Dear Lindsey: Not Even Trump Gives a Shit What You Think about the Whitaker Appointment

About the most competent thing Trump managed with his ham-handed roll out of a hatchet man to oversee the Mueller investigation was to pick someone with close ties to Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley. Matt Whitaker has driven all around Iowa with Grassley.

And somehow, Whitaker managed to have Gary Barnett, whose Linked In profile says he still works as Jeff Flake’s Chief Counsel, installed as his new Chief of Staff in time to attend Whitaker’s takeover strategy huddle, while Sessions huddled with Senate confirmed officials.

So whatever else he is or is not, Whitaker is certainly well wired with one of the committees that would have oversight on his actions.

Perhaps that’s why Lindsey Graham and CBS Face the Nation thought he’d be a good guest to opine that everything pertaining to Whitaker’s appointment is hunky dory.

Graham told “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan on Sunday he believes the acting attorney general was “appointed appropriately” and “legally,” and he’s “confident” Whitaker won’t interfere in Mueller’s ongoing investigation.

“I talked with Matt yesterday,” Graham said. “I’m going to meet with him next week when we get our schedules aligned here. I think he was appropriately appointed legally. I don’t think he has to recuse himself. I am confident the Mueller investigation will be allowed to come to a good solid conclusion, that there’ll be no political influence put on Mr. Mueller by Mr. Whitaker to do anything other than Mr. Mueller’s job. I’m confident that Mr. Mueller will be allowed to do his job without interference.”

To be clear: I’m not minimizing the degree to which Trump has eliminated one possible source of resistance to his hatchet man plan, by picking someone wired into SJC (and backed vocally by Leonard Leo, since Republican SJC members appear to answer to him).

But by picking Whitaker, Trump has affirmatively told the Senate they — and the professionals for whom they have spent the time to advise and consent — are expendable. After all, the sole reason to appoint Whitaker rather than rely on normal succession is to prevent Rosenstein from having oversight of investigations into Trump.

More importantly, while SJC could have a hearing and Lindsey promises he’ll meet with Whitaker, none of that will have an immediate effect. SJC has absolutely no way to prevent Whitaker from burning up all the norms critical to a functioning DOJ, including recusal where it clearly is called for. There’s not even a way to prevent Whitaker from trumping up some charge and firing Mueller before any such meeting happens.

And it’s not SJC’s place to judge if Whitaker’s appointment is illegal. That role belongs to OLC (whose head, Steven Engel, has already been in at least one discussion about whether it is constitutional) and the Courts. If the question gets to the latter, SJC is not among the leading entities that might have standing to challenge it.

Having Lindsey’s seal of approval might make it easier for Whitaker to last out the two months or so until Democrats take the House. But that will have zero role in whether Whitaker blows up the Constitution.

Lindsey (and CBS) think he matters here. That’s quaint.

43 replies
  1. David Lewis says:

    What a relief to know the acting AG’s CoS is Jeff Flake’s man….great catch…but ugh the Senate just sucks right now

    I guess at least 1 key point will be somebody with proper authority telling Whitaker any action against Mueller is illegal…and then dealing with that issue if such ill advised action is taken once the proper authority chain is restored (assuming- can’t believe I’m writing that but still-assuming such occurs).

    • Allison Holland says:

      kavanaugh could not have gotten through the fake gauntlet without the odious grahams help. he has every reason to believe that this time is no different. it doesnt matter what anyone thinks. what matters is what they are getting paid to do. somehow grahamn has been compromised. i dont know with what. but after that one first golf game with trump he seems bought. sold. repackaged. i dont think we can expect him to do anything in the nations interest anymore. the honorable grahamn is gone and the thing that has taken his place is a doorman who works for trump towers.

  2. CaliLawyer says:

    I’m no federal expert but it sure seems like Senators – and particularly those on the SJC – have some of the strongest standing claims around.

