Goodbye Jeff: What does the end of this Sessions mean for Mueller?
The dust from the midterms is only just beginning to settle and the second half of ‘America’ season one is continuing in fine form.
All good screenwriters know, the mid-season lull is an excellent time to start bumping off your supporting cast. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was given a sword earlier this week and very explicit instructions for exactly how to fall on it. He wrote a long letter of resignation the first eight words of which were very telling
At your request, I am submitting my resignation
But where does this leave the rest of us? What will happen with the Mueller investigation? Will there be an impeachment sometime soon now that the Democrats control the house? How close is the season finale showdown? Is Jeff Sessions getting a spin off series?
The last question is easiest to answer. Almost certainly not. Jeff Sessions was a dead man walking the second he recused himself from the Russia probe. The phone call ordering his resignation came from John Kelly and not from Trump himself, a sure sign that the two aren’t besties.
“We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well,”
Which is exactly the sort of thing you’d write in a leaving card for someone in the office you didn’t know very well and believed was probably stealing your drink cartons. There was no love lost here and everyone knew it.
As he walked out of the justice department on Wednesday night Sessions looked almost tearful. It was the final nail in the coffin for the long running feud that has been a fan favourite of season one.
Who is replacing Jeff Sessions?
But what of his replacement? Whitaker is theoretically an interim measure, but he looks likely to be around for a while. He wrote an article for CNN last year calling for tighter controls around the investigation and has called publicly for a reduction in funding for Mueller’s work.
This will sound like music to the ears of President Trump who has been firmly frustrated by Jeff Sessions’ refusal to protect him from the ravages of a ‘witch hunt’.
Republicans and Democrats alike have been quick to urge President Trump not to make any rash decisions and in particular to leave Mueller alone. Whether Trump will or not seems to be entirely his choice and absolutely nobody can predict what he will do next.
That’s what makes him the ideal protagonist or antagonist of ‘America’ season one.
What can the Democrats do?
The Democrats are already politically manoeuvring to protect the Mueller investigation. Many are seeing the appointment of Whitaker as a direct attack on the investigation and New York Senator Chuck Schumer has already called for Whitaker to recuse himself as Sessions did early last year.
Considering what has just happened to his one time boss, don’t expect Whitaker to be in any hurry to do that.
Trump’s firing of Sessions may be the first shots fired in an escalating constitutional crisis. This is now a political game that the Democrats are better able to play.
If the investigation is ordered shut down, either by Trump, Whitaker or a hitherto unknown replacement then the Democrats finally have options. Following their midterm gains they have a few more weapons in arsenal, cards in the sleeve, pieces on the chessboard. Choose your metaphor.
It is now possible for Mueller to be subpoenaed by the Democrats to learn everything that he has to know. In the event of imminent closure it would be a logical way of ensuring the survival of the investigation. It seems unlikely that Mueller would refuse this given the other option is simply to shut up shop and abandon all the work he has done thus far.
In doing this the Democrats could bypass the justice department completely. The investigation would then continue under the remit of a congressional committee and theoretically re-hire Mueller to complete the work. More likely is the establishment of a select committee which would have Mueller at the head.
This may play into Trump’s ever tweeting hands, his supporters already distrust the Mueller investigation. In working directly for the Democrats, Mueller stands to lose some of his hard earned perceived neutrality. This could significant problems later down the line.
Trump is already in a fighting mood. He tweeted
“If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level, two can play that game!”
But are the Democrats likely to fight? The answer it seems, ‘yes, but not yet’. Although furious blues up and down the country are calling for it, it looks unlikely that the impeachment card will be on the table. The numbers don’t work in their favour and politics is a long game. Patience is a virtue.
Democrats are prepared to wait for the end of the Mueller investigation to better assess their position and make their move. Many senators have political careers going back to when Trump was just a guest star in Home Alone. They’ve seen presidents come and go and whilst it feels very pressing for those of us on the outside, many it seems are prepared to wait it out. There has been a line drawn though.
If Trump does move to shut down the Mueller Investigation, expect reprisals from the Democrats to be quick and severe.
That is the endgame season finale of ‘America’, it would be unwise to jump straight there. We still have a few more exhausting episodes to get through to further ratchet the tension from merely unbearable to excruciating.
Democrats will be sure to bring up tax returns and make moves to frustrate the White House at every opportunity. Trump will continue to court reality TV stars and issue pardons with whimsical abandon. Tension will be built. We’ve come to expect it. The closer we get to the 2020 election, the more looming the endgame seems to be.
How will you know it’s the final episode? Either Mueller will go public with his investigation OR Trump will make a definite move to close the whole thing down.
It looks likely that both of those scenarios would trigger a constitutional crisis that will engulf the entire US political system. Who knows it could possibly ignite the second American Civil War. That would be an awful place to start season 2.
The question at this stage is, how much does Trump have to lose?