Trump Ouster of Sessions Gives New Life to Mueller Controversy

Trump’s inability to let almost sleeping dogs lie has kicked off yet another political firestorm.

As you almost certainly know, Jeff Sessions, long a Trump punching bag, resigned Wednesday at Trump’s request. Trump skipped what would be the logical path of succession, that of elevating Rod Rosenstein to be acting Attorney General, and instead installed Matthew Whitaker, who had been Sessions’ chief of staff. The Wall Street Journal reports that Whitaker would oversee Robert Mueller’s investigation of Kremlin influence on the Trump campaign, unless Department of Justice ethics officials decide Whitaker needs to recuse himself. Whitaker has been a vocal critic of the Mueller investigation, arguing that it could be curtailed to prevent it from becoming a “fishing expedition.” More detail from the Journal:

In August 2017, after FBI agents raided former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s home, Mr. Whitaker tweeted: “Do we want our Gov’t to ‘intimidate’ us?” and linked to a Fox News story that said the raid was “designed to intimidate.” The same month, he tweeted a column titled “Note to Trump’s lawyer: Do not cooperate with Mueller lynch mob,” and added: “Worth a read.”

In July 2017, Mr. Whitaker played down the notion that there was anything improper in a meeting at Trump Tower between Trump campaign officials and Russian individuals. “You would always take that meeting,” Mr. Whitaker said on CNN. He also told the network that if Mr. Sessions were replaced with an acting attorney general, he could imagine a scenario in which that person reduced Mr. Mueller’s budget “so low that his investigations grinds to almost a halt.”

Bloomberg argues that if Trump indeed fired Sessions out, Mueller could challenge the installation of Whitaker:

But Mueller could argue in court that Trump effectively fired Sessions after months of verbal abuse, a legal concept known as a constructive discharge, said Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor who is a frequent Trump critic.

Under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, Trump can appoint an acting official without Senate confirmation if he replaces someone who has been incapacitated or resigned. It doesn’t apply if the previous official was fired. Sessions began his resignation letter by saying he was leaving at Trump’s request.

The Journal stated that Trump chief of staff John Kelly asked Sessions for a resignation letter on Wednesday. Sessions submitted an undated document. That sure doesn’t sound voluntary. However, Bloomberg also said that legal scholars said it would be hard to oust Whitaker from a post he would hold for only seven months.1

We’re left again with the usual, “What was Trump thinking?” He’d pretty much won the RussiaRussia controversy. Democrats dropped that a while back as a talking point for the midterms, which were widely seen as a referendum on Trump. The wisdom of that decision was confirmed by this article, flagged by Lamber: Exit Polls: Majority Say Russia Probe ‘Politically Motivated’. Vox had pointed out last May that the Mueller findings could well be buried. Bob Woodward admitted he’d looked for two years for evidence of a connection and had come up empty-handed. The Muller investigation has retreated from the public eye and some media outlets have been managing down expectations for it.

But with the easily-provoked Trump, it repeatedly looked like Trump would give Mueller his win by engaging in obstruction of justice. Installing the pugnacious Whitaker as Mueller’s minder puts the probe back in the spotlight. It creates the impression that Trump sees it as a live threat. And the Democrats will use this high-handed move to provide further support for what they intended to do anyhow, which is to use their control of House committees to go full proctological on Trump.

So the day after the election, and Trump gives the Democrats a new target to shoot at. November 2020 looks like an awfully long way away.


1 Whitaker looks either to have poor judgment or not to mind being associated with scam artists, which might explain his willingness to be a part of Team Trump. From the Guardian (hat tip allan):

Donald Trump’s new acting attorney general was part of a company accused by the US government of running a multimillion-dollar scam.

Matthew Whitaker was paid to sit on the advisory board of World Patent Marketing, which was ordered in May this year to pay a $26m settlement following legal action by federal authorities, which said it tricked aspiring inventors….

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      1. MartyH

        Good point @Yves. The clock is ticking now. The BIG theory was that Mr. Mueller was asked not to rile the Mid-Terms and to wait for further moves until afterwards. If he and his team had things they were ready to reveal, soon would be nice.

      2. DJG

        Yves Smith: Thanks. Why, it is almost as if the diabolical Trump wants the Democrats to go back into Russia Russia Russia mode, with a big dose of the glories of President Mike Pence, Christianist Dominionist and Silver Fox.

