POLITICO: HOW DEEP IN THE DOJ BULLPEN WOULD TRUMP HAVE TO GO TO FIRE MUELLER? — Sessions, Rosenstein, Brand Likely “Toast,” But Others Down the Line Might Also Balk At Carrying Out Order! — NEWSWEEK SAYS FIRING MUELLER WOULD MEAN “PRESIDENT PENCE!”

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/06/16/donald-trump-justice-department-succession-plan-239652?cid=apn

Annie Karni writes in Politico:

“An abstract, in-case-of-emergency-break-glass executive order drafted by the Trump administration in March may become real-world applicable as the president, raging publicly at his Justice Department, mulls firing special counsel Robert Mueller.

Since taking office, the Trump administration has twice rewritten an executive order that outlines the order of succession at the Justice Department — once after President Donald Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to defend his travel ban, and then again two months later. The executive order outlines a list of who would be elevated to the position of acting attorney general if the person up the food chain recuses himself, resigns, gets fired or is no longer in a position to serve.

In the past, former Justice Department officials and legal experts said, the order of succession is no more than an academic exercise — a chain of command applicable only in the event of an attack or crisis when government officials are killed and it is not clear who should be in charge.

But Trump and the Russia investigation that is tightening around him have changed the game.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has already recused himself from overseeing the investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign aides and Russian operatives, after it was revealed that he failed to disclose meetings with the Russian ambassador during the campaign. And Trump started his morning on Friday by appearing to take a public shot at his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who has increasingly become the target of his impulsive anger.

“I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt,” the president tweeted.

The Justice Department said in a statement on Friday that there are no current plans for a recusal, but Rosenstein has said in the past that he would back away from overseeing Mueller’s investigation if his role in the ouster of former FBI Director James Comey becomes a conflict.

That has legal experts closely examining the dry executive order to figure out who might be next up to bat, or, as Democratic lawyers and consultants view it, who might serve as Trump’s next sacrificial lamb.

“We know Rachel Brand is the next victim,” said Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the editor-in-chief of Lawfare, referring to the former George W. Bush official who was recently confirmed as associate attorney general, the third-highest position in the Justice Department.

“For those of us who have high confidence in Rachel — the more confidence you have in someone in this role, the less long you think they’ll last,” said Wittes, who said he considers Brand a friend. “That does put a very high premium on the question of who is next.”

That question, however, has become more complicated because the Trump administration has been slow to fill government positions and get those officials confirmed. Typically, the solicitor general would be next in line after the associate attorney general, followed by the list of five assistant U.S. attorneys, the order of which would be determined by the attorney general. But none of those individuals have been confirmed by the Senate, and they would be unable to serve as acting attorney general without Senate confirmation.

Because of that, the executive order comes into play — one that puts next in line after Brand the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Dana Boente. Boente, a career federal prosecutor and an appointee of former President Barack Obama, was tapped last April to serve as the interim head of the Justice Department’s national security division, which oversees the FBI’s Russia investigation.

Boente, who was briefly thrust into the no. 2 spot at the Justice Department after Yates was fired, was also tasked with phoning Preet Bharara, then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, to deliver the unexpected news that he was fired. At the time, Boente also vowed to defend Trump’s travel ban in the future.

Boente is followed, on the succession list, by the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, John Stuart Bruce; and the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, John Parker. Both are career prosecutors who are serving in their posts on an interim basis, until a presidential appointment is made. But they would not need to be Senate confirmed to take over.”

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Read Karni’s full article at the link. Meanwhile, over at Newsweek, Graham Lanktree speculates that Trump’s outside legal team is building a case against Mueller. But, that case appears to be totally bogus, a rather blatant attempt to obstruct and pervert justice, in the best (or worst) traditions of Richard Nixon. Many believe that the firing of Mueller would lead to the fall of Trump (either by impeachment or forced resignation) and the ushering in of President Mike Pence.

