Trump pardons Scooter Libby, saying he was ‘treated unfairly’

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I’d only rejoin Pacific trade pact if deal was ‘substantially better’ GOP unveils mock cover of Comey book with ‘ego’ attack NY Daily News cover hits Trump over Comey book revelations MORE on Friday pardoned I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former George W. Bush administration official convicted in the investigation into the leak of a CIA officer’s identity. 

“I don’t know Mr. Libby, but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly,” Trump said in a statement. “Hopefully, this full pardon will help rectify a very sad portion of his life.”

The White House issued a 236-word statement explaining Trump’s decision, saying a key witness recanted her testimony in 2015 and that Libby regained his law license after presenting “credible evidence” of his innocence. 

The White House also said Libby “had rendered more than a decade of honorable service to the nation” and that his post-conviction record “is similarly unblemished, and he continues to be held in high regard by his colleagues and peers.”

Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the probe into the disclosure of the identity of former covert CIA officer Valerie Plame.

She is married to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who published a 2002 op-ed that questioned the Bush administration’s findings about Iraq’s efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction. 

The leak of Plame’s identity by Bush administration officials was seen as retribution against Wilson. 

Former President George W. Bush commuted Libby’s prison sentence but never offered him a full pardon, which created friction between him and Cheney. 

Libby’s case has been a cause célèbre for many of Trump’s conservative allies. His lawyer, Victoria Toensing, is married to Joseph DiGenova, who had discussed joining the president’s outside legal team in the Russia investigation. 

Critics slammed the pardon, calling Trump a hypocrite because he often accuses political opponents of the crimes Libby committed. 

The pardon came just hours after the president took to Twitter to label former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyGOP unveils mock cover of Comey book with ‘ego’ attack NY Daily News cover hits Trump over Comey book revelations Geraldo Rivera: Comey is the reason Trump is president MORE a “LEAKER & LIAR” who “should be prosecuted” for leaking classified information. 

“President Trump’s pardon of Scooter Libby makes clear his contempt for the rule of law,” House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D’Alesandro PelosiPaul Ryan’s legacy is a financial success James Comey’s history of misconduct  Ryan: No need for Congress to authorize Syria strikes MORE (D-Calif.) said in a statement. 

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchiff: Ryan leaving because Washington is in ‘complete shambles’ DOJ gives House Intel original document that prompted Russia investigation House Dems ask Ryan to intervene on Russia documents MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted that the pardon is Trump’s “way of sending a message to those implicated in the Russia investigation: You have my back and I’ll have yours.”

The Libby case has several connections to the ongoing Russia probe. 

The investigation was led by a special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, a former U.S. attorney in Chicago who was appointed by Comey, who was then serving as deputy attorney general and overseeing the leak probe. 

White House aide Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayMadeleine Albright slams Trump’s ‘all white men’ administration Conway’s husband responds to Trump with link to US attorney rules showing he’s wrong Conway hits CNN for ‘plateaued’ ratings MORE on Friday denied that Trump was trying to send a message to Russia probe witnesses with the pardon, but said that “many people think that Scooter Libby was a victim of a special counsel gone amok.”

Trump has issued just two other pardons thus far in his 15-month presidency. 

One went to former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, an immigration hardliner who was convicted on a criminal contempt charge.

The other was granted to Kristian Saucier, a Navy sailor who served a year in federal prison for taking photos in classified areas on a submarine. 

Trump often cited Saucier’s case during the 2016 campaign in criticizing Democratic opponent Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGeraldo Rivera: Comey is the reason Trump is president Five things to know from Comey’s new book Comey in new book: ‘I’m sorry’ I couldn’t better explain decision on Clinton probe MORE’s use of a private email server as secretary of State. 

Here’s the White House’s full statement on the pardon:

Today, President Donald J. Trump issued an Executive Grant of Clemency (Full Pardon) to I. “Scooter” Lewis Libby, former Chief of Staff to Vice President Richard Cheney, for convictions stemming from a 2007 trial.  President George W. Bush commuted Mr. Libby’s sentence shortly after his conviction.  Mr. Libby, nevertheless, paid a $250,000 fine, performed 400 hours of community service, and served two years of probation.

