Despite Donald Trump’s recent statement that he is looking forward to being interviewed “under oath” by Robert Mueller, it’s long been clear that the president has been involved in an all-out effort to sabotage the special counsel’s sprawling investigation into Trump-Russia matters. We know that Trump ordered his White House counsel to fire Mueller just weeks after Mueller was appointed, that he pressured Attorney General Jeff Sessions to shut down the probe, and that he has openly attacked DOJ and FBI leaders as corrupt.
In Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, Trump gave two conspicuous signals that he will continue to do everything in his power to fight Mueller—including trying to grab more power. Not long into his speech, Trump uttered a chilling line: He called on Congress to give his White House the authority to summarily fire any federal employee deemed to “undermine the public trust, or fail the American people.”
Trump did so under the cover of talking up the need for better veterans care and praising his administration for already removing “more than 1,500 VA employees who failed to give our veterans the care they deserve.” But following days of intense and rapidly escalating political battle over a controversial memo from House Republicans aimed at giving Trump cover from the Mueller probe, the broad meaning of Trump’s proclamation was unmistakable. He basked in an applause line about giving “accountability and respect” to “our wonderful heroes, our veterans.” Then he continued:
So tonight I call on Congress to empower every cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust, or fail the American people.