The Mueller test for Virginia RepublicansBy Norm Leahy, The Washington Post
Three contenders for the Republican Senate nomination debated in Charlottesville Tuesday. They answered questions on free speech, sanctuary cities, the opioid crisis – nothing out of the ordinary.
There is one question they should all be preparing an answer for right now: Will they support the president if he fires special counsel Robert S. Mueller III?
It is a hypothetical question, something politicians of all stripes are reluctant to answer directly, let alone fully.
But as The Post’s Amber Phillips writes, it might not be hypothetical much longer.
The unusual timing of a statement from Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) — asking the president “to allow the Special Counsel to complete his work without impediment” — has official Washington wondering whether President Trump might be ready to fire Mueller while Congress is out of town.
This isn’t the first time we’ve been to this bizarre rodeo. Earlier this month, the president used his Twitter account to attack Mueller by name. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said the president wouldn’t fire Mueller because the fallout would be so intense:
“Number one, it would be a real mistake. Number two, it would be looked upon very badly by almost everybody. Number three, it would open up media criticism that he’s never even seen before, and I could go on and on.”
But that was two weeks ago, a lifetime in Trumpworld.
Hatch and others may publicly say the president won’t fire Mueller. Privately, they know anything is possible.
So what if he does?
My colleague Quin Hillyer wrote that such an action should result in mass resignations of cabinet officials and staff and “an impeachment inquiry should immediately commence.”
“Such a firing,” Hillyer wrote, “so clearly would ‘obstruct’ (in common parlance, whether or not in some technical-legal sense) the course of justice that it should require Congress to officially wrestle with the thorny question of whether this presidential misbehavior rises (or falls) to ‘impeachable’ levels.”
Actually staging an inquiry would be an accomplishment in a Congress that can’t even pass its appropriations bills on time.
Getting panel members to check their partisan colors and preconceived notions at the door would be positively miraculous.
Again, all hypothetical, and something we can all hope remains that way.
But nothing is for sure with this president and this administration.
Which brings us back to the would-be Virginia Republican Senate nominees.
So far, three candidates have qualified for the ballot: Nick Freitas, E.W. Jackson and Corey A. Stewart.
We already know Stewart has lashed himself to the president’s mast. He will applaud, not question, a Mueller firing. He might even ask why it took so long to happen.
Freitas is taking fire from Stewart for his insufficient loyalty to the president. That’s to be expected from Stewart, who is counting on the commonwealth’s Trump vote to carry him to a statewide nomination that’s twice eluded him.
All the more reason for the neophyte statewide candidate to prepare now for a question his liberty platform, alone, cannot answer. Stewart will hit him hard. The Trump voters in the GOP ranks will be lost to him. Is he willing to stand on principle when it matters most? His Green Beret background suggests he would.
Jackson, on his campaign website, states he will “never side with the weak, establishment Republicans who attack the president and refuse to support his agenda.” He also criticized the controversial Trump dossier and FISA warrant as acts of people “trying to get Donald Trump.”
Jackson, then, already has the groundwork for his hypothetical response in place.
Here’s hoping no one has to answer this hypothetical, that the president stays out of Mueller’s way and the investigation continues.
But they, and every Virginia GOP officeholder, needs to have a response ready to go — in case decides wants to try his luck with a constitutional crisis.