President Trump just made his move and asked for Jeff Sessions’ resignation. Jeff did a bang up job but Trump never forgave him for recusing in the Russian probe. Trump named the attorney general’s chief of staff Matthew Whitaker to serve as interim attorney general.
“Since the day I was honored to be sworn in as attorney general of the United States, I came to work at the Department of Justice every day determined to do my duty and serve my country,” Sessions wrote. “I have done so to the best of my ability to support the fundamental legal processes that are the foundation of justice.”
Trump named Whittaker as acting Attorney General which means he is in charge of Rod Rosenstein and more importantly, Robert Mueller. There are some who argue this point and say he needs to be confirmed by the Senate, and if so he will be as Trump has votes to spare after his big win last night.
“We are pleased to announce that Matthew G. Whitaker, Chief of Staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice, will become our new Acting Attorney General of the United States,” Trump tweeted out.
What does Matt think of Bob Mueller’s investigation? Not much, and worse, he thinks it is an out of control partisan investigation. Matt wrote for CNN in 2017:
Last month, when President Donald Trump was asked by The New York Times if special counsel Robert Mueller would be crossing a line if he started investigating the finances of Trump and his family, the President said, “I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.”
The President is absolutely correct. Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing.
According to a CNN article, Mueller’s investigators could be looking into financial records relating to the Trump Organization that are unrelated to the 2016 election. According to these reports, “sources described an investigation that has widened to focus on possible financial crimes, some unconnected to the 2016 election.” The piece goes on to cite law enforcement sources who say non-Russia-related leads that “involve Trump associates” are being referred to the special counsel “to encourage subjects of the investigation to cooperate.”
This information is deeply concerning to me. It does not take a lawyer or even a former federal prosecutor like myself to conclude that investigating Donald Trump’s finances or his family’s finances falls completely outside of the realm of his 2016 campaign and allegations that the campaign coordinated with the Russian government or anyone else. That goes beyond the scope of the appointment of the special counsel.
Any investigation into President Trump’s finances or the finances of his family would require Mueller to return to Rod Rosenstein for additional authority under Mueller’s appointment as special counsel.
If he were to continue to investigate the financial relationships without a broadened scope in his appointment, then this would raise serious concerns that the special counsel’s investigation was a mere witch hunt. If Mueller is indeed going down this path, Rosenstein should act to ensure the investigation is within its jurisdiction and within the authority of the original directive.
I’ve prosecuted several financial crimes at the federal level and I’ve also defended plenty in my private practice. From this unique vantage point, I can understand how a motivated prosecutor, in a broad investigation into the financial affairs of high-profile individuals, can become overzealous toward the targets of such probes — with calamitous results. While no one is above the law, in situations such as this, any seasoned prosecutor must use discretion both judiciously and expertly.
It is time for Rosenstein, who is the acting attorney general for the purposes of this investigation, to order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation to the four corners of the order appointing him special counsel.
If he doesn’t, then Mueller’s investigation will eventually start to look like a political fishing expedition. This would not only be out of character for a respected figure like Mueller, but also could be damaging to the President of the United States and his family — and by extension, to the country.