Rod Rosenstein: US deputy attorney general quits

US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein
Rod Rosenstein: “We enforce the law without fear or favour”

Rod Rosenstein, the US deputy attorney general who oversaw the special counsel inquiry into President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, has resigned.

Mr Rosenstein, who had a fraught working relationship with Mr Trump, will step down on 11 May in a departure that had been expected for months.

In his letter, he paid tribute to Mr Trump, even praising the president’s “courtesy and humour”.

Mr Trump once tweeted an image showing Mr Rosenstein jailed for treason.

Mr Rosenstein – who was originally appointed by Republican President George W Bush – had been expected to resign in March following the appointment of William Barr as attorney general.

But the justice department second-in-command stayed in the job a while longer to help Mr Barr manage a redacted public release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

The report did not determine that the Trump campaign had conspired with Russia to sway the 2016 election, and did not find sufficient evidence for an obstruction-of-justice case against the president.

The Mueller report – in 60 seconds

What does Rosenstein’s resignation letter say?

In his letter, Mr Rosenstein praises some of what he calls the Department of Justice’s achievements and its employees’ “devotion to duty”.

“I am grateful to you for the opportunity to serve; for the courtesy and humour you often display in our personal conversations; and for the goals you set in your inaugural address: patriotism, unity, safety, education, and prosperity,” he wrote, addressing the president directly.

“The Department of Justice pursues those goals while operating in accordance with the rule of law. The rule of law is the foundation of America. It secures our freedom, allows our citizens to flourish, and enables our nation to serve as a model of liberty and justice for all.”

He goes on to say that “truth is not determined by opinion polls”.

“We ignore fleeting distractions and focus our attention on the things that matter, because a republic that endures is not governed by the news cycle.”

In his conclusion, he echoes one of Mr Trump’s campaign slogans: “We keep the faith, we follow the rules, and we always put America first.”

The White House said Mr Trump had already nominated Deputy Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Rosen to replace Mr Rosenstein.

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A not-so-subtle rebuke

Analysis box by Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter

Rod Rosenstein is leaving the justice department, and he’s doing it on his own terms.

Not too long ago, such a dignified exit would have come as a real surprise to most observers.

Donald Trump frequently seemed to view Mr Rosenstein as an internal threat. It got so bad that Mr Rosenstein reportedly expressed fear that he would be unceremoniously sacked via presidential tweet.

Rosenstein managed to navigate the hazardous terrain of the Trump administration, however, seeing the special counsel investigation that he initiated to its conclusion. It is that Russia inquiry, with its no-Trump-conspiracy conclusion and open question on presidential obstruction, that will be Mr Rosenstein’s legacy.

Mr Rosenstein announced his departure with a six-paragraph mini-lecture on the importance of a justice department free of political influence and respect for the rule of law.

That could be viewed as a not-so-subtle rebuke of the president’s near-constant badgering of justice department officials, although it will almost certainly fall on deaf ears.

Perhaps, however, it will allow the long-time government lawyer a measure of satisfaction, believing he had the last word.

In this administration, that is a not unremarkable achievement.

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Why were Rosenstein and Trump at odds?

In May 2017, Mr Rosenstein was left in charge of appointing someone to oversee the Russia investigation after Mr Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.

Jeff Sessions, who was attorney general at the time, had already recused himself, meaning that his deputy had to take on the responsibility.

Mr Rosenstein surprised the White House by appointing Mr Mueller, a former FBI director.

The deputy attorney general spent the past two years overseeing Mr Mueller’s work and defending the inquiry from attacks by Mr Trump, who continually condemned the probe as a “witch hunt”.

Mr Rosenstein’s departure seemed imminent after the New York Times last September reported that he had discussed ousting Mr Trump.

Citing anonymous sources, the newspaper said Mr Rosenstein had suggested secretly recording the president in order to prove he was dysfunctional.

He had supposedly cited the 25th amendment of the constitution, which allows for the removal of a president if deemed unfit for office.

Mr Rosenstein dismissed the claims as “inaccurate and factually incorrect”, and a justice department source told the BBC at the time that the comment had been sarcastic.

But former acting FBI chief Andrew McCabe said in a TV interview that Mr Rosenstein was serious when he suggested wearing a wire inside the White House to covertly tape the president.

Mr Trump accused Mr Rosenstein on Twitter of “illegal and treasonous” activity.

