Thursday, January 25, 2018

Did Trump Order Mueller Fired (And Then Back Off)?

As I've said before, if he seriously tries to fire Mueller, the fewmets will hit the windmill.


Anonymous darius jedburgh said...


Do you think it's a real possibility that the Times and the Post would have gone with almost simultaneous, categorical front-page banner headlines if it might have been just made up? When would be the last time that happened?

Don't you think that if the story turned out to be false, it would precipitate an unprecedented crisis and mass firings at both newspapers?

It may be annoying that they call illegal immigrants 'migrants' etc. But they're not the National Enquirer.

7:50 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, I actually do think it's a real possibility.

In fact, I almost don't trust anything either paper says about Trump anymore unless the story holds up for a couple of weeks.

I will be exactly not at all surprised if the truth turns out to be something more like: Trump flipped his shit and threw a tantrum in which he said, basically: Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?

I also wouldn't put it past him to have actually tried to take more substantive steps.

But one of the things we do know for sure is which way the Post and the Times are gong to err with respect to such a story.

The really interesting question to me is: what if he *did* actually try to realio-trulio fire Mueller, but was thwarted?

If I had to bet, I'd bet that it was a temper-tantrum or a borderline case of "trying."

8:34 AM  
Anonymous darius jedburgh said...


It's no more plausible that he just had a tantrum than that the story was made up out of whole cloth, since no mere tantrum (which would presumably elicit mere eye-rolling from his entourage) would have led McGahn to threaten resignation. So then that part of the story, and the claim that Trump had ordered the firing, would have been made up out of whole cloth.

8:48 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

TDSDSDS!!!'re saying what? Not that it's implausible that Trump flipped his shit and threw a tantrum, surely... Are you saying that it's impossible that McGahn heard it through the grapevine and basically said "I'm out, motherfucker, if that happens." And the whole time Trump's toadies are trying to explain to him that he's dropping The Big One on himself, and then finally things calm down?

And then the Times and the Post hear through the anti-Trump grapevine that it was all a lot more formal than this, and it becomes "Trump ordered Mueller fired?"

Because, if I had to bet, I'd bet that's closer to the truth than something like: Trump engaged the formal machinery to fire Mueller.

Though, of course, my claim is and was: it could be anything in that general range of possibilities.

"Ordered" is vague, incidentally.

9:01 AM  
Anonymous darius jedburgh said...

The story is that Trump only backed down because, 'after receiving the president's order to fire Mueller', McGahn said he would resign 'rather than carry out the directive'. On your scenario that is simply untrue: Trump backed down merely because of the pleading of his toadies. Furthermore, there was no order or directive: 'ordered' (even if that were the only idiom in play, which it's not) is not really vague enough to cover McGahn 'hearing it through the grapevine'. I would really like an example of a NYT & WP front-page banner headline that turned out to be as false as that. Extra points if it didn't precipitate a crisis and multiple firings. Seriously. Your blase attitude to the idea that some of this story's main claims are fabricated implies it shouldn't be at all hard to find another such case.

Meanwhile, it seems that even Hannity has conceded sotto voce that there's something to it. I don't adduce this as evidence that there's something to it. Given the source, it's strong evidence that every word is true.

With stories like this, the NYT and the WP have serious fact- and source-checking procedures. The idea that this might be something they surmised 'through the anti-Trump grapevine' is Fox-News-level preposterous.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I almost can't believe you're being serious. Have you not been paying attention for the least 1.5-ish years? You're seriously arguing that there's little chance that the story is inaccurate in important details on the basis of the "two banner headlines" argument?

I'm not even sure what's at stake here, since basically all we have to do is wait a week or so for the actual truth to (probably) come out / be confirmed.

Also, the "through the grapevine" bit is not the kind of aspect of a hypothetical scenario you want to lean too heavily on, I'd say...

My own view, FWIW, is (approximately) that, if Trump did engage official machinery, and his actions were sufficient to fire Mueller under ordinary conditions, and he was only thwarted because someone convinced him that it would be imprudent--then that's more-or-less sufficient to force us to basically say: he (Trump) has got to go.

I think there are possible defenses (e.g. he honestly was doing it because he thought Mueller was engaged in shenanigans...) (I actually think that's a pretty likely scenario...) But I'm disinclined to give him the benefit of that doubt at this point. Firing Comey and then making a sincere effort to fire Mueller... No way. That's it.

...if true...

1:28 PM  
Anonymous darius jedburgh said...

Still waiting for your surely easily-found example of NYT & WP front-page banner headline stories that turned out to be as false as you are saying these could very well be on account of being nothing more than something they heard through the grapevine....

Failing that, it's hard to see how you almost can't believe I'm being serious. Questions about seriousness would be more appropriately directed at the person who's suggesting something completely unprecedented: that the NYT would make its main story something they 'heard through the anti-Trump grapevine'. I stand by my judgment that that's preposterous, at least until you cite a relevantly similar case -- and I'm not joking when I say that on your view this shouldn't be hard at all. I've been paying a great deal of attention for the last 1.5 years, and I've seen an enormous amount of bias at the NYT and WP (my current fave is Kathleen Parker's WP op-ed from two days ago, 'A caller threatened to shoot up CNN. Was it Trump's fault?'). None of their main news stories has come anywhere close to the level of misrepresentation you're suggesting here.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

You're going to be waiting a long time, because I'm not going to waste time looking that up--I don't know and don't care (much) whether other cases exist.

If you care about that point, then the burden falls on you to show that there are no such cases--but that seems like a waste of time to me.

Anyway: I actually cannot believe you're being serious...but I'm starting to wonder...

Here's a way to put it:

There are three possibilities:

1. The Post and Times are wrong in some way that makes it sound worse than it is.

2. The Post and Times are exactly right (within some reasonable range of accuracy).

3. The Post and Times are wrong in some way that makes it sound less bad than it is.

2 Is *somewhat* unlikely--though I'm not going to be astonished if this is a 2-ish case. But we both know that, if they err, it's more likely to be in the direction of 1 than of 3 when it comes to Trump.

Again, I don't even know why you're freaking out. Presumably we'll know the truth in a week or two. Mueller wasn't fired. Why the rush to hysteria? We need to get a jump on being outraged or something?

As has been the case so often over the last year-ish, you mostly just seem to be mad that I'm not madder.

2:22 PM  
Anonymous darius jedburgh said...


I ain't maad at'cha!

2:39 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


4:07 PM  

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