There’s a new impetus for Robert Mueller to finish the special counsel investigation soon, and it has nothing to do with big evidence, a lack of time, or witness availability. Watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has just uncovered evidence that Donald Trump has given himself a kind of “get out of jail free” card, so to speak, when it comes to whether Mueller can even finish his work.
Well, if you’ve been following along with any of it, you likely know many of the details already: Way back at the beginning of even the congressional hearings into Russian interference in America’s elections, it was discovered that Jeff Sessions — at the time a Senator from Alabama seeking to be confirmed as Attorney General — lied about his contacts with top Russian officials during his time as a high-level official in the Trump campaign.
When Sessions was confirmed, it was essentially ethics that forced his hand and made him recuse himself from the investigation, since he was likely to be looked into himself as a major player. Since the Attorney General heads up the Department of Justice, anything passing through DOJ about Russia would then have to be handled by the second in command there, with another name you know — Rod Rosenstein.
Conventional wisdom has now taken hold that Trump plans to fire Jeff Sessions after the midterm election, which would put Rosenstein atop the DOJ. But what would happen if Rosenstein were ousted as well? Like the presidency, there’s a hierarchy in the command structure, so that the next person up takes control. If the Deputy AG were fired, the top spot would go to the number three person at DOJ — but there currently isn’t one, and the lack of a nomination for that position might be due to who’s next in line: Number four at the DOJ, Solicitor General Noel Francisco.
If Sessions is out, and Rosenstein is out, the person to whom Robert Mueller would then report would be Noel Francisco. The only problem is, Noel Francisco’s law firm is, uh, representing Donald Trump in the Russia investigation.
That’s a crystal clear conflict of interest, and the ethics code for the DOJ would require even Noel Francisco to recuse himself from the investigation.
Along comes CREW with the bombshell they just found.
Seven months ago, the White House issued an “ethics waiver” to Noel Francisco giving him blanket ethics immunity from serving as an overseer for cases involving his own law firm. And unlike all the rest of the ethics waivers that are issued and posted right on the White House website for anyone to see, this one was kept a secret until CREW found it.
Watch Rachel Maddow break it down for you here:
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