By Steve Neavling
Fears that President Trump will orchestrate the termination of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating whether the Republican’s campaign colluded with Russia, are likely overblown, argues Jack Goldsmith, co-founder of Lawfare and Harvard Law School professor.
“I believe that what we learned in 2017 should give us confidence in 2018 that Trump will not be able to terminate the Mueller investigation,” Goldsmith wrote.
Goldsmith points out that the Justice Department “took the proper steps despite the allegiance that political appointees typically feel toward the president who appointed them.”
“They did so because they are embedded in and charged with running an institution with rules and norms that they feel personal and professional responsibility to abide by and uphold,” he added.
Yet despite Trump’s rhetorical crusade against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and fired FBI Director James Comey, the investigation has continued unimpeded.
“In short, the political appointees in the Justice Department who are connected to the Mueller investigation have shown that they follow the rules and norms of the department despite the president’s wishes otherwise,” Goldsmith argued.
Even if Rosenstein gave into political pressure, he’d have trouble justifying kicking Mueller to the curb because he either has to show the special counsel’s proposed steps were “inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices” or that Mueller participated in “misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause, including violation of Departmental policies.”
To do that, Rosenstein would need to explain his actions to Congress, which has been unwilling so far to intervene, save for a few conservative Republicans.
Trump’s has other options, but they too would be difficult to pull off. For example, Trump could fire Rosenstein, but he’d have trouble finding a Senate-confirmed official, as required by law, finding a replacement who interfere in the investigation.