        Instead of focusing on Medicare for All with Mental / Dental, the endless wars, income inequality, the corrupt banking sector, Citizens United, and the immigration crisis, the Democrats are already signaling bipartisanship and impeachment pile-on.

        It’s going to be a long two years unless Pelosi (1) gets dumped or (2) gets a plan for concrete material benefits for an impatient populace.

      3. Tim

        Trump is probably right that the Russian election interference/conspiracy probe is a “fishing expedition”. What he is really worried about may well be the uncovering and unraveling of his past nefarious activities such as money-laundering, tax evasion and similar complex schemes that could involve collusion with a variety of international gangsters. This could be his ruin politically and financially.
        The fact that his son and associates wete stupid enough to be lured into meetings with unsavory characters to get dirt on Hillary is probably a political nothingburger. Indicting Don jr for lying about these meetings would likely not seem just or fair to most Americans.

        1. Arizona Slim

          Fun facts about elections in Russia:

          1. If you’re a first-time voter, you get a bag of gifts. Just for showing up, doing your patriotic duty to Mother Russia, and voting.
          2. Many polling places have live bands.
          3. At some polling places, you can also get a free meal.

          Sounds like Russian elections are a real party. Perhaps we could do that in the USA.

            1. Unna

              Did I see paper ballots? Hand marked? Dropped publicly into a clear plexiglass container? Did I hear that if you are traveling you can vote anywhere in Russia for president? And they give chocolate to kids for their first time, voting. And they vote on Sundays? In Russia? Mother Russia, now the world’s new school teacher for democracy??!!

              II think it’s time to drive over to the local BC Liquor Store and buy up a few more bottles of Baltika 7 beer before they run out.

        2. Yves Smith Post author


          I hate to have to keep saying this: unless Trump took payments outside the banking system (as in diamonds, cash, gold), he could not have engaged in money laundering. Banks are responsible for anti-money laundering checks and are also subject to “know your customer” rules. None of that applies to real estate owners.

          Having said that, there was sanction of some sort involving chips in one of Trump’s casinos.

          1. Anon

            That’s not entirely true — see 18 U.S.C. § 1957, which criminalizes knowingly engaging or attempting to engage in a monetary transaction in criminally derived property of more than $10,000, if the property is derived from specified unlawful activity (which is broad and includes all the crimes you’d expect, like drugs, racketeering, and others). This applies to anyone, not just financial institutions. He would need to have some sort of knowledge that the money is criminally derived, or at least be willfully blind to that fact.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              I personally know lawyers who have had very extensive discussions with the Treasury’s anti-money laundering experts for the purpose of publishing on this issue in a well-respected and accordingly pricey publication that is widely read and cited by tax experts, including other tax attorneys. Their view is the one I stated above.

              1. Anon

                I don’t know if this view is shared by all tax or AML attorneys. I know this is thin, but I don’t have time to dig into case law to try to figure it out. This blog post from an AML attorney seems to contemplate the possibility that a service provider (in the post’s example, an attorney) knowingly accepting tainted money as payment for services could subject that service provider to criminal liability under 1957. That’s even if the attorney isn’t involved in the underlying criminal activity. Nothing in the statute limits its applicability to payments for services; it would apply just as easily to payments for real estate (or luxury cars, or any other expensive goods criminals like to spend their money on).

  1. Rob P

    Impeaching Trump over Russiagate is the biggest favor Democrats could do for him. There’s a 0% chance the Senate will convict him. What’s Democrats’ next move after impeaching him and failing to remove him, threaten to impeach him again? Democrats dropped the issue for the midterms because voters don’t care, and Trump firing Sessions isn’t going to change that. If Democrats suddenly go back to Russia! Russia! Russia! after campaigning on healthcare, Trump will easily win 2020.

    1. albrt

      If only the Democrats campaigned on healthcare. I didn’t even see many bait-and-switch promises related to the execrable Obamacare.

      As far as I can tell, the national party campaigned on making the world safe for highly indebted aspirants to the concept of social capital as realized through blue check marks and other technocratic sorting mechanisms. I’m pretty sure the party is not going to deliver on that campaign plank.

      Here in Arizona, the meth lab of democracy, our democratic senate candidate campaigned on reacharounds across the aisle. Looks like she will not get the opportunity to deliver on that campaign plank either.

