If you can't find the ethics officials you want, find the ethics officials you need

If you can't find the ethics officials you want, find the ethics officials you need

by digby

We knew Matt Whitaker was Trump's mole in the DOJ as he worked for Jeff Sessions and he still is:

A senior Justice Department ethics official concluded acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker should recuse from overseeing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe examining President Trump, but advisers to Whitaker recommended the opposite and he has no plans to step aside, according to people familiar with the matter.

The latest account of what happened underscores the high stakes and deep distrust — within Congress and in some corners of the Justice Department — surrounding Whitaker’s appointment to become the nation’s top law enforcement official until the Senate votes on the nomination of William P. Barr to take the job. Earlier Thursday, a different official, who spoke on the condition they not be named, said ethics officials had advised Whitaker need not step aside, only to retract that account hours later.

Within days of the president’s announcement in early November that he had put Whitaker in the role on a temporary basis, Whitaker tapped a veteran U.S. attorney to become part of a four-person team of advisers on his new job, including the question of whether he should recuse from Mueller’s investigation because of his past statements regarding that probe, and his friendship with one of its witnesses, according to a senior Justice Department official.

Whitaker never asked Justice Department ethics officials for a recommendation, nor did he receive a formal recommendation, this official said.

However, after Whitaker met repeatedly with ethics officials to discuss the facts and the issues under consideration, a senior ethics official told the group of advisers on Tuesday that it was a “close call,” but Whitaker should recuse to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, the official said. Whitaker was not present at that meeting, they said.

Those four advisers, however, disagreed with the ethics determination and recommended to Whitaker the next day not to recuse, saying there was no precedent for doing so, and doing so now could create a bad precedent for future attorneys general.

Basically Whitaker didn't like what the ethics officials told him so he appointed a different group of advisers to tell him what he wanted to hear. Who are they? He won't say.

Nobody is surprised by this, of course. The whole reason he was chosen was that he was a demonstrated Trump toady. And it looks like Trump's permanent replacement nominee is too:

President Trump’s pick for attorney general sent the Justice Department an unsolicited memo earlier this year questioning the appropriateness of an obstruction probe special counsel Robert Mueller is said to be conducting of certain Trump actions in the White House.

The memo, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, was sent to the Department in June 2018 by William Barr, who previously served as Attorney General under President George H.W. Bush and can be read in full below.

Barr in the memo acknowledged that he was basing his assessment on what had been publicly reported about Mueller’s investigation and he recognized that he was “in the dark about many facts.” However, he argued that Mueller “should not be permitted to demand that the President submit to interrogation about alleged obstruction.”

The memo called Mueller’s obstruction theory “fatally misconceived” and as Barr understood it, premised on “a novel and legally insupportable reading of the law.”

The nearly 19-page memo suggested that, while there are certainly examples of obstructive conduct that could be investigated — destroying or altering evidence, suborning perjury, inducing witnesses to change testimony — President Trump, as far as Barr knew, wasn’t being “accused of engaging in any wrongful act of evidence impairment.”

Nice of him to send this, out of the blue, all on his own. How generous of his to share his knowledge with the Department of Justice out of the goodness of his heart.

Yeah, not likely. It's pretty obvious that Barr turned down the personal lawyer gig (because it's a dumpster fire of a job) and was angling for this one. Trump got the message.

The crisis in the Justice Department continues apace. It's almost certain that Whitaker is sharing everything he knows with the Trump team. He's a low-level, cheap, wingnut, conman and that's what he was put there to do. I had some hope that Barr would be someone who would see all the facts and understand that this is waaay bigger than partisan politics or some abstract battle over executive authority. Now, I think that's a real long shot. Barr appears to be one of those conservatives who have been drinking the toxic swill of the right-wing fever swamp and he's now willing to put his reputation and legacy on the line to support Trump. He must be a believer because he doesn't have to do it. He's not an elected official. He's a volunteer and apparently so eager to help that he's just been unsolicited opinions about the Mueller problem to the Department of Justice.

This is going to be a big mess, I'm afraid. I hope that the Special Counsel has a fail-safe lined up because these people are determined to protect this miscreant despite the fact that the country seems to have been the target of a massive foreign influence campaign to put him in the White House.

This is bad.

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