If Trump Fires Rosenstein is it Doomsday? Maybe. Maybe not. Convoluted Cliff Notes on What Could Happen Next
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By: Tracy Mcneme Carrothers – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
The recent raid on Michael Cohen led to the predictable Twitter rage from President Trump. It is clear he wants to fire somebody in order to limit or stop the Russian investigation.
We know he wants to fire Mueller. He is encouraging his “friends” on TV to say he should. Republicans won’t directly address what the consequences would be other than to say it’s a line he can’t cross. It is amusing, in a horrible dystopian society way, that we think lines he can’t cross actually exist. Firing Comey, emoluments clause violations, giving his unqualified family members access to powerful positions would have created crisis in prior presidencies. Here we are, though, with this guy and the normalization of acts that destroy the norms/decorum of the office and blow past the law.
The most likely next step is the firing of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Let’s play it through.
Rosenstein is fired. Some experts say it is crossing of the line, but others defend it as legitimate. Currently, Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill are calling for action against senior DOJ officials for failing to release documents pertaining to the Hillary Clinton email investigation. It’s a back and forth that as of Wednesday was cleaned up a little. Still, that action could be used to cover Trump’s err…to justify his firing of Rosenstein.
Who will oversee the Russia investigation if Rosenstein is gone? Based on the succession plan, first up in the line to supervise Mueller is Solicitor General Noel Francisco. There is not a Senate-confirmed Associate Attorney General (Rachel Brand left her position in February), so Francisco it is.
There are other options available under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act although it is convoluted. Some legal experts believe that the President is within his power to appoint someone to fill Rosenstein’s position. Others believe that because the vacancy is due to firing, he is not able to do so. It can be argued that using the Vacancies Reform Act in this way circumvents the Senate confirmation process.
An example of how unclear it all is here is another option. Brian Benczkowski. He is nominated to be the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division and is currently awaiting approval from the Senate, although the process is stalled.
If the Senate does confirm him, Trump could place him in Rosenstein or Bland’s position, therefore putting him in charge of Mueller and the Russia investigation. Benczkowski has a resume that included prior public service in the Bush years, but most recently he worked for a firm and represented Alfa Bank, which is run by Russian oligarchs.
What if the Senate confirms Bienkowski, places him in the Criminal Division position and the Solicitor General remains in a temporary position of oversight of Mueller? This could still allow Bienkowski from his post in the Criminal Division to rein in/limit the Russia investigation.
Could a Rosenstein replacement fire Mueller? It is debatable. The more likely option would be that the replacement, a person we assume is more amenable to the President’s wants, could limit or shut down the investigation.
This is all starting to feel like a law school exam question that could go on forever. The bottom line is that the Attorney General has the authority to shut down the Mueller investigation. Sessions’ recusal angered the President because that is exactly what he wanted. The investigation shut down. If Rosenstein is fired whether a replacement is made via the succession plan or the Vacancies Reform Act it is pretty obvious that the intention would be to limit or end the investigation, which makes every choice suspect. Per usual for this presidency, we are wandering into unknown territory.
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