Batman wrote: ↑
You're working with the assumption that the Mueller investigation and the midterm elections will be honored.
By Trump? I assume nothing. But Trump is not (yet) an absolute dictator, and cannot simply refuse to recognize the election results or the outcome of the investigation by fiat. There are state governments, judges, members of Congress (including even some Republicans), and likely highly-placed members of the armed forces/intelligence community who would balk at either of those actions.
Trump is calling for the repeal of due process as it is and says he is above the law. Do you seriously believe he'll give a damn if voters try to change 'his' government? He'll just claim 'fake news, the election was manipulated' and go right on
If Trump does that, a number of things could happen.
1) Trump spouts some generic Trump tweets or something about how the election is illegitimate. Nobody else in government listens, the new Congress gets sworn in, and has all the more reason to impeach. In fact, this is probably the likeliest scenario. I regretfully expect that there will be some rioting or domestic terrorism from the Trump base if they lose (and from Democrats if they lose, for that matter), since both sides have been primed to believe that if the other side wins, its because of fraud (though the Democrats have far more valid reasons to believe that). But probably nothing on a scale that could really be called a civil war, or worse than what we experienced during the '60s, much less the Reconstruction era post-Civil War.
2) Trump refuses to recognize the results, and tries to actively inhibit the new Congress from being seated/refuses to recognize its authority. Far less likely, I think, even for him, because this would be basically dropping all pretense that he is a despot. But in that case, I'd expect one or more of the following to happen, after the initial wave of protests, rioting and international condemnation.
a) The current Congress finally decides that they've reached the limit, and impeaches.
b) The current Republicans in Congress really are fully committed to Trumpian fascism. The military/intelligence community coups Trump.
c) The military/intelligence community stays largely loyal to Trump, and we're fucked, unless the rage of the Left is enough to organize demonstrations on a scale large enough to effectively shut down the country, and to stand their ground in the face of likely armed reprisals.
d) Some blue states begin moving towards secession. I honestly think that in this scenario, there is a not insignificant chance that California bolts, for a start. Possibly Vermont as well, and maybe some others.
e) The country mostly submits and we become a fascist nation, albeit possibly with an ongoing progressive terrorist/insurgent movement.
Any of those scenarios could escalate to a full-scale civil war, and d) almost certainly would, while in e) a civil war might ultimately end up being the lesser evil. Its more iffy in the other cases.
As to the Mueller investigation, its success is likely tied to the outcome of the elections, since a victorious Republican Congress might be emboldened to back firing Mueller, and would almost certainly never impeach no matter what evidence he turned up. Theoretically, Mueller and Rosenstein could try indicting the President, but the Constitutionality of that is untested.
However, it should be noted that there are also state investigations, which are outside the reach of Presidential pardons. Still, there's a reason why I say that this is the most important election since the Reconstruction era.
Edit: Of course, there is a danger in any of these scenarios of it escalating to mass violence. I do not trust that Trump will ever leave the White House willingly. But it is very important that the opposition to Trump not fire the first shots or be seen as instigating violence, for two reasons. First, the moral reason, that instigating preemptive violence is antithetical to a society based on democracy and the rule of law. Secondly, the pragmatic reason: that there are many people who are not Trumpers, but are not yet prepared to endorse violence (myself among them). If the opposition is seen as starting violence, it will cost us support of people who would be on our side if we were acting defensively, support that we would desperately need to win such a struggle. Public perception matters in war, just as it does in politics. There is a reason why during the run-up to the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln went to some lengths to make sure that it was not the Union firing the first shot. If it had been, he probably would have lost all the border states, instead of just half of them.