      1. hemeantwell

        If only the Democrats campaigned on healthcare. I didn’t even see many bait-and-switch promises related to the execrable Obamacare.

        FWIW, the Times is saying that is exactly what they did. In today’s roundup they make Pelosi sound brilliant in her advocacy of an emphasis on healthcare and “a few economic issues.” Her role in the Russia whoopup fades and fades.

        I agree with Rob P that Trump is trying to draw the Dems back into the Russia obsession. That the Dems, in control of the House, now have considerable subpoena firepower at their disposal makes their dependence on the Mueller investigation a bygone, right?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I am sure I am missing some possible moves, but the simple-minded version is:

          Congress subpoenas Trump

          Trump defies subpoena

          Congress declares Trump to be in contempt of Congress

          Contempt of Congress is a criminal offense. However, per Wikipedia, the Office of Legal Counsel has asserted that the President of the United States is protected from contempt by executive privilege.

          And if push comes to shove, Trump could pardon himself. The Presidential power to pardon (for Federal crimes) is without limit.

          1. rd

            I think the House getting his tax returns is a bit different because the House can ask the IRS directly for them. Trump would then have to step in and order them not to be released. It would then be contempt of Congress for the IRS official if they don’t release them. Is an IRS bureaucrat willing to go to jail for the Donald?

            1. Michael Fiorillo

              Hasn’t Mueller had the tax returns for months now?

              My sense is that if there was any there there (beyond what everyone else of Trump’s ilk does to make money and avoid taxes) it would have been leaked by now.

              The collusion narrative is preposterous, and Trump’s business deals with Russian oligarchs, given the bi-partisan legal loopholes provided to real estate, are likely to be “legal.”

              Trump snookers the Dems once more, and creams them in 2020.

              1. Tim

                I wouldn’t bet that his business dealings are legal. Many of the international money laundering and tax evasion schemes rely on complex links spread across multiple jurisdictions. Ordinarily there is not the knowledge, resources and will to unravel but that is not the case here. Look, even Trump thought there was no chance of his being elected. If he and the people around him knew what was going to happen, there would have been some serious concerns about the scrutiny that would be focused on them and their dealings.

                1. Michael Fiorillo

                  Perhaps, but the endless hair-on-fire/the-walls-are-closing-in misdirection and disinfotainment campaign about Russia, et. al. will have gone a long way toward inoculating Trump against his actual crimes and reasons for opposing him.

                  Boys crying wolf, and the like…

                  Oh, and a question for the NC commentariat: given that the “Steele Dossier” (now there’s some disinfotainment lingo for you) relied upon “Russian government sources,” why is that Dollar Store bit of oppo research not also referred to as “collusion?”

                  1. lyman alpha blob

                    Maybe because Steele just claimed to have gotten the info from Russians to make it look legit for the rubes who were paying him, but in reality just made up a bunch of nasty sounding nonsense and the Dems were too stupid to know the difference?

                    Because otherwise, I’ve been wondering the exact same thing as you for months – why is it a problem that Trump “colluded” with Russians to win the presidency but not a problem that the Democrat party colluded with Russians to keep him from winning the presidency? There seems to be a lot more evidence for the latter than for the former.

                  2. Tim

                    Agree – So far nothing indicates that there was any serious long-term collusion just rampant stupidity in having meetings with Russian connections who promised dirt on Clinton. If that’s it, any derivative charges such as lying to the FBI will be seen as over-reaching by most people. And, if that’s it and the D’s rant and rave and try to impeach while ignoring health care, equality, immigration and important issues you can bet WI, MI and PA will be red again in 2020.

                    What I keep saying to people is if Obama, his associates and family were in the same situation you’d be going on about the unfairness of it and making the same claims and arguments as Trump (which I think is a good way to evaluate these and other issues in general).

            2. Yves Smith Post author

              There is not going to be anything in those tax returns save maybe the Swiss bank issue I flagged above. Trump is audited regularly. The IRS is already all over this taxes. Taxes are not a Rosetta stone. I don’t know why people are so agitated about this. They don’t show his big clients were, nor do they show who his lenders are.

              What they might show is:

              1. Trump pays little in taxes. No surprise, that’s normal for real estate developers/property owners

              2. Trump makes way less on an annual basis that he implies

              There could be:

              3. Some of his legal entities have embarrassing names, like Tits & Ass, but actually, I think I recall that he already released the names of all of his legal entities, so scratch that.

