Stephen K. Bannon is trying to get back in the good graces of the White House and has apparently offered to “cripple” the Mueller probe. While Bannon lacks the access he once had to President Donald Trump, he is still connected with various White House staffers and has reportedly been pitching them on the idea of taking down the Mueller probe.
Now, some of those White House staffers have been leaking Bannon’s plan to the press. Apparently, the first step would be to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who recently signed off on a search warrant allowing the FBI to raid Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
The raid has infuriated President Trump, who called it a witch hunt. Reports have already been circulating that President Trump wants to fire Rosenstein, although it remains unclear if that’s based on Bannon’s input or the President’s personal views. Given that Trump already fired former FBI Director James Comey, this action would cause the President to come under even more intense scrutiny.
Bannon is also pushing for the White House to stop cooperation with the Mueller investigation. This would mark a stark break from the current protocols. Thus far, Trump’s legal team has been cooperating with Mueller, providing information when requested. Further, President Trump has previously said that he would be willing to sit down with Mueller.
Stephen Bannon pitches plan to White House to derail the Russia investigation and protect Trump:
– Fire Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein
– Cease cooperation with Mueller
– Assert executive privilege to nullify interviewshttps://t.co/NuanhzkN7J pic.twitter.com/SzIfs2fhsj
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) April 12, 2018
Bannon believes that the President should exert his executive privilege to protect himself from the investigation. He argues that the President could even void Mueller’s interviews with White House staff. Given that the interviews were voluntary, however, it’s not clear that the President could void them even with executive privilege. Such moves would also result in legal challenges, which in-and-of-themselves would slow down the investigation, but could create more legal and political headaches for the President.
Speaking with the Washington Post, Bannon said: “The president wasn’t fully briefed by his lawyers on the implications. It was a strategic mistake to turn over everything without due process, and executive privilege should be exerted immediately and retroactively.”
It’s tough to predict whether or not President Trump will take Bannon’s suggestions or not.
Currently, Bannon remains far outside the good graces of President Trump. After he left the White House, Trump claimed that the former advisor had lost his mind. Indeed, the departure did seem to hit Bannon pretty hard. However, upon leaving, he promised Trump that he’d continue to wage war for the President which apparently bought some temporary goodwill from Trump. That goodwill evaporated, however, when Bannon later blabbed critically about Trump and his family, with his comments ending up in the infamous “Fire and Fury” book.
While Bannon appears to lack direct access to the president, he has been meeting with Congressional Republicans and others who have connections to him. Bannon also remains influential with much of Trump’s base, so it’s quite possible that the president is keeping an eye on him and perhaps even fielding his suggestions.
Many within the White House are wary of firing Rosenstein. Some fear that it would lead to mass resignations at the Justice Department, producing yet another black eye for an already beleaguered administration. If the situation got out of hand, it could even present a constitutional crisis.
Further, with midterm elections fast approaching and Democrats appearing to be in a position to gain control of the House and potentially even the Senate, the President may soon find himself restrained by Congress. The election is still months away and anything could happen. However, polls thus far suggest that the Republican Party will be in for an uphill battle.
As for my own two cents, interfering with the Mueller investigation might be legal and political suicide for President Trump. If the president has nothing to hide, then he has nothing to hide, and the Mueller investigation should ultimately clear the president of any wrong doing. If the president and/or his team did act improperly, then these improprieties need to come to light. America’s democracy transcends any one administration.