Here’s the link to the Newsweek article:

http://www.newsweek.com/pence-will-soon-be-president-if-trump-fires-mueller-says-bush-lawyer-626987?spMailingID=1969868&spUserID=MzQ4OTU2OTQxNTES1&spJobID=810837063&spReportId=ODEwODM3MDYzS0

And, here’s an excerpt from Lanktree’s report:

“Vice President Mike Pence will soon lead the U.S. if President Donald Trump fires Russia investigation special counsel Robert Mueller, a Bush administration ethics lawyer said Saturday.

Trump’s legal team and surrogates are “building a case for firing Mueller,” wrote Richard Painter in a tweet after he appeared on Fox News Saturday. Painter was President George W. Bush’s chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007.

“If that happens Mike Pence will soon become the 46th President,” Painter wrote. “Trump surrogates are making up Mueller ‘conflicts’ to justify firing him. That will be yet more obstruction of justice if it happens.”

. . . .

Friends of Trump said earlier this week that the president is considering firing Mueller. If that happens, legal scholars say, it would likely prompt the resignations of senior Department of Justice staff, reprisals from Congress, and resignation of White House staff. Painter argues that it could lead to impeachment.

“Mueller is absolutely not compromised by his professional relationship with Comey,” said Painter on Saturday. “This is just an effort to undermine the credibility of the special counsel.”

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Stay tuned. Almost everyone except Trump and his “outside advisers” believes that firing Mueller would be suicidal. But, Trump appears to be unhinged and often doesn’t let rationality or prudence enter into his decision making. He’s managed to survive many self-destructive acts that would have spelled the end of the line for any other politician. But, this one might well bring him down.

PWS

06-18-17

 

 

CNN: Sessions – Trump Rift Deepens — AG Offered To Resign — White House Declines “Vote Of Confidence”

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/06/politics/trump-and-sessions-have-had-heated-exchange/index.html

CNN reports:

“Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have had a series of heated exchanges in the last several weeks after Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe, a source close to Sessions told CNN Tuesday.

A senior administration official said that at one point, Sessions expressed he would be willing to resign if Trump no longer wanted him there.
The frustration comes at a critical juncture for Trump. Former FBI Director James Comey is set to testify Thursday about his private discussions with Trump and the Russia investigation has lapped into the White House, with questions about the President’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner.
Tuesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sean Spicer declined to say whether Trump has confidence in Sessions.
“I have not had a discussion with him about that,” Spicer said.
As of 9 p.m. ET Tuesday, the White House still was unable to say whether or not the President backs his attorney general, a White House official said. The official said they wanted to avoid a repeat of what happened when Kellyanne Conway said Trump had confidence in Flynn only to find out hours later that the national security adviser had been pushed out.
Sessions remains at the Justice Department, where a spokeswoman told CNN that he is not stepping down.”
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Read the complete article at the link.
Wow! Who would have thought that Jeff Sessions could be the first Cabinet casualty? Must say, I didn’t see this one coming! In recusing himself from the Russia probe, Sessions not only did the ethical thing, but also saved Trump from the firestorm that would have ensued had he continued to participate in the investigation.
Sessions is nutsos on most legal issues, but I have to give him credit for showing backbone and independence here. Sounds like he might be gone before the 4th of July, particularly if the Supremes turn down the Travel Ban case, which I think becomes more likely with each Trump escapade. I’d also guess that Rosenstein and Brand would follow him out the door, leaving the DOJ essentially leaderless at a critical time.

If Sessions can’t survive, who would want the AG job? And anyone who would take it, and was satisfactory to Trump, might well have problems getting confirmed, even with the GOP in charge.

