Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Snag in the Special Prosecution

The Trump administration is exploring whether it can use an obscure ethics rule to undermine the special counsel investigation into ties between President Donald Trump's campaign team and Russia, two people familiar with White House thinking said on Friday.


Within hours of Mueller's appointment on Wednesday, the White House began reviewing the Code of Federal Regulations, which restricts newly hired government lawyers from investigating their prior law firm’s clients for one year after their hiring, the sources said.

An executive order signed by Trump in January extended that period to two years. Mueller's former law firm, WilmerHale, represents Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who met with a Russian bank executive in December, and the president's former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is a subject of a federal investigation.

Legal experts said the ethics rule can be waived by the Justice Department, which appointed Mueller. He did not represent Kushner or Manafort directly at his former law firm.

If the department did not grant a waiver, Mueller would be barred from investigating Kushner or Manafort, and this could greatly diminish the scope of the probe, experts said.


Even if the Justice Department granted a waiver, the White House would consider using the ethics rule to create doubt about Mueller's ability to do his job fairly, the sources said.


Under this strategy, the sources said the administration would raise the issue in press conferences and public statements.

For sure, Twitter.
Moreover, the White House has not ruled out the possibility of using the rule to challenge Mueller’s findings in court, should the investigation lead to prosecution.
This could become a huge quagmire.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on whether it is reviewing the ethics rule in order to undermine Mueller's credibility.
Of course they will.
Unlike Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel appointed by a three-judge panel to investigate Bill and Hillary Clinton's real estate holdings in the 1990s, Mueller depends on the Justice Department for funding and he reports to Rosenstein, who was appointed by Trump.

When he announced Mueller's appointment this week, Rosenstein said Mueller will have "all appropriate resources to conduct a thorough and complete investigation."
And who decides what's "appropriate"?

"An executive order signed by Trump in January extended that period to two years." I don't think they could have guessed Mueller would be called in, but, still: Why? Doing that is highly suspicious, don't you think? They had something in mind.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

UPDATE 5/23: DOJ says Mueller is full qualified to sit.

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