Congress must protect the independent investigation into Trump

Trump has stepped up his undermining of the rule of law. He recently approved the release of the phony, selectively edited attack ad known as the “Nunes memo” in an obvious ploy to disqualify the Mueller investigation. He claimed the memo “totally vindicates” him, even though most observers view it as lacking substance.

These are further steps in a systematic and relentless assault on the independent investigation into Trump’s Russia ties. Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey. He came to the brink of firing special investigator Robert Mueller. He helped orchestrate a witch hunt to push FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe out of office, before Trump lap dogs in Congress — under the leadership of conspiracy theorist House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes — pushed out the discredited memo.

Now, Trump has refused to rule out firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is in charge of the Mueller investigation after the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Despite playing a role in Comey’s firing, Rosenstein appointed Mueller to lead the investigation. It is increasingly clear that Trump wants a loyal puppet in Rosenstein’s seat who could curtail, sabotage and silence the Mueller investigation from within.

Some observers call it a “slow-motion ‘Saturday night massacre,’” a reference to Nixon’s infamous attempt to stymie the Watergate investigation. The rule of law is at stake. Congress must pass legislation to protect an independent counsel and prevent Donald Trump from triggering a constitutional crisis.

Tell Congress: Trump is taking aim at the rule of law. Protect the independent investigation into Trump.

Not long ago, a post-Watergate law was in place that protected investigations like Mueller’s from presidential overreach. The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 set up a system to ensure that special prosecutors would be totally independent officials that a group of judges could appoint and no president could fire. But in the 1990s, Republicans and Democrats teamed up to let the independent counsel statute expire.

Mueller, instead, is a special prosecutor serving at the whim of Trump’s own Department of Justice. That means that Trump could order Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller, sparking a constitutional firestorm with the executive branch seeking to crush the rule of law to protect its grip on power.

Congress can prevent the nightmare scenario of a constitutional crisis. Every member of Congress will one day have to explain how they helped or opposed Trump’s attempt to undermine our democracy. We need them to show that they are willing to force the White House to obey the law by protecting Mueller’s investigation and keeping it independent of Trump’s overreach.

What happens next is a huge test for the so-called moderate Republicans of conscience who have spoken out against Trump’s reckless abuse of power — they must now put words into action to protect the integrity of existing investigations into all of Trump and his associates’ illegal ties to Russia. Sens. John McCain, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake have made headlines and earned plaudits from the elite political and media establishment for saying that Trump is a threat to our democracy, but they have done precious little to back those words up with action.

With an illegitimate autocrat occupying the White House, our system of laws needs the strongest possible defense — no White House is above the law. Congress must step up now to make sure we have a truly independent investigation of Trump.

Tell Congress: Trump is taking aim at the rule of law. Protect the independent investigation into Trump.

Originally published at