1/ Robert Mueller's team has begun writing its final report. Trump and his lawyers, meanwhile, have been reviewing his written answers to questions from the special counsel. Mueller is required to produce a "confidential report" at the end of his investigation, which includes "the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel." With Jeff Sessions being replaced with Matt Whitaker, who has been openly critical of Mueller, it is not clear whether the report will release it at all, or in what form. (CNN)
I’m hoping someone with a legal background or someone who has found a detailed analysis of this mess can shed some light on some questions that are really stressing me out right now:
Does this mean there will be no more indictments from Mueller?
If Mueller does have indictments lined up, can Whitaker stop him from issuing them?
If Mueller has found evidence or “probable cause” that Trump may have committed crimes which don’t directly relate to his investigation of collusion with Russia (for example, tax evasion, money laundering, taking bribes, etc.) could Whitaker prevent him from referring those matters to the appropriate U.S. District court? (I’m thinking of how Mueller referred Cohen’s alleged crimes to the Southern District of New York.)
Yes, if we’ve hit a constitutional crisis with the firing of Mueller, it is interesting to hear various lawyers discuss the what if’s.
I am hearing that many of the lawyers, albeit on MSNBC, - Nick Ackerman, former prosecutor on Watergate; Matt Miller - former spokesperson DOJ; Maya Wiley, former NY Mayorial lawyer, and Ari Melber (lawyer & MSNBC host) think that most likely Mueller is 20 steps ahead, and would have sealed indictments set up in various courts that just need to be opened.
Whitaker they feel can NOT stop these, they are done. All that talk about sealed indictments, well, this would be the smart, tough lawyer that Mueller is, looking out for all contingencies.
Matt Miller discusses what this move looks like by choosing Whitaker, an all out bright-as-day-cover-up, and says that usually ‘the cover-up is far worse than the crime,’ but he’s not so sure. Matt thinks it may look like something very big (speculation of course.)
Again, these may have sealed indictments, aka ‘locked and loaded.’
But could Whitaker prevent release of these materials, reports etc. probably yes.
Read this lengthy thread, retweeted by Matt Miller from a lawyer reporter…it has a bunch of contingencies…
Here’s her thread…she is a former FBI person, a lawyer, and does some commentary on CNN etc.
Additional input from Washington Post writer, Devlin Barrett covering the Justice dept on PBS News Hour
David Brangham (PBS)
For people who haven’t been following this that closely, explain where we are with regards to Mueller and his would-be interview with Donald Trump.
Devlin Barrett: (WAPO)
Right, this has been essentially an endless negotiation. It’s been going on for months, where Mueller and his lawyers have been trying to get the president to agree to an interview, and the president’s lawyers have been resisting that, you know, offering written answers, debating sort of the subject matter that can be asked about, that sort of thing.
And what’s interesting from a strategic point of view about the notion that Whitaker may just simply not agree to consider a subpoena of the president is, the threat of that subpoena has hung over these negotiations the entire time.
If, in fact, the Justice Department takes away the threat of that subpoena, to a certain degree, the negotiations probably die, because, at that point, the Justice Department has much less ability to pressure the president or the White House into submitting to an interview.
Help us understand a little bit more. What other levers, control, et cetera, does Whitaker have over Mueller? Could he go to Mueller tomorrow and say, I want you to stop investigating this particular part of your investigation?
Well, the main area in which the senior Justice Department official oversees Mueller is the way that the regulations are written, the senior — the attorney general has the authority, has final approval for what’s called significant or major acts in the investigation, so, for example, a subpoena of a major figure, an indictment of — in the investigation. >
So, major steps require the approval of the attorney general. So, you know, it’s up to Whitaker, essentially. If Mueller asks to take a major step, will Whitaker agree, or will Whitaker say, I don’t think you have it, I think you need to do more work, or I just don’t think this case is strong enough?
Those are the questions that are being asked now, but, really, the — the next move is Whitaker’s. You know, we haven’t seen a signal from him yet what he actually plans to proactively do, as opposed to not do.
And just remind us as well, Whitaker himself, as the acting agent, he would have the authority to fire Robert Mueller if he wanted?
He does have that authority. That does rest with him, yes.
They go on to discuss the OpEd piece written in NYT today written by Neal Kaytel and George Conway III and Devlin asserts that this argument made is not shared with other good lawyers he knows. Hmmmm
And a new wrinkle…17 Democratic state’s attorney generals have made a request for Whitaker to recuse himself.
On Thursday evening, Democratic attorneys general for 17 states and the District wrote to Whitaker urging him to recuse himself from the Russia probe.
