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Will Mueller face axe next?

By ALBERT R. HUNT Bloomberg View (TNS) Published: June 15, 2017 4:00 AM

It's pretty crazy in Washington these days. Soon it could get even crazier.

Prominent lawyers and politicos have started to chatter about the odds that President Donald Trump might fire Robert Mueller, the independent counsel looking into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.

This isn't just inside-the-Beltway gossip. Over the weekend, a Trump lawyer publicly refused to rule out that possibility, stressing that the president has the necessary authority. Then on Monday, Trump's friend Christopher Ruddy, a right-wing media executive, told "PBS NewsHour": "I think he's considering perhaps terminating the special counsel."

Ruddy said Mueller has some "conflicts" because his former law firm also represents Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, and her husband Jared Kushner.

Democrats, reacting to the chatter, said that if Trump fired Mueller they'd try to enact an independent counsel statute so they could appoint him. They didn't explain how they'd push that idea through a Republican Congress.

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Trump defied conventional wisdom last month when he fired FBI director James Comey after allegedly entreating Comey to back away from the FBI's Russia probe. That showed that Trump is not one to be impeded by political protocol -- Comey's 10-year term wasn't set to expire until 2023. Mueller was appointed to investigate whether Trump or his associates had links to Russian hackers, and Trump lacks the direct authority to dismiss him.

But he could order the Justice Department to do so. There, the job would first fall to the person who appointed Mueller, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself.

If Trump instructs Rosenstein to dump Mueller, it would evoke memories of 1973, when the two top Justice Department officials, Elliott Richardson and Bill Ruckelshaus, resigned rather than obey President Richard Nixon's order to fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor conducting the Watergate investigation.

Rosenstein would probably refuse. A highly regarded Justice Department careerist, he tapped Mueller -- infuriating Trump -- after the White House tried to pin the Comey firing on him.

It then would get complicated. In 1973, Nixon turned to the third-ranking Justice official, Solicitor General Robert Bork, who fired Cox in his capacity as acting attorney general. Legal experts say that only a Justice official who has been confirmed by the Senate, as Bork had been, would have the authority to fire Mueller.

Apart from Rosenstein and Sessions, the only confirmed Justice official is Rachel Brand, the associate attorney general, whom the Senate approved on a party-line vote.

That would leave Sessions himself. First he'd have to reverse his recusal. Trump, who expressed displeasure with Session's withdrawal from the case, wouldn't hesitate to apply pressure. But the counter-pressure would also be strong.

Sessions, a major Trump campaign supporter, disqualified himself on the advice of the department's ethics office after he had failed to disclose meetings he had with top Russians during his confirmation hearings.

Mueller has wide authority to look into matters related to Russian election meddling, including collusion with Trump operatives, financial links between Trump and Russia and whether the president tried to obstruct the inquiry.

In 1973, there was such a firestorm following Nixon's move against Cox that the White House was forced to appoint another special prosecutor, Texas attorney Leon Jaworski. He proved as tough as Cox, successfully suing the White House for information, including Oval Office tapes that led to Nixon's resignation nine months later.


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TaggR Jun 17, 2017 12:34 AM

Lock him up, lock him up!

Put the treacherous commietrump behind bars.

redleg6 Jun 16, 2017 9:38 AM

From above:..Give Mueller the AX..???..

*** Mueller and Comey are best buddies....

That wouldn't be a Conflict of Interesst...? Would it..???

***28 USC Section 528provides:

The Attorney General shall promulgate rules and regulations which require the disqualification of any officer or employee of the Department of Justice, including a

United States attorney or a member of such attorney's staff, from participation in a particular investigation or

prosecution if such participation may result in a personal,financial, or political conflict of interest, or the appearance thereof...

Such rules and regulations may provide that a willful violation of any provision thereof shall result in removal from office.....

*** 28 CFR Section 45.2 provides in part:

Disqualification arising from personal or political relationship.....

(a) Unless authorized under paragraph (b) of this section, no employee shall participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship with:

(1) Any person or organization substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation or prosecution; or

(2) Any person or organization which he knows has a specific and substantial interest that would be directly affected by the outcome of the investigation or prosecution ...

(c) For the purposes of this section:

(2) Personal relationship means a close and substantial connection of the type normally viewed as likely to induce partiality. ...

Whether relationships (including friendships) of an employee to other persons (outside his or her family)or

organizations are "personal" must be judged on an individual basis with due regard given to the subjective opinion of the employee......

Excerpts from:..usatoday.com...14 June 2017....

Comey and Mueller have been friends for nearly15 years......It was Comey, as deputy attorney general, and Mueller, then head of the FBI, who together confronted White

House Counsel Alberto Gonzales in thehospital room of then-seriously ill Attorney General John Ashcroftin a successful attempt to block the White House from

implementing a surveillance protocol that Gonzales and, tentatively, President George W. Bush favored....

Comey now finds himself at the center of the Russian investigation over which Mueller presides. ....

Mueller has a long-term relationship with Comey that "may result in a personal ...conflict of interest, or the appearance thereof."......

Muelleris therefore Disqualified.....