In 2015, one of the key witnesses against Mr. Libby recanted her testimony, stating publicly that she believes the prosecutor withheld relevant information from her during interviews that would have altered significantly what she said.  The next year, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals unanimously reinstated Mr. Libby to the bar, reauthorizing him to practice law.  The Court agreed with the District of Columbia Disciplinary Counsel, who stated that Mr. Libby had presented “credible evidence” in support of his innocence, including evidence that a key prosecution witness had “changed her recollection of the events in question.”

Before his conviction, Mr. Libby had rendered more than a decade of honorable service to the Nation as a public servant at the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the White House.  His record since his conviction is similarly unblemished, and he continues to be held in high regard by his colleagues and peers.    

In light of these facts, the President believes Mr. Libby is fully worthy of this pardon.  “I don’t know Mr. Libby,” said President Trump, “but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly.  Hopefully, this full pardon will help rectify a very sad portion of his life.”

Updated at 1:53 p.m.

http://thehill.com

Lonegan wants Menendez charged for holding a rifle during press conference

Sen. Bob Menendez is pictured. | YouTube

While it’s unlikely a prosecutor would decide to pursue charges against Bob Menendez, Steve Lonegan, a supporter of gun rights, appears to be making a point about New Jersey’s strict gun laws.

Republican congressional candidate Steve Lonegan said Friday he plans to seek criminal charges against Sen. Bob Menendez for briefly holding a display gun at a press conference while standing next to a county sheriff.

Lonegan said Menendez (D-N.J.) violated New Jersey’s strict law on gun possession when he picked up an unloaded and tagged AR-15-style rifle from a display table during a press conference last month and held it for less than 20 seconds.

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“I don’t believe this is what you need to go hunting. I don’t believe this is what you need to defend yourself,” Menendez said at the early March event outside the Essex County Public Safety Academy, while standing next to Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura. “The only thing this does is kill as many people in as short a time as possible.”

Lonegan, a conservative former mayor of Bogota who has run unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, governor and other state and local offices, is known for provocative statements. He’s currently seeking the GOP nomination to challenge freshman Democrat Josh Gottheimer in the 5th Congressional District.

While it’s unlikely a prosecutor would decide to pursue charges against Menendez, Lonegan, a supporter of gun rights, appears to be making a point about New Jersey’s strict gun laws.

“Someone who does not have a firearms permit, someone who does not own this firearm cannot pick it up and carry it anywhere,” Lonegan said in a video he posted to YouTube. “Bob Menendez is not above the law.”

Lonegan cites a New Jersey statute which states that anyone in possession of a rifle or shotgun “without having first obtained a firearms purchaser identification card …“ is guilty of a third-degree crime.

Michael Soliman, Menendez‘s campaign chairman, called Lonegan’s claim “absurd and pathetic.”

Lonegan said the Essex County College police have “refused to allow me to file a complaint with them.” Instead, he said, he will file a complaint with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. The public safety academy is part of the college.

Though Lonegan said there are “no exceptions whatsoever” to the possession law, gun range customers are allowed to hold and fire guns if they’re not otherwise disqualified and are under the supervision of an instructor.

But gun rights attorney Evan Nappen said that exception wouldn’t apply to Menendez for holding a firearm outside of a gun range.

Nappen said that even holding a gun for less than 20 seconds without a permit technically violates the state gun laws.

“Our laws are narrowly enforced. These things are narrowly construed. There’s no exemption under the case law for the temporary transfer,” Nappen said, adding that possession of slingshots and even a broken BB gun without a permit is against the law in New Jersey.

He acknowledged, however, that prosecutors have discretion when deciding whether to seek charges.

“Whether a prosecutor here would exercise discretion or not is another story,” Nappen said.

http://www.politico.com

Power Briefing: About the new guy who might get in the speaker’s race

PLAYBOOK SCOOP … REP. PATRICK MCHENRY, the North Carolinian who is the Republican chief deputy whip, raised $2.6 MILLION in the first quarter of the year. He raised $1.176 for the NRCC, $615,160 for members, his PAC gave $143,000 and Team McHenry raised $686,756.

— MCHENRY is the No. 4 House Republican, and in a shakeup during a Republican majority — either this Congress or next Congress, if they keep the House — he could be the GOP whip.

