Neutered: DOJ Ethics

Though Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker plainly positioned himself to secure the top job by actively and loudly criticizing the Mueller investigation, the Department of Justice ethicist has cleared him to superintend the increasingly fruitful investigation.

“We’ve already heard rumors on the wind about Sessions’ tenure, so suddenly we could have a President that understands that if I control the Department of Justice, I control this investigation.”

Matthew Whitaker

Since Whitaker was well known to be hostile to the investigation at the time of the remark on the right, it can’t reasonably be construed as anything but an implicit promise to scuttle the investigation if he controls the department; there is no way that he can be cleared ethically; the quid pro quo is in plain sight. The ethicists are wrong — and probably cowed.

After all, recall the experience of White House ethics lawyer Stefan Passantino.

“I am amazed he made it as long as he did. His client was the White House, but its head, the president, is as difficult an ethics subject as has ever occupied the Oval,” said Norm Eisen, the White House ethics czar in the Obama administration who’s emerged as a vocal critic of Trump. “No ethicist could thrive in that environment.”

Spending and conflict of interest scandals have plagued Trump’s Cabinet secretaries, past and present, including former HHS Secretary Tom Price, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Even so:

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker has consulted with ethics officials at the Justice Department and they have advised him he does not need to recuse himself from overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, a source familiar with the process told CNN Thursday.

It is bad enough that Trump has succeeded in corrupting the Republican Party; we are in very grave danger if he has succeeded in corrupting the Justice Department.

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