For the chronically indebted businessman Donald Trump, it was a win every day the creditors did not foreclose on him.
President Trump will manage the remainder of his presidency the same way.
The appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel in the Trump-Russia matter will spell vexation in the medium term and may spell danger in the long term. But in the here and now—the next days and weeks, easing into months—the appointment brings relief.
Republicans in Congress have gained a new excuse to revert to their prior enabling of Trump’s misconduct: A special counsel has been appointed!
Instead of defiantly lying, the White House staff can now refuse to answer questions outright: A special counsel has been appointed!
Fundamental questions of national security and public integrity will go unexplored as the special counsel focuses on narrow legal matters. The public debate will be starved of new information as the special counsel proceeds in legally required secrecy.
Yet we can already perceive some of the legal first consequences of the appointment.
The special counsel will investigate whether the president’s message to James Comey about Michael Flynn—“I hope you can let this go”—followed by Comey’s firing, meet the test of prosecutable obstruction of justice. (Expect hundreds of hours of cable-TV airtime for anyone with plausible-sounding legal credentials willing to argue the contrary side of the case.)