Donald Trump did not wait 24 hours after the midterm elections before firing Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions. Then, he appointed as acting AG a man whose highest qualification was that he defended the president’s family. Unfortunately, the man sitting in the Oval Office may have created a bigger problem for himself.
Firing Sessions may actually constitute obstruction of justice in the Mueller investigation. After all, Trump said on national television that if he had known his attorney general would recuse himself, then he would never have put him in that position. Democrats were outraged.
Even worse, the commander-in-chief did not move Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein into the vacancy created by the opening. Instead, he placed Matt Whitaker into the job of acting attorney general.
That creates an even bigger problem for the president. His new-hire prejudged the legality of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Moscow’s attack on the 2016 presidential investigation. Mueller has also been looking into any conspiracy between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign.
“I would think there is a very strong case that given his public acknowledgements of his prejudice view on this issue [Matt Whitaker] should recuse himself (from overseeing the Mueller investigation) – @JohnBrennan tells @NicolleDWallace pic.twitter.com/43umdJ4M95
— Deadline White House (@DeadlineWH) November 7, 2018
Whitaker was on tape saying this about the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump, Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner, and former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and Russians. The campaign manager has already been indicted by the Mueller investigation and turned state’s evidence. Whitaker said:
‘Anybody would take that meeting.’
In a brief statement, The Washington Post reported that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he found the timing of Sessions leaving “very suspect.” Should Trump be found to have forced that AG out, that would constitute a “constitutional crisis:”
‘Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general.’
Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY) is the leading Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee and will soon be the chair, now that the House is going Democratic. He tweeted that he wanted “answers immediately,” and “we will be holding people accountable.” He also said he wanted answers to why Trump fired Sessions and:
‘Who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation?’
Even the White House was caught “off guard.” One official said, according to CNN:
“It definitely caught a lot of us off guard today.’
House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff (D-CA) , tweeted his response:
‘President Trump just removed Jeff Sessions. He wants an Attorney General to serve his interest, not the public. Mueller’s investigation and the independence of the DOJ must be protected. Whitaker and any nominee must commit to doing both. We will protect the rule of law.’
House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) commented:
‘It is impossible to read Attorney General Sessions’ firing as anything other than another blatant attempt by @realDonaldTrump to undermine & end Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation
‘Given his record of threats to undermine & weaken the Russia investigation, Matthew Whitaker should recuse himself from any involvement in Mueller’s investigation. Congress must take immediate action to protect the rule of law and integrity of the investigation.’
Senate Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, Senator Mark Warner (D-IN) said:
‘No one is above the law and any effort to interfere with the special counsel’s investigation would be a gross abuse of power by the President,” the Virginia Democrat said. “While the President may have the authority to replace the Attorney General, this must not be the first step in an attempt to impede, obstruct or end the Mueller investigation.’
Featured image is a screenshot via YouTube.