“As chief law enforcement officers of our respective states, we ask that you recuse yourself from any role in overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election,” the Democratic attorneys general wrote. “Because a reasonable person could question your impartiality in the matter, your recusal is necessary to maintain public trust in the integrity of the investigation and to protect the essential and longstanding independence of the Department you have been chosen to lead, on an acting basis.”
Michelle Obama has her say in her new book “Becoming,” which comes out this Tuesday.
Obama writes that she assumed Trump was “grandstanding” when he announced his presidential run in 2015. She expresses disbelief over how so many women would choose a “misogynist” over Hillary Clinton, “an exceptionally qualified female candidate.” She remembers how her body “buzzed with fury” after seeing the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump brags about sexually assaulting women.
She also accuses Trump of using body language to “stalk” Clinton during an election debate. She writes of Trump following Clinton around the stage, standing nearby and “trying to diminish her presence.”
Trump’s message, according to Obama, in words which appear in the book in darkened print: “I can hurt you and get away with it.”
The Associated Press purchased an early copy of “Becoming,” one of the most anticipated political books in recent memory. Obama is admired worldwide and has offered few extensive comments on her White House years. And memoirs by former first ladies, including Clinton and Laura Bush, are usually best-sellers.
“Becoming” is part of a joint book deal with former President Barack Obama, whose memoir is expected next year, that is believed worth tens of millions of dollars. The Obamas have said they will donate a “significant portion” of their author proceeds to charity, including the Obama Foundation.
A must listen episode from Lawfare Podcast. This is the conversation I didn’t know I needed. Spoiler: At the end most of the guests agree that the first indicator that Matt Whitaker is up to no good may be high level departures from the Justice Department.
President Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions today and replaced him on an interim basis with the attorney general’s own chief of staff, a man named Matt Whitaker. Whitaker has made repeated public statements expressing skepticism about the Mueller investigation, which he will now be supervising. I got on a recorded conference line with Susan Hennessey, Paul Rosenzweig, Steve Vladeck, Chuck Rosenberg and Bob Bauer to discuss the day’s events: the president’s action, how we should understand Whitaker, and what congressional pushback we can expect, both now and when the new congress comes in.
Judge rules that the Keystone XL oil pipeline needs to be blocked right now, and wants more data from the Administration. It is a temporary situation, but has reasonable requests - research more of the viability AND safety of building a pipeline. Take that!
WASHINGTON — A federal judge late Thursday blocked construction of the disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying the Trump administration “simply discarded” the effect the project would have on climate change.
The ruling by Judge Brian Morris of the United States District Court for Montana repudiates one of Donald J. Trump’s first acts as president. Two days after taking office, Mr. Trump signed an executive order approving the Keystone pipeline that had been blocked by former President Barack Obama because of environmental concerns.
In saying that no work can go forward until the government more fully reviews the pipeline’s environmental impact, the ruling tees up another potentially contentious legal battle over climate change with a president who dismisses mainstream science and whose administration is also seeking to block a landmark lawsuit on behalf of children asking the government to stop the rise of planet-warming gases.
I’m with Matthew Miller. While Asha Rangappa makes some interesting (and very optimistic) observations in her twitter thread (link above), I feel she’s being naive if she thinks Trump and his lackey Whitaker will adhere to DOJ’s culture or traditions. They, and the rest of the Republican party, simply don’t give a flying fig. I’m still shaking my head at the way they confirmed Kavanaugh despite the fact he lied repeatedly under oath. And I believe we’ll see similar outrageous moves made by Trump and Whitaker in the near future. I really wish I could be more optimistic like Rangappa, but based on the way we’ve seen Trump trash the rule of law over and over, I have no reason to believe things are going to be any different this time around. And what’s worse is that now that he basically owns the Supreme Court, he may have immunized himself against legal challenges.
This evening Rachel Maddow played some recordings from a court case that was heard today which provide our clearest view yet into the supervisory powers that the Acting AG has over Mueller. It turns out that the Acting AG (Whitaker) can basically get all up in Mueller’s business on just about any matter he wants to. It appears that if he elects to micro-manage Mueller and forbid him from taking any action he disapproves of, he can do so – he just needs to deem that action “innappropriate or unwarranted” – and if Whitaker does this, who is going to challenge him or reign him in?
This is a long segment (20 min.), but it’s all very interesting. The first part focuses on how biased Whitaker is against the Mueller investigation and how unqualified he is for the position of Acting AG. Rachel also touches on his recent involvement with a company that scammed millions from investors. If you want to skip to the part that lays out how tight a leash Mueller is actually on, it starts at 12m30s.
(@dragonfly9 – Thank you for posting all that great information regarding what impact the Whitaker appointment may have!)