President Donald J. Trump is under the impression that he is the United States of America, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is only too happy to feed Trump’s delusion.
On Monday, April 9, Trump told reporters that the FBI raid of his attorney’s office—part of the special counsel’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election—was “an attack on our country.”
Trump is said to be fuming and unhinged. Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times report that White House aides are worried. “On Tuesday,” they write, “top White House aides described themselves as deeply anxious over the prospect that the president might use the treatment of his lawyer as a pretext to fire Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel.”
For months, legislation crafted to protect Mueller’s position from any attempt by the president to fire him has floated around the Senate; now two bipartisan bills have been combined to do just that. But McConnell—whose wife, Elaine Chao, serves as Trump’s transportation secretary—has indicated that the bill will never make it to the Senate floor. McConnell, in fact, has aided and abetted Trump since the moment the power-crazed narcissist moved into the Oval Office.
Bills are brought to the Senate floor only if the administration has signaled in advance its willingness to go along. This is not the way it’s supposed to work. What we’re witnessing is the capture of the U.S. Senate by the executive branch. There is no check; there is no balance.
One case in point is brilliantly illustrated by Zoe Chace of the radio program, This American Life, who spent four months hanging out with Senator Jeff Flake, the renegade Republican from Arizona who has criticized Trump’s intemperate and law-flouting behavior from the get-go. The focus of Chace’s documentary was Flake’s attempt to bring to the floor a bill that would renew the program known as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which allows undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to avoid deportation. In the horse-trading that preceded the passage of the tax bill in December, McConnell promised Flake a vote on a separate DACA bill in exchange for Flake’s vote on the tax package. Flake said yes.
As Chace points out, DACA is popular with the American people. Americans, it turns out, have a high regard for fairness. Nevertheless, McConnell would not bring Flake’s bill to the floor, even after he rounded up support from a bipartisan group of senators—even after he thought he had a deal with McConnell. But McConnell’s position had shifted ever so slightly when he talked about DACA with reporters as Flake was rounding up votes. He would bring a bill to the floor if it were something the White House would feel “comfortable” with. And that’s only one of many votes McConnell has promised and then reneged on.
The law arguably prevents Trump from firing Mueller. Only the attorney general can do that. But with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, a person of interest in the Russia investigation, sidelined from supervising the special counsel, that power passes to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who Trump is said to be considering firing.
There’s a constitutional crisis in the offing. Or we’re already living through one. Carl Bernstein, who famously covered, with Bob Woodward, our last big constitutional crisis, is of the latter view. Tuesday night on CNN, he opined, “We have a president of the United States who is willing to risk a constitutional crisis for this nation so he can avoid legitimate investigation. … This isn’t a witch hunt. It’s about a lawless president of the United States determined to avoid accountability.”
With the help of Mitch McConnell, I might add.
But McConnell never has had much respect for the Constitution, at least not for the spirit of the law. Remember Merrick Garland? The only reason that Obama appointee is not sitting on the Supreme Court right now is that McConnell blocked confirmation proceedings.
McConnell apparently cares nothing for the institution he leads. He is no patriot. When the history of the fall of the republic is written, he’ll be shown to have played a leading role.