George Conway, the husband of Kellyanne, is putting on warpaint. ‘President Trump’s installation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States after forcing the resignation of Jeff Sessions is unconstitutional. It’s illegal. And it means that anything Mr Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid,’ Conway together with former acting US Solicitor General Neal K. Katyal wrote today in the New York Times. Obviously, the fact that George is Kellyanne’s helpmate supplies an extra frisson to the op-ed, but the arguments that he and Katyal advance are wholly persuasive. Constitutionally, they note, Whitaker is a ‘nobody’ who has been appointed at Trump’s whim, most likely to neuter the Mueller investigation just as it begins to reach its terminus.
Given that the president himself is part of the Mueller investigation, his judgment hardly carries the assumption of impartiality. ‘It’s a disgrace, it should have never been started because there was no crime,’ Trump asseverated at his bizarre press conference on Wednesday. (He also suggested that the midterms were close to a ‘complete victory.’ If losing 31 seats in the House constitutes victory, one can only wonder what he thinks a defeat would look like.) CNN reports that Mueller is zeroing in on Trump’s relationship with Roger Stone and WikiLeaks, and that Trump himself is preparing written responses for Mueller about it.
This is a textbook case of why Congress, in the form of hearings, can divine the suitability of the president’s proposed candidate, a point that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas emphasized last year. Already Democrats are poised to investigate Trump’s action, which could end up boomeranging as much as his firing of FBI Director James Comey, which led to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, did. Rep. Jerry Nadler, who will head the House Judiciary committee, stated on Twitter: ‘Americans must have answers immediately as to the reasoning behind @realDonaldTrump removing Jeff Sessions from @TheJusticeDept. Why is the President making this change and who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation? We will be holding people accountable.’
Trump himself appears to be soliciting new candidates for the post. Today he met at the White House with Chris Christie. As a federal prosecutor, Christie sent Jared Kushner’s billionaire real-estate developer father, Charles, to jail in 2004, stating ‘This sends a strong message that when you commit the vile and heinous acts that he has committed you will be caught and punished.’ The former New Jersey Governor, who ended his term with the disgrace of Bridgegate, was a loyal lapdog for Trump during the campaign, down to procuring hamburgers for him at local McDonald’s, then rushing back to Trump’s gilded plane to ensure that they were still warm for him. Once the campaign ended, he was unceremoniously booted out of his post to oversee the transition, thanks to Kushner’s influence. As attorney general he might have a say over whether Don, Jr. or other members of the Trump family end up in prison. Having sent one father to prison, perhaps he could save another one from that fate, allowing him to serve out his term in the Oval Office.
Still, Trump is likely to become even more erratic in coming months. In axing Sessions, who was his most fidelitous follower, Trump may simply have been acting out of pique. But the more likely explanation is that he truly does fear some terrible revelation in the Mueller report. If Trump is innocent, then why does he act so guilty?