Après Rod, Le Déluge!
Is Rod Rosenstein about to get You're Fired when he meets with Donald Trump on Thursday? Well, since Axios and The Times are in timeout for the Rosenstein beat -- and they know what they did, Mister -- we're going with The Post, which predicts Mr. Peepers stays put until after the midterms. Which means that Jeff Sessions's chief of staff Matthew Whitaker can quit looking at carpet samples to redecorate Rod's office for a hot second.
Well, Whitaker is the guy slated to take over as acting Deputy Attorney General when Rosenstein finally gets the boot. And if we had to guess, Whitaker's the one who started all the trouble on Monday.
The Post reports that Whitaker spent last weekend flapping his yap about his impending promotion.
Rod J. Rosenstein's departure seemed so certain this week that his boss's chief of staff told colleagues that he had been tapped by the White House to take over as second-in-command of the Justice Department, while another official would supervise the special counsel probe into Russia's interference in the 2016 election, people familiar with the matter said.
But by Monday afternoon, the succession plan had been scrapped. Rosenstein, who told the White House he was willing to quit if President Trump wouldn't disparage him, would remain the deputy attorney general in advance of a high-stakes meeting on Thursday to discuss the future of his employment.
Some officials said that Matt Whitaker, Attorney General Jeff Sessions's chief of staff, had told people he would be taking over for Rosenstein — an indication that the deputy attorney general's departure was all but certain — and were surprised when it was announced that Rosenstein would remain in his job.
Gotcha. So Rosenstein drafted an exit memo and marched up to the White House Monday promising to go quietly if President Revenge Porn would promise not to ruin his life by siccing the pitchfork mob on him. Except Rosenstein overshot -- if Trump fired everyone who called him a fucking idiot, the White House would be empty. John Kelly just shrugged and told him to come back Thursday to meet with the president. Now the Post's sources say that Trumpland looked at the furor on Monday and decided to wait until after the midterms to Saturday Night Massacre the entire DOJ leadership at once.
Now you, being a regular reader of this here mommyblog, may be wondering how Trump thinks he's getting permanent replacements for Sessions and Rosenstein confirmed in December? Does he perhaps have a secret plan to swap Sessions for a certain southern senator whose name rhymes with Schmindsey Schmaham? Not clear! But just in case Rosenstein does get the boot on Thursday, let's take a look at the rogues' gallery of hacks and hatchetmen that will take his place.
As we mentioned, Matthew Whitaker, former US Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, will likely become acting Deputy Attorney General if Rosenstein goes. After losing Iowa's US Senate primary to Joni Ernst in 2014, Whitaker attached himself to a company called World Patent Marketing that catered to "inventors." Sadly, WPM was shut down for fraud in 2017 by the Federal Trade Commission. But worry not, because Whitaker landed on his feet with a job as Attorney General Jeff Sessions's COS. Because the Trump administration hires ALL THE BEST PEOPLE.
In normal circumstances, Rosenstein's deputy Ed O'Callaghan would take over for his boss in case of a vacancy. We can only assume that Whitaker's reputation for sterling ethics and unimpeachable judgment caused his elevation in the succession hierarchy. In fact, Axios (of course!) says that Whitaker's been mentioned as a possible replacement for Don McGahn as White House Counsel if Emmet Flood turns out to be too, uh, inflexible for the job defending the president.
God only knows what fuckery Whitaker could get up to with his hands on the reins at the DOJ. When he was simply a CNN commentator with side hustles at a conservative PAC and a scam patent company, Whitaker warned that Mueller would be "crossing a red line" if he dared to look into the Trump Organization's finances. But as it turns out, Whitaker won't be supervising the Russia investigation. (We could 'splain why in eleventy hundred words, or you could just take our word for it.) That hot potato falls into the lap of Solicitor General Noel Francisco.
The good news is, Francisco is nowhere near as hacky as Whitaker. He's had a long career in DC at the Justice Department and in private practice, and he's argued many times before the Supreme Court. The bad news is, Francisco is a Federalist Society nutter who seems to have decided that his client is Donald Trump, not the US government. He's taken the legal position that Trump's power to hire and fire within the executive branch is basically unlimited, which does not bode well for Robert Mueller's job security. The complicated news is that he too might have to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, since his law firm Jones Day represented the Trump campaign.
(Yes, there are only 11 lawyers in all of DC. It's weird.)
Francisco has thus far recused from any Supreme Court litigation involving his old firm. But we would not be FOR SHOCKED if the powers that be in Trumpland magicked up an ethics waiver to permit Francisco to supervise the investigation into Russian contacts with the Trump campaign. It's not like those guys are overly concerned about ethics. But if he does recuse, then it's likely that Steven Engel, head of the Office of Legal Counsel, would step in to supervise the Russia investigation. That would be BAD, since Engel is a GOP loyalist who was only too happy to sign off on the infamous torture memos when he worked in the Bush-era Office of Legal Counsel. Moreover, it would be wildly inappropriate to have a 44-year-old political appointee supervising the highly respected former US Attorney and head of the FBI. But, let's be honest, wildly inappropriate is kind of the Trump Administration's calling card. So, who the hell knows!
TL, DR? It's not good. Whoever comes after Rosenstein is going to be much worse. Let's just hope Ol' Rod can hang on another two months.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.