Politics and Polls: Can Trump Actually Shut Down the Mueller Investigation?

March 22, 2018 by Sam Wang

As Trump hostility to Mueller’s investigation heats up, can he actually shut it down? On Politics And Polls, I talk to Fordham Law professor and Trump-investigation expert Jed Shugerman about fail-safes that Mueller may have put in place, and legal theories of the case. Listen to the new Politics & Polls!

Oh, and in case you missed them, Julian and I have had some awesome recent episodes: one with the Drive-By Truckers, one with political writer E.J. Dionne, and one with historian Linda Gordon on the resurgence of the KKK in the 1920’s, and what it means for the present day. Quite a range of guests – we’re very pleased with the cool people we have had on!


Arthur Klassen says:

(Thanks for posting this)
While I was listening to the interview with Jed Shugerman, it struck me that Manafort may be so deep in with the Russians that he’s sure they’ll try to assassinate him if he co-operates with Mueller. 130 years of prison may be a better option than sharing the fate of Litvinienko or Skripal. No way of proving that but it would explain Manafort holding on no matter what as he is doing.

Rob Smith says:

Another view is that Manafort has always been a high-stakes risk-taker.
And if he co-operates he knows that his days of making big money and “getting whole” are finished – he’d probably do some jail time and be poor. And then there is the large debt that he owes an unhappy Russian … .
Or if he tries to walk away scot-free then he’ll still be able to work for some mass murdering dictator or mafia-state leader and make some serious money, pay off his large debts to a unhappy Russian and get whole, “be Paul Manafort again”.

xian says:

the episode on the second KKK (and its merchandising) was fascinating

Some Body says:

Unrelated, but I was wondering what’s your take on this: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/25/opinion/gerrymandering-midterms-2018.html
“Just to get the thinnest of majorities in the House, Democrats would need around an 11-point win in the national popular vote.”

Josh says:

It’s incorrect.
Most people who have studied this believe Democrats would need to win nationally by somewhere around 6-8 points to have a 50/50 chance at flipping the House. A few people argue they’d only need to win by 4%, and a few people argue it’s more like 9-10%, but nobody who looks at this seriously believes Democrats would need to win by double-digits to even have a shot at flipping it.

Some Body says:

Well, the people who published that article (based on research they did) believe it’s 11 points. I was wondering what’s wrong, if anything, in their methodology.

LondonYoung says:

Some Body – the Brennan study is based on producing an estimate for each district of what percentage of the D vs R vote is required for a D to win the district.
As far as I can tell, they do not reveal their methodology for these estimates other than to say that they use “algebra”. (Literally, that is what they say.) Sam may know the authors and perhaps could get them to illustrate how they calculated, e.g., AL-2. With an example calculation in hand we could decide if we believe their methodology.

Josh says:

There are a bunch of ways people have thought about this.
One way is to measure the gap in previous election years since 2010 (post-redistricting) between % of the popular vote won and seats won. By that measure, Democrats would need to win the popular vote by 4% in November to have a chance to flip the House because the number of seats they’ve won in 2012, 2014 and 2016 is about 4% less than their popular vote margin in those years.
Another way to think about this problem is to look at the PVI (partisan voting index) of each district in the country and then approximate how many of those districts Democrats would win assuming they won the national popular vote by 1%, 2%, 3%, etc. By this measure, Democrats would probably need to win the popular vote by around 6-8% to have a good enough chance to pick up enough districts to flip the House.
Lots of smart people have thought about this question and offered answers to it and, unlike the Brennan Center, they’ve shown their work. For starters, I’d check out responses to this question by Dave Wasserman, Nate Cohn, Harry Enten, Nate Silver, G Elliott Morris and Nathan Gonzales.

Some Body says:

Them not showing their work is indeed a problem (I’m wondering what’s in the full report, though). But as much as I support full open access to research, I also recognize the possibility that their approach objectively has something to it.
Also, whe do I find the responses by all the people you mentioned? I only saw Wasserman quoted in some reports in the press, and he was quite dismissive, but did not explain why…

LondonYoung says:

Some Body – I would add one other thing – the Brennan center is a policy advocacy institute and not a research center. One of their policy points is “partisan gerrymanders must be stopped”. Now, it is OK for them to produce reports which support their point but because they already have an official viewpoint they face a much higher burden for showing their work in order to be believed.
I’ll show you what I did when I decided they should be ignored for now. I read their report:
I looked at the graph on page 30 for Alabama (because it is alphabetically first, no other reason). Their graph says that if dems take 49% of the vote in Alabama they will win two seats. I then looked at the Cook PVI’s on wikipedia. (I was glad I had picked the first state alphabetically.) The second most dem leaning state in Alabama is R+15. There are a couple of R+16’s and an R+18 as well. Now, Alabama itself is R+14 and the D’s did just win an open senate seat there. But wiki says all the reps are running for re-election. Taking all this into account, without seeing the math do I believe that 49% of the votes will get dems two seats in Alabama? Nah, I don’t think so. However, I could imagine some model where they estimated odds of a scandal or some noise from district to district (though they seem to like uniform shifts), but I would have to see the math first.

Some Body says:


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