Buckle up, it’s going to be a wild ride

Today’s mid-term elections results are only the beginning of what is likely to be a tumultuous month of November.

It’s going to be a wild ride.

Buckle up and remain seated with hands, arms, feet and legs inside the vehicle at all times.

I previously gave you a heads up about The constitutional crisis coming after Election Day.

There is going to be a purge in the Trump administration which is likely to begin with the Department of Justice. The Washington Post reports, Trump administration prepares for massive shake-up after midterms:

The Trump administration is bracing for a massive staff shake-up in the weeks following the midterm elections, as the fates of a number of Cabinet secretaries and top White House aides are increasingly uncertain heading into a potentially perilous time for President Trump.

Some embattled officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, are expected to be fired or actively pushed out by Trump after months of bitter recriminations. Others, notably Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, may leave amid a mutual recognition that their relationship with the president has become too strained. And more still plan to take top roles on Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign or seek lucrative jobs in the private sector after nearly two years in government.

The expected midterm exodus would bring fresh uncertainty and churn to a White House already plagued by high turnover and internal chaos.

Among those most vulnerable to being dismissed are Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who is overseeing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation after Sessions recused himself. Trump has routinely berated Sessions, whom he faults for the Russia investigation, but he and Rosenstein have forged an improved rapport in recent months.

Allies of Sessions and some in the Justice Department believe the attorney general could be fired in humiliating fashion in the days immediately following Tuesday’s elections. The White House has begun considering replacements, while Trump aides and confidants have cautioned the president he would face a backlash if he fired either of the top two Justice officials, particularly before the midterms.

Other Cabinet officials — including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Nielsen — also face uncertain futures.

Just as troubling is the likely successor for acting attorney general at the Department of Justice, Solicitor General Noel Francisco. Next-in-line Mueller supervisor got White House ethics waiver in April:

Solicitor General Noel Francisco has long been considered a likely candidate to oversee Mueller’s Russia probe if Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is fired or quits. But the 49-year-old conservative lawyer has also been dogged by conflict of interest concerns because he previously worked as a partner at Jones Day, the same law firm that represents Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in the Russia probe.

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Officials at the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington have been arguing for months that to oversee the Mueller probe, Francisco would require a White House waiver to circumvent a Trump executive order that decreed employees must recuse themselves from work on any matters involving previous employers going back two years.

Turns out, Francisco actually got a White House waiver of that type in April. It’s not clear what triggered the waiver or if it had anything to do with Mueller’s investigation, but a senior Justice official on Friday downplayed its significance and insisted the department isn’t aware of any impediments to Francisco taking over responsibility for managing the Mueller probe if Rosenstein left his position.

* * *

In a blog post, CREW called the waiver “troubling” because it isn’t posted on an Office of Government Ethics website that lists 28 other Trump administration officials who have so far received waivers to work on matters related to their previous employers.

The group also took issue with the waiver appearing to be signed by then-White House counsel Don McGahn, who also worked with Francisco at Jones Day before joining the Trump administration. McGahn had similarly pledged not to participate in matters involving his former law firm.

“By authorizing Mr. Francisco to participate in the investigation, Mr. McGahn himself participated in the investigation,” CREW wrote.

Even with the White House waiver, CREW said Francisco still has other conflicts that should prevent him from taking on the Mueller oversight job, which involves signing off on the special counsel’s budget and decisions on subpoenas, indictments and the public disclosure of a final report.

The group noted that Jones Day still owes Francisco about $500,000 as part of its separation agreement when he left at the start of the Trump administration in January 2017. It also questioned his role as a lawyer on Trump’s transition team, which also has been pulled into the Mueller investigation.

If Noel Francisco recuses himself, despite the secret waiver, the special counsel’s investigation would fall to Steven Engel, the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of the Legal Counsel.

Trump could potentially fire Rosenstein or Sessions and name a replacement who would follow an order to fire Mueller. Factbox: How might Trump remove special counsel in Russia probe?:

The Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, which lays out general rules for temporarily filling vacant executive branch positions, could be interpreted as allowing the president to replace Sessions or Rosenstein on an interim basis with a Cabinet member who has already been confirmed by the Senate.

Trump could likely find someone who fits that criteria and is willing to shut down the investigation, said Andy Grewal, a professor at the University of Iowa College of Law.

“That’s probably the most politically savvy way to fire Mueller,” he said.

But it is not clear the law, intended to address vacancies created by deaths or resignations, would apply if such a vacancy were created by the president firing someone. Such an appointment could be challenged in court by a wide range of individuals adversely affected by some action taken by the new department leader, including people who have nothing to do with the Russia investigation, said Steve Vladeck, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Texas.

It has been a quiet couple of months in the Russia investigation. But once the election is over, there may be plenty of action from the special counsel’s office. Buckle up. The Mueller investigation may once again take center stage.

