Our institutional crisis is upon us
The rationale for this GOP assault is that Peter Strzok, an FBI agent involved in the investigation, exchanged texts critical of Trump and favorable to Clinton with an FBI lawyer. Somehow, Mueller got no props for removing Strzok from the investigation this summer.
But even if Strzok played some role in developing material that ultimately hurts Trump or proves Russian collusion, are Americans supposed to brainwash themselves? Trump's allies want us to say: Too bad the president lied or broke the law, or that Russia tried to tilt our election. This FBI guy sending anti-Trump texts is far more important, so let's just forget the whole thing.
Because we are inured to extreme partisanship and to the political right's habit of rejecting inconvenient facts, we risk overlooking the profound political crisis that a Trumpified Republican Party could create. And the conflagration may come sooner rather than later, as Mueller zeroes in on Trump and his inner circle.
Only recently, it was widely assumed that if Trump fired Mueller, many Republicans would rise up to defend our institutions. Now, many in the party are laying the groundwork for justifying a cover-up. This is a recipe for lawlessness.
We also assumed that Mueller's findings would be respected because of his deserved reputation for fairness and independence. Just last May, Newt Gingrich called him a "superb choice to be special counsel" and praised his "honesty and integrity." Now, pro-Trump politicians feel free to contradict anything they said in the past and to dismiss what they once saw as legitimate authority if those who hold it threaten their power. This is a recipe for autocracy.
We are far closer to the edge than we want to think.
E.J. Dionne's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @EJDionne.
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