According to a close confidant of fired FBI Director James Comey, the dismissal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions in order to fill his seat with an acting AG who is an outspoken skeptic of Russian collusion may not matter.
Writing at the Atlantic, Lawfare editor Benjamin Wittes listed off ten solid reasons why Trump’s waiting until after the midterms to rid himself of Sessions may have been too little, too late.
“Eighteen months ago, I said, President Donald Trump had an opportunity to disrupt the Russia investigation: He had fired the FBI director and had rocked the Justice Department back on its heels. But Trump had dithered. He had broadcast his intentions too many times. And in the meantime, Mueller had moved decisively, securing important indictments and convictions, and making whatever preparations were necessary for hostile fire,” Wittes wrote before pointing out Tuesday’s shift of investigatory power. “And now Democrats were poised to take the House of Representatives. The window of opportunity was gone.”
According to Wittes, Trump’s appointment of Matt Whitaker as acting Attorney General is problematic for both Trump and Democrats, but, in the long run, it may not matter anyway.
“I am still, if only tentatively, of the belief that the prospects for interference are dimmer than fear and panic and another Trump-busted norm have us imagining,” Wittes wrote before breaking down Trump’s impending legal issues, by stating, “Mueller has spread the wealth around.”
“He [Mueller] has not merely referred to other Justice Department components matters at the margins of his investigation, such as the Michael Cohen situation in New York. He has also let other components handle matters involving core questions of Russian interference in the U.S. elections, such as the Maria Butina and Elena Khusyaynova prosecutions,” the attorney explained. “The result of this strategic step is not just that Mueller is relatively invulnerable to the charge of any kind of power grab or mission creep.”
Wittes went on to hint that the Mueller’s investigation may have already reached its conclusions, and that, even if Whitaker shuts down Mueller, the special counsel is in no way constrained from speaking out about what his investigators found.
“The day that Mueller holds a press conference or stands before cameras and declares that his investigation is facing interference from the Justice Department will be a very big day, perhaps a game-changing day,” he explained. “If the department suppresses his report, he has the capacity to, as James Comey did after his firing, testify before Congress about what happened. Mueller has not hoarded power or jurisdiction, but he has hoarded moral authority.”
Noting both questions about acting-Attorney General Whitaker’s viability as an effective shield for Trump — particularly when he is already under fire by liberals and conservatives alike — Wittes summed up the perfect storm Trump faces if he thinks he can bury the months of work Mueller’s investigators have put in.
Every element operates “in an ineffable combination of bureaucratic maneuvering, congressional action, journalism, personality, and public pressure,” Wittes explained.
He then concluded, “And in this dangerous moment—and Whitaker’s installation does create a profoundly dangerous moment—the combined effects here will be a powerful defense against misdeeds.”
You can read his detailed analysis here.