White House officials are “on edge” over the growing prospect that President Donald Trump will be impeached and many are taking steps to distance themselves from the fallout, Vanity Fair reports.
Special counsel Bob Mueller’s indictments of former Trump campaign aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, and the bombshell surprise guilty plea from former adviser George Papadopoulos show that “the Russia investigation poses an existential threat to the president,” writes Vanity Fair’s Gabe Sherman, who spoke to a number of panicked Trump associates.
“Here’s what Manafort’s indictment tells me: Mueller is going to go over every financial dealing of Jared Kushner and the Trump Organization,” former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg told Sherman. “Trump is at 33 percent in Gallup. You can’t go any lower. He’s f*cked.”
“For the first time since the investigation began, the prospect of impeachment is being considered as a realistic outcome and not just a liberal fever dream,” Sherman explains.
Sources told Sherman that aides are doing “whatever they can not to be ensnared” in the Russia investigation.
National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell reportedly make a point of leaving rooms any time the topic of Russia arises.
Former White House strategist Steve Bannon, meanwhile, is more concerned about the Cabinet invoking the 25th Amendment, which allows the Vice President and cabinet secretaries to vote to remove the president from office.
“Bannon recently told people he’s not sure if Trump would survive such a vote,” Sherman reports.
Trump has “few options” in battling Mueller, aides admit. While he has publicly insisted that Mueller should go after Democrats instead, he privately blames son-in-law Jared Kushner for some of the key decisions that led to Mueller’s appointment.
According to Sherman, Trump blamed Kushner for his role in the firings of former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn and FBI Director James Comey in a conversation with Bannon earlier this week.
“Jared is the worst political adviser in the White House in modern history,” Nunberg said. “I’m only saying publicly what everyone says behind the scenes at Fox News, in conservative media, and the Senate and Congress.”
But the lack of options Trump has to fight Mueller hasn’t dampened the hopes of his most ardent supporters.
Bannon has suggested that Trump defund the Mueller investigation and appoint a new White House lawyer to hit back harder than Trump’s current lawyer, Ty Cobb. Cobb has reportedly urged Trump to cooperate with the investigation and get his poll numbers up to avoid the threat of impeachment.
“Mueller shouldn’t be allowed to be a clean shot on goal,” a Bannon associate told Sherman. “He must be contested and checked. Right now he has unchecked power.”
Stone believes that any investigation would have to look at the FBI’s role in approving the deal. Mueller was the FBI director at the time of the deal.
“You would immediately have to inform Mueller, Comey, and [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein that they are under federal investigation,” Stone told Sherman. “Trump can’t afford to fire Mueller politically. But this pushes him aside.”