              1. Tim

                I agree, but if Trump was engaged in money laundering, serious tax evasion schemes or other major financial crimes his taxes might provide some direction on where to look and what to look for. His paranoia about Mueller may indicate something serious he is worried about. On the other hand, and as you say, this may just be about revealing that Trump is just a two-bit player in the big boy world and a billionaire want-a-be.

                1. todde

                  Mueller has his tax returns.

                  The IRS has his tax returns and audited them already.

                  The democrats in the house won’t find anything these two entities can’t.

                  It will be some Grand Kabuki Theater tho.

      2. Arizona Slim

        Oh, brother. Kirsten Synema. If I don’t hear that name again for a long time, I will be a very happy Slim.

        Not that Martha McSally would be a better US Senator, but at least she’s a real Republican.

        1. Big Tap

          Latest vote tally for Arizona Senate race from NYT. Expect if Sinema loses after the recounts the attacks will be directed at the Green party costing her the election. Never mind all the voters who stood home or Green party voters who never vote Democratic.

          Nov. 8, 2018, 1:32 PM ET

          Arizona Senate Election Results: Martha McSally vs. Kyrsten Sinema
          Martha McSally leads by 1.0 percentage points, or 17,073 votes, over Kyrsten Sinema with 99 percent of precincts reporting.

          Martha McSally

          Kyrsten Sinema

          Angela Green
          1,735,601 votes, 99% reporting (1,482 of 1,489 precincts)

  2. Skip Intro

    “What was Trump thinking?”
    Perhaps he imagined that he could once again troll the Dems and the Russia-hysterics into freaking out publicly about an issue that clearly fizzled in the electorate. They’re not gonna try to impeach him, so his next best bet is to get the Dem machine hyperventilating over something that will immediately suck the oxygen out of the election narrative, while further eroding their credibility. Mueller already tipped his hand with the amazingly low-calorie nothingburger indictments, if there were anything there we would know about it. The idea that he is ‘keeping his powder dry’ is really no longer plausible. And what does Trump have to lose? It is long time until 2020.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Very plausible. Perhaps a combination of personal pique on the one hand and lizard smarts on the other. And it does distract from the Dem take over of the house – meager as that minnow ripple was. A sort of poke in the eye of the Dem “establishment” with the very issue that caused them to go completely off track – not even performing their usual bait and switch on the health care scam industry as Albrt mentioned above.

      The moribund hollowness of the Democrat party and their foot stamping tantrums at their own impotence give Trump the gloss of a smart cookie. And the continual questioning of how much – if any – of that is merited doesn’t hurt him either.

    2. Roquentin

      A part of me thinks Trump isn’t savy enough to do this, but it sure would be a smart move. There is a good chance he figured out a long time ago that “Russia! Russia! Russia!” helps him politically more than it hurts him and is intentionally fanning the flames for his own benefit. If the allegations are mostly bullshit (which I think they are), he knows they won’t find anything and so he’s playing the Dems like a cheap fiddle. Not even that many Dems care about Russiagate, and everyone else finds it annoying. I could definitely see him leaving the Dems a loaded gun to shoot themselves in the feet for his own personal benefit.

  3. Unna

    Thanks very much for posting this. The Sessions firing is a big deal. I’ve been involved in a fun discussion about this on Water Cooler but the issue really deserves a separate page.

    My points have been, (1) that Mueller will probably not be dismissed because it would be politically stupid, especially if he doesn’t have anything on Trump, but also even if he does, like maybe a perjury trap prosecution on Don Jr where he does two weeks? See David’s comment above. (2) The Dems were happy enough with Sessions because he posed no legal threat to them after his recusal. (3) The Dems are definitely unhappy with his firing, but not because of the possibility of Mueller being dismissed – obviously I could be wrong about that – but because of the potential of a lean and hungry Atty Gen being appointed who will launch political investigations against the Dems and their allies in government.

    It’s my opinion that all this is very bad for the political health of the American Republic. Both sides should get out of the political investigation business no matter what they think they have, and get on with the political business of competitive policy proposals. Or it’s mutually assured political destruction because there will be no end to this and neither side will show any restraint. Maybe last stop before Vampire Junction.

