President Trump is furious with Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the probe into the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia. The president is so angry, in fact, that he’s hinted at a willingness to fire Mueller if he looks too closely at Trump’s personal finances.
Such an investigation, Trump told the New York Times, would cross a “red line” — the consequences of which are left open to the reader’s imaginations.
The rest of the White House seems to be on the same page. Reports in both the Times and the Washington Post have confirmed that the White House is actively looking for dirt on Mueller and his team that could discredit the investigation, or even serve as a pretext to fire Mueller himself.
All of this makes one thing very clear: The Trump team is deeply worried about Mueller’s probe. In the wake of Donald Trump Jr.’s emails — in which he says, “if it’s what you say I love it” in response to an offer of Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton — they probably should be. The latest, and most damning, evidence suggests that the probe will keep going for a while, and that the ramifications could be very serious.
But to understand how we got here — how the White House has come to the brink of war against an investigation with the potential to wreck Trump’s presidency — you have to understand the investigation itself. Special counsel investigations are rare and legally peculiar; this one is especially complicated because the underlying scandal, over Trump’s ties to Russia, is complicated in its own right.
So what follows is a clear guide to the biggest, most pressing issues about the investigation into Trump: how it works, what Mueller and his team are looking into, what we know about the Russia scandal so far, why it all matters, and what could happen next.