Well truss my legs and call me hog-tied. Events in Trumplandia continue to proceed at head-spinning velocity. After giving another of his insane press conferences earlier today, at which he snapped at reporters like a deranged grade school teacher driven round the bend by cantankerous pupils, The Donald up and fired Jeff Sessions. In his place, Trump installed a partisan hack named Matt Whitaker, a staunch ally who has written op-ed pieces criticizing the scope of the Mueller investigation, and gone on the record that the infamous meeting with the Russians at Trump Tower was perfectly proper. A vicious high stakes chess game will now begin, one that might lead to that Constitutional crisis we’ve all been anticipating.
The first move: Whitaker now takes ultimate authority over the Mueller probe from Rod Rosenstein. He’s there to rein Mueller in, maybe even fire him, and doing either at the behest of the President would be breathtaking corruption, and utter obstruction of justice. Whitaker’s appointment, parenthetically it seems, is almost certainly unlawful and unconstitutional – he’s not in the Senate-confirmed chain of command, and Rosenstein, the Deputy AG, should get the Acting AG position instead. Too, as someone vociferously on the record as a partisan opponent to the Mueller investigation, Whitaker, by rights, should recuse himself just like Jeff Sessions did, though of course he won’t. This in itself makes the appointment improper, and probably contrary to the Justice Department’s own ethics rules, but as ever, yeah, so what? Once again, Donald makes use of the “who’s going to stop me?” rule that applies to all his actions as President.
Meanwhile, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III goes from cabinet officer to potential witness in the clutches of Mueller’s Grand Jury. I’d feel sorry for Sessions, except I don’t. He’s a disgusting little racist prick, and it’s fitting that he should run afoul of the natural law that everything Trump touches dies. He was the first noteworthy politician to jump on the Trump bandwagon, eager to hitch his wagon to someone who’d hand him the power to implement a draconian immigration and law enforcement agenda, and it’s actually delicious that it’s all blown up in his face. Still, his removal at this juncture is a terrible, if fully anticipated, development. The stage is now set for confrontation of a sort that will ether reassert or redefine the limitations on Presidential power and privilege.
By God, the malicious toddler sure does know his way around a knife fight, you gotta give him that. Trump clearly believes that the post-midterm Republican consolidation in the Senate renders him impeachment-proof. He may be right. But if Mueller is neutered, or fired, by the lackey he just made his Acting Attorney General, this simply has to, indeed needs to, get all kinds of ugly. Any number of moves and counter-moves will be possible as the previously dormant legal and constitutional machinery begins to spool up. Things may happen fast. Trump may rush to achieve a fait accompli during the present lame duck session in Congress, before the Democrats take over the House and start wielding their subpoena power in January. Mueller may already have taken steps to protect his investigation, either at the Grand Jury or with States Attorneys General. He, too, may start to move fast, issuing indictments and bringing the moment to its crisis, something Whitaker will almost certainly try to stop. This could already be irrevocably lurching towards a calamitous clash between raw power and the rule of law.
Make no mistake, Trump may well prevail here no matter what he does. This isn’t 1974. There are no leaders in the Republican Senate to walk up Pennsylvania Avenue to tell the President he has to go, or face removal. Trump is counting on that. There is no liberal Supreme Court to rule against him. He’s counting on that, too, indeed he saw to it with the Kavanaugh appointment. Threatened and emboldened in equal measure, Trump will now push his luck. He always does. Thus far, he’s always won. All his life.
Let us all now pray to our preferred deity or deities: not this time.