    Another guess, Whitaker will not be appointed permanent Atty Gen. not so much because he’s an unsavory character, but because right now, for this job, Trump needs a cold and ruthless boy scout pillar of seeming righteousness.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I didn’t quote them, but the press reports are saying that Whitaker isn’t a candidate to the be AG nominee. High on the list is foreclosure fraud enable Pam Bondi of Florida.

      1. Tim duncan

        I don’t think Whitaker can be the AG nominee now given the statute used to appointment him and circumvent Rosenstein. Bondi is both putrid and stupid. Would be a new low if that is possible.

        1. JohnnyGL

          Trump’s really a master of finding, and employing some of the worst people you can ever think of. It’s almost hilarious. :)

          He won’t accept anything less than the hackiest of political hacks!

          1. Arizona Slim

            Slim knows someone who worked for the Trump Organization. At their hotel in Chicago. Acquaintance said that it was a well-run hotel, and that the Trumps treated the senior management like gold.

            1. JohnnyGL

              Interesting, if true. Perhaps the Trumps take the business seriously. But I suspect they take loyalty quite seriously, too. The acquaintance wouldn’t have had the job if they weren’t loyal! :)

              More seriously, though, I’ll admit I’ve got no idea how they run the hotel business.

            2. Michael Fiorillo

              Not to question your anecdote, but was it an entity that Trump actively owned and managed, or was it one of his licensing/branding deals?

      2. shinola

        Today’s Kansas City Star front page article claims that (Ks. A.G. & defeated candidate for governor) Kris Kobach is under consideration.

        Kobach is a real piece of, uh, work.

      3. Unna

        Pam Bondi? Well, there goes my theory of the girl guide pillar of seeming righteousness. I’m still placing my bet on the outside the odds Trey Gowdy.

    2. Alex Vaivars

      You’re assuming the parties care about the political health of the Republic… A functioning system would mean most party operatives would be out of a job.

      This is much like the syndrome affecting Wall Street. The product for most companies nowadays is not the product they purport to sell. The product being sold is the share price. Same thing in politics – the product being sold is not policy, but the process.

      1. polecat

        Yep .. The event horizon breakup speeds ever closer.

        gonna start doin some serious stretching exercises …

    3. David in Santa Cruz

      Good points here. Remember:

      1) The Dems won the national popular vote in 2016, and they appear to have won it again by an even wider margin in 2018. Trump is president because Clinton was such a pervasively corrupt candidate that voters stayed away from her and her party in droves in places that mattered to the Electoral College (just like the Senate distorts the national majority by ignoring population).

      2) A sitting president can’t be indicted, but Don Junior, Jared, and Ivanka can. They will all be pardoned before trial. Voters will be outraged at the naked corruption of such a pardon (even W Bush had the political gumption to let Scooter Libby be convicted and only to commute his sentence. Trump pardoned him years later).

      3) An anti-corruption campaign waged against the Democrats is the only thing that will force them to abandon their worst instincts and to nominate an electable presidential candidate who doesn’t drag down their candidates for other state office. Will an anti-corruption campaign “tear the country apart” — or is sunshine the best disinfectant?

      We are all engaging in rank speculation at this point, but (hat-tip to Lambert) it would be irresponsible not to speculate!

      1. Adrian Kent

        @David In Santa Cruz – the anti-corruption campaign could come from Matthew Whitaker himself! He has previously (and I think recently) stated that the ‘pay-for-play’ shenanigans of the Clinton Foundation were a more significant matter than Hilary’s accidentally-lost/inadvertently-deleted/fraudulently-wiped emails.

        Charles Ortel is certainly very excited by his appointment – and frankly, so am I.

  4. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you to Yves and the NC community.

    It’s not just the Democrats hyperventilating. The UK MSM has gone into overdrive, too.

    It’s quite amazing, with Brexit months away (plus “ugly rumours” of David Cameron’s return to front line politics, according to the Currant Bun; “Call Me Dave(, my wife does)” was at Downing Street yesterday), how UK hacks are so invested into the anti-Trump hysteria, much to the amusement of American colleagues.

    A colleague’s daughter has just joined the (London) Evening Standard. She had her first article published on Tuesday. I asked her father about the UK MSM’s obsession with Trump and neglect of Brexit. He agrees that it is an obsession and negligent. According to his daughter, it’s cheap and easy to cover such matters, it appeals to readers and viewers who support Obama, the Clintons and Mittens, and, in her employer’s case, distracts attention from her “polymath” editor (George Osborne) and oligarch owners.

