Other politicians might play by those rules out the desire for self-preservation. Trump chose not to. And so, an ex-FBI director, who may have had hopes of becoming director once again, took over the investigation. Comey would not go unavenged. Mueller ultimately found nothing criminal or meriting a recommendation of impeachment in Trump’s behavior. But by the time he issued his report, the protracted investigation, and all the hype about Trump and Russia that it sustained, had done its political damage and hammered the lesson home. Republicans suffered a bloodbath in the 2018 midterms, and the next president would think twice—and then twice again—about treating an FBI director as his underling.
The Ukraine corruption that is at the heart of the Democrats’ impeachment project involves the same logic if somewhat different players. On January 11, 2017, Politico ran a news story under the headline “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire.” The story documented Ukraine’s meddling on behalf of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Kenneth P. Vogel and David Stern summarized the findings:
Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found.