But that was then, and this is now. Trump campaigned against the GOP writ large -- its vision, its institutions, and its principal agents and flunkies. He came into the White House to shake up the party, re-align it in a populist and nationalist direction, away from the corporate elitist and globalist direction it had been pursuing for decades. He would make the Republicans in Washington "bend the knee" to his new movement, and the hostile takeover of the party would be complete.
During the time when Trump was at least somewhat of an oppositional figure to his own party, they had no interest in protecting him from the bogus charges of colluding with Russia during the campaign. Why defend him, when he's so determined to wipe out everything they're interested in defending as conventional Republicans?
The Democrats, we understand where they're coming from, folks. But I'm even more disappointed in the Republicans. Or as Michael Wolff puts it in the "Russia" chapter from Fire and Fury:
The congressional Democrats had everything to gain by insisting, Benghazi-like, that where there was smoke (even if they were desperately working the bellows) there was fire, and by using investigations as a forum to promote their minority opinion (and for members to promote themselves).
For Republicans in Congress, the investigations were a card to play against Trump’s vengefulness and unpredictability. Defending him -- or something less than defending him and, indeed, possibly pursuing him -- offered Republicans a new source of leverage in their dealings with him.
Last year I discussed the nature and extent of Trump's political capital -- it was the ability to galvanize a mass of citizens into collective action, like attending a Trump rally or voting for him in a primary or general election. He had no elite support anywhere, and indeed burned his bridges with them, meaning he came into office with political debt rather than capital.
Hence the GOP would make him work off his debt first before giving him any of his own Trumpian "asks," but beginning with such a massive debt, there was very little chance they would ever consider it cleared and begin taking up his populist or nationalist agenda from the campaign. They would only reward him to the extent that he folded to their corporate elitist and globalist demands.
Sure enough, that's exactly what's happened.
After -- and only after -- he played his part in passing the Reaganite tax cut bill, the zombie-Reagan party is more than happy to extend Trump a line of political credit, provided he only spends it in the GOP company store. No "get out of NAFTA," no "get out of Afghanistan," no "deport 10 million illegals". We don't sell those policies here in Washington.
But if you need some protection from that pesky investigation by the FBI and the Special Counsel, why sure we can help you out. We wouldn't want our rubber-stamper of Reaganism to have aspersions cast on him. Back when you were running that whole anti-Establishment thing, we didn't mind your legitimacy being threatened. But now that you're doing our bidding? Hell, that makes you one of us -- long as it may have taken you to come around -- and we wouldn't want the legitimacy of our new figurehead to come under question.
That certainly doesn't mean the GOP is willing to go to war against the FBI or Mueller, both of whom are solid Republicans. Trump hasn't amassed that much political capital just from passing a tax cut. Now, maybe if he could manage to privatize social security, Trump could get the Republicans to end the investigation for good. But that's not going to happen.
Their likely plan is to push back on the FBI's credibility in a limited way -- only against certain individuals, and in a certain case, without questioning the broad powers of the institution. They just re-authorized the practices that led to the FISA court approving surveillance of the Trump campaign, so they clearly are not going to weaken the institutional strength of the FBI or other intel agencies.
They can sense having a rough time keeping a majority in both houses of Congress after the mid-terms, especially in the House where impeachment proceedings would begin. So they just bide their time, and if the Democrats take back the House and start using Mueller's findings, regardless of whatever they do or do not say, as a pretext for impeachment -- hey, we did our best when we controlled the House, Don-arino, don't blame us for what the Democrats do when they've taken it over.
Trump could still fuck those plans up by firing Mueller, or firing enough of his subordinates until one of them fires Mueller. That would probably be a bridge too far for Republicans to reflexively and totally circle the wagons around him. That would require him to hit a real home run for team Reagan -- amnestying all tens of millions of illegals, say.
That may be why the news was leaked about him ordering Mueller fired in June, only for the White House Counsel McGahn to refuse, and Trump back down. It's a reminder that he doesn't have enough political capital for the Republicans to bail him out of a big-league jam like that -- don't do anything stupid, and we'll keep attacking the neutrality of the FBI, at least in a circumscribed way relating only to the bogus Russia allegations, which doesn't threaten the institution's larger powers.
This is yet another reason why the next major figure to carry out a re-alignment must come into office with a decent chunk of political capital already. If he does not, it makes him wholly dependent on those who do have capital -- the Establishment -- to fend off the inevitable attacks that his opponents will make, knowing how weak he is upon arrival. Otherwise, a would-be re-aligning president who enters the White House with little capital, and even worse with debt, gets easily co-opted by the conventional forces he was sent there to oppose.