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the presidency

Rearranging the Chairs to Fire Mueller

Another week of turmoil ended with President Trump creating a job opening at Homeland Security. In a quandary over how to get rid of "beleaguered" Attorney General Jeff Sessions, beleaguered by the tweets and taunts of Trump himself, the president wants Sessions to resign so he can claim non-involvement in his departure. To fire him would be too obvious that he is clearing the path to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Of course, that ultimate objective is perfectly obvious no matter which path Trump takes. And what he will now do, with John Kelly transferred to the White House as chief of staff, is name Sessions to run Homeland Security. What could be more appropriate, so will the argument be, than to plant Sessions in the post where he can fully exercise his contempt for immigrants and refugees with bans and deportations? And then, to take Sessions' place to run the Justice Department, we will see Trump appoint someone who by prior agreement will cashier Mueller. Having simply rearranged the chairs of his administration, Trump will claim he had no hand in any of it.

The question then becomes, are there now enough disaffected Republicans in Congress who, along with all Democrats, will immediately pass legislation to create an independent counsel, beyond Trump's reach, and appoint Robert Mueller so that the investigation continues without missing a beat.

Meanwhile, will Kelly — a Marine general who "won't suffer idiots and fools", said a friend to The Washington Post — finally impose order on Trump's White House, starting with tying the loose cannon himself to the deck? Will he brook for an instant the foul-mouthed trash named Scaramucci? Will he insist that not even Jared nor Steve nor Ivanka are No sooner asked than answered with Scaramucci out the day Gen. Kelly arrived at the White House. But Ivanka intends to be subordinate to no one, tweeting "Looking forward to serving alongside John Kelly..." [emphasis added].

free to simply wander into the Oval Office? Controlling the president's time and who gets to see him is the purpose of the job. Before Nixon, it was called Appointments Secretary. Or will the turmoil continue?

As background, only the Justice Department can fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and because of Session's recusal removing himself from all things Russian, that at the moment, until the changes we forecast take place, has to be Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. But Rosenstein chose Mueller and has already signaled that he would resign rather than obey that order, which would force Trump to replicate Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre, firing his way through a stack of resfuseniks until he reaches an ambitious toady who hopes to land a plum job and is willing to send Mueller packing to win it.

In the week before, it seemed that Trump was preparing to fire Sessions and then Mueller directly, evidenced by the Post reporting that Trump lawyers were building a case against what they allege are Mueller's conflicts of interest. The New York Times was simultaneously reporting the same, which says the White House was deliberately letting its campaign to discredit Mueller be known. Trump is "especially disturbed after learning Mueller would be able to access several years of his tax returns". He may already have done so.

Bloomberg reported that "FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008", that last suspiciously for $95 million an estate that cost Trump only half that a couple of years before. Nothing illegal about such transactions per se, so questions of possible money laundering are clearly the thread of the probe.

All of which led Trump to ask his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself, said the Post story. Whether a president can pardon himself would clearly have to be decided in the courts. An interesting tidbit: apparently, a pardon must be accepted by the forgiven person, and acceptance comes with an admission of guilt.

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