  3. Marinela says:

    Not sure why Face The Nation booked Lindsey G. and believes it is useful for public to hear from this senator. Media is complicit to giving a platform to him, as he continues lying, as they did with Trump.

    So many news the public really cares they could cover, and they picked LG for a show that airs once a week. Media being lazy, that’s all I can came up with.

    • David Lewis says:

      Money is the reason and Citizen’s United set that in stone…it’s a long uphill road those who wish to separate money from politics face (all hail Sen. Warren). I blame Bill Clinson for capitulating but it was gonna happen.

      How many civil servants can hang on to the vision like Ocasio-Cortez (can she)?

      Paul Volcker touches on this a few times in his recent bio- turning down big money for civil service. But I think he was running away from more than money. Leave that to the Psych boys.

      I took the cash, so I can’t say living a life less luxurious is easy to give up.

      There are a few banker, hedge fund buddies of mine who see the world this way, but there are far too many (in my view) Ayn Rand acolytes who just don’t see humanity in all humans.

      • bmaz says:

        Here is the thing though. And we go through this here every now and then like clockwork. Citizens United is not the real problem with money in politics, it is a result, not the cause. First off, the First Amendment argument behind CU is arguably not wrong at all.

        But, more importantly, the real damage was done on this issue in Buckley v. Valeo in 1976 and a followup two years later known as First National Bank v. Bellotti. People that focus their ire on CU are seriously misguided.

        • David Lewis says:

          I agree.

          The issue is money, or rather how to decrease the influence of money on votes, and it might be happening. 2006 was a good economy year and yet the Dems won. This year was a good economy year but the Dems won.

          My guess is, in part, the concentration of income is so severe that low unemployment, growing GDP just doesn’t translate into enough good econ feeling for enough people to get them to vote for the GoP.

          If, during the next elections, the reality, so transparent with Trump can be promoted and accepted by enough, that progressive taxes can be set such that most of our budget problems can be dealt with. So few of those who actually made their money are against this. It’s the inheritance class that fights it tooth and nail.

          Anyway, we will see.

          Last Tuesday was great and I hope more will follow.

          • bmaz says:

            Yes, exactly. I also think campaigns are just now realizing you can raise an insane amount of cash in small donations that even the less well off can, and will, make. It doesn’t always have to be institutions, corps and banks etc. Took the Dems WAY too long to realize that.

            • David Lewis says:

              The 3rd way of Clinton/Blair was a long detour.

              Both parties were trying to feed from the same trough.

              Great point on crowd-funding. $10 from 100M people adds up.

              Better yet, $10 gets so many invested in a way that $100K doesn’t for 1 person.

              I’m hopeful.

              • bmaz says:

                Right! Heck even $5. Any investment, even small, makes a voter invested and more likely to get involved in the campaign and then show up at the polls. It feeds off of itself.

      • cd54 says:

        Slightly hysterical — but not wrong: The purest future for our American representative governance is to remove or defenestrate the influence of moneyed interests on our governmental processes. That means TAXING (and pre-clearing with the IRS) any political contribution above $100.00 per person per election cycle, whether direct, indirect, bundled (bundled = single contribution), self-financed, or other, at a % rate in the 1,000’s (VAT) and TAXING all governmental lobbying expenses at a rate of 500%? 1000%? for any for-profit individual/business/corporate interest. In addition, any political contributions which are unexpended and controlled by any candidate should be TAXED at a rate of 75% per annum.

        GOPers rely on big pockets. The deplorables will not pony up — see Turtle’s comments re: ActBlue.

    • Vern says:

      They’ve got something on him.  Political Adage:  “…a dead girl or a live boy.”  I suspect it is the latter wrt Lindsey.

  4. TravisV says:

    John R. Schindler:

    ”An Intelligence Community official who assisted the Special Counsel’s investigation told me this week that Team Mueller is holding “dozens of sealed indictments” of people associated with the president, his 2015-16 campaign, and his administration. “Nobody who’s close to the Russians is getting out of this,” said the IC official. When will those indictments start being unsealed? Watch this space.”

