Senate Judiciary Committee to Take Up Bill Protecting Mueller

Bill would mark the first major congressional action aimed at protecting the special counsel and the probe into Russian election meddling

A spokesman for Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said that he would put a bipartisan bill that would prevent Mr. Mueller from being dismissed without cause on the committee’s agenda. It is expected to be considered, debated and amended next week, which would set up a vote on the measure on April 26.

.. . Grassley tried to bring the bill up under an expedited process at a meeting scheduled for this week, but Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, objected under committee rules. Ms. Feinstein said she wanted more time to study proposed amendments to the measure but supports efforts to protect Mr. Mueller.

.. The bill would propose to enshrine into law a Justice Department regulation that a special counsel can’t be fired without cause. In addition, iIt would give a special counsel a 10-day window to challenge his or her firing in federal court. It would also ensure that any work product from a special counsel investigation couldn’t be destroyed until the courts ruled on the matter.

.. “I haven’t seen a clear indication yet that we needed to pass something to keep him from being removed because I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday. Mr. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said Mr. Mueller “should be allowed to finish his job.”

The proposal was authored by two Democrats and two Republicans— Cory Booker (D., N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R, S.C.), Chris Coons (D., Del.) and Thom Tillis (R., N.C.).

What If President Donald Trump Tries to Fire Robert Mueller?

Mr. Mueller was appointed not by Mr. Trump, but by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from involvement in any investigation related to the 2016 presidential race. That means Mr. Trump couldn’t fire Mr. Mueller himself, but would have to order Mr. Rosenstein to do so.

Mr. Rosenstein has expressed support for Mr. Mueller, and his associates expect him to resign rather than carry out such an order. If that happens, Mr. Trump could turn to the next Justice Department official in line, acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio, and then to Solicitor General Noel Francisco.

It isn’t known if either would heed an order to fire Mr. Mueller. If they refuse, Mr. Trump would have to go down the hierarchy at the Justice Department until he found an official willing to do so. In such a situation, the president could face a number of DOJ resignations—and the political fallout that would entail.

Something like this happened on Oct. 20, 1973, when President Richard Nixon ordered Justice Department officials to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Attorney General Elliot Richardson resigned, as did his deputy, William Ruckelshaus. Solicitor General Robert Bork finally did as Mr. Nixon asked. That episode became known as the Saturday Night Massacre.

.. Some legal experts have asked whether Mr. Trump might replace Mr. Sessions or Mr. Rosenstein with another official and order that person to fire Mr. Mueller.

Attorneys general and their deputies must be confirmed by the Senate. Someone who is temporarily “acting” in that position, without Senate confirmation, must come from an existing Justice Department job or a Senate-confirmed post elsewhere in the administration.

.. Mr. Trump could, in theory, install someone like Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general, as acting attorney general. Then, he could order Mr. Pruitt to fire Mr. Mueller. The political blowback from such a move, however, would likely be considerable.

Would Justice Department officials appoint another special counsel to replace Mr. Mueller?

Harsh public reaction to the Saturday Night Massacre in 1973 forced Mr. Nixon to allow DOJ officials to appoint a replacement. Leon Jaworski took that job and steadily pursued the investigation until the president was forced to resign.

.. There is no reason to think the Trump administration would appoint a new special counsel if Mr. Mueller were dismissed.

.. Prominent lawmakers of both parties, including Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), have expressed support for Mr. Mueller. Mr. Grassley’s committee holds confirmation hearings for Justice Department officials, so his views are especially important.

The Iowa senator has suggested he wouldn’t move to approve a replacement if Mr. Trump fires Mr. Sessions, and on Tuesday he told Fox Business that “it would be suicide for the president to want to talk about firing Mueller.”

.. In addition, even if Mr. Trump fires Mr. Mueller, he can’t fire the grand jury the special counsel is working with or the judge overseeing it. A judge could appoint another prosecutor to continue working with the grand jury.

Will Trump Crash the Farm Economy?

Many people don’t even know these scandals exist — they generally don’t lead in Sean Hannity’s or Tucker Carlson’s world.

