As Trump Threatens Mueller Firing, Activists Sound An Alarm
President Trump’s not-so-veiled threat to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and the possible involvement of the Trump campaign in the Russian effort, is putting democracy activists across America on high alert today.
Organizers say more than 300,000 people have signed up to take part in 800-plus peaceful protest events in all 50 states. The effort is being coordinated through a website, trumpisnotabovethelaw.org, which includes a search tool that allows users to find an event near them simply by entering their ZIP Code.
Common Cause is among several dozen organizations involved in planning the protests, which are to be triggered if the president fires Mueller, pardons defendants or witnesses involved in the investigation, or attempts obstruct the probe in some other way. The president cannot dismiss Mueller directly but could fire the special counsel’s supervisor, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and tap a successor who would then dismiss Mueller.
Trump clearly is incensed by a court-approved search on Monday of the office and home of Michael Cohen, his personal attorney. Asked Monday if he was considering action against Mueller, the president said “we’ll see what happens” and asserted that “many people” have urged him to force the special counsel out.
Early Tuesday, Trump tweeted that the searches mean that “Attorney-client privilege is dead,” a claim immediately challenged by several legal authorities. Because both Trump and Cohen have publicly denied that they discussed the payment, “anything to do with that entire incident is, I would argue, not attorney-client privilege,’’ Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor, told The Washington Post.
“If I were a prosecutor hearing both the lawyer and the client say the client had no awareness whatsoever of that, I would now feel very confident going to a judge to seek that material,” Cotter added.
The searches reportedly are at least partially related to a $130,000 payment by Cohen to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in 2016 to secure her silence about a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier. After The Wall Street Journal disclosed the payment in January, Common Cause filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department seeking investigations of possible campaign finance law violations.
The payment was made just two weeks before the 2016 election, as Trump struggled with the fallout from the release of a videotape in which he was heard boasting about grabbing women by their genitals.
The Common Cause complaints allege that the payment was made to aid Trump’s campaign and thus should have been reported as a campaign contribution. And unless Trump provided the money himself, which he has denied, the $130,000 contribution would be well in excess of the $2,700 cap on individual contributions set by federal law.