One part of Donald Trump’s vision for America that did not come up at the State of the Union was his wish to see Special Counsel Robert Mueller behind bars.
Since wanting to fire Mueller just a month after he was appointed, Trump has become aware that such an action would cause a political firestorm. His solution? To have Mueller investigated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to a shocking section of an NBC News report buried deep within the story:
[T]he Trump strategy is to discredit the investigation and the FBI without officially removing the leadership. Trump is even talking to friends about the possibility of asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to consider prosecuting Mueller and his team.
“Here’s how it would work: ‘We’re sorry, Mr. Mueller, you won’t be able to run the federal grand jury today because he has to go testify to another federal grand jury,'” said one Trump adviser.
This is a natural progression from the current Republican campaign to discredit the Russia probe.
Republicans voted Monday to release the controversial “Nunes Memo,” authored by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-California) detailing his assessment of the root of the Russia investigation as a political measure. Nunes, of course, is no impartial observer in the investigation. He was famously investigated by the House Ethics Committee for leaking classified intelligence to subjects of an investigation.
Rep. Nunes’ memo is a piece in the larger play of discrediting the FBI and Department of Justice that is central to President Trump’s strategy in thwarting Mueller.
But conservative pundits have already been making the case for the next step in Trump’s plan – the criminal prosecution of the person investigating his crimes. Media Matters reported Tuesday about the litany of crimes conservative media has accused Mueller of committing to advance the agenda of the Special Counsel’s criminal prosecution.
Trump also appears to be purging investigatory officials who might oppose the prosecution of Mueller, pushing the retirement of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and reportedly setting sights on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein next.
While the President failed to fire Mueller and his ability to do so is murky at best, he has turned to a more insidious tactic of prosecuting his prosecutor and fulminating conspiracy theories to turn his supporters into a mob against his critics.
Of course, both the Nunes Memo and Trump’s ultimate plans for Mueller fuel and are in turn fueled by the ‘deep state’ conspiracy theory that is at the heart of conservative political conversation at the moment.
Katelyn Kivel is a journalist and political scientist in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.