    The francophone MSM has better things to do, although it can get carried away in small doses.

  5. Ignacio

    This was supposedly an answer to Colonel Smithers post above

    Distraction is the word and this concurs with Unna’s post above. Politics are about distraction and that explains Russia, Russia, Russia! and all the rest. One could ask why nobody discussed what kinds of brexit could be before the referendum, what about healthcare, what about pensions, what about climate change, what about waste treatment, what about labor rigths but those themes are taboo. Current democracy is not about confronting the issues that matter, it is a tragicomedy.

  6. christy

    Trump has given the Dems a new target to chase after the elections with the ‘resignation’ of Sessions. Two things:

    1. Now they don’t have to talk about giving Americans affordable healthcare. And,

    2. Doesn’t any evidence the investigations in the various committee in the HoR that may eventually lead to an ‘impeachment’ process have to be voted on by a Senate that POTUS pretty much owns, outright now? –SO… futile?

    End Result: The elitist, blue dogs that OWN the Dems pretty much don’t wanna move left so yet ANOTHER exercise in futility (dog and pony show) for the masses to appear as though ((they)) are actually doing something constructive?

    BTW, What scares me is, if Pelosi (if she becomes speaker) agrees to bipartisanship (meaning: “A bigger than usual deception to take place” –George Carlin) with Infrastructure spending, which POTUS has already laid out as a YUGE gift to private companies, for private companies….then we can pretty much NOT expect anything such as Roosevelt’s, A New Deal or CCC. So predictable.

  7. Steve

    Even if Trump successfully stops Mueller can’t the new Democratically controlled House just start their own investigation and subpoena call Muller’s findings?

  8. Matthew G. Saroff

    Because of what I call the, “Wednesday Afternoon Massacre,” Mueller should put all of the investigation’s files on a memory stick, and hide them in a pumpkin.

  9. Lynne

    I took it as a shot across the bow to the Democrats. Sessions pushed back hard on investigating Clinton and other alleged Democrat improprieties. So when the Democrats start crowing about subpoenas for Trump tax returns, etc, Trump’s response is a blunt, “two can play at that game.” You think he’s looking at Trey Gowdy for January? Gowdy was asked about re-election and at the time said something like he wanted to be somewhere where he thought he could do more good.

    1. JohnnyGL

      I’ve always viewed Trump going after the Clintons as a kind of ‘nuclear option’ for a possible escalation into open conflict with some of the DC establishment.

      I still don’t think they’re going to ‘lock her up’. But I think the Trump crew would like to keep their options open, ‘just in case’.

      1. Michael Fiorillo

        And at a minimum, it muddies that waters, which is to Trump’s great advantage.

        You’d think that by this time, the Dems and everyone else would stop misunderestimating the guy.

  10. TG

    It’s hard to read minds, but it’s possible that Sessions getting de-facto fired really didn’t have much to do with the alleged Russiagate stuff.

    After Trump got elected, he initially had some staffers that looked like they might actually work to enact some of his promised populist agenda. They were all forced out, and the usual neoliberal whores installed in their place, and it’s back to shoveling money at the rich, waging pointless wars so that politically connected defense contractors can make trillions, etc.etc.

    Sessions was the only holdout, and his attempts to actually enforce the laws against illegal immigration were (as Bernie Sanders said in 2016) anathema to cheap-labor advocates like the Koch brothers etc. Look to see if Sessions gets replaced by yet another cheap labor flack (“Oh without dollar an hour labor our economy will grind to a halt! Those poor billionaires will have to wait a bit to get that second yacht! Oh the humanity!). Just saying.

    At this point the Trump administration looks on policy a lot like the Obama administration, or the Cheney administration, or Clinton… The Democrats will never impeach Trump, he’s too useful a piece of political theater but no longer any threat on matters that the donor class care about.

    1. EoH

      Bob Mueller is not investigating Russia. He is investigating Donald Trump.

      More specifically, he is investigating the Trump campaign’s top officials – which include Trump, his family, and top aides like Paul Manafort – for illegally conspiring with Russian government-related persons, for illegally accepting campaign contributions from them, for other crimes, and for obstructing the investigation into them. Mueller already has a string of guilty pleas and indictments related to that.

