Friday, May 12, 2017

I'll Have The Prosecutor Special, Please

It's clear now that Republicans will never allow a special prosecutor in the FBI Trump/Russia investigation.  Greg Sargent says that Senate Dems in particular could try to force one,

Trump also claims Democrats have no business attacking him for firing Comey, since they protested Comey’s conduct. But Democrats can still be furious with Comey’s handling of the newly discovered Clinton emails, while also pointing out that Trump’s firing of Comey is highly suspect and demands a special prosecutor. 
Regardless, multiple GOP senators — such as John McCain, Bob Corker, Ben Sasse, Jeff Flake and Richard Burr — are also troubled by that firing. But they can do something more about this if they wish to. The FBI’s investigation will now be led by Rosenstein. But Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessey persuasively argue that the firing of Comey, amid an active investigation of his own campaign, “violates profoundly important norms of an independent, non-political FBI” and that Rosenstein, having already participated in this “tawdry episode,” can’t “credibly lead this investigation any longer,” necessitating an independent prosecutor. 
Wittes and Hennessey add, however, that senators and members of Congress “have tools at their disposal” that could help compel the appointment of an independent prosecutor. I contacted Wittes, a legal observer at the Brookings Institution who runs the Lawfare blog, to ask what these might be. 
Wittes suggested several ideas to me. He noted that, with all Democrats and a handful of Republicans upset about the Comey firing, there are enough senators “to create a blocking majority for the next FBI director,” who must be confirmed. This blocking majority, Wittes said, could theoretically condition its support for nominees to that post, insisting that the Justice Department produce a fuller accounting of the recommendation into the Comey firing or that the department appoint a special prosecutor on the Russia probe. 
Alternatively, Wittes noted, individual senators — in either party, but especially in the majority — can employ other tactics to force the issue. They could try to oppose funding for various other Justice Department priorities or block other nominations to the department. “I would not give that cooperation until the Justice Department names a special prosecutor,” Wittes said.
Finally, Democrats — with or without a handful of Republican allies, but preferably with them — can basically try to grind the Senate to a halt, by refusing cooperation on any legislation or nominations or anything, until GOP leaders and/or the White House agree to some form of independent investigation. “Every time they’re asked to cooperate on something, this needs to be front and center,” Wittes says. “They needs to be focused like a laser beam on that every time they’re asked to give unanimous consent.”

The Dems are opting to go for doors two and three so far.  They're starting to place holds on the many deputy/assistant level cabinet positions that the Trump regime is trying to fill, and they are slow-walking all other Senate business with procedural moves to piss off Mitch.

How effective this will be, I can't tell you.  We'll see, but I'm thinking the Dems will eventually have to do something about Comey's replacement, and they will need at least some Republican help for that.

Speaking of Ben Wittes ar Lawfare Blog, he does have another option for a special prosecutor that would involve Deputy AG Ron Rosenstein choosing to go out like a hero after Trump hung him out to dry yesterday:

The trouble is that while Rosenstein got what he wanted, Trump’s idea of correcting the record was to say publicly exactly the thing about a law enforcement officer that makes his continued service in office impossible: That Trump had used his deputy attorney general as window dressing on a pre-cooked political decision to shut down an investigation involving himself, a decision for which he needed the patina of a high-minded rationale. 
Once the President has said this about you—a law enforcement officer who works for him and who promised the Senate in confirmation hearings you would show independence—you have nothing left. These are the costs of working for Trump, and it took Rosenstein only two weeks to pay them. 
The only decent course now is to name a special prosecutor and then resign.

I wouldn't count on that happening unless we get some bombshell news on the investigation (which is entirely possible).  But it could happen.

The much larger question is if any of it actually matters anymore.

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