While the deputy attorney general managed to weather that controversy, Mr Trump in November retweeted an image of the deputy attorney general behind prison bars.

Rosenstein in jail image

Oh no! They fired that sweet, wealthy, racist pig-fucker, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III ( you know, Jeff!)

It’s another Sunday morning, true believers, and we’re still here, you and I.

I wanted to scribble something down about the public outcry over the firing of  poor Jeff Sessions, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (that noble soul who recused himself from the Mueller investigation into Comrade Trump’s ties to Russia.  The public wailed, as though this was some noble statesman, one of the last in DC willing to follow his conscience over the whims of his authoritarian, immoral boss.  Then, Maine’s own (how embarrassing) rape-apologist, Susan Collins comes out with this statement about how the Senate must do something to protect the investigation into Trumps ties to Russia!  You know, an attempt to win back the support of the moderates and the progressives, the young; let’s not forget, before we go further, that it was Collins (who, let’s face it was “Marcy” to Olympia Snow’s “Peppermint Patty” for years) who introduced Jeff Sessions, the good-ol’ boy from ‘Bama to Congress for approval as Secretary of State.

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What a pair!

Let’s take a quick look back at an oft-told Jeff story.  As the US attorney in Mobile, Alabama, Jeff Sessions was talking over a case one day in the 1980s with two fellow prosecutors.  It involved the kidnap and brutal murder of a young black man  by two members of the Ku Klux Klan.

The sociopathic Klansman, Henry Hayes and Tiger Knowles, slit the guy’s throat and thenhung him from a tree.  The murder was apparently in retribution for a jury acquitting a black man in the slaying  of a white police officer.  As Sessions learned that some members of the Klan had (supposedly) smoked marijuana on the evening of the slaying, he said aloud that he thought the KKK was: “OK until I found out they smoked pot.”  Sessions insists he was joking.

Hah, hah!

Jeff says he’s not a racist, but the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Heidi Beirich, who tracks hate speech, has said that Sessions is a racist, and that his presence in Trump’s inner circle was “a tragedy for American politics.”

Know what his last act as Secretary was?  To limit Federal oversight of State and local law enforcement!  Of course, Betsy Devos, your Secretary of Education is pushing back Obama-era legislation which was passed because of the tendency of Universities in the US to keep reports and punishment of campus rape in-house, instead of reporting it to the Cops.

No, we don’t have time for that today, but, hell, think of your daughters, people!

Back to Jeff, I’m glad that the evil son of a bitch was canned, and I don’t care why.  I lived down south, in places as regressive as Wild New England is progressive; I’ve know plenty of Jeffs, and a slew of Beauregards.

I mean, the guy is against legal immigration!  Google that shit.

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Oh, but Rage, we know that he was bad, but we’re just worried that this new guy will stop the Mueller investigation!

Ninja, please.  I read where some scatterbrained fem-bot compared Sessions dismissal to that of Archibald Cox, special prosecutor in the Watergate investigation, finally fired by one (after several refusals and resignations) of NIxon’s Secretaries of State.

Hardly.

Trump will go only as far as he knows he can; he might be a bad businessman who enjoys watching Russian women urinate on one another, but he’s hardly an idiot when it comes to perceptual manipulation.  I could see him staging a distraction, another “Al Qaeda-Taliban-Isis wants to kill us” Orwellian sort of thing, or another terrorist attack, like the one which was so beneficial for the Bush regime.

Of course, Mueller does have a secret weapon available to him, even if he is dismissed:  the Secret Indictment.

If Mueller decides that he has a strong enough case against Trump, a secret  (or “Sealed”) indictment returned by a grand jury will automatically protect the integrity of his investigation even if he gets fired, while (since it’s secret) it wouldn’t provoke Mr. Trump (the “not-so-slenderman”) into retaliation.

To make this happen, all that Mueller has to do (if he hasn’t already) is to formally request that the already-seated grand jury (the one looking into Russian interference in the last POTUS election) issue criminal charges against Trump.  If they were to find probable cause for the charges to proceed, then a judge would decide whether the indictment could remain secret or not. If the judge were to determine that it could, then the charges would remain hidden from public view.  Well, until the arrest or once his peeps bailed him out.

If Trump were to fire Mueller, an already-filed sealed indictment would remain in force, since a  sealed indictment, you see,  can only be dismissed by a judge.  Trump can’t get rid of the whole mess simply by firing Mueller.  And, with a sealed indictment the statute of limitations for crimes Trump might be charged with wouldn’t expire.  This leaves open the possibility of Trump being tried in the future.