.. One smaller manufacturer — a Trump voter — told me that his costs to produce his product nearly doubled overnight, and that his business has already been hurt by the tariffs. Prices didn’t rise only after the tariffs were announced; they started rising when Mr. Trump floated the idea.

.. Senator Joni Ernst and Iowa’s agriculture secretary, Mike Naig, both say the tariffs will hurt Iowans, and Mr. Naig says we need to expand markets, not shrink them. Senator Chuck Grassley said something similar, on Fox News: “Tariffs do not put America first — low barriers and expanded access do.”

.. China has already responded with its own tariff on pork, which will have a dire impact on Iowa. Iowa is the nation’s largest pork producer, producing three times as much pork as the next-highest state.

.. with commodity prices down and the tariffs imposed, approximately 10 percent of our farmers probably won’t make it this year, and 10 percent more will likely fail next year. They also shared the news that in Iowa, larger agribusinesses are buying up smaller farms that are in financial trouble, and that people are starting to make comparisons to the farm crisis of the 1980s, when approximately 10,000 Iowa farmers lost their farms.

.. Even Representative Steve King, the avid Trump supporter and Iowan every liberal loves to hate, is worried about a new farm crisis.

.. Dairy farmers are particularly hard hit, suffering through four years of declining prices. It’s gotten so bad, dairy farming organizations are giving out suicide hotline numbers, as farmers are committing suicide in the hope that their insurance will save the family farm.

.. “It gives Democrats a generational opportunity to do the political work with farmers they haven’t done since the 1980s farm crisis,”

.. “Democrats do farm policy really well but are terrible at farm politics. Republicans do farm politics really well but have a history of doing terrible farm policy.”

.. With the multiple scandals, rampant corruption and the Mueller investigation, the only thing keeping him near 40 percent approval — and most important, approval among most Republicans — is a strong economy. That, and Fox cheerleading. But if he tanks the rural economy, he and his legacy are in deep trouble.

.. Furthermore, if the rural economy turns sour, much of rural America will abandon Mr. Trump, and Fox may have no choice but to follow.

 

Exclusive: Massive Pentagon agency lost track of hundreds of millions of dollars

A damning outside review finds that the Defense Logistics Agency has lost track of where it spent the money.

Ernst & Young found that the Defense Logistics Agency failed to properly document more than $800 million in construction projects, just one of a series of examples where it lacks a paper trail for millions of dollars in property and equipment. Across the board, its financial management is so weak that its leaders and oversight bodies have no reliable way to track the huge sums it’s responsible for, the firm warned in its initial audit of the massive Pentagon purchasing agent.

.. The department has never undergone a full audit despite a congressional mandate — and to some lawmakers, the messy state of the Defense Logistics Agency’s books indicates one may never even be possible.

.. The $40 billion-a-year logistics agency is a test case in how unachievable that task may be.

.. The DLA serves as the Walmart of the military, with 25,000 employees who process roughly 100,000 orders a day on behalf of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and a host of other federal agencies — for everything from poultry to pharmaceuticals, precious metals and aircraft parts.

.. In one part of the audit, completed in mid-December, Ernst & Young found that misstatements in the agency’s books totaled at least $465 million for construction projects it financed for the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies. For construction projects designated as still “in progress,” meanwhile, it didn’t have sufficient documentation — or any documentation at all — for another $384 million worth of spending.

.. It also warned that the agency cannot reconcile balances from its general ledger with the Treasury Department.

.. the agency also maintained it was not surprised by the conclusions.

.. the Trump administration insists it can accomplish what previous ones could not.

.. That Pentagon-wide effort, which will require an army of about 1,200 auditors across the department, will also be expensive — to the tune of nearly $1 billion.

.. an additional $551 million to go back and fix broken accounting systems that are crucial to better financial management.

.. The accounting firm itself went further, asserting that the gaping holes uncovered in bookkeeping procedures and oversight strongly suggest there are more.

.. has repeatedly charged that “keeping track of the people’s money may not be in the Pentagon’s DNA.”

.. “I think the odds of a successful DoD audit down the road are zero,” Grassley said in an interview. “The feeder systems can’t provide data. They are doomed to failure before they ever get started.”