Exactly one day after Democrats won a majority of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, President Donald Trump forced the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Donald Trump had made it quite well known that his displeasure with Jeff Sessions stemmed solely from the fact that Jeff Sessions had recused himself from any himself from any investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, presumably because Trump wanted Jeff Sessions to either limit the investigations or shut them down altogether. After Jeff Sessions’ recusal, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a longtime Republican who was appointed by Trump himself, appointed Robert Mueller, another longtime Republican, to act as special counsel to investigate alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 elections and related matters based on the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey by Donald Trump.
According to official Department of Justice policy and precedent from three Presidents, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should be named as Acting Attorney General. Donald Trump named Matthew Whitaker instead, who was Jeff Sessions’ Chief of Staff. Matthew Whitaker, unlike Rod Rosenstein, was not confirmed by the Senate to take his job as Chief of Staff to Jeff Sessions, which means that besides violating official Department of Justice policy, this appointment also violates the United States Constitution.
Just why is Donald Trump choosing to defy the official Department of Justice line of succession and defy the United States Constitution to appoint Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General? Because Matthew Whitaker has repeatedly indicated that his loyalty lies with the President instead of Justice.
Donald Trump wants an Attorney General who is loyal to Donald Trump above all else because when Robert Mueller issues the report for the investigation, he does not do so directly to the public or even Congress. If Jeff Sessions was still Attorney General, his recusal meant that Mueller would have issued the report to Rod Rosenstein. But, if an Attorney General is in place who has not recused himself, the report would be issued to this Attorney General instead, and as has already been noted, Matthew Whitaker has no plans to recuse himself from the investigation. Why is this important? Because Rudy Giuliani has already indicated that their plan is to block the Department of Justice from releasing the report.
The whole point behind Donald Trump nominating Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General is to try to stop the Mueller Investigation’s report from ever seeing the light of day, and Donald Trump is evidently so afraid of what will be in that report, that he is willing to violate Department of Justice policy and the Constitution in order to do so.
Senate Democrats are understandably concerned about what looks to be a blatant plan by Donald Trump to interfere with the Mueller investigation, and they have been joined in their concern by Republican Senator Jeff Flake and thousands of protesters who took to the streets across the country Thursday evening. They are all demanding that a vote take place on bipartisan legislation that has been drafted to protect the Mueller investigation.
On the other hand, Senate Republicans, like Joni Ernst from Iowa, apparently see no problem with the President attempting to shut down an investigation into himself:
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst declined Friday to say whether she would take action to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s administration and the Russians.
“He can wrap up his work. He certainly can,” Ernst said when pressed on the issue by attendees at a town hall event in Ames. “I am not going to say today whether I will protect him, because there’s a lot involved with that in itself.
“But I think that we as the American people have the right to demand answers not only from our president as they’ve done through the Robert Mueller investigation, but also from Robert Mueller on what he has actually done to uncover collusion with the Russians.”
“I don’t know that the investigation itself needs to be protected,” Ernst said. “We’ve gone two years with a very thorough investigation. … Two years of investigations have absolutely nothing to show for it.”
Members of the audience pushed back, pointing out that Mueller’s team has handed down more than 100 criminal counts against more than two dozen people.
Ernst maintained that the investigation should not be allowed to continue in perpetuity, but she declined to say at what point it should be cut off.
“I’m not going to say when it should end or how it should end,” she told reporters at the conclusion of the event. “But at some point we need to see resolution.”
Joni Ernst is up for re-election in 2020, in case you were wondering.