To the Ninth Circle of Hell with Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III; but first, he needs to go back to 1952 where he belongs.  As far as the Klan smoking weed?  I don’t know any stoner (even ignorant racist stoners) who could do anything as horridly, ignorantly, misanthropically and anti-Christian as the Klan did in the above case.  They were drunk, brother-man; you know it.

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AS for Susan Collins, you know –  she knows it, unless her meds are disabling; she knows that if she had turned right instead of left at that moment when the World watched, if she could have sacrificed her favor with Mr. Trump and his rich plutocratic cohorts…

Think about it.

She’d have become this shero of the ages, an Oprah favorite, a savior of the GOP.  Hell, you know that Ryan quit his day job and came out against Trump so that he could put himself in position of candidate viability against him in 2020, and you know that Collins, instead of voting for Trump, wrote in Ryan’s name.  If she had stood up for what her own constituents demanded, what the victims of past abuse had demanded, what the young and the moderates had demanded, she could have been Ryan’s running mate.

But that’s not gonna happen, is it, Susan?

No, in 2020, you’ll be running an ill-fated election campaign, and before you know it, even Bruce Poliquin won’t be returning your calls.

She knows this too, everything that I’ve just scribbled, goes over that moment over and over again in her mind.  She could have become a postage stamp, a folk song, a coffee-table book of quotes.  Instead, because in that one instant, she turned left instead of right, she’ll become one more paragraph in history books-to-come about left-over relics from the old-way of doing things who, instead of becoming a timeless hero, became one of history’s fools (at best,) one of her villains, at worst.

So, in closing,  Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (and I imagine, the second and the first as well) is a racist (we smoked a big ol’ fatty when we heard he was canned.)  George H. W. Bush’s favorite book is “David Cop-a-feel.”  And, I finally quit Facebook last night and hooked back up on Ello.

The lesson.. or, a lesson, but a really important one:

Always try to do the right thing.  You won’t always, but at least try.

And don’t worry about good ol’ Jeff Sessions;

Are you, really?

Forget it, man.  Let’s go bowling.

Love and riots,

Rage

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Matthew Whitaker: Trump defends acting attorney general amid protest

Trump: ‘I didn’t speak to Whitaker’ about Russia probe

President Donald Trump has defended his new acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, as opponents call for his recusal from the Russia investigation.

Mr Whitaker was named to replace former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who was fired by Mr Trump on Wednesday.

Controversy arose over Mr Whitaker’s previous comments about ending the probe into alleged Russian meddling in favour of Mr Trump’s election in 2016.

As the top law enforcement official, Mr Whitaker could take over the inquiry.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia on behalf of the Department of Justice.

Currently, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is overseeing Mr Mueller’s investigation – a role he took on when Mr Sessions recused himself.

Critics have pointed to some of Mr Whitaker’s remarks on CNN last year on curtailing Mr Mueller’s investigation as reason to remove him from any oversight role.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Mr Trump called Mr Whitaker a “very well respected man” whose selection “was greeted with raves”, though he made sure to distance himself from his new appointee.

“I don’t know Matt Whitaker,” Mr Trump said while fielding questions of how he might influence the Russia investigation.

But the president has probably interacted with Mr Whitaker numerous times, US media pointed out, as he was Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff.

“Making comments on shows doesn’t mean you’re unqualified,” Mr Trump added. “You didn’t have any problems with him when he worked for Sessions.”

Earlier this week, before the dust had even begun to settle on the results of the November mid-term elections, long-embattled Mr Sessions released a letter confirming he was out of a job.

“At your request,” Mr Sessions wrote to President Trump, “I am submitting my resignation.”

Minutes later, the president announced his replacement via Twitter: “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. He will serve our Country well….”

The 48-year-old former American football star has long been seen as destined for a bigger role in the Trump administration, viewed favourably by the president as his “eyes and ears” in the department of justice.

Matthew WhitakerMatthew Whitaker is replacing his former boss, Jeff Sessions

Who is Matthew Whitaker?

Mr Whitaker is originally from Ankeny, a suburb of Des Moines in central Iowa, the son of an elementary school teacher and a scoreboard salesman.

