Jeff Sessions, in what so far is the defining event of the Trump administration, recused himself from involvement in the investigation of Russian meddling in the election because of a potential conflict.
That recusal set in motion a series of steps that eventually led to the appointment by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel.
Trump, his family and associates, are caught in an ever expanding inquisition, and There’s no good way out for Trump from Special Counsel quicksand:
When people look back upon the history of the Trump administration, I think Jeff Sessions recusing himself is going to be, at least as of this point in time, the single biggest influencer of how the administration went. Now obviously we still got time, other things could happen. But as of now, that has probably been the single most significant event of the administration because it put into motion this seemingly endless, wide-ranging attempt to find a crime by the Mueller team. And that, I think, is the defining moment in the administration.
But Sessions was not the only person with a conflict. I previously have expressed the position that Robert Mueller should not be involved investigation into Russian meddling in the election if any part of the investigation involves communications between Trump and James Comey.
If the centrality of the Trump-Comey conversation was not known at the time of appointment, it is now and Mueller should recuse himself. That’s because Comey is Mueller’s friend, and Friends shouldn’t be investigating friends:
Whether they were just close professional friends, or consider themselves personally friendly, the fact is that they are not at arms length. This relationship, at least as reported, appears to be much more than the routine interactions you might expect two law enforcement officers to have had in the regular course of business.
Something doesn’t seem right here. Comey manipulated the system into getting his friend appointed Special Counsel, and now that friend will be investigating matters in which Comey is a key witness. More than that, Comey’s own actions in leaking government property raise legal issues as to whether Comey himself violated the law.
Even assuming Mueller is able to separate his past with Comey from his present investigation, that relationship damages the whole purpose of having a Special Counsel who is completely independent in fact and appearance.
In a truly independent investigation, friends shouldn’t be investigating friends. Mueller should step aside to remove the taint on the Special Counsel investigation created by friend and witness James Comey.
Jonathan Turley makes the point in an article in The Hill today, that Rod Rosenstein also is conflicted and should recuse himself because he was involved in firing Comey, and Comey’s firing appears to be part of the investigation into obstruction of justice. Because Rosenstein is a witness, Turley writes that It’s high time Rod Rosenstein recuse himself.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is back in the news this week, with a Sunday show appearance discussing the evolving scope of the special counsel’s investigation. While the subject was hardly a surprise, the person discussing the investigation was. Rosenstein is not only the ultimate authority on the scope of the investigation, he is also clearly a witness.
There are times when multitasking is a talent, but playing the roles of investigator and witness is not one of them. Rosenstein continues to resist calls for his own recusal, despite reports that a grand jury in Washington is now pursuing the obstruction allegations against President Trump.
Reports also indicate that various FBI officials now believe that they will inevitably be called as witnesses before the grand jury investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller. Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe is among those officials.
But on the top of this list must be the man whom the White House originally tagged with the decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey and the man who reportedly clashed with the White House over its public account: Rod Rosenstein.
Rosenstein’s involvement and importance in the underlying facts are well established. The deputy attorney general’s failure to recuse himself is a glaring ethical omission in an investigation into a president’s alleged conflicts of interest in dealing with then-FBI Director James Comey. Rosenstein is now three months overdue.
Turley goes on to discuss the specifics of why Rosenstein is a witness:
Rosenstein was consulted about firing Comey and supported the decision with a memorandum shredding the former FBI director. Moreover, when the White House initially made it sound like Rosenstein was the reason that Comey was fired (despite the fact that Trump had already decided to do so before receiving Rosenstein’s memo in support of termination), Rosenstein reportedly demanded a correction.
Rosenstein will likely be a key witness on the obstruction issue. As someone who supported the firing, he may be as important to the defense as to the prosecution in showing the independent grounds for terminating Comey. He has much at stake professionally, as shown by his adamant response to the White House spin. The grand jury might want to know why Rosenstein did not act to protect Comey or why he did not confront Trump in any suggested desire to curtail the investigation.
It is a basic rule that prosecutor should immediately recuse himself from a matter where he may be a witness. In addition to the various grounds listed in the conflicts rule, recusal is appropriate in “circumstances other than those set forth in the regulation that would cause a reasonable person with knowledge of the facts to question an employee’s impartiality.” Rosenstein, who has recognized his problem as a potential witness, should have recused himself long ago.
This may be one of the most conflicted investigations in memory. The Special Counsel and the person to whom the Special Counsel reports both have conflicts.
If the purpose of appointing a Special Counsel was to create both the fact and the appearance of independence and neutrality, it’s not happening. Not, at least, if the firing of James Comey is in any way part of the investigation.DONATE
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