BREAKING: Rosenstein Reportedly On Way Out — Will Mueller Investigation Survive?

Early Monday morning, as the sun was barely up on the West Coast, Axios broke an exclusive report that the Deputy Attorney General, the man overseeing the Mueller investigation, is resigning. Other sources report that he’s willing to resign, but hasn’t pulled the trigger. The news, while not surprising, sends Washington and the nation into a tailspin. What will happen to the Mueller investigation? Will Rod Rosenstein’s replacement put an end to it?

Last week, a story broke in the New York Times that alleged Rosenstein had brought up the idea of wiring himself and others to stage a 25th Amendment intervention, to remove Trump from office. If true, it would amount to a legal coup. Witnesses say Rosenstein was joking, and even if he wasn’t, the constitutional hurdles would be near impossible. In other words, even if Rosenstein wasn’t joking, it’s a non-starter. There’s no way he could get the majority of Trump’s cabinet, and 2/3 of the members of the Republican House and Senate to back the movement. Still, this was the excuse Trump needed (did his administration plant the story?) to get rid of the man who in his mind stands in the way of Trump and absolute power.

What Are the Real Ramifications of Rosenstein’s Resignation?

Rosenstein was put in charge of the investigation once Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself, much to Trump’s dismay, from the inquiry because of his own Russian connections. It was the right thing to do, but Trump wanted none of that. Rosenstein is Sessions’ deputy, so the responsibility automatically fell to him.

Who will replace Rosenstein?

Rosenstein leaving doesn’t mean Sessions will take back control. In a normal administration, the Associate Attorney General would take over, but that position, like hundreds of others in the Trump administration, is currently held by a temp. Instead, the duties will likely fall to the Solicitor General, Noel Francisco — a partisan hack.

(B)efore joining the administration, he was more controversial for his legal work on behalf of conservative causes. He often represented corporations in their fights against regulations, including a coal company involved in a deadly mining disaster. And he argued two prominent cases before the Supreme Court, including a defense of religious organizations’ right to deny employees access to birth control.

He also had worked on George W. Bush’s 2000 Florida recount, and then for Bush’s administration as associate counsel to the president and deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel.

Source: Slate

That doesn’t mean Francisco will automatically shut down the investigation, but he would be a lot more likely to reign it in than Rosenstein has.

What will happen with the Mueller investigation?

Fortunately, the side of justice has a few things going for it. First off, Mueller is smart as hell and you can be sure he’s been anticipating this since the beginning. There are several steps he could take, and some he may have taken, to protect the investigation.

Fortunately, while he retains his position, Mueller has a powerful tool at his disposal: the “sealed,” or secret, indictment. If Mueller indeed determines that he has a strong case against Trump, a secret indictment returned by a grand jury will help protect the integrity of his investigation even if he is fired, while also avoiding the risk of provoking Trump to try to further impede the probe.

Source: Politico

 

The indictment doesn’t have to be sealed. In fact, Mueller could, if he has the evidence, publicly convene a grand jury today. Either a sealed or public indictment would outlive Mueller’s tenure and protect the investigation. A sealed indictment could be the safer route, though. It would keep Trump from knowing about it, thereby minimizing the risk of another Saturday Night Massacre. And Mueller is likely reluctant to intentionally cast a shadow over the midterm elections, which are just weeks away.

This isn’t to say Mueller’s replacement, should he be fired, couldn’t pull the indictment, but a judge will have to make that final decision if an indictment is before the court.

In Washington, D.C., well-kept secrets are rare, but the Mueller ship is exceptionally leak-proof. That doesn’t mean he’s not keeping people in the loop, including other justice departments. Even pro-Trump attorney Alan Dershowitz says that the Southern District of New York is a bigger threat to Trump. Even Trump’s home state, New York, is hot on the trail of the Trump cabal, and he has zero authority over a state.

Before last week, Trump was sure that he held his get out of jail free card in the form of Brett Kavanaugh, his pick for the Supreme Court. Despite his role in Bill Clinton’s impeachment, Kavanaugh has more recently written that sitting presidents can’t be indicted. Now that there are three allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh, his path to the confirmation, even from a GOP-held Senate, isn’t so clear.

Trump is increasingly agitated, and Rosenstein’s resignation is just the Hail Mary he thinks he needs. The question, though, is is it too late?

Featured image Public Domain by US Customs and Border Patrol via Flickr