It has long seemed to me that Trump is on a course toward out-and-out madness—in his underwear on the White House balcony, baying at the moon. I remain of that view, and I believe that recent events are consistent with that prognostication.
In that context, I initially read Trump’s twitter fight with Sessions as nutso, chiefly because it was bound to divide and confound his precious “base.” As Ross Douthat said, “a multitiered tower of political idiocy, a sublime monument to the moronic, a gaudy, gleaming, Ozymandian folly that leaves many of the president’s prior efforts in its shade.”
Pretty much covers the ground, doesn’t it? And thanks, Ross, for the reference to Ozymandias. Great minds think alike.
Then I read the analysis by law professor Steve Vladeck. I won’t try to repeat it, or even to fully summarize it, in all its legalistic grandeur. But, in a nutshell, there are four scenarios to defenestrating Sessions and replacing him with a flunkey who will then fire Mueller, bury the Russia investigation, and order investigators to look the other way if they suspect any Trump wrongdoing. They are:
- Sessions could resign or get fired, Trump could select a bobbing head flunky to replace him, and the Senate could confirm said bobbing head flunky.
- Trump could follow the Justice Department succession statute, and his own related executive order.
- Trump could fire Sessions during a Senate recess and name a bobbing head flunky as his recess appointment, or,
- Trump could invoke a law called the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998.
As Vladeck lays it out, there are big, big problems with one, two or three. If the professor’s analysis is right, option four would be the optimal way for Trump to obstruct justice.
However—big qualification—option four may not work if Trump fires Sessions. It may only work if Trump hounds Sessions into resignation.
It follows that Trump, listening for once to legal counsel, is trying to hound Sessions into resignation, so that he can have the clearest path toward appointment of the flunkey.
There is apparent method in the madness.