    • bmaz says:

      John Schindler is a crackpot asshole, and I highly doubt anybody from Mueller’s shop is talking to him about Rule 6 sealed material. He is full shit.

  5. Jose says:

    Actually, under the emoluments case of Blumenthal vs. Trump, it seems that Senators do have strong standing claims to sue under an Appointments clause challenge, as the ruling in that case that established standing seems to be closely related.

    The question is whether they do file suit, whether they do so quickly and how fast the courts move on the issue.

  6. Jenny says:

    Lindsey Graham quotes:

    “You know how you make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.” – CNN interview. Dec 8, 2015

    “I’ve got a ticket on the Titanic. So I am like on the team that bought a ticket on the Titanic after we saw the movie. This is what happens if you nominate Trump.” – to reporters on Capitol Hill, Feb. 25, 2016

  7. gedouttahear says:

    Forgive me because this comment does not really add to this discussion but my fingers could not resist: Though the competition is fierce, is there a bigger feces specimen, presumably respirating, than lindsey graham? Btw, that’s a rhetorical question. Carry on.

  8. Trip says:

    I wish the ghost of John McCain would come back and headbutt Lindsey Graham like Carol Kane did to Bill Murray in Scrooged. The least he could do is rattle a coupla chains in the evenings.

  9. miloross says:

    I’d love to know how this would work in the Courts. (I don’t mean how anyone would rule, of course. Just what the process would look like–and who’d have to make it happen, etc.)

  10. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    “…But by picking Whitaker, Trump has affirmatively told the Senate they — and the professionals for whom they have spent the time to advise and consent — are expendable. …”
    It’s now time to see whether the Dems on the SJC concur that they are expendable.

  11. 'Stargirl says:

    Do you all know about “Wolf-Pac”?

    State by state effort to get a 28th Constitutional Amendment to get corporate money out of politics-public financing of elections.

  12. somecallmetim says:

    Marinela: Why book Sen. Graham on Sunday talk shows?

    With Sen. McCain’s passing Sen. Graham inherited the reasonableplainspokenmoderateestablishmentRepublican mantle.

    /Cap’n Obvious

  13. Trip says:

    bmaz retweeted a link to this story:
    Saudis Close to Crown Prince Discussed Killing Other Enemies a Year Before Khashoggi’s Death

    As for the businessmen, who had intelligence backgrounds, they saw their Iran plan both as a lucrative source of income and as a way to cripple a country that they and the Saudis considered a profound threat. George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, arranged the meeting. He had met previously with Prince Mohammed, and had pitched the Iran plan to Trump White House officials. Another participant in the meetings was Joel Zamel, an Israeli with deep ties to his country’s intelligence and security agencies… operations troops that might take on the contract. It is unclear which company he suggested…Mr. Nader and Mr. Zamel enlisted Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater and an adviser to the Trump transition team. They had already discussed elements of their plan with Mr. Prince, in a meeting when they learned of his own paramilitary proposals that he planned to try to sell to the Saudis.~NYT 11/11/18

    This is a premium paywall, but search Zamel/Netanyahu and it should show there:
    The Countless Israeli Connections to Mueller’s Probe of Trump and Russia
    The Israel-lobbyists, Netanyahu cronies, psyops manipulators and well-connected oligarchs —

    …beyond Zamel and Inspiration, a disturbing number of the main players implicated so far in Mueller’s investigation, many of them of Russian origin, have a direct link to Israel in their past or present..Nader, who is said to have been especially close to Dore Gold, the prime minister’s aide and former UN ambassador. Broidy also has a long history with Israel in general and Netanyahu in particular. Together with Sheldon Adelson, he is a prominent member of the board of directors of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which has taken hawkish positions on the Iran nuclear deal and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…Broidy set up Markstone Capital Group which operated in Israel, investing in Israeli companies and attracting Israeli investors. In 2003, then-Finance Minister Netanyahu took credit for convincing the New York State pension fund to invest $250 million in Markstone. It later emerged that Broidy’s bribes to former New York State Comptroller and now-convicted felon Alan Hevesi also played a role in the pension fund’s largesse….After Bharara was dismissed by Trump, Prevezon was allowed to pay a $6 million fine in May 2017 to avoid criminal prosecution. The owner of Prevezon is Denis Katsyv, another Israeli citizen, whose father Pyotr was a high municipal official in Moscow.

