It has been nearly two years since Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel to investigate President Trump for evidence of collusion during the 2016 presidential election and obstruction of an FBI probe in early 2017.Hundreds of hearings, subpoenas, and warrants later, and the Mueller investigation has come to an end. We have not even seen the full extent of Mueller’s report, and already, many have come to the conclusion that it is a waste of time. Much of this dismissive attitude stems from President Trump, who has done and said almost everything in his power to invalidate the investigation and turn his voter base against Mueller. Using alarmist rhetoric and abusing his power as President, Trump’s attacks on the special counsel have eaten away at the legitimacy of our democracy.
It is no secret that Trump lacks any semblance of respect for Mueller’s investigation. He has fought the special counsel’s team every step of the way, including putting pressureon his then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to fire Mueller, and eventually replacing himwith William Barr, a man who referred to the special counsel’s investigation as “fatally misconceived.” Trump has even attempted to fire Mueller indirectlythrough his White House counsel. Although the President has been unsuccessful in blocking the special counsel’s investigation, his attempts to remove Mueller reveal a rather alarming disregard for democratic values. Trump appears convinced that he can bypass our country’s system of checks and balances by threatening others. It is likely he will continue trying to undermine American democracy by abusing his executive powers to get his way.
Furthermore, the President has also been quitevocalabout his distaste for the special counsel. From the very beginning, Trump has denounced the investigation as a “witch hunt” and an attempt by Democratsto erode his credibility. He has produced a litany of furious tweets calling the investigation a hoaxand claiming anyone involved is corrupt and out to get him. Trump’s delusional and hyper-paranoid rhetoric is an essential aspectof his brand and a large part of the reason he was elected: he is the poster-child of a new kind of paranoid stylein which his targets are anyone and everyone who do not agree with him. Trump’s relationship with mainstream media has always been antagonisticand troubling, but his claim that the special counsel’s investigation is fake newsis a frightening attempt to manipulate the American public.
By planting seeds of a Democratic conspiracy, he is purposefully casting doubt on not only the Department of Justice but any branch of the government not directly run by his administration. He vilifies all Democrats by portraying them as corrupt liars seeking only to further their own gains. Both of these tactics only deepen the polarization between the political parties. This is the side-effectof exclusionist rhetoric and paranoid style—there is no room for compromise when Trump is telling his supporters that they are choosing between absolute good and absolute evil. Furthermore, Trump’s refusal to accept Robert Mueller as credible creates a kind of cognitive dissonance that is toxic to a democracy. A country can’t survive when half of its population trusts an investigation and the other half believes it to be a conspiracy.
Just a few weeks ago, Mueller’s team delivered a nearly 400-page reportto Attorney General Barr. In turn, Barr released a four-page documentto the public in which he outlined the findings and conclusion of the report. Unimpressed with his summary, Democrats in Congresshave been relentless in demanding the full document. Although they have been met with some concerted effortsby Senate Republicans to halt the process, it seems likely the public will ultimately receive most, if not all, of Mueller’s report. But the question remains: will it matter? Has Trump convinced enough of his base that the investigation was a farce, and if he has, what reason would they have to believe any of the report? And if they don’t believe it, why would their Republican delegates make any attempts to penalize Trump if it turns out he was indeed colluding with Russia?
There is a clear issue here, and one that is not easily resolved, because if the Mueller report finds Trump guilty, Congressional Democrats may attempt in some way to punish the President. If they do, it is likely Republicans will not play along, given their recent history with the Mueller report. When members of one party view the other as a direct threat, cooperation and communication between parties break down and citizens lose faith in their democratic institutions, they turn to more radical and undemocratic methods to assure their party’s power. Trump is himself a radical method: fringe, populist, and with a history of ignoring democratic principles. It is not entirely unlikely that he would attempt to solidify his power and control if he believed he could get away with it.