Does this guy not know any Republican senators?
A key skill for a great lawyer, I guess, is being able to say outlandish things with a straight face. Imagine how great Dersh must be to be able to get through this one without giggling — during a segment on, of all places, Fox News.
Only a man who’s represented O.J. is capable of such discipline in the face of the obvious truth.
Dershowitz said, “There are enough Republican senators who wouldn’t let him appoint a crony, who would at least insist that the person appointed be somebody of distinction and some degree of independence.”
As far as Whitaker is concerned, Dershowitz said there could be “possible recusal” because of the critical op-ed he wrote, adding, “Although I don’t think that’s a ground for recusal.”
Much depends on the definition of “crony.” We’re looking at a likely 54/46 Senate now, which means Schumer would need to flip five Republicans to block a nominee. Could he get five if Trump tried to appoint Jeanine Pirro as AG? Yeah, probably. Someone whom the public widely regarded as unqualified would embolden Trump-wary Republicans like Ben Sasse who carp a lot but normally remain in the fold. Hannity’s not going to be the next Attorney General. (Director of Homeland Security, on the other hand…)
But what about someone who’s an obvious political crony but more qualified for the job, like Chris Christie or Kris Kobach? Some early chatter says Kobach is in contention; if he’s the nominee Democrats will raise holy hell, and not just about his record on immigration and voter fraud. They’ll point to the fact that a Bush-appointed federal judge ordered him to take a remedial class on evidence earlier this year because of how he handled civil procedure in court. A Kobach confirmation fight would absolutely mobilize Trump’s populist base because of his border hawkishness, though. Not to the same extent as the nuclear war over Kavanaugh, but it’ll get hot.
Which Senate Republicans walk under those circumstances? Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski might, especially since their votes are no longer decisive. But who else? Is Romney going to start his tenure in Washington by nuking Trump’s AG nominee? Will Sasse vote no despite his record of siding with the White House on major floor battles? Surely no one expects the new guys, Mike Braun, Rick Scott, and Josh Hawley, to torpedo Trump’s pick so soon after POTUS went to bat for them on the campaign trail. Flake and Corker will be gone as of January, of course. So where are those three other votes coming from? If you don’t like the Kobach example imagine Christie, a former U.S. Attorney, is the nominee instead. He’s qualified but Trump would want and expect Christie to kneecap Mueller for him, which Sessions couldn’t do after he recused himself. Christie would doubtless deny that he’d do that at his confirmation hearing, saying all the right things about prosecutorial independence, yadda yadda, but everyone would understand that he’s been offered the job because Trump expects he’ll loyally ride herd on Russiagate. How do Romney et al. vote?
Dershowitz thinks Trump and acting AG Matt Whitaker will let Rod Rosenstein continue to oversee the Mueller probe since it’s close to the end, at least in theory. Perhaps. If it’s true that Trump is thinking of appointing a crony to oversee Mueller, he’ll have to wait until the new, redder Senate is seated in January to maximize his margins. The question for Mueller is, if he’s planning any major indictments does he do it now or wait until next year? If he waits, who knows what the new crony AG might do to try to stop him. If he does it now, there’s no Democratic majority in the House to cover his back. This is no mere hypothetical either. If you believe Gabriel Sherman’s sources, Donald Trump Jr is telling friends that he’s worried about being indicted for making false statements to Congress and the FBI. If that happens, the paterfamilias will react … poorly. What will Paul Ryan’s expiring House majority do when he does? In case there’s any doubt in Dershowitz’s mind, let me clue him in: Nuthin’.