe there was. Maybe not. Investigators must conclude their work.

A potential case for obstruction of justice is far more advanced, with a high probability that charges are formally brought by Mueller and the grand jury. There is a higher probability than many commentators suggest that Trump will refuse to testify under oath, which would trigger a full blown constitutional crisis. 

Washington is gripped by Mueller mania because the White House and leaders of both parties in Congress know that Mueller has far more inside knowledge about what really happened than he has publicly disclosed, suspect that the odds of dramatic new actions by Mueller are extremely high, and worry that the time for these crisis-triggering actions may be coming soon. 

Washington is gripped by midterm madness, most recently demonstrated by the aggressive, unwise and discredited attacks against the FBI by Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold Johnson CIA found Putin 'probably directing' campaign against Biden: report This week: Supreme Court fight over Ginsburg's seat upends Congress's agenda GOP set to release controversial Biden report MORE (R-Wis.), Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesSunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election Sunday shows preview: With less than two months to go, race for the White House heats up Sunday shows preview: Republicans gear up for national convention, USPS debate continues in Washington MORE (R-Calif.) and others.

The midterm madness continues to escalate every day, because Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate fully understand that there is a strong possibility of a massive Democratic victory, and a catastrophic Republican defeat. This will be virtually guaranteed if Trump refuses to testify, fires Mueller, or pardons anyone suspected of having committed crimes that will ultimately force Republicans in Congress to impeach or defend Trump.

Perhaps Trump will agree to testify under oath, in which case the sense of high drama and imminent crisis that now engulfs official Washington will at least temporarily subside.

If Trump refuses to testify under oath, fires Mueller or grants pardons, Mueller mania and midterm madness will explode to epic proportions and shake the foundations of American politics in ways that historians will write about for centuries to come.

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.