A central question in American politics today is what, if anything, congressional Republicans will do if President Trump decides to follow the advice of Fox News and fire special counsel Robert Mueller rather than allow the investigation to proceed. The question is hardly hypothetical — the Trump team has been relentless in attacking Mueller for months, and the president already fired FBI Director James Comey in what he admitted was an ultimately failed effort to halt the investigation.
House Speaker Paul Ryan was a guest this morning on WTAQ, a local Wisconsin right-wing talk radio station (it airs Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and Sean Hannity, but Ryan was appearing on a local host’s morning show), and declined to offer any substantive commentary on the indictments. Instead, he said that “nothing is going to derail what we’re doing in Congress.” As far as he’s concerned, small matters like the integrity of the American political process and the rule of law are unimportant compared to the greater good of tax cuts for rich people and large corporations.
This should not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Ryan’s history as a fanatical Ayn Rand acolyte. Despite years’ worth of credulous press coverage, Ryan is a guy who states openly that he’s dreamed since his youth of depriving poor children of medical coverage.
But this underscores why it’s important for Republicans who have other priorities to speak and act in a clear and coordinated manner before Trump does something rash.
Ryan would be happy to see Trump impeached and thrown in jail if that would make it easier to pass a giant tax cut. And he’d be happy to see Trump fire Mueller, shred the rule of law, and finally carry out his threats to jail Hillary Clinton if that would make it easier to pass a giant tax cut. If a handful of Senate Republicans say now that firing Mueller would lead them to hold up tax cuts, then Ryan will pressure the White House to let Mueller do his job rather than derail the tax cut express. But if Trump fires Mueller tomorrow, Ryan will pressure Republicans to get in line and focus on cutting taxes.
Enormous responsibility is resting on the shoulders of the Jeff Flakes and Bob Corkers of the world. So far, we haven’t really heard from them.