Posts tagged with "Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein"

Behind Barr: Trump announces choice for attorney general

December 10, 2018

During a week when former President George H.W. Bush’s legacy has been validated and his choices lauded, President Donald Trump confirmed that he will nominate former Attorney General William P. Barr—who served in same role in the Bush administration from 1991 to 1993— to lead the Justice Department again, telling reporters on December 7 that Barr was “my first choice since day one.”

Barr is, perhaps, best known for successfully urging the elder Bush in 2001 to pardon a number of key figures involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, including former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. He also has been critical of the Mueller investigation—perhaps explaining why Trump is so enamored of this candidate.

According to a December 7 report by The Washington Post, “Barr is likely to face tough questions at his confirmation hearing about how he will handle the ongoing special counsel investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.”

Assuming that the nomination is confirmed by the Senate, Barr would replace Acting AG Matthew Whittaker, whom Trump elevated to that role after requesting the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions early in November.

That move—which leapfrogged the DOJ professional who actually was next in line for the job, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein—has been widely criticized on the grounds that Whittaker is not qualified; is under investigation, himself; and has said that the president “made the right call” when he fired FBI Director James Comey.

In another round of musical chairs in the administration, Chief of Staff John Kelly was reportedly expected to resign on Friday night, December 7. Kelly had worn out his welcome with the POTUS, who stopped talking to him in recent days in hopes that we would take the hint and depart the White House.

Finally, Trump also has said, according to The Washington Post, that he will nominate Heather Nauert to replace Nikki Haley as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, describing the State Department spokesperson, a relative novice on foreign policy, as “very talented, very smart, very quick.” Haley announced her pending resignation in October.

Research contact: matt.zapotosky@washpost.com

Democrats file suit impugning Whitaker appointment

November 20, 2018

Three Democratic senators filed a lawsuit on November 19 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the appointment of Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, and in doing so, ratcheting up the court effort to declare his placement atop the Justice Department as unconstitutional, CNN reported.

Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii filed the suit, represented by the groups Protect Democracy and the Constitutional Accountability Center.

The lawsuit is only the latest challenge to Whitaker’s appointment to replace former AG Jeff Sessions after President Donald Trump fired his attorney general the day after the election.

In a joint statement, the senators said, “On November 7, President Trump appointed Whitaker to oversee the Department of Justice–including the Special Counsel’s investigation—in violation of the Constitution’s Appointments Clause. The Senators’ complaint asks the Court to declare Whitaker’s appointment unconstitutional and to enjoin him from serving as, or carrying out the duties of, Acting Attorney General.”

Senator Blumenthal personally commented, “Installing Matthew Whitaker so flagrantly defies constitutional law that any viewer of School House Rock would recognize it. Americans prize a system of checks and balances, which President Trump’s dictatorial appointment betrays.”

He said. “President Trump is denying Senators our constitutional obligation and opportunity to do our job: scrutinizing the nomination of our nation’s top law enforcement official. The reason is simple: Whitaker would never pass the advice and consent test. In selecting a so-called “constitutional nobody” and thwarting every Senator’s constitutional duty, Trump leaves us no choice but to seek recourse through the courts.”

For his part, Senator Whitehouse noted, The stakes are too high to allow the president to install an unconfirmed lackey to lead the Department of Justice – a lackey whose stated purpose, apparently, is undermining a major investigation into the president.  Unless the courts intercede, this troubling move creates a plain road map for persistent and deliberate evasion by the executive branch of the Senate’s constitutionally mandated advice and consent.  Indeed, this appointment appears planned to accomplish that goal.”

Senator Hirono, an outspoken opponent of the administration, stated, “Donald Trump cannot subvert the Constitution to protect himself and evade accountability. We want the court to make clear that the Senate must confirm Matthew Whitaker’s appointment as Acting Attorney General—otherwise this temporary appointment violates the Constitution’s Appointments Clause. Without exception for President Trump’s allies, principal officers who report directly to the president must be subject to a hearing and confirmed by the Senate.”

Last week, the Justice Department issued a memo defending Whitaker’s appointment, concluding that it was legally justified under the Vacancies Reform Act.

The Senate Democrats’ lawsuit, however, argues that his appointment his unconstitutional under the Constitution’s Appointments Clause requiring Senate confirmation of high-level federal appointees, CNN reported.

In addition to the lawsuit filed Monday, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh filed suit last week asking a federal judge to replace Whitaker with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Research contact: @jeremyherb

Matt Whitaker’s appointment may be illegal, says Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano

November 9, 2018

Following his lightening-fast dismissal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the wake of the midterm elections, President Donald Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general may do his agenda and his reputation more harm than good: It may constitute obstruction of justice in the ongoing Russia investigation. And it also may be illegal, Andrew Napolitano, senior judicial analyst for Fox News, said on November 7, according to a report by the Huffington Post.

“Under the law, the person running the Department of Justice must have been approved by the United States Senate for some previous position. Even on an interim post,” Napolitano told Fox News’ Dana Perino, who hosts The Daily Briefing. 