He became a football star in high school and was eventually inducted into the Iowa High School Football Hall of Fame. He went on to play tight end in the Holiday Bowl and the Rose Bowl for the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 1990s.

Whitaker graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law, and then went into practice as a lawyer, for a time as corporate counsel for a chain of grocery stores.

President George W Bush appointed him US Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, where he prosecuted white collar and drug trafficking crimes. He held that office from 2004 until 2009.

His wife Marci is a civil engineer, and the couple has three children.

Political life

Mr Whitaker first took a shot at public office in 2002 when he ran unsuccessfully for state treasurer of Iowa as a Republican. He ran for United States Senate in 2014, losing the party’s nomination to Republican Senator Joni Ernst.

In his campaigns, Mr Whitaker positioned himself as a fiscally conservative opponent of the Affordable Care Act, and said his political role models were Republican Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. He courted the anti-abortion, evangelical Christian vote, saying at one candidate’s forum that he would scrutinise nominees for federal judge to ensure they had a “biblical view of justice”.

He further built up his conservative credentials when he served as campaign co-chair for Texas Governor Rick Perry in 2012 and became the executive director of the conservative watchdog group, Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust in Washington DC.

He was hired as Sessions chief of staff in October 2017.

Whitaker participates in a US Department of Justice roundtable discussionWhitaker participates in a US Department of Justice roundtable discussion

From commentator to acting attorney general

Prior to joining Mr Sessions’ staff, Mr Whitaker was a conservative legal commentator for CNN, and penned several opinion pieces that may shed light on how he might approach his new role in the Justice Department, in particular when it comes to his possible oversight of the Russian election-meddling investigation lead by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

In July 2017, Mr Whitaker appeared on CNN and mused on possible ways that President Trump could crush the probe, which included the departure of Mr Sessions.

“I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment, and that attorney general doesn’t fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt,” Mr Whitaker said.

In August 2017, Mr Whitaker wrote a piece called “Mueller’s investigation of Trump is going too far”. In it, Mr Whitaker argued that Mr Mueller had overstepped the boundaries of his inquiry when he began looking into the Trump family’s finances. He called this a “red line” that Mr Mueller should not cross, warning that it would render the investigation a “witch hunt” – a term that the president himself has become quite fond of.

“The Trump Organization’s business dealings are plainly not within the scope of the investigation, nor should they be,” Mr Whitaker wrote.

Speculation that Mr Whitaker would one day take a more central role at the Justice Department has been bubbling for months. A report in the Washington Post said that he spoke directly to Donald Trump as early as October about replacing his own boss, as the president continued to publicly grouse about Jeff Sessions’ handling of the Russia probe.

After a New York Times article reported that Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein had considered wearing a wire to monitor Trump in the early days of his presidency, Mr Whitaker was discussed as Mr Rosenstein’s possible replacement. Mr Rosenstein offered to resign but ultimately kept his job.

According to the Times, Mr Whitaker has used what could have been a tricky assignment as a bridge between his boss, the embattled Attorney General Sessions, and a hostile White House to ingratiate himself with the president.

Protests in 18 Maine towns calling for protection of Mueller investigation

18 towns and cities in Maine joined more than 900 protests across the nation calling for protection of the Mueller investigation just a day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to resign.

(NEWS CENTER Maine) — Protests took place across Maine rallying to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

18 towns and cities in Maine joined more than 900 protests across the nation calling for protection of the Mueller investigation just a day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to resign.

The group Nobody Is Above The Law’s website says protests are planned for 5 p.m. Thursday in these Maine locations:

  • Augusta
  • Bangor
  • Bar Harbor
  • Belfast
  • Brunswick
  • Eastport
  • Ellsworth
  • Farmington
  • Houlton
  • Kittery
  • Lewiston
  • Newcastle
  • Norway
  • Portland
  • Prospect Harbor
  • Rockland
  • South Paris
  • Waterville

Critics worry that the newly appointed Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker may be unlikely to defend the investigation given the comments he has made about the probe which is investigating if Donald Trump colluded with Russians during his 2016 Presidential campaign.

Whitaker wrote an op-ed for CNN in 2017 arguing that Mueller was “dangerously close to crossing” a red line following reports he was looking into Trump’s finances.

Protesters believe that Whitaker who will now be overseeing the investigation should recuse himself from the investigation just as his predecessor and former boss, Jeff Sessions did.

How many people will show up to the protests remains to be seen.

