Will Jeff Sessions and Robert Mueller and a Lot of Other People Survive the August Recess?

I’ve been largely convinced that Trump using Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a whipping boy was equal parts pique and theater. Trump is obviously and understandably unhappy at the direction that Robert Mueller is taking his investigation and he blames Sessions for necessitating the appointment of a special counsel by his recusing himself from all matters concerning the Russia probe. On the other hand, talk of Sessions’ demise has dominated news coverage and kept the focus on Trump, which is something Trump likes. Practically, however, firing Sessions seems like a horrible decision. As I posted only yesterday:

The very idea that the Senate would confirm any known Trump ally to be Attorney General in this political environment–especially when the dissatisfaction with Sessions stems from the Russia probe–is risible.

I think that assessment is correct IF one views the Russia saga as the political theatrics it is. But the comments in that post got me to thinking. For instance:

what does the lack of logic around firing Sessions have anything to do with whether Sessions will be fired?

What if Trump really isn’t worried as much about getting a new AG as he is pissed off about the Russia probe?

Consider:

This is going far beyond the dissatisfaction expressed in last week’s New York Times interview and it is increasingly difficult to square these rather personal attacks with Sessions’ survival. And Axios reports:

President Trump, in one of his hallmark rituals, recently called a longtime political associate and asked out of the blue: “What would happen if I fired Sessions?”

Very good question.

This morning on Hugh Hewitt’s show (full disclosure, Hewitt’s show and RedState are both part of Salem Media), newly arrived White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci had this to say about Sessions’s half-life:

scaramucci-hewitt-interview

The Senate goes into recess in two weeks. If Trump fires Sessions before or during the recess (see NLRB v. Canning), he can appoint anyone he wishes as AG until the end of the current Congress (January 2019). Presumably whoever he appoints would not be under any illusions about the length of his tenure and would order Rod Rosenstein to dismiss Mueller. Rosenstein would presumably demur. He would be fired and a recess appointment would be made to deputy attorney general. Then Mueller gets the boot. The implication in all of this is that the only people who would accept the AG and Deputy AG position would be people who didn’t mind having this act associated with their names forever. That is a somewhat scary thought.

We’ve seen this before. On October 20, 1973, President Richard Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. He refused and resigned. Nixon then ordered the Deputy AG, William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. He refused and resigned. Next Solicitor General Robert Bork was told to fire Cox. He did. This was, arguably, the final straw in Nixon’s battle with Congress over Watergate and set in motion the drafting and approval of articles of impeachment by the House Judiciary Committee and Nixon’s resignation.

This has been dubbed the “Saturday Night Massacre” and we could very well see it repeated, except by a guy in a hockey face mask and carrying a chainsaw.

There is no direct parallel here with 1973. For instance, the independent counsel statute Cox operated under was of dubious Constitutionality and has been superseded so there is no legal dimension to a dismissal of Mueller. The most obvious deviation is that there is a GOP majority in the House and there is no guarantee that firing Mueller would generate any action. But, if Trump does this, we’re in uncharted waters. Is there a ripple of resignations across government? Or do the rest of his appointees hunker down and avert their eyes? Will the public care if Mueller is dumped (Townhall colleague Kurt Schlichter thinks not)? If they do care, will they care enough to demand impeachment?

Of course, this is all speculation. It could be Trump being Trump and simply venting his spleen and in a week this will all be ancient history to him. But if it isn’t we are about to live in a very interesting time.