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WAPO’s MIKE DEBONIS SCOOP — “Rep. Jim Jordan, Freedom Caucus co-founder, is exploring run for House speaker”: “Two Republican lawmakers said they had spoken with Jordan (R-Ohio) since Ryan announced his retirement Wednesday, and both said that they got the impression that Jordan would enter the race to lead the House GOP.” https://wapo.st/2EIsDKg

— R. BADE had the first interview with JORDAN: “Look, there is no speaker race; Paul Ryan’s the speaker. If and when there is, I have been encouraged by colleagues to consider that, so I’m open to that … But the next six months, the focus has to be keeping the majority.”

LET’S BREAK THIS DOWN … WHAT’S THIS MEAN? Even Jordan’s closest friends agree that he cannot be speaker. His vote range is somewhere between 20 and 60 — his allies think it’s at the higher range. (One Jordan ally said 90, and we told them we thought they were crazy).

… SO WHY IS HE DOING THIS? As you can imagine the idea of McCarthy getting any job by acclamation would probably irk the Ohio Republican and the House Freedom Caucus.

… AS OF RIGHT NOW there is no speaker race, so Jordan seems to want to send a message to McCarthy. The threat only matters practically under two circumstances: Paul Ryan calls an election now, or in November only if Republicans keep the majority. THIS PRACTICALLY ENSURES Ryan will stay until November.

… DANGER ZONE FOR MCCARTHY: If Jordan gets in, and Sean Hannity and other righty commentators endorse him.

… BUT if Jordan floats running and stops short before the election, it could help the HFC extract some promises. They want prime committee slots and a chairmanship — Jordan at Oversight. They could get all of this.

IT WILL BE INTERESTING to see if — and how — President Trump reacts to a potential Jordan candidacy.

Good Friday afternoon. TRUMP FIRES BACK AT COMEY — @realDonaldTrump at 8:01 a.m.: “James Comey is a proven LEAKER & LIAR. Virtually everyone in Washington thought he should be fired for the terrible job he did-until he was, in fact, fired. He leaked CLASSIFIED information, for which he should be prosecuted. He lied to Congress under OATH. He is a weak and…..” … at 8:17 a.m.: “…untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI. His handling of the Crooked Hillary Clinton case, and the events surrounding it, will go down as one of the worst “botch jobs” of history. It was my great honor to fire James Comey!”

FOX NEWS SUNDAY NIGHT — 9 P.M. … “The Trial of James Comey: A Next Revolution Special” with Steve Hilton, Alan Dershowitz, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Gregg Jarrett and more.

SOMEONE IS WRONG — From BEN SCHRECKINGER: James Comey says Trump told him that he did not stay overnight in Moscow during the 2013 Miss Universe competition (https://wapo.st/2GWqxIM), but Trump did stay overnight in Moscow, as his bodyguard Keith Schiller testified in 2017 (https://nbcnews.to/2GYYrwN).

****** A message from Chevron: Chevron and local partners are helping to provide DOERS with the hands-on technical training needed for today’s jobs in the manufacturing and energy industries. Watch the video: https://politi.co/2q750qE ******

INTERESTING TAKE … — “Russia says alleged chemical attack in Syria staged by UK,” by the AP’s Vladimir Isachenkov: “The Russian Defense Ministry on Friday accused Britain of staging a fake chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma last weekend, a bold charge that comes amid Moscow’s stern warnings to the West against striking Syria.

“A day before a team from the international chemical weapons watchdog was to arrive in Douma, just east of Damascus, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said that images of victims of the purported attack were fakes staged with ‘Britain’s direct involvement,’ without providing evidence.” http://bit.ly/2H0kSBp

W.H. TRYING TO OUST ROSENSTEIN? — WSJ’s PETER NICHOLAS, MICHAEL BENDER and REBECCA BALLHAUS: “Two people who spoke to Mr. Trump during the week said they came away thinking both Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed Mr. Mueller, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions would soon be gone, potentially sparking a political and constitutional crisis. ‘It’s a matter of when, not if,’ said one person who has discussed the matter with Mr. Trump. …

