Trump’s futile ongoing quest to find cronies who can and will “protect” him at the Justice Department is basically slapstick comedy at this point. How many fired/recused/interim officers have been involved in the Russiagate and Stormygate investigations? He appointed a loyalist, Jeff Sessions, as AG — and Sessions then immediately recused himself. He asked Jim Comey for loyalty — and then fired him when he felt that loyalty wasn’t forthcoming. He nominated Geoffrey Berman as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, a jurisdiction that included Trump’s own business — and Berman promptly recused himself from the Stormy Daniels campaign-finance probe. He replaced Sessions with Matt Whitaker, expecting that Whitaker could and would act to rein in Mueller and the SDNY to shield the president from criminal liability if need be — and Whitaker, we’re learning today, couldn’t do anything for him either.
This is what he gets for not following his instincts and appointing Judge Jeanine to be AG.
Maybe he’s lining her up for the next Supreme Court vacancy.
As federal prosecutors in Manhattan gathered evidence late last year about President Trump’s role in silencing women with hush payments during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump called Matthew G. Whitaker, his newly installed attorney general, with a question. He asked whether Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, could be put in charge of the widening investigation, according to several American officials with direct knowledge of the call.
Mr. Whitaker, who had privately told associates that part of his role at the Justice Department was to “jump on a grenade” for the president, knew he could not put Mr. Berman in charge, since Mr. Berman had already recused himself from the investigation. The president soon soured on Mr. Whitaker, as he often does with his aides, and complained about his inability to pull levers at the Justice Department that could make the president’s many legal problems go away…
Mr. Whitaker, who earlier this month told a congressional committee that Mr. Trump had never pressured him over the various investigations, is now under scrutiny by House Democrats for possible perjury.
Trump should thank Whitaker. If he had figured out a way to re-install Berman as head of the Stormygate probe, Berman only would have broken his heart by also declining to “make the president’s many legal problems go away.” He keeps appointing people with a basic sense of integrity, who refuse to obstruct a fruitful criminal investigation just because it would help POTUS politically if they did so.
He needs to be more discerning in his choice of would-be cronies.
I find it curious that Berman recused himself at all, as he had nothing to do with the Stormy Daniels matter. Granted, he’s a political appointee of the president’s, but that fact alone shouldn’t be enough to create a conflict of interest sufficient to force him off a criminal case in which Trump or his associated might be implicated. (If appointment by the president created a conflict in all cases involving him, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh wouldn’t be able to rule on any Trump administration policies.) Maybe the conflict has to do with the unusual interest POTUS took in choosing the new U.S. Attorneys for New York:
President Donald Trump has personally interviewed at least two potential candidates for U.S. attorney positions in New York, according to two sources familiar with the matter — a move that critics say raises questions about whether they can be sufficiently independent from the president.
Trump has interviewed Geoffrey Berman, who is currently at the law firm Greenberg Traurig for the job of U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Ed McNally of the firm Kasowitz Benson Torres for the Eastern District post, according to the sources…
It is rare for a president to interview candidates for the 93 U.S. attorney jobs. Former President Barack Obama never interviewed a U.S. attorney candidate during his two terms, according to Matthew Miller, who served as Justice Department spokesman under the Obama administration.
In light of today’s news, the question is inescapable: Did Trump recruit Berman personally for the Manhattan job, wanting someone whom he hoped would be “loyal” to have jurisdiction over the Trump Organization? Imagine going to that length to bring Berman aboard, having him “betray” you by recusing himself (after Sessions did the same), then bringing in Whitaker to try to ride herd on the prosecutors tailing you and finding that … he’s powerless.
I’m wondering what happens now if Jerrold Nadler’s committee brings Whitaker back and he confirms that Trump leaned on him to try to put Berman back in charge of Stormygate, presumably believing that Berman would kill the probe for him. Would Democrats try to impeach Trump for attempting to obstruct justice? What if Whitaker says that Trump didn’t “pressure” him, he merely asked a question: “He wanted to know if Berman could be reinstated but he never actually requested that I do it”?
Trump says all of this is fake news, of course. Exit quotation from former Michael Cohen lawyer Lanny Davis, previewing the eventual Cohen tell-all: “[Y]ou’re going to hear impersonal, frontline experiences of memories, and incidents, and conduct, and comments that Donald Trump said over that 10-year time period behind closed doors that, to me when I first heard Michael tell me all this, even as much as I knew about Trump that was negative, was chilling.”