Stay tuned.
PWS
06-07-17

NYT: Trump, Sessions Split Brewing? — Apparently The Donald Expected AG To Be Complete Toady — Unpleasantly Suprised With Independence!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/05/us/politics/trump-discontent-attorney-general-jeff-sessions.html?emc=edit_nn_20170606&nl=morning-briefing&nlid=79213886&te=1&_r=0

Peter Baker & Maggie Haberman report:
“WASHINGTON — Few Republicans were quicker to embrace President Trump’s campaign last year than Jeff Sessions, and his reward was one of the most prestigious jobs in America. But more than four months into his presidency, Mr. Trump has grown sour on Mr. Sessions, now his attorney general, blaming him for various troubles that have plagued the White House.

The discontent was on display on Monday in a series of stark early-morning postings on Twitter in which the president faulted his own Justice Department for its defense of his travel ban on visitors from certain predominantly Muslim countries. Mr. Trump accused Mr. Sessions’s department of devising a “politically correct” version of the ban — as if the president had nothing to do with it.

In private, the president’s exasperation has been even sharper. He has intermittently fumed for months over Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to people close to Mr. Trump who insisted on anonymity to describe internal conversations. In Mr. Trump’s view, they said, it was that recusal that eventually led to the appointment of a special counsel who took over the investigation.

Behind-the-scenes frustration would not be unprecedented in the Oval Office. Other presidents have become estranged from the Justice Department over time, notably President Bill Clinton, who bristled at Attorney General Janet Reno’s decisions to authorize investigations into him and his administration, among other things. But Mr. Trump’s tweets on Monday made his feelings evident for all to see and raised questions about how he is managing his own administration.

“They wholly undercut the idea that there is some rational process behind the president’s decisions,” said Walter E. Dellinger, who served as acting solicitor general under Mr. Clinton. “I believe it is unprecedented for a president to publicly chastise his own Justice Department.”

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Read the complete article at the link.

I certainly never would have accused Trump of rationality.

It seems it doesn’t take much to go from hero to goat with Trump — another sign of an unbalanced mind at the helm of our country. I’ve been a frequent critic of Jeff Sessions for his anti-immigrant views, white nationalist associations, and totally “gonzo” views and actions on civil rights and immigration enforcement. But, it sounds like he has been trying to do the right thing in this situation and offering the President some wise counsel.  I guess there is no surer way of getting on Trump’s “hit list” than to act with some rationality and integrity.

It’s still a problem if Sessions isn’t able to control Trump’s public behavior in litigation. The head of a law firm can’t stand by and let a client, even the big one, publicly abuse and undermine his or her partners and associates.

In private practice, you sometimes have to “fire” an unruly client. In Government, you can’t fire the President, but you can “take a walk” and let folks know why you are doing it. Ultimately, Sessions (and Rosenstein, and probably Associate AG Rachel Brand) might have to decide whether to be loyal to the President or to the Department of Justice and the integrity of our justice system.

Shouldn’t really be much of a dilemma. After all, no politico expects to serve indefinitely, and each member of this trio should be readily employable in the private sector.

PWS

06-06-17

 

From “Sputnik News:” “Trump Selects Three Legal Veterans for Senior Justice Department Posts”

https://sputniknews.com/us/201702011050221283-trump-three-candidates-justice-dept-posts/

“WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Trump announced he is going to nominate Rod J. Rosenstein of Maryland to be Deputy Attorney General, Rachel B. Brand of Iowa to be Associate Attorney General and Steven Andrew Engel of the District of Columbia to be Assistant Attorney General, according to the release.

Rosenstein was previously US Attorney for the federal, or District Court of Maryland, Brand served as an assistant attorney general under President George W. Bush and Engel was a successful litigator who had served previously as a deputy assistant attorney general.”

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Sounds like the type of candidates most any Republican President would appoint.  The “real question” is will they have any real influence on policy at the DOJ or will they be confined to “working out the Xs and Os of daily agency operations” while aides at the White House “pull the strings” with Attorney General Sessions on major legal and policy issues (like the operation of the U.S. Immigration Courts).

Too early to tell, of course.  But, it’s something that Democrats should at least raise during the confirmation process.  I wouldn’t expect any of these candidates to have difficulty getting confirmed.

PWS

01/01/17