“Mr. Trump has vented about firing officials in the past, only to allow them to linger in office for months. This week, his advisers told him to vent in public — on TV and Twitter — but not by picking up the phone and ordering personnel changes at the Justice Department. …

“To avoid the impression that Mr. Trump is looking to interfere in the Russia investigation, the White House has called supporters outside the administration and urged them to attack the probe — and Mr. Rosenstein in particular — on TV, according to people familiar with the matter. The White House also has promoted the notion that the two top Justice Department officials have run afoul of Congress for not swiftly turning over documents related to a subpoena from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.).” https://on.wsj.com/2GU9CXh

— NBC NEWS: “Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein tells confidantes he is prepared to be fired” https://nbcnews.to/2HyGfLv

— “FBI formally names McCabe’s replacement,” by Quint Forgey: “The FBI on Friday said it has officially replaced former deputy director Andrew McCabe, who was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions just hours before his retirement after becoming a target of President Donald Trump’s ire.

“Director Christopher Wray has tapped Associate Deputy Director David Bowdich to ascend to McCabe’s role, according to a bureau release. Bowdich previously served as assistant director in charge of the Los Angeles Field Office, where he oversaw investigations including the San Bernardino terror attack and the LAX active shooter investigation.” https://politi.co/2GY9JBo

TRUMP INC. — “Whatever happened to Trump ties? They’re over. So is most of Trump’s merchandising empire,” by WaPo’s Zane Anthony, Kathryn Sanders and David A. Fahrenthold: “In 2015, Trump listed 19 companies that were paying him to produce or distribute Trump-branded consumer goods. In recent weeks, only two said they are still selling Trump-branded goods. One is a Panamanian company selling Trump bed linens and home goods. The other is a Turkish company selling Trump furniture.

“Of the rest, some Trump partners quit in reaction to campaign-trail rhetoric on immigrants and Muslims. Others said their licensing agreements had expired. Others said nothing beyond confirming that they’d stopped working with Trump. Their last Trump goods are now being sold off, often at a discount.” https://wapo.st/2GZlxDc

WASHINGTON INC. – “Scott Pruitt’s Lobbyist Landlord Being Pressured to Leave His Firm,” by the Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng and Sam Stein: “The lobbyist who rented Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt a room in his Capitol Hill townhouse is being pressured to retire from his firm earlier than previously planned, The Daily Beast has learned. J. Steven Hart, the chairman of Williams & Jensen, had been considering leaving this year, four sources familiar with his thinking said. But the emergence of the scandal surrounding his association with Pruitt has expedited talk of his departure … Hart’s wife, Vicki Hart, is the co-owner of the townhouse that was offered to the EPA chief.” https://thebea.st/2vaFRjI

BEYOND THE BELTWAY — “How Rohrabacher Landed a Challenge From his Orange County Protégé,” by National Journal’s Ally Mutnick: “Four old friends gathered in January 2016 at an office building here in this plush Orange County suburb to discuss the future of California’s 48th District.

“One was Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who has represented the area for three decades. Another was Scott Baugh, a Rohrabacher protégé whom he propelled from obscurity into the state Assembly in the 1990s. The conversation ended with what all but Rohrabacher now say was an understanding that the seat would be open in 2018, but what happened in the months to come led to the deterioration of a long-standing alliance and spawned one of this year’s most fascinating congressional battles.” http://bit.ly/2GXIBCe

TV TONIGHT — Bob Costa is joined by CNN’s Abby Phillip, POLITICO’s Michael Crowley, WaPo’s Phil Rucker, NYT’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg and WSJ’s Nancy Youssef on “Washington Week” tonight at 8 p.m.

PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION — POPVILLE: Another WAWA coming to D.C. in Columbia Heights http://bit.ly/2GYr4tV

HILLARY ALUMNI – MINYON MOORE, former senior adviser on the Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign, and JOE GAYLORD, a Gingrich and NRCC alum, were inducted into the American Association of Political Consultants Hall of Fame and received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

OBAMA ALUMNI — per Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva: One new Comedy Central “project, ‘Young Professionals’ centers on David Litt, who at age 24 became one of the youngest White House speechwriters in history. Written and executive produced by Litt and inspired by his own experiences, ‘Young Professionals’ follows five friends who struggle to make a difference in the broken, bizarre, hopelessly absurd world of Washington, D.C.” http://bit.ly/2GZw99d

SPOTTED at a ribbon cutting ceremony for the D.C. Bar’s new headquarters: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Bar CEO Bob Spagnoletti, District Councilman Phil Mendelson, Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby and Chief Judge Robert Morin.

