While Rod was protecting Mueller, some of us noted he was obligated to recuse himself from overseeing Mueller's work by virtue of being a key witness in the obstruction probe. We said it didn't speak well of his ethics that he wouldn't recuse. No one listened—and now here we are.
1/ Long ago I did a long thread on Rachel Brand—the #3 at DOJ—on the assumption Rosenstein would do the honorable thing and recuse. Brand must've thought so, too—which is why she quit her job, seemingly not wanting to oversee Mueller. But we were both wrong—and now we know *why*.
2/ One could make the same observation now as to Barr writing a 19-page obstruction memo/job application, then overseeing the obstruction case—or getting a waiver on 1MDB (which he should have nothing to do with) or allowing his kids/kid-in-laws to work in offices they shouldn't.
3/ The same could be said for Whitaker, whose meetings with Trump on the Russia case pre-hire should've led to recusal—,but didn't. Or Justice Thomas, who's refused to recuse in cases involving his wife.
One thing all scoundrels have in common: they ignore conflicts of interest.
4/ Conflicts of interest are unsexy; media often ignores them—or gives them so little attention anyone engaged in a conflict of interest knows they can ride out the storm. If more folks had been obsessive about conflict of interest in 2017, things might've turned out differently.
5/ It's lawyers' job to remind Americans of legal norms—even in abnormal times. If the average citizen would be charged with obstruction under a given set of facts, lawyers should be front and center saying anyone—even a POTUS—should be. The same holds with conflicts of interest.
6/ Lawyers like Barr, Rosenstein, Whitaker, and Thomas—and the half of Trump's cabinet and inner circle who have unresolved conflicts (see Jared Kushner)—should be shamed in media and civil discourse until they do the right thing. The alternative is *chaos* further down the line.
7/ When Rosenstein was obviously required to recuse from the Mueller probe based on his witness status—and didn't—I was amazed at what happened. Instead of people harping on his unethical conduct, those who said DOJ regs required recusal were jeered at for having "guessed wrong."
8/ Conflicts of interest aren't a *guess*—they're based on well-established norms. This means that when someone like Rosenstein ignores such norms, he's doing wrong and doing it knowingly. Ignoring conflicts of interest is now a *systemic evil* (among Trumpists) in the Trump era.
9/ I hope that, in future, legal analysts will call out conflicts whenever they're spotted *and* continue to harp on those conflicts even when media attention has moved elsewhere. The alternative is articles a year or more late wagging a finger at someone we knew was doing wrong.
10/ By the way, I write this thread because *I messed up too*. I spoke out about Rosenstein's conflict for weeks, but when it looked like he was "protecting Mueller" I said, "I guess on some level I'm glad he's there." So today's breaking news was a hard lesson for me, too. /end
You can follow @SethAbramson.
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