When it comes to news from the office of the special counsel, it has been a quiet couple of months. It appears Robert S. Mueller III has been abiding by the unwritten Justice Department policy of avoiding significant moves in political cases during the two months leading up to an election.

Of course, the lull in public action doesn’t mean Mueller and his team have been sitting on their hands. But because grand-jury investigations are secret, little is known about what might be happening. The press and public are left trying to glean information from witnesses who have testified or from obscure court-docket entries with titles like “In re Sealed Case.” But with the election behind us, we soon may be able to rely on more than just speculation.

* * *

What news there has been in recent weeks has focused on the Russia conspiracy angle, and in particular on former Trump adviser Roger Stone. Mueller’s investigators reportedly have interviewed a number of witnesses concerning whether Stone may have had advance notice of, or perhaps even direct involvement in, the strategically timed release of stolen Democratic emails in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Stone certainly is not the only one potentially in Mueller’s crosshairs; a number of other senior campaign officials still could end up implicated in a conspiracy with Russians attempting to tip the election to Donald Trump. That could lead to more indictments, or Mueller could conclude that what he has found does not merit prosecution. The end result could be a report to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein rather than criminal charges.

Vanity Fair’s Hive reports today “Sources say Trump advisers are girding themselves for Mueller to deliver the results of his investigation to the Justice Department as early as Wednesday, although it’s more likely he’ll wait till later this month. Sources say besides the president, the ones with the most exposure are Roger Stone and Donald Trump Jr.

The Washington Post continues:

The obstruction-of-justice front appears less active. It seems Mueller has it largely wrapped up, with the significant exception of any testimony by the president himself. Because proving corrupt intent would be the key to an obstruction case, evidence regarding the president’s state of mind is critical. It would be helpful to hear his version of events — although it is certainly not required.

Whether Trump will agree to testify at all is still unresolved. It appears likely he will submit written answers to questions instead. Mueller would then have to decide whether to accept that or seek to subpoena the president. There could be significant legal battles ahead over these issues.

This may already be occurring.

Nelson W. Cunningham, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, general counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and general counsel of the White House Office of Administration analyzed recent reporting at POLITICO, Has Mueller Subpoenaed the President? The White House and Trump’s lawyers pushed back on the piece. Trump denies he’s already in a Mueller subpoena fight.

Well, something is going on, so I guess we will soon find out. Oral arguments before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals are scheduled for December 14.

The Washington Post continues:

Finally, there are proceedings beyond the Mueller investigation that also may heat up after the election. There is the separate ongoing federal criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York that led to the guilty plea and cooperation of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen. That investigation could result in criminal charges against those high up in the Trump Organization or against the corporation itself. And if the House of Representatives changes hands, congressional committees under the leadership of Democrats — who will not hesitate to use their subpoena power — will investigate anew matters including Russian interference with the election.

Mueller has been at this for only about a year and a half. That’s not so long as these investigations go, yet he has already produced substantial results. There are a lot of unresolved issues still on his plate. It has been a quiet couple of months, but that is almost certainly about to change. Buckle up.

UPDATE: Remember that GOP Attorneys General lawsuit filed in Texas to hold the Affordable Care Act aka “Obamacare” unconstituional and to blow up America’s health care system? This is also on the plate. Is This “Intensely Political Judge” Holding Off on a Major Obamacare Case to Help Republicans in the Midterms?

Republicans were in a hurry: They asked friendly Texas District Judge Reed O’Connor for an immediate, nationwide injunction that would halt enforcement of the law, arguing that “the sooner an order issues enjoining the ACA, the better…so that all States and individuals can prepare to operate and live without the ACA.”

Donald Trump’s administration helped pave the way for a quick resolution by refusing to defend the law. In June, Trump’s Justice Department filed a brief suggesting that the judge immediately invalidate the law’s protections for preexisting conditions and ban on price-gouging of older people. In early September, O’Connor held a hearing in which he seemed to sympathize with the Republicans. He promised to issue a decision “just as quickly as I can.”

That was two months ago.

Tim Jost, a professor emeritus at Washington and Lee University School of Law and an expert on the ACA who is following the litigation, calls O’Connor “an intensely political judge” who indicated strong opinions against the ACA during the September hearing. “Why hasn’t he ruled yet?” asks Jost. “I suspect that he is waiting until the election is over because the last thing Republican candidates need right now is another reminder that they are trying to get rid of preexisting-conditions protections.”

“O’Connor seems poised to give the Republicans what they asked for, but some legal observers suspect he’s waiting until after the midterms to blow up Obamacare.





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3 responses to “Buckle up, it’s going to be a wild ride

  1. For Sure Not Tom

    The next six months are going to make the last year and a half look like a sunny day in the park.

    #bluewave

  2. I read the exact same thing in the Washington Post last nite about Sessions being fired, Kelly, Mattis and the director of Homeland Security, as well.

    I would quote the Post, if I were you.

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