OUT AND ABOUT — SPOTTED last night at an office opening party for WestExec Advisors, co-founded by Michèle Flournoy, Tony Blinken, Nitin Chadda and Sergio Aguirre: Denis McDonough, Susan Rice, Tom Donilon, Lisa Monaco, Robert Work, UAE Amb. Yousef Al Otaiba, Finland Amb. Kirsti Kauppi, Jen Psaki, Matt Devlin, Avril Haines, Raul Perea-Henze, David Ray, Beth Solomon.

SPOTTED at Susan Glasser and Peter Baker’s house last night for a party co-hosted by Alan Cooperman and Martina Vandenberg to celebrate Grace Kennan Warnecke’s new book “Daughter of the Cold War” — ($20.42 on Amazon https://amzn.to/2GUaETm): Amy and Brian Hook, Susan Rice, Lisa and Sandy Vershbow, Phil and Melanne Verveer, Heidi and Doug Rediker, Mary Warlick, Juleanna Glover, Evelyn Farkas, Jennifer Bradley and Leon Wieseltier, Maggie Paxson and Charles King, Rory MacFarquhar, Lisa and Michael Dobbs, Sharon and Dick Miles, Lynne Olson and Stan Cloud and Wendy Benchley.

SPOTTED at Bobby Van’s last night for a happy hour for Tim and Kiki Burger: Steve Clemons and Andrew Oros, Steve Rochlin and Christina Sevilla, Bryan Greene and Josh Meyer, Ron and Sara Bonjean, Neil Grace. Brendan Martin, Nick Massella, Nihal Krishan, Jeff Grappone, Liz Johnson, Janet Donovan, Patrick Mellody, Gideon Lett, Polson Kanneth, Tom Williams, Jess Bravin, Christine Delargy, Nikki Schwab.

TRANSITION — Matt Weibel is joining the Cato Institute as director of government affairs. His last day as Rep. Justin Amash’s (R-Mich.) deputy chief of staff is today.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Andrew Ackerman, a reporter covering financial regulation and Congress for the Wall Street Journal, and Tara Leystra Ackerman, state government affairs manager at the National Safety Council, recently welcomed Maya Ackerman. Pic http://bit.ly/2JFwr2O

ENGAGED — Brendan Belair, chief of staff to Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), recently proposed to Jennifer Lackey, the parliamentarian for the House Financial Services Committee. “I proposed after work at her house, of course using our puppy Toby as a prop (he dutifully sat next to me thanks to sliced cheese in my pocket). As a surprise, her parents flew up from Texas for the weekend.” Pic http://bit.ly/2GYaZo6

BIRTHWEEK — Kasey O’Brien of CrowdPac was 24 yesterday (hat tip: Megan McKinley)

****** A message from Chevron: See how Chevron with local partners are helping DOERS get the hands-on technical training needed for jobs in the energy and manufacturing industries. Watch the video: https://politi.co/2q750qE ******

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What happens if Trump fires Rosenstein?

Figuring out whether or when President Donald Trump will try to fire special counsel Robert Mueller is Washington’s favorite parlor game of the moment.

The easiest way for Trump to fire Mueller is to order someone else to do it — and the most obvious person to start with is deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who stepped in to oversee the federal probe into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself last year.

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When President Richard Nixon tried something similar in 1973, Attorney General Elliot Richardson resigned after refusing Nixon’s demand to fire Archibald Cox, who was investigating Watergate. Richardson’s deputy also rebuffed the order and resigned, leaving then-Solicitor General Robert Bork to ultimately carry out the deed. The bloodletting in the top ranks of the Justice Department came to be known as the Saturday Night Massacre.

Rosenstein said in congressional testimony last year that he would refuse to fire Mueller unless he’d engaged in some misconduct. “I would follow the regulation. If there were good cause, I would act. If there were no good cause, I would not,” Rosenstein told the House Judiciary Committee last December.

