Teri Kanefield @Teri_Kanefield Author, lawyer (U.C. Berkeley). My threads are here: terikanefield-blog.com/ My author website is here: www.terikanefield.com/ Nov. 08, 2018 4 min read

(Thread) Weaponizing the DOJ:
What firing Sessions means.

Spoiler: The long term worry is that an AG willing to follow Trump's orders allows Trump to weaponize the DOJ against his opponents, which can also undermine any Mueller findings against him.

I’ll explain.

1/ But first, the immediate question: What does firing Sessions mean for Mueller? Here’s a roundup.

It isn’t clear whether Rosenstein stays in the job.

Presumably Trump’s aim is to remove him, but there are a few obstacles in the way of his choice, Whitaker, taking over.

2/ First obstacle: Expect legal challenges over whether Whitaker can oversee the Mueller probe.

Whitaker seems to have potential conflicts. To take one, he chaired Sam Clovis’s 2014 campaign:


Also, Mueller's probe seems to be in the final stages. . .

3/ With Manafort, Cohen, and others spilling all, I assume Mueller has the entire story.

The evidence will come out one way or another.

For example, grand jury evidence belongs to the court and the jury. It’s unlikely the court or jury would bury it.  https://www.theusconstitution.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/20180521-White-Paper-The-Russia-Investigation-What-Happens-to-the-Grand-Jury-if-Mueller-Is-Fired.pdf 

3/ Moreover, the SC regs allow Mueller to be stopped by his boss only if “a particular step is inappropriate or unwarranted”’
 https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/28/600.7 

If Whitaker or anyone else tries to stop Mueller without cause, Mueller will challenge it.

4/ Similarly, if Whitaker tries to interfere with the SDNY or other federal investigations, they’ll challenge him.

Prosecutors are used to having discretion. Good prosecutors take their duty to the public seriously. They won’t take kindly to someone trying to shut them down.

5/ This of course applies to Mueller, too.

Moreover, if Sessions was forced to resign (i.e. he was fired) he can’t take on the role of AG until he’s confirmed by the Senate.

It does seem he was effectively fired. . .

6/ His resignation letter made clear that he was resigning at the direction of the President, and this:


If the worst happens, Trump fires Rosenstein and Whitaker takes over, most (if not all) the damage can be mitigated when the Dems take over the House.

7/ In fact, they’re already coming up with creative ideas.
 https://thehill.com/policy/national-security/415491-dems-plan-to-bring-in-mueller-for-televised-hearings-if-trump-fires 
(Aside: This doesn't mean we don't protest!)

The House can do its own investigations, but if Mueller’s work is mostly done, their main task might be to make the information public.

8/ So this 👇really isn’t a worry. The evidence is in files and with courts. It doesn’t go away.


And yes, having Whitaker shut down the probe is obstruction.

Trump isn’t worried about obstructing justice. In fact, all along that's been the plan.

9/ Early on, he promised to “fight back” against Mueller. He meant it.
 https://www.politico.com/story/2018/04/11/trump-fightback-514513 

I'm sure he figures that if obstruction succeeds, it isn't called "obstruction of justice.”

It’s called “shutting down an illegal and politically motivated investigation.”

10/ The greatest danger I see right now is the way Trump will be able to weaponize the DOJ against his political opponents, which is an attempt to torpedo rule of law.

I assume that Trump asked Whitaker for his loyalty (as he did with Comey) and that Whitaker pledged it.

11/ Weaponizing the DOJ would mean (for example) Trump orders the DOJ to investigate his political opponents—and the DOJ follows those orders.

As it turns out, here's a list of Democrats who Whitaker said should be investigated:

12/ This morning at his presser, Trump explained how it works:
If the Dems go after him, he goes after them.

Trump’s targets will say, “The investigation of us is politically motivated.”
Trump says, “No, your investigation of ME is politically motivated.

13/ It's the ultimate in whataboutism.

It's also a variation of the “you’re the puppet’ defense. It’s a standard strategy, which I outlined here:

This accomplishes several goals. First, it muddies up the water.

14/ People have trouble sorting out what’s true and what isn’t.

It helps shatter factuality. Let's say 40% of the people believe Trump, 50% don't and the others don’t care. That's enough to shatter rational discourse.

What we know today as right wing media was born after Nixon.

15/ Those on the right understood that Nixon might have survived if the right wing had their own media.

Well, now they have it. And Trump is a master at manipulating it.
 https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/01/02/john-dean-nixon-might-have-survived-if-thered-been-a-fox-news-216207 

He also (quite coherently) explained the strategy he plans to use.

16/ He said if the house tries to investigate him: basically, he does the same, the government shuts down, and he blames everyone else.
Imagine what that will look like.
It will be endless crisis and spectacle. He'll tell big lies. We will all be reeling.

17/ Remember, crisis and spectacle is the point.


What do we do about it?

Start working on the 2020 election. I'm serious. There is very little that can't be can't be undone with a large enough majority.


You can follow @Teri_Kanefield.



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