Donald Trump has tried to squirm out of the investigations into his administration’s links to Russia, and now he has found another avenue. The president tried to manipulate people charged with investigating him. When that did not work, Trump leaped upon an obscure ethics rule to undermine the special investigation.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel to lead the FBI investigation into Trump’s associates and senior Russian officials. The deputy attorney general told Reuters Mueller will have:
‘All appropriate resources to conduct a thorough and complete investigation.’
Right away, Trump’s people delved into the Code of Federal Regulations. According to Reuter’s sources, these regulations restrict:
‘Newly hired government lawyers from investigating their prior law firm’s clients for one year after their hiring.’
One of 45’s many executive orders that he signed in January changed the one year period to two years. Mueller quit his lucrative job at his former law firm WilmerHale on the same day the Justice Department announced him as special counsel.
His former law firm represented the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort. Kushner met with a Russian bank executive during the transition period in Trump Tower, and the FBI has been investigating Paul Manafort for illegal activities.
Fortunately, Rosenstein can waive the ethics rule, and Mueller did not directly represent Manafort or Kushner. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any involvement with the investigation, because he was part of the Trump campaign and also met with the Russians.
University of Minnesota law professor and former White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, Richard Painter, said, according to POLITCO:
‘Usually, there would be a one-year cooling off period. It’s a possible wrinkle in all off this.’
Professor of legal ethics at Washington University School of Law Kathleen Clark told Reuters that Mueller can grant a waiver, especially if the issue of bias was nominal.
There are two ways that Trump could get out from under Mueller’s special investigation. He could order Rosenstein to not grant the waiver. That would stop Mueller from including Kushner and Manafort in his investigation. If Rosenstein refused, Trump could fire Rosenstein and find someone to replace him who would not grant the waiver.
In addition, Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores told Reuters that the department is also combing through Mueller’s background.
Check out this video of Senator Susan Collins explaining Mueller’s role:
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 19, 2017
Featured Image: Getty Images/Win McNamee.