Firing Mueller Or Rosenstein Won’t Save Trump

Robert Mueller, 2012

Trump and his inner circle would still find themselves in the crosshairs of federal investigators regardless of what he might decide to do regarding Mueller and Rosenstein.

Legal experts, politicians, and news networks are weighing in on the possible consequences of Trump firing Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and/or Attorney General Jeff Session.

Bloomberg reported that: “Trump discussed firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein with White House aides on Wednesday, a person familiar with the matter said, as a chorus of Trump’s advisers and allies urged him to thwart the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.”

Steve Bannon, Trump’s former strategist, said he has told White House officials that the president should fire both his lawyer Ty Cobb and Rosenstein to cripple Mueller’s inquiry.

Roger Stone, a sometime Trump confidant, told ABC News on Wednesday that Trump should fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Rosenstein. Joe diGenova, an attorney who was nearly added to Trump’s legal team last month, said on Fox News that Sessions should fire Rosenstein.

Vice News weighed in on the controversy on Wednesday reporting that “Trump may think he can end all his growing legal problems by firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and special counsel Robert Mueller. He can’t.”

Vice News went on to explain there are multiple investigations in different jurisdictions looking looking at Trump associates which “means that if Trump fires Rosenstein and Mueller, those other investigations won’t just go away. Trump would have to fire the other prosecutors and a host of other Justice Department officials.”

Continuing, Vice News reported that:

A slew of other people have also signed off on parts of the investigations. Because Cohen is a lawyer, searching his office and hotel requires approval from not only the New York prosecutor but also officials from the criminal division of the Justice Department in Washington. A judge would also have to sign off on a warrant for the search. All those people could still push the investigation onward.

“Technically, either of these two US attorneys in New York could be fired as well,” Ric Simmons, a former federal prosecutor and a law professor at Ohio State University, told me. “But firing them in response to investigations into Trump’s lawyer and son-in-law would look almost as bad as firing the special counsel.”

That’s a lot of firing, and legal experts say any lawyers still left in those offices would probably continue the cases. Trump and his closest aides, in other words, would still be in federal crosshairs.

The Atlantic weighed in on Thursday, reporting that firing Rosenstein so he could get someone else to fire Mueller wouldn’t save Trump, that “The move would come at a high political cost, and have little effect on the actual investigation.”

The Atlantic went on to discuss three possible scenarios were Trump to fire Mueller:

First, whoever fires Mueller might eventually just replace him with someone to finish the investigation. After all, there are several indictments outstanding that need to be tried; plea agreements that need to be finalized; and open investigative leads. In the “normal” course of business, if the lead prosecutor leaves an investigation, he just gets replaced….This, after all, is what happened after President Richard Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox—Leon Jaworski was appointed.

Second, since the investigation would still be open, we might see the investigation continue but without a special counsel. That’s partially what has already happened with respect to the investigation of Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen. That investigation is now being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York—a regular unit of the Department of Justice….

Finally, and most problematically, whoever fired Mueller could also order that the investigation be closed out. On the merits, this would be a dubious act, in the sense that there is no actual basis in fact for shutting the investigation down. In “real life,” investigations are closed only when their original predication is disproved or when they’ve reached an investigative dead end and can go no further.

Noting that: “Whoever obeyed Trump’s order to fire Mueller might also pull the political trigger and shut down the investigation,” The Atlantic wrote that the investigations would likely get picked up by state-level officials:

The U.S. government may properly share information collected during an investigation when authorized by statute or by a court. It is quite possible (indeed, if public reports are to be credited, highly likely) that the special counsel has already shared relevant investigative information regarding possible criminal violations of New York State law with the attorney general of New York. No action by the federal government could limit that state official, nor could any action prevent him from continuing the investigation. To be sure, not all of the matters under investigation by the special counsel are also potential violations of state law—but many of them appear to be.

The Atlantic concluded their analysis writing that:

In short, firing Rosenstein or Mueller would be a mistake (larger probably than that of firing then-FBI Director James Comey). It would come at severe political cost to the president and, quite likely, have relatively little actual effect on the current investigation. That prospect would dissuade any rational decision-maker. We shall see if it dissuades the president from a rash decision.

Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California similarly weighed in during a Thursday morning press conference stating that the investigation would continue even in the wake of Trump firing some of the individuals “at the top.”

“The prosecutors and FBI agents at the Department of Justice here in DC, the Brooklyn prosecutors, the prosecutors at the Southern District of New York, and all those FBI agents, they understand that their oath is to the Constitution,” Lieu said. “Their investigation keeps on going.”

“This train has left the station. There is nothing this president can do to stop it because even if he were to replace some of the Republicans at the top, the career professionals keep on going,” he continued.

Former FBI special agent, lawyer, and CNN analyst Asha Rangappa said the same thing on CNN Wednesday morning.”

“These investigations will go on” regardless of who Trump might fire, Rangappa said.

“There are a lot of threads that Mueller is investigating and one thing that the American public and the president needs to understand is that if he gets rid of Mueller or Rosenstein, these cases will continue to move forward.”

Continuing, she stated that regardless of whether there was someone leading the investigation or not: “The wheels are in motion, we have different agencies potentially involved like Treasury looking at tax stuff. Once the wheels of justice start turning – I think that people don’t understand that – there is always a next logical step and if you don’t follow it you have to justify it.”

Samuel Warde
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