Trump fires Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Mr Sessions was the first US senator to endorse Mr Trump for presidentMr Sessions was the first US senator to endorse Mr Trump for president

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been fired by President Donald Trump.

“We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well!” Mr Trump tweeted on Wednesday.

The president had repeatedly criticised his top law enforcement official after he recused himself from the Russia investigation dogging the White House.

Mr Trump said Mr Sessions will be temporarily replaced by his chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, who has criticised the Russia inquiry.

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In a resignation letter, Mr Sessions – a former Alabama senator who was an early supporter of Mr Trump – made clear the decision to go was not his own.

“Dear Mr President, at your request I am submitting my resignation,” he wrote in an undated letter.

“Most importantly as my time as attorney general, we have restored and upheld the rule of law,” Mr Sessions added, while thanking the Republican president.

According to a White House official, Mr Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly called Mr Sessions on Wednesday before Mr Trump held a press conference to discuss mid-term election results.

Relations between the two soured in 2017

Why was Sessions fired?

Mr Trump has repeatedly pilloried his top law enforcement official since Mr Sessions stepped aside from the Russia inquiry in March 2017.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is hunting for evidence of potential collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Moscow.

President Trump: “This is a hot White House”

The wide-ranging investigation – overseen by the Department of Justice – has resulted in a series of criminal charges against several Trump associates.

In July 2017 Mr Trump told the New York Times: “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.”

Mr Sessions voluntarily removed himself from the probe after Democrats accused him of failing to disclose contacts with the Russian ambassador during his Senate confirmation hearing.

The attorney general later said he had forgotten about those meetings, which happened during the Trump election campaign.

Mr Trump has at various times belittled Mr Sessions as “VERY weak” and “DISGRACEFUL”.

What happens now?

CBS News is reporting that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is no longer leading the Mueller inquiry, and that Matthew Whitaker will now assume control.

The president cannot directly fire the special counsel, whose investigation Mr Trump has repeatedly decried as a witch hunt. But Mr Sessions’ replacement will have the power to fire Mr Mueller or end the inquiry.

Mr Rosenstein was summoned to the White House on Wednesday for what was described as a previously scheduled meeting.

It was the deputy attorney general who appointed Mr Mueller to lead the Russia inquiry, after Mr Trump fired FBI director James Comey in May 2017.

The special counsel’s probe has also been investigating whether Mr Comey’s firing amounted to attempted obstruction of justice.

There has also been a question mark over Mr Rosenstein’s future since it was reported he had discussed invoking a constitutional clause to oust President Trump.

This summer he was abruptly summoned to the White House amid fevered speculation he was about to be fired, however, no announcement came.

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Is Trump trying to shut down Russia probe?

Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC Washington

The presidential axe that had been hovering over Jeff Sessions for what has seemed like an eternity just came swinging down with a thud. Donald Trump had previously said he would wait until after the mid-term elections to decide his attorney general’s fate, and he did – but just barely.

And like that the duties of overseeing Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation shift from the man who appointed the special counsel, Rod Rosenstein, to a man who has been a critic of it, Department of Justice Chief-of-Staff Matthew Whitaker.

In an opinion piece for The Hill before he took the Department of Justice chief of staff job, Mr Whitaker wrote that calls for an as yet-to-be-named independent prosecutor would be “just craven attempts to score cheap political points”. In April 2017, he wrote for CNN that any Mueller investigation into the president’s finances would be “going too far”.

What happens next is critical. Mr Mueller’s inquiry could continue unabated – although the special counsel must surely be considering tightening his timeline. There is also the possibility, however, that this is just the opening move of a White House effort to shut down the probe or keep its findings out of the public eye.

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What’s the reaction?

Democrats were outraged by the attorney general’s removal, with the Democratic National Committee noting that the appointee has not been confirmed for the role by the US Senate as required.

The party’s Senate leader Chuck Schumer tweeted: “Clearly, the President has something to hide.”

“Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general.”

Conservative author Ann Coulter praised the “Christ-like Jeff Sessions” for being “the only member of the Trump administration doing anything about immigration”.

She called on Mr Trump to appoint Mr Sessions to head the Department of Homeland Security.

House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said: “It is impossible to read Attorney General Sessions’ firing as anything other than another blatant attempt by President Trump to undermine & end Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation.”

NYT: Trump regrets hiring Sessions

WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision “very unfair to the president.”

In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions’s decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said.

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