Echoes of Watergate have reverberated throughout the TrumpRussia investigation for some time. Now it’s October, 2017 and thatputs one in mind of October of 1973. If your recollection needsrefreshing, Elliot Richardson was Attorney General. Richard Nixonasked Richardson to fire Watergate Special Prosecutor ArchibaldCox. Richardson refused because Cox could only be removed “forcause” i.e., gross improprieties or malfeasance, of which there wasno evidence. So Richardson refused to obey Nixon’s edict andresigned. The task of firing Cox then fell to Deputy AttorneyGeneral William Ruckelshaus, who likewise refused and resigned.Acting Attorney General Robert Bork finally wrote the letter firingCox and the Saturday Night Massacre was complete.
Now, we have another Saturday night in October. News of yetanother special prosecutor, this time Robert Mueller, indicatingthat an indictment or indictments would be forthcoming on Monday,plus we have had news stories of Trump interviewing people for theposition of U.S. Attorney, which is not done by a president. AndFriday there was the abrupt and totally unexpected resignation ofDana Boente as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.Boente had been acting assistant attorney general for the NationalSecurity Division of the Department of Justice,
Rachel Maddow interviewed former Justice Department spokesmanMatthew Miller Friday night and Miller reported that Boente waslooking forward to his successor being confirmed at the Departmentof Justice, so that he could return to his old post as U.S.Attorney. Miller told Maddow that Boente’s abrupt resignation, “wasnot a resignation that was completely of his own volition.” If Trump did force Boente out, what may have been his rationale?Newsweek:
With the resignation of Dana Boente on Friday as U.S. attorneyfor the Eastern District of Virginia, President Donald Trump has anopportunity to replace another Obama-era holdover in the Departmentof Justice line of succession. If Trump demands that the departmentfire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and if enough officials resignor get fired rather than carry out his order, the decision to do socould fall to Boente’s successor.
As Attorney General Jeff Sessions has told the Senate Judiciary Committee, Trump has beeninterviewing candidates for some of the 93 open U.S. attorneypositions. Democratic lawmakers and legal analysts have claimed hisinvolvement in that process is inappropriate. But the EasternDistrict of Virginia role is especially important, thanks to anexecutive order that Trump signed in March.
The order altered the line of succession at the top of theJustice Department. The order includes three U.S. attorneys,meaning that making departmental decisions such as whether to fireMueller could fall on one of them.
This is a possible scenario. Newsweek spoke with a former U.S.attorney who demanded anonymity due to the sensitive nature of thetopic. “Nobody really wants to fire Mueller,” the former U.S.attorney said. “Everybody’s recognized, in those positions, thatwhatever you’re doing could be Watergate. It’s got the potential tobe historic. All these people want to be on the right side ofhistory.”