But an array of Trump allies — everyone from onetime campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to former strategist Steve Bannon — have urged Trump in recent days to fire Rosenstein, who authorized the raid earlier this week on longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, provoking growing speculation that the deputy attorney general might be on his way out. The president met with Rosenstein at the White House on Thursday.

No matter how it is accomplished, a drive by Trump to oust Mueller could trigger a mass exodus of officials from the Justice Department and White House lawyers. There is also the risk of a political conflagration in Congress, although it’s still not clear how far Trump can go before a substantial contingent of Republican lawmakers would break with him publicly.

If Trump decides to fire Rosenstein despite the existential risk to his presidency, the resulting vacuum in oversight of the Trump-Russia probe could be filled in different ways.

1. Trump could dump Sessions, too

Trump could simultaneously force out Sessions — a frequent target of his angry tirades — and use his presidential authority under the 1998 Vacancies Reform Act to install an acting attorney general who, unlike Sessions, wouldn’t have to recuse from the Russia probe — and could dismiss Mueller.

2. Trump could override the established succession plan to replace Rosenstein

Trump could leave Sessions in his role and just replace Rosenstein using the same mechanism, which may allow him to appoint anyone who holds a Senate-confirmed post anywhere in the executive branch — including any Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorney or any Cabinet member.

The catch? There have been conflicting opinions about whether the president can override an established succession plan inside federal agencies. In 2001, George W. Bush White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales issued a memo saying the Justice Department’s own succession policies take precedence over presidential decisions, but Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel reversed that view in 2007. That would open up the possibility of legal challenges, including potentially from Mueller himself.

One sign that Trump may be willing to go this route: he already did it in 2017, when he appointed U.S. Attorney Dana Boente as acting attorney general after firing Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, an Obama holdover, for refusing to defend his travel ban order.

3. Trump could also just follow the Justice Department’s own succession plan.

The first person up would normally be the Justice Department’s No. 3 official, the associate attorney general. (This position did not exist in 1973.)

Trouble is, that position has been vacant since Trump appointee Rachel Brand resigned in February to take a job at Walmart. Because the acting associate attorney general, Jesse Panuccio, isn’t confirmed, he doesn’t have the authority to fire Mueller — and Trump hasn’t even nominated anyone yet to replace Brand.

The next set of potential replacements would come from an order signed in November 2016 by Attorney General Loretta Lynch — though Sessions could change it, he hasn’t.

Under the existing order, those in line to inherit oversight of the Trump-Russia probe are:

Title: Solicitor General
Name: Noel Francisco
Metadata: When Nixon sought to fire Watergate prosecutor Cox in 1973, the deed was ultimately done by the person serving in this position, Robert Bork. Francisco is a well-respected, experienced Supreme Court litigator who served in the White House counsel’s office and Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel under President George W. Bush. Francisco was confirmed to the solicitor general post, 50-47, last September. He’s a committed conservative who has dutifully defended Trump’s policies in court, but it’s unclear how he would respond if confronted with a presidential demand to fire Mueller.

Title: Assistant Attorney General for Office of Legal Counsel
Name: Steven Engel
Metadata: A former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Engel served as the No. 2 official in OLC under President George W. Bush. Engel was a partner at the law firm Dechert, before being confirmed by the Senate last November, 51-47.

Title: Assistant Attorney General for National Security
Name: John Demers
Metadata: Demers served as a top attorney in Justice’s National Security Division in the years after it was created in 2006. He was a top lawyer at Boeing before being confirmed to his current job on a voice vote in February 2018.

Title: Assistant Attorney General for Criminal Division
Name: Vacant
Metadata: Position has been open since the beginning of the Trump administration. Trump nominated former Sessions Senate aide Brian Benczkowski last June and again in January. Acting official is John Cronan.

Title: Assistant Attorney General for Civil Division
Name: Vacant
Metadata: Position has been open since the beginning of the Trump administration. Trump nominated Sessions’ former chief of staff, Jody Hunt, last December and again in January. Acting official is Chad Readler.

