As the Russia investigation continues, the pressure on President Donald Trump just keeps growing.
Throughout the probe, the president has managed to keep the spotlight on others involved with his campaign — advisor Paul Manafort’s Russian funding, Attorney General Jeff Session’s undisclosed Russian meetings and Donald Trump Jr.’s secret rendezvous to obtain potentially damaging information on rival candidate Hillary Clinton.
Now, however, President Trump may finally be worried about his own role.
How do we know? Well, because the president has raised the question of whether he can pardon himself.
Each day a new revelation appears to be unveiled regarding the investigation. But the latest news — that special counsel Robert Mueller has requested the White House preserve all documents pertaining to Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian lawyers and government allies last year — has many wondering if the noose is tightening around the Trump allies, as well as the president himself.
“Special counsel Robert Mueller has asked the White House to preserve all documents relating to the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort had with a Russian lawyer and others, according to a source who has seen the letter,” reports CNN’s Dana Bash. “Mueller sent a notice, called a document preservation request, asking White House staff to save ‘any subjects discussed in the course of the June 2016 meeting’ and also ‘any decisions made regarding the recent disclosures about the June 2016 meeting,’ according to the source, who read portions of the letter to CNN.”
The question is, will the White House follow directions?
As we learned in the election campaign, the president had a tendency to believe he was immune to court orders in the private sector — even destroying evidence requested by judges, rather than turning it over.
“Over the course of decades, Donald Trump’s companies have systematically destroyed or hidden thousands of emails, digital records and paper documents demanded in official proceedings, often in defiance of court orders,” Newsweek reported in October of 2016. “These tactics — exposed by a Newsweek review of thousands of pages of court filings, judicial orders and affidavits from an array of court cases — have enraged judges, prosecutors, opposing lawyers and the many ordinary citizens entangled in litigation with Trump. In each instance, Trump and entities he controlled also erected numerous hurdles that made lawsuits drag on for years, forcing courtroom opponents to spend huge sums of money in legal fees as they struggled — sometimes in vain — to obtain records.”
Now, too, President Trump seems to be seeking out ways to undermine the investigation by attempting to have Mueller either removed from the probe or discredited so that his findings can be dismissed as partisan hackery.
According to the Washington Post:
With the Russia investigation continuing to widen, Trump’s lawyers are working to corral the probe and question the propriety of the special counsel’s work. They are actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work, according to several of Trump’s legal advisers. A conflict of interest is one of the possible grounds that can be cited by an attorney general to remove a special counsel from office under Justice Department regulations that set rules for the job.
But while the president has his staff looking at ways to torpedo the investigation, he also is allegedly asking questions about his power to pardon — including whether he can pardon himself.
“Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves,” reports the Independent. “Trump’s legal team declined to comment on the issue. But one adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.”
His team may call it “merely a curiosity,” but to anyone outside the pro-Trump arena, that sounds a lot like an admission of guilt. At the very least, it is clear that the president is simply incapable of running the country at this time.
And that’s just one more reason that Congress must get started on impeachment hearings.