Sessions was canned on Wednesday—in his resignation letter, he said he was leaving at the request of the president—and Napolitano said his interim replacement should have been Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

While Whitaker was confirmed by the Senate in 2004 when he was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, according to the HuffPost, Napolitano said that he was nevertheless ineligible to serve in his current post as the confirmation was not “for a leadership position in the Justice Department.”

“Who has been confirmed and who’s next in line? Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein,” Napolitano added.

Research contact: @davefbarden

With Trump ready to topple Rosenstein, Sen. Kamala Harris calls for bill to protect Russia probe

September 25, 2018

On September 24, Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) urgently called for the Senate to pass legislation that would protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia investigation—a move that came amidst scuttlebutt that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein expects to be fired this week by the White House, The Hill revealed.

Even as Senator Harris was appealing to her colleagues to save the probe—which Rosenstein oversees at the Department of Justice—the Deputy AG was meeting with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly with full expectations that Kelly would give him the axe. However, that did not happen—and Rosenstein did not resign—as the news outlet Axios had predicted that he would.

Instead, the Deputy AG now has been scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump on Thursday, when the POTUS returns from the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City. (However, Trump had previously said that he would not sack either Attorney General Jeff Sessions or Rosenstein before the midterm elections. Also, it is not the president’s style to dismiss an employee personally; Trump would be expected to delegate that task, as usual.)

The reports of “a Saturday night-type massacre at the DOJ”—shades of the Nixon administration—came just days after The New York Times published an article claiming that in 2017 Rosenstein proposed surreptitiously taping President Trump, and that he discussed with DOJ colleagues the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

Senator Harris appealed to her colleagues to protect the ongoing Russia inquiry, which, based on findings of a September 12 CNN poll, is supported by American voters by a 20-percentage-point margin. Respondents nationwide said they approve of Mueller (50%) over Trump (30%) when it comes to the handling of the Russia investigation.

“Republican leaders must allow [the investigation] to be voted on. We can no longer afford to wait. This is a matter of preserving the rule of law,” she said.

Harris’s call for legislative action was echoed by other Democratic senators, including  Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (New York) and Senator Patrick Leahy (Vermont).

“It is more urgent than ever that the Senate pass S.2644, the bipartisan bill to protect the independence of the Special Counsel,” Leahy said on Twitter. “If we do not defend the rule of law in these moments, we risk losing it.”

Leahy also noted in a later tweet, “Saturday Night Massacres don’t need to happen on a Saturday. If President Trump fires DAG Rod Rosenstein or forces his resignation, he will come one giant leap closer to directly meddling with the Special Counsel’s Russia investigation.

Senator Gillibrand said, “The Senate must step up to protect the Special Counsel immediately. We must pass the bipartisan bill to protect the Mueller investigation. The American people deserve answers about Russian interference in our democracy.”

Research contact: @JustinFWise

Trump’s Twitter rage promotes Comey’s book

April 16, 2018

With enemies like this, who needs friends? President Donald Trump angrily counter-punched at James Comey on Twitter on April 13—catapulting the former FBI director’s book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, onto best-seller lists even before its April 17 release date, through pre-orders.

In a two-part tweet, Trump labeled Comey as a “proven LEAKER & LIAR” and an “untruthful slime ball” who botched his handling of “the Crooked Hillary Clinton case,” and added: “It was my great honor to fire James Comey!”

Indeed, according to a Washington Post opinion piece by Greg Sargent, “Everyone is remarking on how Trump appears to be emotionally melting down now that news organizations are widely covering Comey’s new book.”

What’s more, the American people are not behind him. A Washington Post/ABC News poll released on April 13 determined that 69% of Americans support Mueller’s efforts to investigate possible Russia-Trump campaign collusion, and 64% support Mueller’s investigation of Trump’s business activities, which, you may recall, Trump declared as a red line that Mueller mustn’t cross. It even finds that 58 percent support the investigation of hush money paid to women who alleged affairs.

What about public attitudes toward Comey? Well, the poll finds that Americans see Comey as more believable than Trump by 48-32 and disapprove of Trump’s firing of Comey by 47-33.

And, according to Sargent, “Trump appears to be making an actual argument underneath all the all-caps bluster that should not go unnoticed. He is suggesting that he retrospectively relishes having fired one of the nation’s chief law enforcement officials, at least in part because he did not prosecute his political opponent [Clinton].”

The original fake pretext that Trump used to fire Comey was enshrined in a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, Sargent says, which recounted that Comey had mishandled the Clinton email probe in a way that was unfair to her. By contrast, Trump’s Twitter version of events highlights that Clinton is “crooked,” apparently meaning Comey mishandled the Clinton case by not prosecuting her alleged criminality.

According to the Post’s The Plum Line columnist, the poll represents a major public vote of confidence in the investigation — and a repudiation of Trump’s delegitimization of it as a mere “witch hunt.”

He concludes, “It’s tempting to see this polling as little more than a reflection of Trump’s deep unpopularity. But numbers this stark suggest something else may be going on: that the depth of Trump’s contempt for our institutions and the rule of law is becoming clear to the public, and Americans are recoiling at it.”

Research contact: @theplumlinegs