Title: Assistant Attorney General for Environmental and Natural Resources Division
Name: Vacant
Metadata: Position has been open since the beginning of the Trump administration. Last June, Trump nominated a former No. 2 in Justice’s environmental division under President George W. Bush, Jeffrey Clark. He was renominated in January. Acting official is John Wood.

With the Justice Department’s succession list exhausted, the provisions of an executive order Trump issued in March 2017 would kick in, offering up a new list of potential stand-ins.

Title: U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia
Name: Vacant
Metadata: Dana Boente, a holdover from the Obama administration, served in this position through late January, when he moved over to become general counsel at the FBI. Trump has not nominated a replacement. Acting official is Tracy Doherty-McCormick.

Title: U.S. Attorney for Eastern District of North Carolina
Name: Robert Higdon Jr.
Metadata: Higdon was nominated by Trump last August and confirmed to the job the following month. A long-time Justice Department prosecutor in Washington and North Carolina, Higdon was co-lead counsel for the government in the 2012 trial of former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) over alleged campaign financial violations related to payments directed to a woman he secretly had an affair with. Jurors acquitted Edwards on one count and deadlocked on five others.

Title: U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas
Name: Erin Nealy Cox
Metadata: Trump nominated Cox to this post in September. She was confirmed in November. Cox previously worked as a prosecutor in the same office and later served in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy under President George W. Bush. Cox also did stints working for consulting firms Stroz Friedberg and McKinsey & Co.

The consequences

Any of these moves would almost certainly guarantee an immediate political backlash, and Trump would likely face a legal imbroglio if Mueller or others challenge his dismissal in court.

Even without Mueller, the Russia investigation and prosecutions could continue, through other Justice Department channels — including the Southern District of New York, which oversaw the Cohen raid this week.

If Trump managed to shut those investigations down, state attorneys general like New York’s Eric Schneiderman general might reactivate their currently dormant inquiries into the actions of Trump and his associates.

A removal of Mueller could also spur Congress to act, possibly through legislation aimed at restoring him to his post, although that, too, would face legal uncertainty. Or Trump could face the worst-case scenario: impeachment. That, in turn, might prompt him to again follow in Nixon’s footsteps and choose resignation.

http://www.politico.com

FBI formally names McCabe’s replacement

David Bowdich is pictured. | AP Photo

FBI Director Christopher Wray tapped David Bowdich (pictured) to replace Andrew McCabe. Bowdich previously served oversaw investigations in Los Angeles, including the San Bernardino terror attack and the LAX active shooter investigation. | Amanda Lee Myers/AP

McCabe, a target of Trump’s on Twitter, was fired last month as FBI deputy director shortly before his retirement.

The FBI on Friday said it has officially replaced former deputy director Andrew McCabe, who was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions just hours before his retirement after becoming a target of President Donald Trump’s ire.

Director Christopher Wray has tapped Associate Deputy Director David Bowdich to ascend to McCabe’s role, according to a bureau release. Bowdich previously served as assistant director in charge of the Los Angeles Field Office, where he oversaw investigations including the San Bernardino terror attack and the LAX active shooter investigation.

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Paul Abbate — the executive assistant director for the bureau’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch — will take over Bowdich’s job. He most recently worked as assistant director in charge of the Washington Field Office.

McCabe’s ouster in March came a little more than a day before the 50-year-old deputy director’s planned retirement, jeopardizing part of his pension. Sessions claimed McCabe violated Justice Department policies and was not forthcoming with investigators probing FBI actions before the 2016 presidential election. Internal department reviews determined that “McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions,” the attorney general said in a statement.

The FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility also recommended McCabe’s dismissal, citing findings from the Justice Department’s inspector general’s report, which have not yet been made public.

But McCabe asserted the motivations for his firing were purely political.

“Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of [former FBI Director] James Comey,” McCabe said in a statement contesting his firing. “The release of this report was accelerated only after my testimony to the House Intelligence Committee revealed that I would corroborate former Director Comey’s accounts of his discussions with the President.”

Trump has long accused McCabe of bias because his wife’s 2015 campaign for a seat in Virginia’s state legislature accepted donations from the super PAC of former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, an ally of the Clintons. Trump celebrated McCabe’s firing on Twitter as “a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI” and “a great day for Democracy.”

http://www.politico.com