Monday provided a bit of a fire drill for the upcoming Constitutional Crisis, when it looked like Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Robert Mueller's Special Counsel investigation into Team Trump's alleged conspiracy with Russia in 2016, appeared to be about to be either fired or forced to resign. That moment, for now, will likely not happen now until Thursday, when he is set to meet with Donald Trump at the White House after the President's appearance this week at the U.N. General Assembly.
The showdown with Rosenstein comes on the heels of what appears to be a somewhat misleading exclusive published last Friday by the New York Times, reporting that Rosenstein "suggested" using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office during a meeting at the Department of Justice last year, in the chaotic days after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in his attempt to end the FBI's Trump/Russia investigation. Rosenstein, according to follow-up reports from other outlets quoting a source said to have actually been in the room at the time of the conversation in question, is said to have been sarcastic when mentioning wearing a wire to record the President.
Also coming up this Thursday, if all goes as currently scheduled, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is set to testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee after a weekend of negotiations with Senate Republicans following her accusation of sexual assault by U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when they were both in high school. Over the weekend, and into Monday, several other allegations of assault (we're up to four now) by Kavanaugh in high school and college, vague or otherwise, have begun to surface.
We're joined today by Slate's Supreme Court and legal reporter MARK JOSEPH STERN to try to make sense of all of these quickly developing stories. In the Rosenstein saga, Stern details his concerns about Trump's Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who would be next in the line of succession to become Acting Attorney General overseeing the Mueller probe if Rosenstein is removed from his post. He describes Francisco as a huge Trump supporter, who has simply made up stuff out of whole cloth, even while arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court. Stern explains why Francisco would be very likely to try and shut down the Special Counsel probe if given the opportunity.
"He is an extremely unscrupulous, unethical and dishonest man," he tells me. "To let this guy, who would lie whenever it's convenient for him, control this investigation --- it's a recipe for disaster."
We also discuss why Republicans are in a desperate state of panic to install Kavanaugh as quickly as possible on their already-stolen SCOTUS. Among the reasons cited by Stern are both the odds of Republicans losing their majority in the Senate this November and a number of cases important to Rightwingers that are to be heard by the Supremes when they begin their new term on October 1. A 4-4 tie in several of those cases would be likely to benefit progressives.
"They've got to squeeze it all in while they still have that one-vote majority" in the Senate, he explains. "Now they just have to cross this final finish line, shove these accusers to the side and get this man on the bench for life."
Stern also responds to the claims by many on the right who suggest Kavanaugh should not be held accountable for his behavior as a 17-year old. That assertion, however, is at odds with how courts deal with crimes by 17-year olds who aren't nominated for lifetime appoints to the Supreme Court.
Stern, who happens to be a licensed attorney in the state of Maryland, also speaks to the weekend claim by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that the crimes alleged to have been carried out by Kavanaugh in MD 36 years ago could no longer be prosecuted. Stern argues that is not true and local law enforcement officials in the state seem to concur.
Finally, as Rosenstein appears to be targeted for removal, as early as this week, we share a new song by Ben Folds, recently published by Washington Post Magazine, inspired by a derisive name Trump is said to use when referring to the Deputy Attorney General: Mr. Peepers - The Ballad of Rod Rosenstein...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)