There is an inherent risk in predicting what special counsel Robert Mueller is likely to do in the Russia election-meddling probe.
His team appears cohesive and competent. Perhaps most important, they aren’t leaking. And they know far more than any of us do.
But as we now hit the two-year mark of the investigation of the Trump campaign, which began first as a counterintelligence operation in 2016, then as a special counsel inquiry after Mr. Trump’s victory, we can be more confident about where this is all heading. Mr. Mueller will write a report and provide it to Congress. Congress will decide what to do.
Removal from office may be what Tom Steyer, Hollywood celebrities, and Democratic Party leaders seek, but that is not remotely likely.
Even if Congress impeaches President Trump — a stated goal of many Democratic members of Congress and a secret goal of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — the Republican-controlled Senate requires a two-thirds vote to remove him from office during a trial.
Currently there are 51 Republican Senators. If every Democrat voted to remove him from office, 16 Republicans would have to join them. This is not going to happen.
President Trump will complete his first term in office, and as of now appears very likely to seek re-election. Buoyed by a strong economy, improving poll numbers, a record number of federal judicial nominees confirmed and an ever-expanding list of accomplishments, Mr. Trump has proved to the country that he can carry out his policy promises. But even with these successes, uncertainty hangs over the administration.
What is Mr. Mueller’s next step and how will that affect the midterms? It remains possible that more individuals will be indicted.
Up to this point, all the special prosecutor’s indictments have failed to prove that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to affect the results of the election.
Three people lied to the feds. Onetime campaign manager Paul Manafort and his aide Rick Gates are facing charges related to unregistered foreign lobbying that predated Mr. Trump’s campaign. The 13 Russian indictments specifically say that no American “knowingly” worked with those individuals and companies.
At this point, two questions matter in the short term.
First, what’s in the soon-to-drop Department of Justice inspector general report? The IG’s probe is focused on the FBI and department’s oversight of the Clinton email investigation, which involves numerous individuals — including fired FBI Director James B. Comey — who have played key law enforcement roles since Mr. Trump was elected. How will President Trump respond to the IG report?
Second, does President Trump voluntarily submit to an interview with Mr. Mueller’s team of prosecutors? If he does, I expect it will be after a negotiation that narrows the scope and time considerably. Many prominent Trump supporters see a Mueller interview as a perjury trap. If the president does not voluntarily agree, a legal battle will ensue should Mr. Mueller seek a grand jury subpoena. That legal battle could last months.
In the end, I expect that Mr. Mueller will wrap up in the next 60 days and present a report to Congress. He will be content with his indictments, and likely his convictions. He will leave it up to Congress to decide what to do on the political end.
Don’t look for the current Congress to act before the midterm elections, but if a Democratic majority takes control of Congress in January, they will likely begin investigations, bringing Mr. Trump’s legislative agenda to a halt. I expect that the Democrats will bring articles of impeachment against the president in the first six months.
This overreach will be very bad for the country, but it will benefit Mr. Trump and his re-election prospects.
All of that can be avoided if Republicans hold their House majority in November, the prospects of which have been markedly improving in the last two months.
There is no evidence that the public wants Trump impeached, but ample evidence that it is the single most important political goal of the Democratic Party. Mr. Mueller may not want to affect the midterm elections, but his report will raise the stakes and have a profound impact on the debate for the November vote.
• Matt Mackowiak is president of Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.-based Potomac Strategy Group. He’s a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators. His “Mack on Politics” podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and on WashingtonTimes.com.
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