    Cough~Kushner~cough~cough. Reminder: August 2016 meeting at the tower, plus Junior with Zamel. And “George Nader, told Trump Jr. that the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were “eager to help” Donald Trump win the 2016 election.”~search May 19, 2018

    • Trip says:

      Wouldn’t it be a kick in the ass if Junior (or the unloved Eric) became a secret cooperating witness with immunity?

      One can dream.

  14. flounder2 says:

    So one thing I have been thinking about, but haven’t seen any speculation about:

    With the appointment of Whitaker, Jeffrey Sessions is no longer AG. He was involved in a number of important meetings with the Russians, including the one at the GOP Convention and a couple during the transition that he lied about during his Senate Confirmation. Does Mueller have any reason to bring him in for a talk?

  15. earlofhuntingdon says:

    For those who still need it, this description of Matthew Whitaker’s rise to prominence perfectly captures his utility (link omitted):

    Steve Roberts, a former head of the Iowa Republican party, told the Guardian Whitaker rose to prominence because of his willingness to run for statewide office against strong Democratic incumbents, which earned him a reputation as a “sacrificial lamb”.

    Matthew Whitaker built his career on being a pinata to decorate the parties of the GOP’s opponents, not for legal skills that would put Alberto Gonzales on par with Brandeis, Brennan, and Douglas. 

    Is that the sort of guy Hawkeye Iowans want as a federal judge or as the US Attorney General? Regardless, it does not bode well for justice for anyone in America that Matt Whitaker is even temporarily responsible for it.

    • Trip says:

      “Filler/Placecard”, but for who or what @ earl? Usually something even worse, unless they manage to pull a Kavanaugh with this doughboy.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Normally, it’s to separate the permanent replacement from the organizational gore left by the long knives wielded by the locum.  But, yea, who will replace Whitaker after he wields them?  Sessions permanent replacement might be a better lawyer than Whitaker, but he’s unlikely to be better for the country or the DoJ.

        Nobody capable of performing as AG would work for Trump, let alone in the last eighteen months of a corrupt and declining administration.  And Trump’s angst about his personal exposure aside, few people have so resolutely supported him and promoted his agenda better as Jeff Sessions.

        Trump has followed the BushCheney route in hiring a lot of people to perform acting roles, temporarily skirting the need for Senate approvals.  Those appointments inevitably and intentionally degrade the work and morale of the host organizations, which fits squarely into the neoliberal game plan.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      To coin a phrase, is there a way for Republicans to win, to hold onto power longer?

      “There’s a way to lose more slowly.”

      That line was delivered by the great Robert Mitchum in Jacque Tourneur’s, Out of the Past.  No better place to look for descriptions of this Republican party’s behavior than in film noir.

  16. Trip says:

    White House confirms Trump will not visit Arlington cemetery on Veteran’s Day as rain is expected~Rawstory
    Water and evil witches
    (cut and paste)

  17. John VanOphem says:

    So Lindsay Graham is a Trump sycophant and trying to “sell” the People that Whitaker is ok and legal. Duh!

  18. orionATL says:

    about that picture of senator graham at the top of the post,

    would it be unfair to describe the senator’s smile as a “shit eating grin”?

  19. Andy says:

    Lindsay is such a grotesque and disgusting human being. Such a moral midget. As a closeted homosexual, he is a member of and supports a party that sees his own sexual orientation as sinful and aberrant. What more do you need to know about such a man.

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