Las Vegas Sun

April 18, 2019

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Where I Stand:

Firing of Sessions shows there’s no time to rest

Just when we thought it was safe to take a breath ...

The 2018 midterm election results weren’t even in the books Wednesday morning when President Donald Trump stuck yet another finger in the eye of justice and released his latest attack on the rule of law.

It is no secret that Trump no longer likes the man he originally chose for attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions — who really does? — so firing him as his first order of business in the new political world order should have come as no surprise. And, of course, Trump has the right to fire Sessions. The question, though, for the American public and more importantly, for the special counsel, is whether he should have done so.

As an aside, the rise and fall of Sessions is one for the history books. He left a safe Senate seat in Alabama (which resulted in a Democrat taking his place in the ruby red state) to become his idol’s attorney general, only to follow the law and recuse himself from the Russia probe. The recusal upset the boss so much that he is now out of a job, a Senate seat and, frankly, any particular political favor a Republican from Alabama could enjoy who has crossed the pride of Trumpworld, the man himself.

But I digress. The issue now is the man who would be attorney general (acting or otherwise), Matthew Whitaker. Who is Whitaker?

Besides being a man who has as much or more reason to immediately recuse himself from the Russia investigation as Sessions ever did, it appears that Trump’s new favorite flavor at the Justice Department is a person with a plan to slow to a halt Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Whitaker is also a man who has been auditioning for this job all year by telling anyone who will listen that he thinks the Russia investigation is a sham, that “there is no collusion” by Trump and that using the Justice Department and other agencies to investigate political rivals is OK with him.

In short, Whitaker makes President Richard Nixon and his enemies list look benign. He is the type of person whom any autocrat or dictator wannabe would love to have at his side — a person seemingly short on scruples, ethics and morals. Whatever it takes is what he appears willing to give. In the movies, that might qualify him for wet work, but in real life, it doesn’t come close to what it takes to run the U.S. Department of Justice.

All of this could explain why Trump appointed Whitaker as acting attorney general. It also explains what a prima facie case of obstruction of justice looks like, should Mueller need any help.

You can’t make this stuff up. And even though it would have been nice to give the country a rest from the daily drama that has defined the Trump presidency, the fact remains that, to quote President Ronald Reagan, “Here we go again.” As in: When is Trump going to act like a real president and not just someone more interested in his own well-being than the well-being of the people who hired him?

That, I predict along with most of the thinking world, will never happen. Trump just isn’t made that way.

So, at a time when votes are still being counted, plans are being made for a peaceful transfer of power in a not-so-politically peaceful House of Representatives and ordinary Americans are looking forward to a respite from politics so they can get back to their lives, we have brand new drama to keep us up at night.

Why? Because the president, of all the people, can only think about himself and the people around him — as in his relatives who may be in jeopardy if Mueller’s team produces anything incriminating. That is why Trump stuck Whitaker in at the top of the Justice Department: to prevent any semblance of justice from taking place.

At this point, assuming the Republican-led Senate continues to remain prostrate before their American idol by refusing to hold an unchecked and out-of-balance executive, well, checked and balanced, it seems likely that Trump’s next act will be disappearing the Mueller probe. And this time, instead of a flawed but law-following Sessions at the top of the Justice Department, we will have an unabashed and unapologetic Trump protector running the show.

Yes, dear readers, as much as you thought you had done your level best to right our ship of state, and you did that admirably and responsibly, the fact remains that we must do a whole lot more to keep this ship on the course of freedom and democracy.

There is no other reasonable explanation. The actions of Trump this past week are the actions of a man ridden with guilt, a man trying to steer the wheels of the Justice Department his way and not along the path of justice.

And before you think that the courts will protect America against the pending constitutional crisis Trump is about to unleash, remember this:

The two justices Trump put on the Supreme Court come from that school of thought that says the president, especially this president, can do no wrong. Counting on this court to stop this president could be an act of extreme foolishness.

We don’t have the luxury right now of taking a deep breath. We barely have time to catch our breath. So stay focused and don’t let up.

By the way, you can call me in the middle of the night. I won’t be sleeping either.

Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.