      Trump’s biggest problem is that possible crimes directly implicate his own income, which makes his tax returns and past and current business practices fair and necessary objects of investigation. For the Trump family, that seems to be a Pandora’s box.

      1. Michael Fiorillo

        You are mistaken about the guilty pleas: they are all procedural (lying to the FBI, ala Flynn and Papadopoulos) or based on prior business practices, as with Manafort.

        Mueller actually filed a statement saying how Papadopoulos’ – whose resume listed his participation in his high school model UN ! – cooperation had nothing whatsoever to contribute to the investigation.

        So far, the only collusion with a foreign state that’s been documented by Mueller is that between the incoming Trump administration and Israel, regarding a UN vote on illegal settlements in the West Bank.

        And while Mueller has wide discretion (something progressives should be more concerned about than they are, for reasons they’ll hugely regret later) in his investigation, it’s initial charter did explicitly concern Russia.

  11. valuationguy

    While I agree that Trump is going to be able to exert some influence on Mueller with Sessions gone…my personal take is that it was long past time for Sessions to be sent packing. I don’t think Trump (or Whitaker) is going to close Mueller’s investigation because of their assessment that it’s more of a sleight of hand distraction than a true threat… least based on what has leaked out so far.

    While most of the public (particularly the left) looks at Mueller’s investigation as an offense against Trump…the Establishment (specifically both Dem & Rep leaders) look at it as a DEFENSE against scrutiny against their levers of power…particularly the intel community and the DOJ itself. Understand that the entire Gang of Eight (which includes politicians on both sides) were AWARE of what the intel community was doing spying on U.S. citizens and CONDONED it…..particularly Obama’s use of the security apparatus against the Trump campaign…since they never expected any light to directed their way that they couldn’t shield themselves from.

    All the classification problems regarding documents revealing the intel communities’ direct involvement (and Gang of Eight approval) is currently caught up by “concern” over how it might obstruct Mueller’s probe. With Sessions in place and recused, Rosenstein has been using Mueller as a shield to prevent his (and the FBI’s) office’s partisan (and criminal) actions from being revealed. (Note: I’m not saying Rosenstein himself engaged in criminal activity even if he did sign one of the FISA requests….I suspect he was initially duped and he is trying to protect himself and the DoJ from embarassment.) Absent Sessions and any recusal, Whitaker can approve declassifying the FISA documents (over Mueller and Rosenstein’s objections) which are the key evidence necessary to get an actual indictments and an DoJ investigation started…before Schiff shuts down the House investigation into entire issue in January.

    Without the ‘independent’ House investigation request out there…declassifying the documents would be regarded as (even more) self-serving and fodder for obstruction charges….so Trump has a rapidly shrinking window in which to negate the shield preventing the documents from being revealed. Ergo…Sessions had to go now. The Republicans get a wider margin of control in Senate so the ‘outrage’ over Sessions being asked to leave is not as critical as it was a year ago when one swing vote in the Senate could kill Trump’s whole agenda. (The House being in Democratic hands already does that.)

  12. redleg

    Questions for the commenters who know more about the details of US Federal government and Constitutional powers:

    If Congress (legislative branch) delegated the Mueller probe to DOJ, and the DOJ is part of the executive branch, doesn’t the president have the authority to make personnel changes (through resignations and not firings, as firings can’t be filled w/o confirmation IIRC) whether anyone likes it or not?
    Had Congress kept the probe under their control, the president and AG (etc.) would not be able to do anything about it. Right?
    Am I missing something?

    If any of the involved parties had ethics, I would bring that up for consideration but clearly that’s not going to be a factor.

  13. Mike Robinson

    Donald Trump is a billionaire – and here’s why: he is a master of psychology and human nature, and he knows how to “play” the media like an accordion.   A Democratic party who still can’t quite believe that we aren’t saying Madame Presidente right now is very-conveniently blinded by their hatred of this man, which he encourages by remaining unpredictable, and we observe him using this to push the Democrats first this way then that, always keeping them off base.   To a guy like him, it’s shooting fish in a barrel, but they never catch on.

    And so, here we see the difference between an experienced negotiator, like Trump, and a politician.   He has skills and perspectives that they know nothing of, and this is a very big reason why he got the job.   He’s doing it right in front of their noses, but they don’t see.

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